Thanks Giving

Earlier this week, I shared the origins of the American Thanksgiving celebration with my dear “little sister” Zoe in China,

Here is her reply:

In this week of Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks in all circumstances.

There is always plenty to give thanks for, even if we sometimes have to search harder for it.

Father, thank you for a wonderful week spent with my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and four of my nephews.

Thank you for the blessing it is to be a wife and a mother.

Thank you for the freedom to worship that I enjoy here in America.

Thank you for our financial blessings – for plenty of good food and warm clothing and homes larger than we need.

Thank you for the beauty of sunrise and the sunset and the big blue sky. Thank you for your majesty revealed from the heavens, that mankind would seek you and find you.

Thank you for the sisterhood of believers, both near and far.

And then … right at this moment, just as we’re driving back home across the great plains of the Midwest … just as I’m midway through composing this blog post … just when I’m chatting online with my little Chinese sister, encouraging her to walk by faith …

I received this heart-breaking message:

Is God real?

Does God work in time and space to draw men to Himself?

Does God use His children here on earth to share the good news of eternal life through faith in Christ?

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Stay tuned — there’s more to this story.

Heart-check: Where are you struggling to give thanks? How can I pray for you?


To the weary, laboring, and heavy-laden

I grew up in the great state of Iowa, where the corn grows tall and people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. My parents were hard workers, raised by hard workers. My mother’s parents were world-class farmers. My father’s parents were children of immigrants. My grandfather became an attorney of excellence. Hard work runs strong in my blood.

For years Matthew 11:28-30 has been special to me. I have (no-joke) labored to memorize this passage, treasuring it in my often weary heart. Indeed, I have labored and indeed I am thankful for the rest Jesus promises me.

“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

This past week, as I’ve been studying this passage in more depth, I’m finally seeing the context in which Jesus is speaking.

These verses are sandwiched between Jesus denouncing the Jewish cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum, and Jesus telling the Pharisees that they don’t understand what “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” means.

This paragraph begins in Matthew 11:25 with, “At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to little children.”

Jesus is talking to the Jewish religious sect called the Pharisees. Despite being eyewitnesses of Jesus’s miracles and hearing His preaching first-hand, they did not recognize Jesus as the promised Messiah. The Pharisees remained unrepentant. The Pharisees would have been considered the wise and understanding, but they missed the joy, peace and freedom that faith in Jesus could bring.

Like Jesus explains in Matthew 23:4, the Pharisees “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.” (You can read Matthew 23 for more on this)

These heavy burdens are not farmers’ chores, like plowing fields, slopping pigs, and shoveling out horse stalls. They are not housewives’ chores, like cleaning your house until the floors shine, cooking three nutritious gourmet meals every day, and homeschooling a dozen children.

Rather, the Pharisees’ heavy burdens are religious duties designed to earn salvation from God. Religious duties like strictly tithing, offering animal sacrifices and keeping the Sabbath down to the minute detail.

Or in modern American Christian culture, attending church twice a week, serving monthly at a homeless ministry, and knocking on your neighbors’ doors to share the gospel. And, unfortunately, in the modern American Christian homeschool community where I dwell, it may indeed include working your fingers to the bone cleaning your house until the floors shine, cooking three nutritious gourmet meals everyday, and homeschooling a dozen children.

Friends, these are all good things. Please, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, like Colossians 3:23 instructs. Please, be workers at home, like Titus 2:5 says. Please, put your hand to the plow and don’t look back! (Luke 9:62) Please do!

But, do these works, because you’re following Jesus. Let these deeds flow from a place of rest, a place of joy and blessing. Jesus loves you and He wants to work through you to bring Him glory. Wow! What a privilege, that this little girl from Iowa can bring glory to the Lord of Heaven and Earth!

Jesus, the promised Messiah as foretold by the prophet Isaiah, took my sins upon Himself at his death on the cross. Jesus bore my griefs. Jesus carried my sorrows. I have been healed by His wounds. (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Jesus invites us to give Him our burdens, to come to Him with the trusting faith of little children. In Jesus, we can find rest not only for our bodies, but for our SOULS.

Does your SOUL need rest? Are you tired of working to pay God back? Are you tired of trying to earn salvation? Are you tired of trying to atone for your own sins?

Friend, you can never, ever be good enough. Never. You can never pay God back. You will never deserve being saved.

Jesus paid the price for you. He is inviting you to take His yoke upon you and learn from Him, that you can have soul-rest.


How are you tying up heavy burdens for yourself to carry? For others?

Have you come to Jesus and taken His yoke? What stands in your way?

How can I help you?


Thank You, Father, for the Cold

Thank You, Father, for the winter.
Thank You, Father, for the cold.
The cold drives me to snuggle in bed, cradling the Word of Life in needy hands.
The cold drives me to stay warm inside with my family, bundled in blankets, drinking steaming cups of hot chocolate.
Without the cold, I wouldn’t appreciate the warmth of the spring.
Without the cold, I couldn’t enjoy the beauty of fresh, white snow.
Without the cold, the tulips wouldn’t bloom and the wheat wouldn’t grow.
Thank You, Father, for the winter.
Thank You, Father, for the cold.

Dear Lord, Your Word tells me to give thanks in all circumstances, but some circumstances are easier to give thanks in than others. It’s easier to give thanks for prancing through fields of blooming flowers, than slogging through snow-soaked soil. I’m beginning to see, Father, that I’d never have the spring flowers without the winter cold.

It’s like some kind of crazy, divine geometry proof: If X, then Y. If not X, then not Y. If I hadn’t broken it off with Eric, I wouldn’t have married Bill. If Tommy hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have Nick. If Bill hadn’t lost his job, I wouldn’t have moved to Memphis. I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today were it not for the times of bitter cold. I am who I am exactly because of the hard things I’ve gone through. You’re teaching me faith and grace and perseverance and forgiveness and humility through those refining trials.

So, today, I say, “Thank You, Father, for the winter. Thank You, Father, for the cold.”

Romans 10:10

“IF you confess with your MOUTH that Jesus is Lord -and- believe in your HEART that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one BELIEVES and is JUSTIFIED, and with the mouth one CONFESSES and is SAVED.”
Romans 10:9?-?10 ESV

God wants us to BOTH believe with our heart AND confess with our mouth. Too often American Christians have a half-hearted “believe in their heads” which never travels to their heart, or their mouth.

If you truly believe that Jesus is God’s own Son, very GOD in flesh, who walked this lowly earth and died for your sins — it WILL change you! God’s love compels you to tell others that they, too, can be saved from eternal separation from God in hell.

Heart-check: When was the last time you told someone about your faith in Jesus? Where does your faith dwell – in your mind, or in your heart?

I’d love to help you move the gospel to your heart and mouth. Leave me a comment or send me an email.

Follow the Leader – Part 2

This is part 2 in a series titled “Follow the Leader.” You can read Part 1 HERE.

In part 1, I shared the story of my giant puppy who insists on pulling himself back to the house – and I just let him go.

Check out this video clip of an exasperated mom who allows her son to have what it is that he THINKS he wants, despite all her warnings.

Do YOU have children, or pets, or employees, that simply refuse to follow your lead? What do YOU do when that happens?

As a parent and pet-owner, when I am not obeyed, I have two choices: (1) I can “let it go” and just allow the person (or animal) to go their own way (like I do with my dog who’s ready to go inside) -or- (2) I can actively give some kind of reward or punishment in an attempt to encourage obedience.

God, our good and faithful Father, also uses both methods to encourage His children to trust, follow and obey.

Sometimes, God lets His children have what it is that they think they want. In Romans 1:14-32, Paul writes three times, “God gave them up.” Each situation grows more dire as the people pursue more and more the lusts of their flesh, and God allows them to fulfill their passions. Finally, “They were FILLED with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are FULL of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:29-32 ESV)

Twice in the Proverbs, we’re told, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” (Proverbs 14:12, Proverbs 16:25) This is not a way that SEEMS deadly. No, it’s a way that SEEMS right — but the end of that path is death. We’re pulling our own leash right to our own destruction.

Last month I read through the book of Numbers. In Numbers 14, the Israelites decided they didn’t want to go into the Promised Land because they were afraid. How did God respond? He let them get what they wanted. It’s as though He said, “Oh, you don’t want to go into this wonderful land that I have prepared for you? Fine, you can stay here in the desert.” (And in the desert they did stay — for 40 years!)

Is this punishment? Yes, I guess it is … But, it’s also God giving His children what they THINK they want.

Shortly thereafter, though, like most naughty children, the Israelites changed their minds. They decided they did want to go to the Promised Land after all … and to the Promised Land they headed, but against God’s commands. And do you know what happened next? Those who headed into the Promised Land against God’s commands all died at the hands of the people living in the land, just like the Israelites had feared would happen. If they had obeyed God, He would have protected them, but they didn’t, and He didn’t. You can read it here: Numbers 14. (Who says the Old Testament isn’t applicable for today?)

God (our good Father) desires His children to pursue Him, to seek Him, to love Him, to trust and obey Him. But when we choose to go our own way, turning our back on Him, refusing to trust and obey, then God oftentimes allows us to go astray. He gives us over to what it is we THINK we want.

Sadly, “the wages of sin is death.” The consequences of a lifetime of disobedience are more severe than a nasty taste in our mouth. Beware of where your path is leading. God loves you so much. He wants to bring you into His Promised Land – the eternal life available to you through faith in Jesus Christ. Choose to follow Him today by faith in His Son, Jesus. As Romans 6:23 reads, “For the wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Heart-check: In what ways are you going your own way, instead of following God’s plans? How has God given you what you “wanted” in the past? What lessons did you learn?


Follow the Leader – part 1

Have you ever played the game called “Follow the Leader?”

Image result for follow the leader

In this game, one person is the leader, and the other participants have to follow the leader wherever he goes.  No matter what that leader does, the followers have to copy them.

Well, I have a dog who refuses to “Follow the Leader.”  Rather than following my lead, he prefers to lead himself.  He’ll follow me when I’m going out, BECAUSE HE WANTS TO GO OUT.  But when he’s ready to go back into the house, he grabs the leash in his big mouth and starts pulling.

And, I must admit, I let him pull me back.  I figure, if he’s ready to go back in, then so am I!  This walk is over.

Jesus repeatedly told His disciples to follow Him.  Jesus’s disciples were expected to leave their homes, their families, their stuff, their livelihoods, whatever they were attached to … and follow Him.  God expects us to choose to follow His plans, rather than our own. “Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”” (Matthew 16:24)

As modern-day Christians (“Christ-followers”), Jesus is still calling us to Follow Him.  He is supposed to be the leader, and we are supposed to follow Him.

Heart check: Are you following Jesus – or yourself?  In what ways do you need to change the path that you’re on, letting go of pulling your own leash, and choosing instead to faithfully follow your good Leader, Jesus?