Satan loves Saturday night

I think that I am not alone in this.

I think a good night’s sleep is important, kind of critical, in fact desperately needed. For my sanity. And everyone else’s. Beauty sleep, they call it. Attitude sleep is what I think it really is. And I need it. Especially for Sunday, when I lead worship. When I want have myself together, be at my best, so I can help others to worship their Savior. Sleep is as critical as breathing.

But I think that Satan must love Saturday night.


It’s 11:30 pm. Lights off, my head sinks into the pillow, my body gives a  big sigh of relief. I love my bed.

Sadly, Sleep doesn’t come, so I pray a bit, and rest.
It must be just about midnight, when I finally doze off. It is bliss.

Oh no! At 12:10 I am awakened by a mini heart attack as the sound of elephants stampeding through the house quickens my heart to a jolting pace. What’s going on? Is the house falling down? An earth quake? Are there really elephants above me? What?
Oh wait it’s just the cat.

The really old cat who barely, rarely, gets out of bed is running around the house like a stampede of elephants.IMG_4033

Ok, I can go back to sleep.  Just as soon as my heat rate gets back to normal.

12:20 Once, again, dozing off and returning to sleep. Ahhhh, bliss.

12:29. A giant thump in the foyer gives me another mini heart attack. Did someone fall down the steps? Is the house caving in again?

Really cat? That was you? You sleep 92% of your life away, why can’t some of it be now?

12:45 Return to bliss after mini heart attack subsides.

1:10 Jolted awake by the sound of a small child’s coughing fit. It quickly subsides.

1:12 Is that more coughing? Do I need to get up and do something?

No, this time it’s the cat. Hacking up a hair ball

On the bed.
Jump up and move cat to the floor to save the comforter.IMG_4028
Clean up the yuck.
Crawl in bed. Sink into the pillow. Relax. I really really love my bed.

1:17 The baby begins to fuss. She’s hungry. Or maybe needs changed.  Both, probably.
Tap the hubby. It’s your turn.
No response from hubby.
Tap the hubby harder.

Still no response.
Shake hubby. Get up get up I want to sleep. And my attitude clearly reflects it.
Doze, but not quiet sleep, as hubby feeds baby for the next hour.

2:20 Everyone gets settled.
Head sinks into pillow. Eyes closed. Sleep comes quickly. Bliss. Oh, how I love my bed. Maybe someday, I will marry my bed.

3:20. More coughing.  It’s the cat again.
Hacking up a hair ball. In the freaking bed. This cannot possibly be happening.
Move cat to floor to save the comforter. Forget the yuck.
Climb in bed. Head sinks into pillow. Eyes close.

4:07 Eyes pop open. Breath catches. Gulp. Someone’s staring at me. Two someones, actually. Preschoolers. “Mommy. Mommy wake up. We need tucked in.”  Ok. Ok. I’ll tuck you in.

4:12 Bliss is tainted by crazy dreams about Target and shopping and houses and elephants and hairballs.
And then the phone rings and rings. Somebody answer the phone. Please. Please because I love my bed and I want to sleep. I need bliss.
Oh wait.
4:45 am. It isn’t the phone. It’s not someone calling me in the middle of the night.

It’s the alarm and it’s time to get up.
It is Sunday. And I will do my best with what I have to praise our Savior, and create the opportunity for others to do the same.

But first, coffee. I love my coffee. Coffee is bliss.

Do not fear the darkness.

IMG_7393“Mom, close the curtains. I don’t want the darkness to get in.”

Honey, the darkness cannot hurt you. 

“Mom, turn the light on. I can’t see in the dark.”

It’s in the dark that our light shines brightest. 

“But I can’t see in the dark. I’m afraid.”

God is with you, even in the dark.


IMG_7380God does not intend for us to be afraid in the dark. Bad times come, but these seasons of  grief, and despair, or times of hopelessness and discouragement, these are not a cosmic time-out sent from far across the universe to whip wayward children into shape. Crippling, crushing fear that stops us in our tracks – this is not heaven sent, the weight of depression that hampers our steps as we trudge through the molasses of sadness or brokenness, this is not the ruling of a strict Father, imposing, decreeing misery on His little ones. Bad times do come, and they have come, and they will come again, and maybe bad times are right now, but they are not the final word on the goodness of your life and mine. Bad times, sad times, grieving times, despairing times, these are the by-products of a world that is not the way that God designed, but a world that has been tainted and twisted and confused by sin, by missing the mark on what God had planned, or because of bad choices, or bad situations, or bad actions.

Bad times come. And with them, darkness.IMG_7403

God does not want us to fear in the dark. 

Do not be afraid, He whispers. Again and again, His Word, His written Word, His Son, the Word, reminds our breaking, crying, screaming, lonely hearts, Do not fear.

This world will give you trouble, but I, the I AM, the Word, the King of Kings, the Lamb of God, I have overcome the world.

Don’t be afraid. 

When bad times come, don’t be afraid.

It didn’t catch me off guard.

When bad times come, don’t be afraid.

I have the very best stuff planned for your life.

When bad times come, don’t be afraid.

There isn’t one single thing in this world that can keep me from you.

When bad times come, don’t be afraid.

I am still working even when you cannot see me through the darkness.

When bad times come, don’t be afraid.

All of this will pale compared to what I have in store for you.

Don’t be afraid. 

The Good Father does not create our fear.

He does not give us despair.

He does not make us broken.IMG_7398

The Good Father gave us His very best – His Son, His Beloved One, His Little Lamb, to walk among us in the darkness, to meet us in our brokenness, to come to us in our despair. He did not fear the dark, but embraced it to be with us. There is no darkness in Him, our darkness cannot dim Him, because He is our Light.

The Good Father is at work in our bad times and our darkness. And the Good Father will create good IMG_7455from the very worst, like an artisan, He crafts something beautiful from the shattered pieces of our bad times.  He smoothes away the rough places, restoring, redeeming, resurrecting what has been broken to bring about beauty, newness, life. He brings light in our darkness.

Do not be afraid, He tells us quivering souls, I will be your Light. There is no darkness that will stop me. There is no brokenness I cannot redeem. There is no sadness I cannot help carry. There is no wrong I cannot forgive. I will be your Light, no matter how deep your darkness.

Do not be afraid.

Living in the chocolate bunny hangover


You went to church, yesterday, didn’t you?

On that unbelievable day that we get to celebrate Easter, the day of our risen Savior,  you went to church. And you sang glorious Easter IMG_0592songs, perhaps heard the heart-pumping strains of Hallelujah, rejoiced in the alleluias, adored the chiffon and the bows and the satin on the little tiny tots with their chocolaty mustaches and bunny stuffies and and fist-bumped your way through the greeting and the celebrating and the empty tomb and the awesomeness of the day. And you heard an inspiring sermon about the earth quake and the soldiers scared to death and that Jesus breaking out of that tomb and perhaps a lovely solo or two, and the musicians played their very bestest and the pastors preached their hearts completely out of their chests and it was really really an awesome spiritual holy day. And you were thrilled with your delicious Easter dinner and then when you couldn’t possibly eat another bite you snuck a few chocolate bunnies from the Easter baskets when no one was looking and then you later collapsed in your bed, happy, full, and content with the risen Lord and the Easter bunny and the church service and the happy, happy children and it was still an awesome, maybe even perfect day. And it deserves the very best of celebrating, it needs a give it all you got because it is the most amazing day of the year kind  of a celebration, this Easter day that we celebrate our risen Savior.

And then there was Monday.


And Monday hits like a dump load of broken up bricks because the festivities are done, and everyone is reeling from their chocolate bunny hangovers and crankily seeking out their sugar fix and you can’t hear that glorious music ringing in your ears anymore and the chocolate bunnies are gone and the leftovers are just left over and the Easter grass is strewn around and the foil wrappers are ground into the carpets and the toys are already breaking and you are so exhausted from all of that fun. And the risen Lord was so so yesterday and His death defiance fades into the background and life hits you really hard right there in the here and the now and the gut. And pretty soon it’s back to work and back to school and back to the drudgery of life and back to our budgets and our dirty dishes and wiping runny noses and everything else that drags us down when the Easter high has gone away. And Easter has come and gone and nothing is really any different or better it’s just dull and dingy in the light of all that celebrating.

But Easter living isn’t one day a year.

Easter living is in the heartbreak, those cold hard days when the emptiness of your arms makes your very bones ache and you cry for your IMG_0606dad or your husband or your favorite grandpa but they aren’t there so you find rest in the only place you can, in those stretched wide arms of your risen Lord with the nail holes and the scars. And Easter living is in the tension of your company, so close to breaking apart that it keeps your eyes open throughout the night but you can find your rest deep in the soft kind eyes of the risen Savior.  And Easter living is in the mounds of laundry that overwhelm your laundry room day after day after every single cotton picking day and you feel like you can’t do one spiritually important thing because laundry. Because work. Because kids. Because grief. Because everyone else’s family Facebook pictures are happier, more perfect, and more than you think yours are. Because chocolate bunny hangovers remind you that there are too many days in the year that aren’t really awesome, maybe even perfect fist-pumping Easter Sundays.

But Easter living isn’t one day a year.


And in the days of the heartbreak, and the cold, and the laundry, and the grief, and the Facebook pictures and the empty Easter baskets we find the real meaning in the Easter celebrating. Because when the rejoicing has passed and there is nothing left but the chocolate bunny hangover we find that the risen Savior is still just as real, and His welcoming arms are still waiting, still stretched wide with those unmistakable nail holes and those holy scars. And instead of high-fiving those reached out hands for accomplishing that act of death defiance we run straight and hard into them because there is no place left to go and that’s ok because we are still just as welcome right there in those open wide arms. And whether it’s the first place we look or the last place we turn there is still the love of a Savior who was willing give up His very own life even for our daily drudgery with the laundry and the Facebook and the chocolate bunny hangover. Easter living is the promise that the God who defied death is very much alive and the God who defied death is within our grasp and the God who defied death wants us to grasp for Him. And Easter living isn’t just in the resounding trumpet but also the tiny whisper of hope He speaks to our weary souls when we start to let the resurrection break forth into our dingy dull places and our laundry and our Facebook and our grief-stricken places and our chocolate bunny  hangovers.


Never a false hope

There was that hard time,  when my son was tiny, and frail, and his IMG_0201premature 2 1/2 pounds of life didn’t come with any sort of a lifetime guarantee, and I didn’t know how his desperate lungs could fill themselves with air even just one more time. It was hard to find my hope because I thought my hope was lost. And I needed that nurse who offered me her hope that he was going to be just fine.  She propped me up with all of the hope that was her own so I could be every bit of mommy that his tiny body, heart, lungs, and soul could need to get him through that one very hard day in a series of hard, hard days. Her hope was never false – it was everything I needed to hang on to in that moment, on that one very hard day. And today he is just fine and 8 years strong and smart and full of love and life and a beacon of hope beyond anything we could have ever even hoped for.

IMG_0180And I want to be a hope bearer, too. I want to bring hope to someone else because I’ve been in that place and I know that feeling, that one singular desperate ache, the emptiness, the lonely need, to find someone else who can possibly ever hope on my behalf when I’ve just plum ran out of every bit of hope that I ever thought I had. I know what it is when you try to muster up all the hope that you can find and come up with none to get you through that really hard day in a series of hard, hard days.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:13, NIV 

Sometimes, its easy to see hope in every little place; sometimes, hope is elusive. We know it’s out there, somewhere, but we can’t quite get a grasp of it. And if we catch it by the tailfeathers, maybe we’re afraid to hang on to it for dear life, because, what if that thing we caught is not really a hope at all, but a forgery of falseness that leads us daringly away from our tenuous reality only to dash us on the rocks below.

But I say hope is hope, and if it gives you something to cling to tightly, something to grasp even if it is no more than a handle to pull yourself out of the deepening water, then it cannot possibly be false hope because it is real and it is tangible and it is giving you what you need to make it through that hard moment on that hard day. And I say Jesus doesn’t want you not to hope because the Bible says that our God is the God of hope and He wants you to overflow with hope so that you have enough for you and enough to prop up the person next to you, too. And I want to be that hope-bearer, too.


And sometimes, sometimes, I hear a tiny chirp of hope in the peeping of the baby chicks nestled safely in my library. And some moments, some days, I watch it grow before my eyes as tiny shoots of kale and broccoli break out of plump little dollops of dirt. And some days, some weeks, I smell a hint of hope in the air as winter’s gasping fades away into the sweet sweet baby breath of spring. My burgeoning homestead shows me there is hope, reminds me when I lose my hope, that Jesus is all of the hope.

It is the possibility of a better, healthier future. It is the summer harvest coming soon, with an unending supply of sun-warmed tomatoes, and delicious zucchinis, and melons snuggled in the dirt. It is the gleam in the eyes of my aging house kitty, invigorated by the joys of spring air seeping in through opened windows. It is the sound of laughter as my children roll haphazardly down the clovered hill, landing willy nilly, belly up, and head over feet trying to find the bottom fastest.

My sweet little baby homestead shows me my hope because it is the footprint of a Creator who came to give us all Hope in the form of a baby, born to suffer, and die, and raise again so He can be our everlasting hope, our one true hope, our greatest, our only Hope. And I have precious little to offer you, friend, but I can walk alongside you on my little patch of dirt and offer you what hope I have. And I can hand you baby chicks to cuddle in your empty arms or playful children needing to be tagged in the warmth of the sun. And I can pass you the freshest eggs, and maybe they will be help you find your hope and show you there is hope so you can remember all of the baby miracles and great big miracles that the God of Hope can do.

But I can do a little better, I can help you plant some seeds in a pot, or a mug, or an old egg carton filled with dirt. And I can introduce you to the One who really is our Hope, and IMG_0209together we can water those teeny tiny seeds of hope and place them in just so, so that as the sun shines on those little seeds and creates a miracle that makes them grow, His love can shine bright right on that broken heart you carry and make a miracle of hope to grow, right there, right here, right when you need it most on this day, this hard day in a series of hard, hard days.

I want to be a hope-bearer, too.


“Hope” is the thing with feathersimage


“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)


I’ll come to you.

“I know right where you are and I’ll come to you,” echoed my new 1147603_10201900890624407_1866935575_ohusband in my ear. The tow truck driver hollered these words to him to pass on to me. I was stranded on the side of the highway, barely out of the path of cars whizzing by in their rush to get home.

It was frigid and my car was dead. Not even a click when I turned the key. It was so dark no one could  see that I was inside the smokey blue Dodge Colt, stranded and alone. I locked my doors and huddled under an old blanket, shivering in the 10 degree weather. The car shook from the passing traffic and I couldn’t see who might be out there in the darkness. Not a soul, not one, stopped to help. Maybe that was better, safer. I climbed into the passenger side, furthest from the wildness of the traffic, praising God for 1 thing – my very first cell phone, purchased the day before, at the insistence of my groom. The phone I didn’t really want.

557048_4218347977465_104829219_nHe’s coming to me, echoed in my head.  He must have broken the laws of man and nature to get to me so quickly, because the tow truck driver, who I had seen only a few times before in my small town, arrived within a half an hour. He saw me shaking, and with compassion in his eyes helped me into the cab of his truck. “I said I’d be here; let’s get you warm.” And he cranked up the heat and loaded my little car onto his big truck.

He knew right where I was, and he came to me. Yes, the tow truck driver.

Yes, Jesus. Jesus knew right where I was, and He came to me.

I find so much comfort in that statement – he knew right where I was. It5311_10200880558236735_1400010509_n was going to be ok.  Nothing would stop him from getting me home safely. He meets us right where we are. Just like the woman at the well (John 4). Just like Mary and Martha (Luke:10-38-42) Just like Lazarus (John 11:43). And just like the women bewildered by the empty tomb (Matthew 28). He came to us, each one of us, right where we are. He didn’t wait until we knew the answer, or had it all together. Jesus knows us right where are – in the cold, in the dark, afraid, alone, He knows. He knows when we are alone in a car or a tomb or even near the tomb; when we are dying or living, working or not working, Jesus knows just where we are and He comes to us to warm us with His love.

23924_1385760284543_4829787_nDo you remember how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? It’s such a well-known Bible story that we don’t think about it too deeply, do we? But Lazarus was dead. And Jesus came to him, and met his greatest need.

Then there were the women near the empty tomb. Jesus, Savior, Messiah, King, the Word, God, defeated sin and death in this most incredible amazing victory – the event that changed the entire course of the world forever and ever – He could have gone anywhere, or done anything. But He met those women in their greatest need, right where they were. He met them by His tomb. What a stark picture of the life giving Jesus meeting us in our places of death and despair, offering us hope, resurrection, life.

There is never a place where we are too far for Jesus to come us, no place too dark, or cold, or alone. There is no death that can prevent Him from coming to us. There is nothing that will stand in Jesu11990476_10207840579712922_8025513724316635598_ns’ way. He knows where you are and He is coming to you.

This week, this Holy Week, where we remember Jesus’ suffering, and His death, and His ultimate resurrection, we remember how Jesus gave everything because He knew right where we would be. He wasn’t afraid to join us in the cold, in the dark, in the fear, or in the pain, or even in death. Jesus knows right where we are because He’s been where we are. And He is coming to us.

Emmanuel, God with Us


Advent – that glorious time of year where everything sparkles and shines and smells of cinnamon and spruce. That time of year when we hustle around, surviving on coffee and spurts of shopping-frenzied adrenaline and perhaps a sticky bun or two, and squooshing and squeezing in one more thing before we have to be at that next one. When, now more than ever, we are beckoned, courted, and teased by all manner of delightful, stuck-in-your-head-forever Target ads, provoking us to empty our wallets for all those lovely, sparkling trinkets that our beloved little people simply cannot be without.  Advent – the time of waiting, seems to be the time when we are never still, but instead, constantly juggling the added responsibilities of pageant practice, and children’s choirs, and school programs, and Christmas parties and all of the fun and all of the mundane that takes up our every spare second. Advent – the time of year when we stuff our homes to the brim with hidden gifts, waiting for the opportune moment to be given.

This season of Advent is also the time when the church lays aside it’s typical worship music for something of a more traditional fare, carols steeped in nostalgia and restyled for the new styles. Where typical Advent sermons, I find, are heavily laden with sincere, heart-warming, stories, practical advice, and Scriptural helps to keep us keeping Christ first  and in the forefront at Christmas. And we need this!  More than ever our hearts long to be tugged by anecdotes, like the often recounted account of the widow who surprisingly received a puppy for Christmas from her late husband, giving her a reason to celebrate the season when she thought she had none. The time of year when we are taught and groomed and reasoned into putting our focus on the Christ-child, the baby born in a manger. Emmanuel, God with us. And it never, ever gets old, no matter how old we get, because the baby in the manger was born for each and every one of us. And we who believe will never forget the joy of the earth in that moment. We can’t forget, we shouldn’t forget the moment that Peace came to earth to be our Emmanuel. But as I reflect on the Christmas story, I think maybe we did forget something. Or at least, maybe I did.

At Christmas, we seem to forget that baby isn’t in the manger anymore. That tiny baby, God with Us, that gave up the glories of heaven to be with us in a whole new way isn’t just a baby all wrapped up and tucked in the hay. That God who became flesh isn’t helpless, or frail, or even new. The baby that we celebrate grew into the God-Man that walked among us. That healed us. That forgave our sins. That baby was crucified and rose again – not as a baby, but as our Savior and King. And He did it all to restore a broken world – to restore a broken me and a broken you – to redeem every mess we ever made, to reshape our bottomed out hearts and breathe new life into our tired, weary existence. He became a baby because He loved us. But He didn’t stay in the manger.

This Advent, don’t forget God with Us. The baby doesn’t lay still as a tiny wooden idol beneath our sparkling trees, or tucked neatly into manger scenes dressing up our altar tables. He’s not just the God with us, He is the God who is STILL with us. He is the God who is with us when we are hustling and bustling, and shopping and serving, and cooking and cleaning. He is our Emmanuel our God with us when we feel Grinchy or giving. He is the God who is always with us when we are singing Christmas carols and sweeping up Christmas cookie crumbs and when we are weeping for Christmases and souls gone on.

Don’t just put the baby first this Christmas. Put the baby who became our Savior first this Christmas. Jesus Christ, our Messiah, our Healer, our Hope. Our Friend, our King, and our Savior is with us. And we need Him.