A Blessing in Disguise


Would I recognize a blessing if it showed up on my doorstep?

Before Jesus came, God spoke to people through prophets, and one of those prophets was Elijah. One day God sent Elijah to the town of Zarephath so he would be taken care of, because a great drought had devastated the land.

Elijah arrived at the gate of Zarephath hungry and thirsty (and just in time for a divine appointment). A widow was there and he asked her, “Will you bring me a little water to drink?” The widow went to do as he requested and Elijah called after her. “Bring me a piece of bread too please.”

She stopped, faced Elijah, and cut to the quick of the situation. “I swear by the Lord your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. I have one drop of oil and a handful of flour and that’s it. I was just going to use it to cook my son and me our last meal before we die.”

Harsh conditions! But Elijah was not taken aback. He did not flinch and say, “Oops sorry, never mind about the bread then.” Instead he said, “Don’t be afraid!” And “Do just as you were going to, but make my bread first. Then make some for the both of you. Because God has said that you will not run out of provisions until the crops return to this land.”


It was a strange sort of blessing God was giving this widow wasn’t it? He didn’t arrange for a strong man to show up with a giant vat of oil and a 50 lb sack of flour. I mean that would have made everything clear from the beginning right? That’s how a blessing looks right? God gives us money, a new job, a new car…

God had something different in mind.

This blessing would not be a giant one-time provision. This widow wouldn’t wake up to see (and fawn over) a full jar of oil. And she wouldn’t have to worry about anyone taking her king-sized bag of flour.

No. This blessing would be daily. And personal. Every day a little fresh flour and oil would appear, enough for her needs. God would never forget. He wouldn’t miss a day. Each morning there would be a new mercy. Each morning a gentle whisper, “Yes, my eye is still upon you little sparrow.” How sweet is that? This would be a special relationship.

I have found myself thinking about how I would have responded had I been in the widow’s situation and Elijah asked me for some bread. I feel pretty sure I would have lost it, snapped, and said something like, “You’re kidding right? My husband has been taken from me. My land has dried up. And now God wants my last meal?”

I wonder how often I have misjudged God. Been insulted by a request he made of me. A request that was meant to bless. I wonder what I have missed out on while trying to guard, what I thought was surely, my last dollar, or my last nerve, or my last bit of energy, my last hope… my last drop of oil.

Are you down to your last drop of oil? Will you be open to receiving a blessing in disguise?

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  “Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?”  “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?”  For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be the glory forever!  Amen.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Romans 11:33-36 NIV


Just As He Said

dales 006

Jesus’ disciples should have known what was coming that morning, they really should have.  Jesus told them he would be raised to life after three days, so why wasn’t everyone hanging around the tomb on that Easter morning, excited, expectant?  Why were his followers somewhere else, cowering, despairing, disappointed, afraid?  Maybe for the same reason I hide, or cower, despair and fear…  Because I don’t believe what Jesus has said.  If I did, wouldn’t I be near that tomb, standing in that hard place?  That difficult place that whispers, “This thing is over with, it’s sealed, dead.”

Thankfully, the resurrection of Jesus never depended on his follower’s faith in his words.  Thankfully there was no belief meter deciding if everything came true, deciding if he would come through for doubters and skeptics and flagging friends and misguided enemies…  Jesus said he would rise and he did.  He did it in spite of the frowns, suspicions, and sealed tomb.  With no help from a cheering section or venture capitalist, he rose.  Just as he said.

And then, it gets better.  He walks through the doors people were too scared to open and says, not “What’s wrong with you, why didn’t you believe me?”  Not, “Well, you don’t get much now after the way you behaved.”  No.  He walks through doors people were too scared to open, passes right through walls they’ve been hiding behind, and says, “Peace be with you!”  Halleluiah, what a Savior!

Makes me want to run to the tomb, doesn’t it you?  Makes me want to run to that hard and sad and carefully guarded, sealed, dead thing and stand there.  Stand there all alone if I have to, waiting, for the third day.  Waiting, because I’ve learned that Jesus will do… just as he said.    

                       “He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”  Matthew 28:6 NIV

I’m Here for You


One thing the cross teaches us is not to flee when things get hard.  On the cross Jesus was showing us that he could endure when things were tough.  That he could be there for people, though they abandoned him, disappointed him, rejected him.  Jesus knew how to stay when staying was hard.  It’s the nature of God.  Though it pains him, he will keep his promise of love.

Faithful love.  It’s what we all want.  Sometimes we suffer because people are unfaithful in their love for us.  Sometimes we suffer trying to faithfully love others.  Either way, all is solved at the cross.  Jesus goes first in giving and forgiving.  And if we follow him, he gives us strength to do the same.

Remember, in your worst moments, Jesus is with you.  He won’t leave your side.  Ever.  He’s not there because he has to be, he’s not grudgingly hanging around, he’s not tapping his foot or glancing at his watch.  He really loves you.  He wants to be with you.  Even if no one else does.  Do you truly know that?  If so, then you are ready to share it.

Is there some tough place in your world that Jesus intends to show up through you today?  Is there somewhere he’s calling roll hoping you’ll say “I’m here”?

                                          “Love each other as I have loved you.”   John 15:12  NIV


Prepare for Your Big Day


As God’s people approached the Promised Land 12 spies were sent out to survey it.  Upon returning 10 spies said, “It’s true. The land does flow with milk and honey and the fruit is enormously good!  BUT, our worst enemies live there and we are as small as grasshoppers compared to them.  We cannot enter, we’ll be devoured.”  The other 2 spies said, “Yes, the land is gloriously good, and the enemy is daunting.  BUT, the Lord is with us.  Don’t be scared!”  Of the 12 spies, only those 2 lived to enter the Promised Land.

I have wondered what made those 2 spies different.  I mean, everyone had been on the same trail through the very same wilderness.  Everyone ate the same food and had the same water to drink.  So what gives?

I think those 2 spies were just different all along.  I think that when manna fell from heaven for the umpteenth time and others were saying, “Not again” or “Same old same old” those 2 said instead, “Thank you.”  I think when the people were really thirsty and Moses struck that rock and everyone cried out, “Finally!  We were dying of thirst!” those 2 said instead, “Wow.  Awesome.”  I think when those wilderness wanderers encountered yet another hardship and the general population complained, “Let’s turn back!” or “Why did we ever come out here?” those 2 said instead, “Lord, help us.”  I think that day by day those 2 spies had responded in faith (gratitude, awe, and prayer) to all the smaller things, so that when it came time for the big thing, they were ready. 

We really do prepare for our big moments and big days, in small moments today.     

Whoever is faithful in small matters, will be faithful in large ones.   Luke 16:10 GNT

David and Goliath: A Battle of Beliefs

bigstock-David-Goliath-4883362When I am facing a battle, whether it’s in my world or in my heart, I often turn to the story of David and Goliath for wisdom and instruction.  You know how it goes.  God’s people have something special and Goliath wants to take it away.  Day and night he intimidates and taunts them.  Morning and evening he goes after the peace in their hearts, the hopes they have for their families, the promises God has given.  God’s people begin living in dread of what might happen.  Until a boy named David shows up and shows them how to win.

David wasn’t bigger and stronger.  He was younger.  And smaller.  He didn’t have a big gun.  And he didn’t have a big bank account.  There was nothing in his possession that appeared impressive.  So what was his secret?  What was it that gave him the power to face and conquer an enemy that had everyone else biting their nails?  His secret was his faith.  And his faith was the victory.

So what did David believe?  First, he believed that God had given him and his people something wonderful, land.  He was sure God wanted them to have it.  And defend it.   “Wait a minute,” David said of his enemy, “Who does he think he is defying God and coming against us?  That’s not right.” (1 Samuel 17:26)

Second, David believed in God’s favor for his people.  He believed in it so much that it didn’t matter what others said.  When Goliath mocked and belittled David, he wasn’t even rattled.  He didn’t get embarrassed and retreat.  He didn’t get enraged and act rashly on his own- and outside of God’s grace.  David believed in God’s favor.

Thirdly, David was convinced that his life was in God’s hands, not his enemies.  So when Goliath calls up with a death threat, David not only answers the phone, he replies with some words of his own.  “Yes you are twice my size.  Yes your sword and your spear and your javelin are enormous.  But none of that matters in a fight like this.  The Lord will win for us.  And when he does, everyone will know that he is real and that he lives among his people.”  Click. End of phone call, beginning of down fall.

What battle are you facing today?  Don’t let your enemy shout you down or talk you out of the life God is calling you to live.

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down… and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s.”  1 Samuel 17: 45-47 NIV

It’s Not Too Late

Man Waiting on Bench

I like the story of Jacob and here’s why. Because even though he started his journey on the wrong foot, God let him know it wasn’t too late to put the right foot forward. Now that’s good news for everybody.

Jacob left home on the run. He lied to his father, schemed against his brother, and is on about a 500 mile walk to his uncle’s when he stops to rest for the night. With a stone for a pillow he falls asleep. Now you’d think with all that’s gone on he’d have a nightmare about his brother catching up with him and killing him right? Instead he has the most wonderful dream. And the dream is from God.

In the dream God does not give Jacob a lecture, though he may have earned one. In the dream God does not tell Jacob all the things he should do to make amends, though that is probably what I would have done. In the dream God does a surprising thing, he gives Jacob his blessing. He says, “I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying. And many people will be blessed through you. I am with you and will watch over you and I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised.”

When Jacob woke up he was amazed. And his thoughts went something like this, “Wow. God is here? God is giving me His blessing? God is making me these promises? Well then, I accept Him as my Lord and will worship Him.”

When Jacob got up from that place he was still on the same journey. He still had a long way to go and many steps to take. But he was a changed man. When he put his next foot forward I think he was encouraged instead of afraid. I think He was hopeful instead of doubtful. And I think he was thinking about how everything would somehow work out, because God had said so.

Here is good news. Good news for a person who has started anything on the wrong foot. All is not cursed. It’s not too late to find God on this journey you’re on. He’s still there for you. Watch for Him. Listen to Him. Trust Him. Worship Him. This is truth for your travel pilgrim. Will you lace up these mercy shoes and walk on?

       “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…”  (Genesis 28:15 NIV)


The Missing Lady Slipper

Every year I look forward to a little spring event.  It’s the appearance of a single Lady Slipper on a bank of our property in the woods of Craig County, Virginia.  It’s that time of year and for the last three weeks we’ve hopped on the four-wheeler and headed out in hopes of seeing that single pink jewel that grows in the middle of some thorny vines.  And for the third time we’ve come up empty.  We can’t find it.  I’m worried because the power company came through and killed a broad path of foliage right next to where she blooms. Or was it right over where she blooms?  I don’t know.

Why do I like that Lady Slipper so much I wonder.  What does it matter to me if she shows up again?  Well, for one thing the Lady Slipper is Minnesota’s flower, and Minnesota is my home state, so we have a little kinship.  Also, that wild orchid is a mystery, a wonder, a flower of fortitude.  She blooms alone.  None of her kind are anywhere in sight. And she is the only Lady Slipper I have ever seen in real life.  How did she get there I always wonder?  What is her story?  I would love to know.  Anyway, the last time we went to look I was feeling a little sad thinking that she would probably never come back.

It was dusk back at the cabin and we were lounging around watching TV, snacking, shooting the breeze.  The weather was drizzly and we were all pretty tired when Jake surprised me by saying, “Do you want to take a ride out and see the flowers I found on Tub Run?”  Tub Run is a road behind the cabin that Jake had jogged earlier that day.  After my disappointment over the Lady Slipper he told me that he had seen some new purple blooms on Tub Run.  “Sure,” I said.

I put on a Carhartt jacket, pulled the hood up and we headed into the drizzle.  It was a nice ride on the four-wheeler; snaking our way through the forest on that gravelly road.  Every here and there Jake would stop and point out what looked to me like small but spunky purple Irises.  I was surprised.  In all our rides up and down Tub Run, I had never seen them before.  The Irises liked it on the steep bank of the road.  They were getting their footing, even sort of taking off in spots.  I took a picture.  We had the best ride on Tub Run, getting a little wet, pointing out moss, talking about swollen creeks, deciding on an Iris to take home for my terrarium.

That night I was washing my face before bed.  I was thinking about the day. A good day.  I was thinking about the gone Lady Slipper and the new crop of Irises, sad on one hand happy on the other, when this verse came to mind.  “See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”  I smiled.  It was a great way to sum up the day’s flower hunt.  It was great way to sum up some other things I was looking at, looking for, too.  It was a good verse to go to sleep on.  And, to wake up to.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

How to Build Anything

In the book of Nehemiah the people of God have a huge task in front of them.  They are rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.  From rubble.  Halfway through their work they are attacked by a powerful weapon.  Words.  “What are those feeble Jews doing?” the enemy says.  “Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble?  If even a fox climbs on that wall it will break.”  Do you feel the sarcasm?  Do you see the shame and doubt those words carry?  As Nehemiah counters the attack his method is noteworthy.  He doesn’t speak to his enemy, he speaks to God.  In prayer he lets out his hurt and frustration.  Then he and his people return to the task at hand.  That’s called focus.

When God is doing something in us or through us, Satan will oppose it with his words.  The words will attack our mind.  They will ridicule and aim to shame.  They will cause doubts to rise up.  “Do you really think you can change?  It didn’t work the last time you tried?”  “Look at the situation you’re in.  Do you really believe God can make something out of it?”  When thoughts like these enter your mind, don’t argue with yourself.  Pray to God.  Ask Him to address what assails you.  Then return to the task he’s called you to do.

“Remember the Lord who is great and awesome.”  Nehemiah 4:14