A Thanksgiving Reflection

Keep on giving your thanks to God, for he is so good! His constant, tender love lasts forever! Psalm 118:1 TPT 2020—what can I say?  It’s been unlike any year we’ve lived through.  It’s been challenging on multiple fronts.  It’s been revelatory.  It’s been what I’d term a “good hard year.”  Good because it has allowed us to see and experience things that have opened our eyes to some truths about ourselves, our world, our faith, our God. It has taught us resilience and resourcefulness.  It's forced us to rethink how we do life, caused us to readjust and, in some cases, hit the reset button.  It's caused many of us to slow down and reexamine the choices we've made. It's caused us to appreciate life and value time more. It's caused us to look around and see what matters most. It's caused many to see if what they profess to believe is what they live out in real time. Personally,  it has anchored me more deeply, tethered more tightly to the One Who is my life. As I think about, it's been a hard year for those same reasons.  It's just our nature to resist change—even when it's necessary. This Thanksgiving I am filled with gratitude for both the good and the hard. Today, as I reflect on all I have to be grateful for, I find myself pondering this thought posed by the psalmist: What if God had not been on our side?  (Psalm 124:1a TPT) It’s…

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Shelter in Place

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” Psalm 91:1-2 I turned off the television and took a deep breath. In my desire to remain informed, I’d been watching the Governor’s daily update on coronavirus. The Governor was followed by the Mayor of Cincinnati who was preempted by the President. The constant barrage of images, statistics, dire predictions and speculation, growing need, and reminders to practice “social distancing,”  to “shelter in place” was causing mind overload! I needed to refocus; I needed to find a place of worship. I sat at my piano, and began singing this simple chorus written by worship leader Kent Henry and my pastor, John W. Stevenson: Under the shadow of Your wings I will find a hiding place You are my refuge A fortress in whom I can trust Under the shadow of Your wings I will find a hiding place You are my refuge My God in whom I trust “You are my refuge, my God in Whom I trust,” I repeated. Then I heard Holy Spirit whisper in that still small voice, giving the phrase “shelter in place” a new and powerful meaning.  “Remain sheltered in this place,”  He said, “the place I prepared for you before the foundation of the world was laid.  The place you have chosen to live.…

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A Good Hard Year

It’s my usual practice to spent time during December reflecting on the year-gone-by and prayerfully making decisions about how I choose to live the next 365 days. 2019 was a good hard year, and I am grateful for every good hard moment. I look back and see the manifest presence of God in my life, and I end the year with an overwhelming sense of gratitude—not because I accomplished all the goals I’d set (I didn’t); not because the year wasn’t riddled with challenges on every level (it was); not because I got it all right (I definitely didn’t); not because of the numerous victories and triumphs (there were many). And not just because God wowed me in ways that made Ephesians 3:20 an even greater reality in my life (He did). I am blessed and I am grateful because it was a good hard year! Had it been good without the hard, I may have missed the transformative lessons it presented. I may have rejected the wisdom it provided. I may have overlooked the blessings that manifest in hard places or, worse, have taken them for granted.  I’d be entering 2020 a very different person than I am today. I’d be entering the New Year unarmed, unprepared, unchanged, unresolved.  Had it been hard without the good, I wouldn't have recognized every challenge as an opportunity for growth and greater faith; I may have grown cynical and disdained the wisdom the year offered; I may have dismissed even the…

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Emmanuel – God With Us

"How's it going?" a friend asked me recently. "Great!"  I said. "Are frazzled and sufficiently stressed about Christmas?" "I don't do that anymore," I replied. "Don't do frazzled. Don't do stress." "Maybe you can teach me," he chortled. Truth is it has taken me years to get to this place.  To not get caught up in the Christmas vortex, but be at peace simply because it's the season when the Prince of Peace was born.  To learn to rest in one truth and let that anchor me—Emmanuel!  If you find yourself a bit unwrapped because you don't feel quite ready for the big day, I want to share this post from last year.  Hope it will bless you and keep in a place of peace!  Merry Christmas! "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."  Isaiah 7:14  "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14 I have a confession to make: It is exactly 6 days before Christmas and I have not put up my tree nor have I bought one single gift. I am not a Grinch by any means.  I love Christmas. I love all the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas. I love shopping for others and surprising them. I love all the merry-making with family and…

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A Different Kind of Sacrifice: Rethinking Lent

"Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams." 1 Samuel 15:22   "Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy." Pope Francis Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. Lent wasn’t a part of my Baptist upbringing. I actually didn’t know much about it until my years at a Catholic university and, seeing some spiritual benefit, I began my yearly observance of Lent – at least superficially. I’d decide on something I could live without for 40 days and suffer through abstinence of junk food, Coke, maybe an hour or two of television. By the time Resurrection Sunday arrived, I don’t know that I had grown or changed deeply in anyway. I can’t say that I was closer to God. Truth: I  was just ready to indulge in all I’d missed for six weeks. As we enter this season of Lent, Holy Spirit encourages me to view with fresh eyes all this season can be as I surrender these 40 days along with myself to Him. He urges me to see beyond the sacrifice of my daily visit to my favorite coffee spot for a large vanilla latte with nonfat milk, beyond Tuesday nights spent with the Parsons family on "This Is Us", beyond that slice of key lime cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. Even beyond…

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