Holy Expectation

Recently I was asked if I would lead a discussion session at our church’s ladies event.  I was given the material beforehand and was preparing by answering the questions in it for myself.  I was really enjoying the process.  Until I came to a question about expectation.  When I was asked what I expected God to do in the future, and to thank him in advance for what he would do, I froze.  I felt like I was taking a test I had not studied for.  Then before I knew it, thoughts that must have been deep in my heart, tumbled out, rapid fire, “I don’t know what God will do in the future. He does what he wants. I don’t know what he will do.”  I just couldn’t put that down.  I knew it was a bad answer.     

I tried to think of what would be good to write and jotted down some things I hoped would happen, things I had prayed for.  As I wrote them I felt little conviction and no wonderful sense of expectation.  Then I sat there thinking, about my unwritten answer.  It bothered me.  A chink in my trust had been exposed. 

It was very clear to me that God has been there for me in my past.  And I was convinced God was in the present helping me moment by moment.  But when I looked ahead, down the road, I was… nervous.  I began to argue with myself.  You expect things from your husband.  You know he will show up for dinner, you expect it.  You believe him when he says he will help.  What about God?  You are in a relationship with Him. There are things you should expect him to do…  Next I felt like God had joined the argument.  He was speaking to my heart, There are things you should expect me to do.  Things I have told you in my word, promises I have made.  You need to expect things from me.  I knew that was true.

I had been living without any sense of holy expectation.  And in that moment I felt the Lord granting me a little gift.  The gift of expecting him to be there, in the future, to help with whatever I needed, to fulfill promises he has made.   

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!  Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hand of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”  Luke 24: 5-7 NIV 

When Mary went into the garden on resurrection morning, she was crying, carrying burial spices, and planning to attend to a dead body.  She was not expecting Jesus to be alive.  Until Jesus personal conversation with her she could not see or understand what was true, that Jesus had risen just as he said.  She thought Jesus was dead, his body perhaps stolen.  Jesus was alive.  He had robbed death.  Mary was viewing things under an old paradigm, or mindset.  Have you ever done that? 

I have.  What is an old paradigm of mine, a fruitless way of seeing things that needs to go?  Here is one.  Expecting too much from myself and other people, and expecting nothing from God.  Here is another, believing that it’s better and safer not to expect– believing that somehow not expecting saves me from disappointment and prepares me to better handle things.  Wouldn’t it be better to believe and expect that Jesus will do what he says and that he will show up for us, on any day, for our good, no matter what?  The cross proved that Jesus is faithful to show up on the hardest of days, to bear every hard thing on our behalf.         

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news:  “I have seen the Lord.”   John   20:18 NIV

Last week family came for a visit.  They told me they were coming and when they would arrive.  I believed them.  I expected them.  Then I acted on that expectation.  I cleaned.  I made beds.  And as I did, I thought of Jesus words, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me”(John 14:2-3).  I’ve read those words many times and heard them many times.  And I have loved them.  This time however, those words took on new meaning.  Why?  Because I believed them. 

Oh Lord,
Forgive me.  I grow tired and weary and wonder if I will make it.  You do not.  I wonder if I will have what it takes to do your will, to be faithful whatever comes.  But you, you cannot be unfaithful.  You cannot be un-strong, you cannot be fickle or ungracious.  You cannot fail to show up.  You cannot fail to live up to your vows and promises.   You will not cease to guide and provide. I know so little of your matchless character, because I have often projected onto you my own ways. Open my eyes to see your glory. Help me to see who you really are as declared in your Word.  Lord, help me to trust in you with all my heart and to lean not on my own understanding (Prov. 3:5).  From this day forward may I no longer wonder what will happen, but instead expect you to do what you say.  Fill me with holy expectation so that I may reflect your true character to the world.

Perfectly Arranged

Photo credit: The Voice of the Martyrs

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.  Luke 2:6-7 NIV

God’s son is coming to earth and it would appear that God has not reserved him a room.  No beautifully decorated nursery.  No mention of a doctor or midwife.  Why do Mary and Joseph seem to be scrambling to make do, pounding on doors?  Why after years of prophecy and promises would God, who can arrange anything, have Jesus arrive so plainly, with most everyone sound asleep, and in their better beds?

I have been in the habit of thinking that things that “appear perfectly arranged” and “decorated” are a mark of God’s sovereignty, a sure set up for something special to happen, a sign God is present and working, or will show up.  If I have small provisions, arrive in a plain space, find closed doors or am feeling left out or squeezed out, my first reaction is to think “God can’t possibly be in this.”

But the Christmas story would prove me wrong.  Jesus coming, unnoticed by most, to a city of closed doors, that was sovereignty.  No reserved room, no decorations, no warm welcome… these faith stretching circumstances were part of God’s sovereign plan.  And how encouraging.  Because that is life much of the time, filled with situations that don’t measure up in my mind.

Later, we see God’s wisdom peeking through.  Later, we understand how this strange “back door” entrance was purposeful (lowly shepherds could approach) and protective (King Herod would kill any threat to his rule). 

God knows exactly what he is doing.   

If we can believe that God will show up in a manger, we will believe that he can show up in our meager hearts and at our humble gatherings. 

Where are you feeling shut out?  What appears to not be turning out?  How might God be divinely positioning, and protecting, you?  Will you trust his Sovereign plan? 

“And so with barely a ripple of notice,
God stepped into the warm lake of humanity,
Without protocol and without pretension.
Where you would have expected angels,
there were only flies.
Where you would have expected heads of state
there were only donkeys,
a few haltered cows,
a nervous ball of sheep,
a tethered camel,
and a furtive scurry of curious barn mice.”
-Ken Gire, Moments With the Savior

“Do not despise these small beginnings…”   Zechariah 4:10 NLT

Be Quiet. And Believe.

“Do not be afraid Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  He will be a joy and delight to you… he will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous- to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel.  I stand in the presence of God, and have been sent to speak to you and tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

Luke: 1:13-14, 17-20 NIV

Before Jesus came, God sent a forerunner, John the Baptist.  His parents were Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Zechariah was serving in the temple when the angel Gabriel came with an amazing promise from God.  He and Elizabeth would finally have a son.  When Zechariah heard the angel’s promise, he spoke disbelieving and doubt-filled words.  Because of that, he would be unable to speak again until the promise was fulfilled, and the baby born.  God is so gracious.  He does not take back the promise because of the doubting servant.  I wonder what Zechariah learned during the time he could not speak?  Would he speak differently when he was able to speak again?

He did.  When John the Baptist was born, Zechariah’s lips were loosed, and we see a change.  That stretch of silence was valuable.  Zechariah knows his own words were not needed to carry God’s plan through.  Now prophecies and praises pour from his mouth.  All who hear him are blessed and in awe of the Lord. 

This story convicts me.  I, like Zechariah, have spoken faithless words.  Rude and pinched words, human views, my personal judgments instead of God’s grace, my puny opinion instead of God’s great truth, words of doubt, complaint, fretting, aimless words and arrogant words, all have gushed from my lips.  I have said things that dishonor the promises of God to me, and to others.  And today I need to quiet my lips, focus on what God has promised, and believe.  Worship God with my silence.  And learn, like Zechariah, how to better speak.  Oh Lord, what words of yours is it time that I accept and believe?

Forgive me for the doubt-filled words I have said. I have quenched the very Holy Spirit I have asked to move.  Today I give you silent lips.  Your words are better than mine, so wonderful and true.  They bring life and hope to all who hear them.  Today I will be in awe of what you have said and of how every promise from your lips will come true.  Help me Lord, to be quiet and believe.  Prepare me to better speak.

Immediately his [Zechariah’s] mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.  Luke 1:64 NIV            

Returning Thanks


One of them when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice.  He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him- and he was a Samaritan.”  Luke 17:15-17 NIV

Jesus was traveling to Jerusalem when 10 lepers cried out to him in loud voices from a distance.  They were terminal, contagious, and had to keep away from others.  “Jesus, Master, have pity on us.”  Jesus heard their cry.  “Go, show yourselves to the priests,” he said.  And as they went they were healed.

One of the lepers returned to Jesus with praise and thanks.  The other nine walked on, why?  Were they too excited about the blessing they had received, too busy making plans?  “How should we spend this new lease on life?  What do we do with this dream come true?”  Or, were they just in such a hurry to finally be together with their family and friends?  And why would I fault them?  Weren’t they obeying what Jesus commanded?  Jesus told them “go.”  He didn’t tell them to come over and give him praise.  He didn’t call after them, “Hey, what do you say?” or “You’re welcome!”

I wonder, if I were one of the lepers, would I be the one who went back?

What made that one different?  What entered his mind?  What stopped him in his forward rushing tracks, and sent walking back, alone?  I think he realized the gravity of the situation.  He was a leper. And he was a Samaritan.  This made him a double outsider.  Maybe the others deep down thought they deserved what they finally got.  He knew he didn’t.  Jesus had seen and helped, him.  There would be no more languishing in utter despair, no longer that life sentence of hopelessness.  The weight of that blessing swung him around and swung him hard.  Walk alone?  Who cares.  “I’m healed!  I’m free!  I’m falling at Jesus feet.  Thank you Jesus!  What can’t wait for me?”

I want to be swung around.

That one leper has me thinking about the magnitude of what Jesus has done for me.  He has made it so that when God sees me he says “Clean!  Spotless! Come in!”  He’s healed my heart so I can be a life giving part of, an encouragement to, my family and community.  I don’t want to rush head long into my blessings or dash ahead with my plans.  I want to learn to be the one, the one who stops, and returns, to give thanks.

When we were overwhelmed by sins you forgave our transgressions.  Psalm 65:3 NIV

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed?  Where are the other nine?  Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Luke 17:17-18 NIV

A Broken World Made Whole

Every Christmas I put out the manger scene that has been in my family for about 75 years. The old figurines are beautiful but most of them are showing wear, and you can easily see that many of them have been broken.  Both the shepherd and the angel are missing their legs.  Years ago my grandmother fastened cardboard to the bottom of each so they won’t fall over. One of the sheep is creased with cracks showing it has been glued back together.  The other has uneven feet and must lean against the shepherd for support.  And the donkey, he’s a mystery.  I believe his tail has been pulled and he looks sort of… well, chewed on.  I’m sure if I took this bunch of characters to the Antiques Road Show they would be declared of little value because of their flaws.

In the past I tried to hide my broken manger scene figures behind the more perfect ones or behind some greenery, but lately I am letting them show, because they perfectly represent the value God places on a broken and imperfect person like me.  They inspire me to sing about the fact that I have been invited, cracks and all, to partake of every good thing God offers me through Jesus.  They remind me that Jesus has made me whole and has given me the grace to stand with joy in his presence.

Timothy Keller says that “there is no good reason for God to care about us. But amazingly he does.  He doesn’t love us because we benefit him in some way.  How could we?  He loves us simply because he loves us (Deuteronomy 7:7).  That’s why we praise Him.”

Merry Christmas, from our home to yours!  – Jake and Dana Huffman

Thanksgiving Table

Colorful maple leaves on wooden  table.Falling leaves natural ba

It had been a rough couple of days.  I was assaulted by thoughts, enemy thoughts that kept coming against me.  I was battle weary.  I felt confused and lost.  And got down on my knees to pray.  As I began confessing all my oppressive thoughts, I felt a strong command to my heart, “Remember the great table of the Lord.”  Oh yes, I thought, “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies” Psalm 23.  What is at this table of the Lord?  Truths.  Truths that when taken up and taken in, fortify us for the fight within.  These are not “visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads,” but correct thoughts of who God is.

I remember my grandmother’s table and a special meal served at her house.  It was a feast worthy of exclamation.  Fruit was fizzling in purple goblets and mere pats of butter had been shaped like roses.  As each dish was carried out of the kitchen and placed on the table, everyone seated exclaimed things like, “Oh my…” “Wow!”  “This looks wonderful!”  And it was.

But there is a greater table.  There is a table for weary and storm-battered souls.  Sit down in the presence of your enemies and eat there.  Feast on the richness of who God is.  Take in, and savor, what is true of Him and what is true of you:

God is fighting for you.  And he will win. (Exodus 14:14)

He loves you even when you feel terrible and unlovable. (Romans 5:8)

He knows right where you are, even if you feel lost. (Job 23:8-10)

He will never, ever, ever leave you, even if others do. (Hebrews 13:5)

Nothing will stop his persistent goodness and grace to you, nothing. (Psalm 23:6)

These truths give clarity.  They wipe away confusion about God’s nature and what he is able to do.  He’s deeply compassionate and all powerful.  These truths wipe away confusion about where you are and who you are to him.  You are under his watchful eye.  You are deeply loved, and never to be forsaken.  Exclaim over each of these revelations.  Thank God for each truth.  This is comfort food.  Sit.  Eat it until you are fat.  Then give thanks.  Give thanks that this food can and will, change your life!  Give thanks that in the light of these truths, you see the enemy’s lies for what they are, pesky flies at the Father’s table.

Romans 1:21 says, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God, nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…”  What keeps our thoughts from becoming futile?  What stops our hearts from being dark?  Glorifying God (gladly exclaiming over who he is) and giving thanks to him.  This floods our hearts with light, which means peace, calmness, truth, and Jesus, because Jesus is light.  Do these things and your toughest battles are won.  Amen?  Amen.  Let’s eat.



Just As He Said

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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

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

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My mom was recently admitted to the hospital with internal bleeding.  They were thinking that maybe an artery got punctured when a tissue sample was taken the week before.  She was being given blood and waiting.  Waiting for the next day when they would go in and look around, and hopefully find and solve the problem.  While they waited I worried.  I was thinking about how another family member had not fared well under a similar circumstance.  I was 1,000 miles away and in a state of anxiety.  Running rehearsals for impending disaster.

After about a half hour of fretting something came over me.  And I started thinking that maybe it was wrong to focus on what happened to my mother’s family member, what happened in her physical family line.  I began to feel a challenge before me.  A challenge to focus on her heavenly heritage instead of her earthly one.

I got my Bible out, but wasn’t sure where to turn.  I was looking for the passage about the people walking in darkness seeing a great light when I stumbled upon these words of Isaiah in chapter 8.  The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does.  I was gripped.  I felt the words were for me.  I felt like God was warning me to think about him, to think like his child.  I flipped over to the Psalms looking for words about my spiritual heritage.  I found these in Psalm 77 (NLT) Oh God your ways are holy.  Is there any god as mighty as you? You are the God of great wonders! You demonstrate your awesome power among the nations. By your strong arm, you redeemed your people… When the Red Sea saw you, O God, its waters looked and trembled!  The sea quaked to its very depths…  Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters- a pathway no one knew was there!  Wow.

I could rehearse human frailty or I could recite Holy wonders.  That would be my choice going forward.  It took me a moment to realize that it would not be an insult to my mother if I chose not to worry and fret my way through this.  That instead it would honor God, invite Him in.  It would be one way I could “prepare Him room” this season.  And wasn’t that what I had been singing about?


“Dah Who Dor-aze”


It was one of those days when all seemed wrong in the world.  A day when you wonder if you will really win the fight of faith you are in.  Darkness was rising, my hopes sinking.

As I got ready for bed that night I was just plain heartbroken.  I fell to my knees in prayer and could say only one thing, “Lord, do we really win?”  Then I cried.  I cried for what upset me that day and I cried for the sorrows of the whole world, as best I could know them.

After that I crawled into bed.  My husband, a pastor, had recently preached about Paul and Silas singing hymns at the end of a hard day.  The shoe fit, so I put it on and laced it up the best I could.  I found some hymns on my iphone and tried to sing along.  Then I reached over and turned out the light.

I had been lying in bed for twenty minutes and was just ready to drop off to sleep when I heard it, a voice in my heart.  It said one thing, an odd thing for a hot August night.  “The grinch will not stop Christmas from coming.” it said.  The voice was so matter of fact.  And the message was given as a doctor might give a simple diagnosis.  It was given as if I was to, in light of that diagnosis, go to sleep, rest well, and rise to live in hope.

“The grinch will not stop Christmas from coming.”  I began to think about that old Dr. Seuss story.  I compared it with my own day.  The grinch crept into Who-ville with plans of spoiling everything.  He snuck into “Who” homes, snaked across “Who” floors, and cursed “Whos” under his breath, as he stole what they had hoped for.  He even swiped the “Who hash.”  He took it all!  Or did he?

Suddenly in my mind’s eye I was zeroing in on the end of the story.  The part where all the “Whos” great and small, in spite of it all, hold hands and…. sing.  Sing like Paul and Silas.  Sing like I had attempted.  “Dah Who Dor-aze” they sang.  I never understood that song.  Until now.  Now I know what it means.

It means that our enemy can take from us a lot of things, but he can’t take the big thing.  He can’t stop God from showing up.  He can’t stop God from filling our hearts with hope today, and he can’t stop Him from setting everything right on that Great Day.

As I began to fall asleep for the second time that night I heard that voice one more time- quiet, calming, true.  It said, “Keep singing Cindy Lou.”


“Just when I need Him, Jesus is near.

Just when I falter, just when I fear.

Ready to help me, ready to cheer.

Just when I need Him most.


Just when I need Him, Jesus is strong.

Bearing my burdens, all the day long.

For all my sorrows, giving a song,

Just when I need Him most.”


-William C. Poole

The Best Thanksgiving Dinner

DSCN0046Thanksgiving.  We arrive hungry and leave full.  If all goes perfect, we sit down with family around a table beautifully set and a meal lovingly prepared.  And hopefully, for a moment, cares and sorrows and disputes are set aside.  Empty plates and full bowls sit before us.  Grace is said.  And we dig in.  Delighting the host or hostess who has sacrificed for this special moment, we partake ravenously.  And rapturously.

As good as this gets, there is yet a better table.  Where people pull up from all walks of life.  Yellow and brown.  Weary and worn.  Cares and sorrows and disputes are cast aside, along with fears, and mistakes, and pretending, and pain, and labors of every kind.  Here, the Lord says grace.  Over you.  Here, the Son washes feet.  Breaks bread for broken people.  Serves up… himself.  To give you peace, forgiveness, a second chance, another helping of mercy.  This is the table of abundant love.  Won’t you sit and stay awhile?  Delight your Host and partake ravenously.  Rapturously.

“Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?  Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.  Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.  I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love…”  Isaiah 55:2-3 NIV