Out of the Darkness

Our family – all 20 of them – had plans right through the actual Christmas Day, so we celebrated our big family Christmas with them all that first weekend of December. It was a short season of lights, trees, and nativity scenes for us this year! On the Monday after that first weekend, I packed away all the Christmas decorations in tubs and containers, then securely placed all in their 11-month “storage units” on shelves. So by the middle of the first week of December, Ron and I were in the car, “packed to the hilt” with food, swimsuits, summer clothes, and all my writing materials, and headed south to our little Florida home near the warm Gulf waters, for the winter.

I must say it was “odd.” We sped along the highways, passing thousands of homes, brightly decorated  inside and out, knowing our own Michigan home was now dark and cold; the upcoming Christmas Day, too, now seemed dark and cold because our family Christmas was past. Yes, it was “odd.”

The trip, our drive of typically 18-20 hours, was long and tiring. The outdoor temperatures rose as we neared our destination, but our physical strength diminished, weary from it all. Those last hours especially were the darkest of the year. Nearing winter solstice. The atmosphere clouded. No moon in sight. Finally,  after midnight, we turned onto the dark, narrow street in our little quiet neighborhood, leading to our little Florida home. And there it was: a light in the darkness. 

Kathy,  a caring neighbor and friend, had left the outside light on for us. It was a welcomed sight! A light to lead us to the door, to welcome us home.

We entered our home, relieved and thankful.

I quickly but carefully stepped through the darkened rooms,  moving toward the back of the house,  being drawn by yet another light – this one of various colors. 

There, through the glass of the back door, leading to our small back yard, my eyes gazed upon  another light in the midst of this dark night, this one strategically lit by our neighbor, Donna, also intended to welcome us home.

The kindness of our neighbors reminded me of the graciousness of our Savior.  Jesus said, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who  believes in me should stay in darkness.” (1)

The Gospel writer says, “In Jesus is life, and that life is the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (2)

I understand it.

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (3)

I understand it.  I no longer walk in darkness because I am a follower of Jesus Christ!

When we accept Jesus Christ as Savior, His light exposes the truth that our sins have been completely removed. The Light, which is His presence, give us grace and hope we need in this darkened world.

Yes, I understand it. Do you? 

Come out of the darkness, my friend. Come into the Light!

Click here to understand how to become a Christ follower.

1) John 12:46

2) John 1:4,5

(3) John 8:12

I’m weary.

I’m weary. You know how it is.

It’s not just one thing. It’s more than one. It’s more than two. It’s one thing upon another. Stacking. Compounding. Until that one more thing, no matter how small, seems just too much.

I’ve been aware of the stacking – the compounding – for quite some time. I’ve dealt with it in the past, and I’ll deal with it again. But for now, I’m weary. It’s like a compounding pile of rocks. Some light. Some heavy.

Today, as I write, my brother in law is in surgery, having a lung transplant. This rock is a heavy one, and it’s been on the compounding pile of rocks for a long time. Its very presence on his stack, and on my sister’s stack, causes it to accumulate in diverse sizes on my own rising pile. It makes me weary.

Facebook and Instagram photos look lovely, but we all know, there’s quite often pain behind the smiles. My family is no different.  I’ve encountered those heaping rocks many times, repeatedly, and have pushed them off, one by one, turning them over to the Lord, trusting those issues to Him. Oftentimes, when I do,  I figuratively wipe my hands and smugly say, Take that, you cursed enemy. By the power of the name of Jesus. But today, those same stones – or rocks, as they’ve become, aren’t moving as easily.  Because I’m weary. Sometimes it’s a recurring pebble that pops up – with my spouse’s name on it. Sometimes an entire little bag of pebbles – you know, like the bag of marbles we had when we were kids.  Sometimes it’s huge – the loss of a child – or of a parent. It’s the grief that permeates and changes your life forever. It’s your child’s middle-of-the-night fever or her wicked diagnosis. It’s a learning disability or a mental illness. It’s a daughter’s addiction or a son’s waywardness. It’s the pain on your grandchild’s face and the tears in his eyes when his daddy yells and leaves the house. It’s the pain of your daughter’s singleness when she yearns for marriage. The problem burdens not just one in the family; it burdens all. You hurt not only for the burdened one but for each one who suffers – physically, mentally, emotionally. The rocks seem heavier than they once were. And they’re all stuck together. Sometimes they seem cemented. I’m weary from it. And I know you’re weary. I can see it behind your smile.

The enemy throws a lot of political rocks onto my stack, more as the last few years have progressed. My “friends” and community members have called me names – well, not me personally, but in general, along with anyone who has my political view. And I create my own stones on my stack, as well, having zero understanding of  those who view the political issues from a different perspective. It’s all so heavy. And I become weary.

This COVID thing is just  plain weighty in this pile of rocks. The COVID rocks keep appearing in various sizes and weights upon the stack:  Isolation. Sickness. Death. Fear. Hate. Divisiveness. Anger. Exhaustion. Loneliness. Separation. Anxiety. Suicide. Grief. Poverty. Judgment. Depression. This is not a bag of rocks. It’s a truck full of boulders that have become ever present month after month, enveloping our birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations, travel plans, elections, and now our holidays. We boldly and bravely  knock one COVID rock off our pile; another related rock appears. We’ve all become weary from it.

Here’s the thing: 

On the other side of my weariness is Jesus. He’s waiting just like always. He whispers,

Kathi, I will refresh your weary soul and replenish you when you are weak. I will give you pleasant sleep. My Word sustains you. Keep it fresh in your mind. Come to me. I will give you rest.

So today, in my weariness, I go to Jesus, the one who came to give me abundant life. I turn my burdens over to Him. We know He doesn’t bring any of the burdens that are making me weary. But He gladly takes them and brings the victory – some that I see today – some that is yet unseen but promised.  Either way, I have the promised rest,

What about you?  For all of these things we have Jesus. If you’re a Christ follower, go to Him. Place each burden, big or small, light or heavy, on Him. Until your weariness is gone. If you’re yet uncertain if you have Jesus, turn to Him. We needn’t remain weary!

Click here to learn more about following Christ.

Further reading:

Jeremiah 31:25, 26

Isaiah 50:4

Matthew 11:28

John 10:10

Who is Touching You?

Today, I was reading about Jesus. It’s the story of Jesus at a dinner. All four gospel writers record it. Perhaps you’ve heard it – or read it.

A woman comes in to the house where the dinner is held, obviously uninvited, and she opens a very expensive bottle of perfume and anoints Jesus with it. Most likely she is chastised. The Pharisees even chastise Jesus  for allowing this to happen. The “righteous” guests have various reasons to criticize the action. They are self-righteous and think they know best – know more than Jesus. Jesus uses the situation to teach them about the forgiveness of sins. Paraphrased, it’s something like this: He who has been forgiven much loves Him much. He who has been forgiven little loves little. Then He tells the woman her sins are forgiven, her faith has saved her, and she is to go in peace.

It’s a marvelous story about forgiveness. About repentance. About redemption. You’re probably familiar with it. Perhaps like me, you’ve read it or heard it many times throughout your life. But today, as I read it – distraught by the sin openly flaunted around us, by the self-glorification and haughtiness displayed in this country and this world in which we live – one line stood out to me more than the others. One line I never really contemplated before. It is only found in Luke’s account (7:39). The sanctimonious, hypocritical man who had invited Jesus said it:  

 If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner.

He knew. Oh yes, Jesus knew.

It made me question: Who is touching me? And I ask you, Who is touching you?

Every day, we are approached, surrounded by, or we simply encounter a sinner – at work, at the grocery store, even on social media – one whose sins are not yet forgiven, one who is not yet saved, one who does not yet have the peace our Jesus offers. That person is touching you. And you know.

We must tell them about Jesus, the one who forgives sins, saves souls, and offers peace.  We must tell them about the Jesus we have touched. The Jesus who saved us. The time is short.

We know. Oh yes, we know.

So I must be aware of who is touching me. And I ask you, Who is touching you?

Further Reading: Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9; Luke 7:36-50; John 12:1-8

Papa, can I lie in your bed?

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart:

I put her to bed, as usual. Well, really, with a bit more tenderness, a bit more time–reading, laying, singing, snuggling. But she is still quite unsettled when I leave her bedside, and shortly after, I hear her behind me in the living room.

Quietly.

“Nana, can I lie in your bed?”

“Sure, honey.”

I follow her down the hall. She steps up onto the little white stepping stool and up up up on to the big, soft mattress. And then I see the tears.

“I miss my mommy.”

I wipe her tears.

I lie beside her, cherishing her soft hair rubbing my cheek, breathing in its sweet, innocent scent.

Later, after she is sound asleep, Papa carries Kaylee back to her own bed.

I awaken in the night. My heart aches. I miss her mommy too. And I know a bit of the pain my precious daughter is going through. She shared it with me months ago, shortly after the arrest. Now I know that tonight, she lies on her cot, in her cell,  cold and lonely. My throat makes a foreign noise. I try to hold back the sob, knowing that when it starts, it doesn’t stop for a long time. I pray for her in a whisper – a whisper I know my Papa hears.

Months ago, after the arrest, on the 9th day, we brought her home–from that cell, from that cot–for one night before recovery began. She wanted her own bed– her old bed. The comfort of home.

Now I want the comfort of my Papa’s bed. I want that comfort for my daughter, and for her daughter, Kaylee. I want that comfort for all of us and for all others who are hurting.

I find it. I find it in the Word that is near me!

He gently tends me like a shepherd tends his flock. He gathers me in his arms and carries me close to his heart.

I might be unsettled for awhile, but I know that as I rest in his arms, close to His heart, I’ll find that comfort.

Further Reading: Isaiah 40:11; Psalm 91:1; Matthew 11:28; Romans 10:8

As you read the above post, you might connect. Some of you have or are presently raising your grandchildren. Some of you have or have had a son or daughter incarcerated. Some of you agonize, watching your own little ones unsettled and distressed, often unable to sleep. Take a verse or two and personalize it for yourself. Speak it over and over and over .  . . His Word is powerful. And it’s near you.

If you’d like to read my story about facing our daughter’s addiction and her subsequent arrest, you can order When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers by clicking here. 

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The Poppies of the Field

Passersby stopped their cars. Some actually drove in the big circle driveway, walked up the steps to the porch, and knocked on the kitchen door.

“May we look at your flower garden?” they asked.

Daddy’s and Mama’s garden was massive, stretching  between the mown lawn and the corn field, its woven artistry of greens and reds and yellows visible from every south window of the old yellow house. It abounded with fruits and vegetables – strawberries in June, green beans in July, sweet corn in August, and pumpkins in September. But at a distinct time of the hot Michigan summer, the garden was amass with papery-petalled blooms: beautiful red poppies.

Daddy’s and Mama’s lives paralleled that garden. Like their garden, their lives were brimming with ever-bearing vibrancy – of honor and service to God!

Those seasons were  times of sunshine and rain. Of planting and reaping. Although well-remembered, they were summer of times long passed. 

Today, nothing remains of the beautiful flower garden or of the vivid red poppies. For a few years, a little stem, here and there, popped up, but now, withered stubble covers the ground where the poppies once bloomed. And like the garden, nothing remains here on earth of the vibrant lives of Daddy and Mama.

“All men [and women] are like grass, and all their glory is like the [poppies] of the field; the grass withers and the [poppies] fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:6,8)

Yes, His word stands forever. It is powerful. It is mighty. It is beautiful. It does not die. It withstands every season, every storm, every fire, and every trial. It is permeated with vibrancy – the vibrancy of life.

So again today, I will open the Word and let it fill me with its unending message.  I desire the Word to reflect in my life such vividness that passersby stop and stare, glimpsing God’s glory in all of its beauty. 

They asked Daddy and Mama, “May we look at your flower garden?”

I hope they ask of me, “Please tell me about your Jesus I so vividly see.”

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Restoration from the Word

Are you distressed? I am. Most recently, I fight anxiety day and night. Truly the only thing that really helps me is speaking God’s word – praying God‘s word. Speaking God’s word puts things into perspective. Praying His word covers it all – becomes the perfect prayer – because it is His word! It is powerful. And it speaks to my anxious heart.
 
So I give you this sunset as a reminder of His mighty power, His faithfulness, and His sustenance.
 
I invite you to speak these word and to pray them. This short passage is Psalm 51:1-12
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
 
I especially find comfort in the last  two lines (verse). For it is that joy I desire and that willing spirit I so need.
 
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Whispers in the Cove

My body and mind are accustomed to cool autumn days of falling leaves, of rainy, foggy, mornings and of frost on the last of the pumpkins, but this autumn season is different for me, as I am in the midst of a sunny, warm climate. My body is adjusting – appreciatively! But my mind, nonetheless, is not following suit, as it is boggled with reports of riots, with spewed hate on social media, and with division over an election.
 
Ron and I try to get away from the stressors so many of us are experiencing. Today, we follow a white sandy trail, in need of grading, a preserve on either side. 
 
If I were a bird, I would see the quiet waters of the intercoastal to the east,  cushioned by mangroves and occasionally spotted with cottages. On the west, I would see the unending waters of the Gulf, the sound of its surf now reaching well across this span of sand and preserve.  We are surrounded by saw palmettos and cabbage palms, a stark contrast to the suddenly barren trees of the north with intermittent splashes of white snowflakes.
 
A Tribute to Saw PalmettosToday, we reach the end of this sandy trail, a small turnaround, and because no other vehicles are within sight, we stop our car in the middle of the rugged sand. I step down toward the water, hoping for a view of this beautiful expanse of intercoastal but stop short of the opening, discovering a heron, standing in the high tide of this tiny cove. The cove belongs to him. I do not disturb. Instead I stand and listen. In the soft water sounds of this secluded area, I hear Jesus whisper:
 
“Kathi, do not be afraid of the evil in this world today. One day, The roots of all this darkness will all be disclosed. You are my child. You only need to fear me with a righteous fear of which you have been taught. Speak in the daylight. Speak the truths you have been taught by me. Do so without fear. You see the beautiful heron. I have given him a place of refuge. How much more you are worth to me than the heron. I know everything about you, and I have redeemed you. I am your refuge.”
 
So now, I encourage you, my friend, to read the following short passage, the words of Jesus, from Matthew, chapter 10, verses 26 – 31, and as you read, to let Jesus whisper to you!
 
 “Do not be afraid of them, for nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light, and what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the housetops. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the one who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows.”
 
His Word brings His whisper – or sometimes a roar! Either way, it is His special message to you.
 
Browse this website today, and if you are on Facebook, click here – “like” and follow.
 
Further reading: Isaiah 8:12-13; 4:8-13; Psalm 34.
 
May God Bless!
 

The Water and The Word

Although I have observed this unsettling occurrence for years, I find it especially common during this election season. I write about this in a manner that does not reveal any political views I have. Absolutely none.

But during this election season, I am disturbed the most by one thing: Christians “watering down” the Word of God. 

I expect it from nonbelievers. It doesn’t surprise me – or bother me – or offend me. But it shocks me when it comes from the believer – from those who have supposedly trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior. 

God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And God’s Word doesn’t change, folks. It just doesn’t. 

All Scripture (God’s Word) is for us – in one way or  another.  We must apply and learn from the Old Testament, although we realize that God’s people, at that time, were living “under the law.” 

Then Jesus came. He brought the New Covenant. He brought us the offer of salvation. And He taught us believers how we need to live in today’s world.

God inspired His Word. Paul teaches us that it is living and active. It is sharp. It judges our thoughts and our hearts. It is a powerful piece of armor – a sword of God’s Spirit within us. We are commanded to put that piece of the armor on so that “when the day of evil comes,” we can stand our ground. And friends, that day of evil has come. I am not speaking of the election or political division (although we certainly find evil within it). I am speaking of the world in which we live. Although we still find much love and certainly we have great hope, one doesn’t have to look further than the evening news to see the evil around us. So we must be armed with the Word of God. Not so we can fight people – but so we can “stand.” (See passages below – Ephesians 6:13-17).

The Apostle James instructs us to not merely “listen” to the Word of God but to “do” what it says. How can we do it if we don’t “know” it?

The Apostle Peter tells us that we have the Word of the prophets. Let’s study those Words.

The Apostle Paul tells us not to distort God’s Word. 

Timothy admonishes us to avoid godless chatter and to correctly handle the Word of truth.

God, in his marvelous providence, gave us the Word – it is “God-breathed” and vital. It is for us. It is God speaking to us. In my writing, I refer to those messages as “Jesus Whispers,” because as I quieted myself before the Lord and dug into His Word, He spoke to me. God wants to speak to you. Directly. Personally. His message is of love and of guidance. Of hope and of comfort. Of peace and of a future!

The Word is life-changing!

We must let the Word of God  stir us, speak to us – in a gentle whisper or in a thundering voice. We must let the Word of God lead us, change us, and give us the wisdom God promises.

You might wonder where you can begin. You might  start with the passages listed below. Familiarize yourself with the power of God’s Word. Next, you’ll want to read and pray and review Psalm 119: it is all about the Word.

The Bible, God’s Word, is for each of us. The only “water” we shall put on God’s Word is that of Jesus, the Living Water. Let those streams of His Living Water flow from within us. Be “washed” by His Word instead of “watering down” His powerful Word. Drink of the Living Water – Jesus.

If you’re not sure you are truly a believer, please make sure. Click here and Learn more.

Want to begin to listen to God’s whispers? Or his thundering message? He wants to speak personally to you.

Start right here! Further reading: 2 Cor. 4:2; Eph. 6:17; 2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 4:12; James 1:22; 2 Peter 1:19; 2 Tim. 3:16

A Little Bit of Jesus

Pharoah, the ruler of Egypt, the enemy of the Israelites, detested the words of Moses and Aaron regarding God’s plan for the Israelites. He referred to their words as lies and told his overseers to “Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”[1] You might be familiar with the many plagues God put upon Pharoah and the Egyptians to force Pharoah to let the Israelites go – to leave Egypt. After plagues of blood, frogs, gnats, and flies, Pharoah agreed to let the Israelites go – but only a certain distance. “I will let you go to offer sacrifices to the Lord your God in the wilderness, but you must not go very far,” he said.[2] Does our enemy, Satan, set limits on you, as well?

He stirs you to find fault in your Christian leaders. He detests the Word of God they are preaching. Oh, he lets you worship – perhaps pray – a bit – but not too often. “You must not go very far,” he says.

He doesn’t mind if you go to church, as long as you don’t get “religious.”  Don’t listen to those who speak God’s Word. They speak lies, he says. The message is outdated. It’s not for today. He tells you it’s okay to go to church sometimes, as long as your church time doesn’t conflict with other events.  You must not go very far,” he says.

He puts in your mind many faults with God’s plan of giving the tithe or more.  Oh, it’s fine with Satan if you give a small offering to ministry, but he tells you the church doesn’t use the money properly – or you certainly need the money for something more important this week. You can “give” next week instead. “You must not go very far,” he says.

He makes the Christian look foolish – you know – the one who speaks to others about being saved. The one who prays in public. The one who prays with the sick or the grieving. The one who lives and raises his/her family according to the Bible, instead of according to the world. Then  he tells you that you would certainly appear foolish in front of others by revealing your Christian faith. “You must not go very far,” he says.

He causes you to be totally worn out on Sunday mornings. Your children aren’t obeying your directions to brush their teeth and get dressed. An argument is brewing with you and your spouse. Going to church isn’t worth it. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, you tell yourself. “You must not go very far,” he says.

I’m familiar with these lies, as the enemy spits them at me quite often. But just as God willed Moses to lead his chosen people out of Egypt, He wills us to leave the burden of slavery to sin and to follow Him, just as Peter and the other disciples did when they recognized Jesus as Messiah, the one about whom Moses had written.[3] Once we belong to Him, He offers us abundant life.[4] The enemy doesn’t want that abundant life for us; he doesn’t want us to go that far.  He tricks us into thinking we’re just fine with a little bit of Jesus.

I’m not. Are you?

 

[1] Exodus 5:9

[2] Exodus 8:28, italics added

[3] John 1: 35-51

[4] John 10:10

 

Take off your sandals!

The nation of Israel had just crossed the Jordan River. And before they undertook this awesome journey, they had consecrated themselves, as Joshua had told them to do.

“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:4)

And the Lord did amazing things!

Next, the Israelites had another huge, unimaginable task before them – to bring down the city of Jericho – literally bring it down, with a SHOUT, making Jericho totally vulnerable to Israel’s own army – the army of the Lord. But just before this was to happen, Joshua saw a man in front of him – a man with a drawn sword in his hand. This man told Joshua that he was “commander of the army of the Lord.” Was he the Lord himself? Perhaps he was.  We can assume so, as Joshua certainly recognized the authority of this commander. He fell facedown and asked the commander a question:

“What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

“The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy, ‘ And Joshua did so. ‘”(Joshua 5:15)

We see obedience. I, too, must ask the Lord,

What message do you have for me, Lord – for me, your servant?

Do you want to stand on holy ground? I do. I want to obey my commander’s orders. I want to be ready for the huge, unimaginable task before me. In order to do that, I must ask the Lord what His message is for me. And I need to take off my sandals. They’re dirty; they carry the dust and grime of the path I’ve been on. I want to be rid of them. I want my feet to be clean so I can step on to God’s holy ground. I want to be cleansed.

“Search me, O God . . . See if there is any offensive way in me . . .” (Psalm 139:23-24) “Create in me a [clean and] pure heart, O God. . . Restore me” (Psalm 51:10, 12).

It is only then, after taking off my sandals, after cleansing, that I can be ready to follow the seemingly huge, unimaginable task the Lord has set before me.

It is only then, that it could be written,

“Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy. And Kathi did so.”

Do you want to stand on holy ground?

Then take off your sandals.