Eternity in Our Hearts

Bringing what endures into everyday life


The value of one divine appointment

On Thursday, I enjoyed posting and scrolling through back-to-school pictures on Facebook. But between the images of kids with fresh clothes and big smiles, I saw a picture of a young boy unknown to me. I did a double-take, then I squinted to figure out what I was seeing.  Because what in the world??

What is he covered in? Dust, ashes? Why is blood smeared over half his little face, matted in his hair and eyelashes? The child sits alone with little hands folded in his lap and with face expressionless. Doctors who treated the boy said that he never cried.

Mahmoud Raslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Mahmoud Raslan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Numbly, he looks as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.

He is Omran Daqneesh, a five year old victim of an airstrike in his hometown of Aleppo, Syria. His rescuers leave him in an ambulance, where this picture was taken, so that they can save additional children. Relieved, I learn that Omran was treated and released from the hospital with no signs of brain injury.  His parents and 3 siblings reportedly survived as well, pulled from the rubble of their apartment building before it collapsed completely.

The Syrian Civil Defense, a volunteer lifesaving organization, saved the family’s life.

Bibars Halabi is the volunteer who carried Omran to the ambulance.

“My heart breaks for Omran but people need to know this happens everyday,” said Halabi, “This time it was just caught on camera.”

As I search for articles about Omran and his family, I learn that Aleppo, their hometown, has been in the news for years. Part of the Syrian city has been held by rebel groups since 2012 with the recent government siege, backed by Russian air power, cutting off many supply routes. As vital necessities diminish, humanitarian aid is blocked.

More than 6,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed or injured in 80 consecutive days of fighting in Aleppo.

I have never heard of Aleppo. I’m grieved by this. I didn’t know that just last week, the remaining 15 doctors in the city of 300,000 sent a letter to President Obama to appeal for intervention so that medical supplies and food can offer relief to the suffering civilians.

Honestly, I can’t understand or explain the Syrian civil war, although I know that millions have fled for their lives, but for most of them and for those still in Syria, there is nowhere to go.

I remember it’s been almost a year since the world was shocked by the image of Aylan, a Syrian boy whose drowned body was recovered off the shores of Turkey.

But then, well, I forgot …

“I hope the world will learn something from it,” said Aylan’s father who also lost his wife and another son when their dinghy capsized as they tried to flee Syria. “I hope this people will be helped, that these massacres are stopped. We are human beings, just like Westerners.”

Every child is a divine appointment ~ Wess Stafford

Aylan and Omran – yes, you are human beings, divine appointments, made in the image of God, held in His heart and precious in His sight. So much more than another victim caught on camera. My heart is filled with remorse and regret for the way I forgot you. I didn’t pray. I guess I reasoned that the situation in your home country is “complicated” and “political” and I didn’t know how to pray. That’s garbage for an excuse.

I am so sorry. Omran, if your precious little face looks numb to suffering, perhaps it’s because my heart has been numb to your suffering. May this day conclusively close the door on my ignorance, apathy, forgetting.

Reader and friend, if you are like me, perhaps you also find it overwhelming to articulate the tremendous needs in our hurting world as you try to pray. May we remember that the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it.

May we simply and humbly and faithfully come and choose to not forget.

Together, let us hold every Aylan and Omran in our hearts and trust that God receives our prayers for

– peace and for protection over the innocents caught in the crossfire

– a ceasefire so that aid can be delivered to the suffering

– safe places for the vulnerable

– material support to flow abundantly

– courageous volunteers like Halabi and the 15 doctors who are risking their lives for every Omran.

– the Christ-followers to stand firm in their faith and serve as the hands and feet of Jesus to their neighbors in Syria and refugee camps

– their suffering to be redeemed by His goodness and glory

– all of us, a call to action in giving and praying and remembering.

We can all do something. Thank you for reading and remembering with me.

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” Max Lucado

If you can share any additional prayer points or ways to help, please include in the comments.

“I believe that now more than ever, Jesus is leading His church into the margins of our world, where the suffering is greatest and expressions of His love are most needed.” Richard Stearns, President of World Vision

Where is the Church? by Steve Haas of World Vision. In this article, you can find and download the free guide, “Understanding the Syria Crisis and the Role of the Church”

World Vision International

Open Doors

World Relief Disaster Response

The (Bloody) Face of Violence in Syria

Compassion International –

Aylan Kurdi: The Power of One Child

Doctors Without Borders

News sources:

Also – from Ann Voskamp, September 2015 – Dear Alyan




Saying Yes Where You Are

“(God) says to ordinary people like me and you that instead of closing our eyes and bowing our heads, sometimes God wants us to keep our eyes open for people in need, do something about it, and bow our whole lives to Him instead.” – Bob Goff, Love Does


I knew that we would quickly fall for the Albanian children at the orphanage. I felt it when the oldest, an eight-year-old girl with a gleam of mischief in her eyes, took the opportunity once the translator stepped out of the room to speak directly to the unsuspecting Americans:

What’s your name?”

This bright, bubbly child turned out to be a pint-sized translator herself:

Me – “Crayon?”

L – “Lapsi.”

Me – “Orange?”

L – “Portokalli.”


My memories of my friend and her little sister are rooted in my heart. I was allowed to take a few pictures on our last day together. Most of the pictures are blurry, and eventually my mind’s eye will grow dim, but the eyes of my soul cannot un-see these children.


But there was a time (not so long ago) when I succumbed to a feeling of helplessness at the darkness and suffering and injustice in our world and I basically chose to “un-see” the needful person across the street and across the sea.

My question was this – What can one ordinary person do to make a difference?

As I struggled with my hesitations and limitations, the Holy Spirit nudged me with another question, plus a challenge:

What difference does Jesus make in my life? Start there.

As I thought about these things, I read books by Richard Stearns, Henry Blackaby, and Emily Freeman which encouraged me to bridge the gap between sacred and secular and to open my eyes to all of life, even in my ordinariness, as my offering.


Whatever you and I do, we are designed like no one else to say something unique and purposeful about God with our lives. As Emily Freeman says, creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were meant to do. God has created you, Image Bearer, to know Him and to express Him in a million little ways.

The difference that Jesus makes in my life is that I’ve been saved by grace through faith, and Scripture says that this is a gift from God and not the outcome of my works (Ephesians 2:8). It’s tempting, in our cultural mindset, to be outcome-driven, even thinking that ministry is our deal, our doing.

But Ephesians 2:10 tells us that we are God’s workmanship, created by Him for good works He planned before we were born. What we have to offer is by God’s design and doing. Recognizing this truth has freed me from the burden of outcomes. No, I can’t change the world but I’m not called to. I’m called to offer my heart, my voice, my hands and feet and let God work as He will.

I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples. (2)

While we’re waiting for a place where we’re significant and sufficient, He’s asking us to begin with a small step of obedience.

An outcome-mindset comes easily to someone like me who wants to do some good, feel successful in it, and make the world seem more neat and tidy.

An offering-mindset is rooted in the belief that I can do nothing good except for God’s grace in me. Sometimes – most times – this is an uncomfortable process because God shows up best through weakness and humility. But could it be that God’s work is best seen in surrendered people, not skilled people?


In our individualistic culture, it’s tempting to see ourselves as do-good lone rangers. But Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship and we are better together as each part of the Body of Christ does its unique and valuable part. God designed us to serve alongside, not alone.


I’m learning that yes – I have a responsibility to this world, but when I am concentrating on my gifts, my purpose, my weaknesses, my calling, I am getting in the way. It’s all His deal, and what a privilege you and I have to be a collective part of His story. Let’s be available and willing to see what He does.

We are all in full-time Christian service …. What has God given you? Moses had a stick. David had a slingshot, and Paul had a pen. Mother Teresa possessed a love for the poor; Billy Graham, a gift for preaching; and Joni Eareckson Tada, a disability. What did they have in common? A willingness to let God use whatever they had, even if it didn’t seem very useful … We may not be clear on just how God wants to use us. But that’s no excuse for doing nothing. Just jump in, and start doing.”  Richard Stearns, The Hole in our Gospel

God is greater than our gifts, and I think He wants us to keep our eyes on Him and open to the unexpected ways He is working. Your offering and my offering, wherever our mission fields may be, matter to Him.


When you ask God to help you see, He will open your eyes and your heart in a way that’s unique to you. His calling may not lead you to another country. God intentionally places us in our families, neighborhoods, and local communities too. What you offer in these places is significant and sacred.


The Great Commission is lived out through bedtime prayers, peanut butter sandwiches, a pick-up soccer game with the refugee kids, a gift to the crisis pregnancy center, a Sunday morning in the special needs class.

The hands and feet of Jesus represent the showing-up part, but they respond to the seeing part.

God invites me and you into His work. We don’t have to figure out where we fit. He will lead us when we keep our eyes open.

Lightstock photo

So, let’s not limit ourselves by the question – What can one person do to make a difference?

Instead let’s ask – What difference does Jesus make in my life? and Where is He working?

And let us start there. We can create a ripple effect that swells into a current of life-giving love.


“Saying yes isn’t really about doing it all. It’s about saying yes right where you are. It may seem small or insignificant, but any time you love someone or care for another person’s needs, you’re changing their world, and yours too. It’s about looking up from your everyday life and seeing opportunities around you to make a difference. It’s about loving others as we are loved.” – Kristen Welch, Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough

Emily Freeman, A Million Little Ways and Simply Tuesday: Small Moment Living in a Fast Moving World

Richard Stearns, The Hole in our Gospel and Unfinished: Believing is Only the Beginning

Henry Blackaby, Richard Blackaby, and Claude King, Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God



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Take Your Journey: Words of Blessing for Graduates

Dear Graduate,

In Deuteronomy 1:7, the Lord said to Moses, “Turn and take your journey …” It was time for the children of Israel to possess the land that God had promised their forefathers. Like them, you stand at the brink of newness where your days are marked with change and potential.

As I think of you, I remember words of blessing and wisdom that friends, counselors, and mentors have shared with me. I haven’t always heeded them as I would like, but I remember that the origin of the word “graduate” is from the Latin gradus, meaning “a step.” Each day you and I have fresh opportunities to step forward, learn, and take our journey. May these words help us to remember why we walk in Christ:

May you live with eternity in your heart, knowing Jesus and following Him wholeheartedly. When you ask Jesus to enter your heart, you begin an everlasting relationship with Him, and I pray that you will take this lifetime to enjoy and love Him with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.  Commit your ways to Him, and He will guide your steps. Every blessing in Christ is yours, and all your days on earth aren’t enough to fully grasp how rich you are. But take His Word, like a treasure map, and press on toward the prize of the upward call in Christ.

May you be a Grace-Receiver. You’ve spent most of your life as an achiever, and we celebrate your accomplishments. But when it comes to life in Christ, you cannot earn more of His love and grace. He has already lavished His affection upon you, giving His precious and holy Son so that you can draw near. No matter your status or title (or lack thereof), you are fully significant and treasured in God’s sight. There are no degrees of His love toward you. So when the world asks you to prove yourself, remember your place in God’s heart.

As a beloved child of God and a receiver, you are also a Releaser.  You have a sacred responsibility to help others realize their belovedness. As Romans 5 says, God pours His love into our hearts, not only to satisfy us but to spill from us. Live with awareness that the things you own can eventually own you, if you let them. In this fresh place in your life, determine now to devote your gifts, resources, and time to His Kingdom where your investments will never spoil, fade, or perish. I pray that you live with upturned palms, releasing your plans and your possessions and watching what God does with your loaves and fishes.

May you reflect the generous character of Him who gave His Son as you discover the joy of giving bountifully. God created you with something to offer, and may you – with your encouraging word, smile, prayer, open door, or gesture of forgiveness – release His goodness into your world.

May you see yourself and others as Image-Bearers. In the wise words of Sally Clarkson, “Deciding to like yourself is a choice to validate God’s design.” Yours is a high calling to add beauty, in your unique way, to this world. Turn down the volume on your inner critic and move courageously into that which makes you experience God’s smile. And may your eyes see the people in your path as fellow souls and may your voice speak for the inherent value of every person at all stages in life’s spectrum.


Embrace weakness as a teacher. Remember that God isn’t waiting on you to be perfect; He is waiting on you to say Yes. May you realize that your inadequacies are invitations for God to work as only He can, showing His great strength and revealing His glory.

Flickr, Walt Stoneburner, CC 2.0


Live fully in the blessings and responsibilities of community. For as in one body we have many members, and not all members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. May your relationships be at a soul-level where you are mutual speakers and receivers of truth, courage, and grace. This requires you to communicate beyond letters and images on a device.

Be attentive to the generations before and behind you; in them lie precious opportunities for learning and legacy.


May you rejoice with those who rejoice; and in times of weeping, may yours be the comfort of “common fortitude.” Let your knees bend beside others before a grace-filled table. Oftentimes this requires humility and forgiveness on your part.

Your place in the Body of Christ is a gift, but it is not without challenges. After all, community is where you learn to love others as Christ loves. As you seek to live authentically in community – with fellow, messy people – God will do His deepest transformative work in you.

Understand the difference between image and identity. Our culture simultaneously encourages “image-is-everything” and “be-true-to-yourself.”  But these mindsets can’t co-exist harmoniously. As we increasingly invest our efforts in image management, we are displacing our true identities. According to the dictionary, something is authentic if its origin is supported by undisputed evidence. That’s you, child of God; Scripture declares that your origin – your living and moving and being – is found in Him. We live, however, in a society where values and standards are relative, undisputed evidence is disregarded, and anything is fair game for dispute, especially our Creator and the Truth that He embodies. And so, our culture has no choice but to proliferate a watered-down version of authenticity as “being true” not to one’s origin but to one’s self.

Graduate, may you grasp this distinction and choose to be true to your origin, your Creator. He will ask you to follow His revolutionary ways where the last is first and the least is the greatest. May your reputation be less about your image and more about your influence for Christ. You are not defined by your selfie.

Untitled design (19)

Don’t be afraid of stillness. Align your life with God’s pace rather than taking on the cultural badge of busy-ness. Solitude opens your ear to God’s voice, and it is a gentleness not to be feared. Setting margins is hard work – and counter-cultural – but you will be blessed beyond measure by the time you prioritize for prayer, listening, and paying attention to what God is doing in and around you. May your outward life grow from His peaceful presence within.

It may be tempting for you to spread yourself in service, but may you understand that “saying yes to everyone is not the same as saying yes to God” (Lysa TerKeurst). As a recovering people-pleaser, I often wondered how Jesus could walk away when crowds of needful people sought Him. But I’m learning that God was His pacesetter, and Jesus exemplified the significance of time alone with the Father, taking rest, and determining to do nothing except His Father’s will. God offers us more than full schedules; He offers us life to the full, and I pray you will discern the difference.

Prixel Creative @ Lightstock

Prixel Creative @ Lightstock

Doing less when we’re in God’s will is far more efficient than doing the most we can on our own (Holley Gerth).

Pay attention to your “shoulds” (as in “I should do this or I should do that”). Not all “shoulds” are bad; if you’re a college graduate, you obviously told yourself many times that you should get up and go to class and you should study for your exams. But some shoulds are legalistic and demanding and woven into our lives so subtly that we don’t notice that the threads are suffocating ourselves and our relationships (I should have it all together or You should make me happy).

As I make more of God’s acceptance, I am less inclined to boss myself and my people around. And I’m finding that this perspective doesn’t lead to passivity; in fact, it enlarges my freedom and capacity to act, love, and serve – out of grace, not guilt. And I learn that laughing at myself is not a bad thing; perhaps I should do it more often.

Don’t get too comfy. If you can accomplish your goals with your resources, your plans are too small. God can do anything big with anyone willing.

Take any opportunity to go beyond the boundaries of your neighborhood, zip code, state, and country. Ask Jesus to give you His eyes for the world. Pursue a life that is large in love and solidarity for your worldwide brothers and sisters. Each day, ask God to show you how He wants you to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. Oftentimes this request will lead you beyond your own capacity and comforts, but as God plots your course for His glory, get ready for more grace and fulfillment than you ever imagined.


Live open-handed in the ordinary. May you understand the necessity and value of faithfulness in life’s mundane moments. Whether you are going to a job day in and day out, or meeting one more deadline, or maintaining the car, or working through piles of laundry, see these opportunities as your places to worship and serve God.

Don’t compartmentalize your life into secular and sacred. All Christ-followers are called to full-time service, wherever our mission fields lie. Remember that Jesus called ordinary men and women in the midst of their ordinary lives, and the Gospel spread throughout the world without televisions, telephones, or social media. You have this one life to tell God’s story, so be salt and light wherever you are.


Choose gratitude. May the Holy Spirit open your hands and lift your arms in praise, even when – especially when – life is hard. “Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it” (A. W. Tozer). Instead of complaining or fretting, settle yourself in the One who loves you to the extent of giving Himself in your stead; allow trust in His character and His goodness to permeate your soul.

jrmiller thanksgiving

May you have days when the sunshine warms you and God delights you with love and laughter. Celebrate His gifts everyday. May our Lord open your soul-ears to hear the song He sings over you. May you always remember the wonder of being called out of darkness into His marvelous light. Gratefully breathe every breath for the glory of God.

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“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:23 – 26).

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say. 2 Thessalonians 2: 16 – 17

The place God calls you to is the place (2)

Fearfully & wonderfully made (2)


If you want to go fast, go alone. If you (2)








The Best Song You Can Sing

I’ve thought and written a lot recently about my “one-word” – receive – as I’m learning (again and again) to rest in my Father’s unconditional love.  His grace invites us to come to Him in a posture of receiving, not achieving. Nothing we do can add to or take away from His love.

receive (1)

And as I study what the Bible says about receiving from God, I notice a pattern like this:

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love (Ephesians 5:2).

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God (1 John 4:7).

This most generous God who gives seed to the farmer that becomes bread for your meals is more than extravagant with you. He gives you something you can then give away (2 Corinthians 9:10, The Message).

Do you see the pattern? As we receive love, we’re not meant to keep it for ourselves. Love comes to us that we can release it back into love for God and love for a needful world. So I’m thinking that perhaps my “one-word” has turned into 2 words: Receive and Release are a package deal.

Friends, as beloved children of God, we are the receivers. And we grow more fully in God’s image when we are also the releasers. When we give bountifully out of our resources and our hearts, we reflect the generous character of Him who gave His Son. As Romans 5 says, God pours His love into our hearts, not only to satisfy us but to spill from us. Think of how different our world might be if our homes and communities were soaked with the overflow of God’s love.


On her beautiful site, Abiding Love, Abounding Grace, Karrilee expresses what releasing looks like:

I feel Him all around and I breathe Him in!
The temptation is to hold my breath…
to keep Him in…
To fill my lungs and try to push Him down…
To swallow Gulps of God.
 But Always, He was meant to be let out!

Last year I wrote a series on speaking life, being deeply inspired by these words:

Each of us is the beloved of God. Helping others claim and realize their belovedness is a privilege and sacred responsibility. This means we learn to be “for” our friends and family and not against them. Being for people means that we believe they are God’s beloved. (Stephen W. Smith)

To me, this being “for people,” this speaking for the belovedness of every person, especially those who cannot speak for themselves, is my sacred responsibility to release love.

This coming Sunday – January 18 – is Sanctity of Human life Sunday, and being “pro-life” is much more than taking sides and resigning this perspective to a political platform. It’s a worldview that embraces each person that God has created, from “womb to tomb” as our pastor says. It’s “a way of looking at life that transcends culture, class, race, age, and opinion, knowing that we are all uniquely created in the image of God” (The Dignity of Human Life video).


Friend, you are created in God’s image. You are fashioned uniquely by Him for a purpose. He longs for you to receive His love and then to release it into your world. When you and I understand ourselves as the Beloved and the Image-Bearers, there is no limit to the difference we can make through our receiving and releasing.

As I wrote about speaking life, I learned many things, especially that it is not a solo effort. Rather it is a symphony of voices, each uniquely gifted, rising in reverence for Imago Dei in every person.

Fellow Image-Bearer, God created you with something to offer, and you – with your encouraging word, smile, prayer, open door, or gesture of forgiveness – add to a chorus that can change a world one life at a time.  YOU have something to say, someone to bless, and your receiving and releasing gives glory to God, like breathing in God’s grace and breathing out His praiseIt’s the best song you can sing.

As Sarah Bessey beautifully says, “If there is one soul in your care, one face in your loving gaze, one hand in yours, then you are loving the world … And so the work today, the love we give and receive and lavish on the seemingly small tasks and choices of our days can tip the scales of justice and mercy in our world.”

“If there is one soul in your care, one (2)

May the following words inspire us to present our unique offerings, embrace the ordained ordinary, see weaknesses not as obstacles but as opportunities, and surrender the outcomes as our opened bag of loaves and fishes:

Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those who sang best. Henry Van Dyke

“If your personal genome sequence were written out longhand, it would be a three-billion-word book. The King James Version has 783,137 words, so your genetic code is the equivalent of approximately four thousand Bibles … My point? You aren’t just surrounded by miracles.  You are one.” Mark Batterson, The Grave Robber

icecream (2)

“There are many false ways of achieving uniqueness. These all result from attempts to create a self rather than receive the gift of myself in Christ. . . Identity is never simply a creation. It is always a discovery.” {Thank you, Emily Freeman, for sharing these words from David G. Benner. I’m eager to read his book, The Gift of Being Yourself}


Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which
Christ’s compassion for the world is to look out;
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good;
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
~ Saint Teresa of Avila

Releasing God’s love and our art in a way that reflects His glory is our highest purpose and greatest joy.

Join me in the song?



Thank you, Lisa of {} for introducing me to some truly inspiring thoughts from Sarah Bessey. Lisa’s post on Women in the Kingdom is filled with encouraging words about receiving and releasing for the sake of the Kingdom.

Linking with Beloved Brews Thursday @ Faith Barista. Fellow writers in Bonnie’s community are sharing their “one-words” for 2015. Bonnie’s offering a giveaway too, worth $100!


Linking with Lyli and her friends who offer challenging, encouraging, and inspiring words @ Thought-Provoking Thursday.


Linking today with Kelly and her encouraging community at Purposeful Faith and the #RaRaLinkUp. Find inspiration by clicking {here}.


Does your heart need a pick-me-up? Join us over at Holley’s Coffee for Your Heart by clicking {here}. Holley is offering a giveaway today too 🙂



Grace and Truth {and a prayer for our pastors}

CareerBuilder just released its latest study on the most outrageous excuses employees give when taking a sick day.  A few of my favorites:

Employee’s false teeth flew out the window while driving down the highway.

Employee claimed a swarm of bees surrounded his vehicle, and he couldn’t make it in.

Employee claimed she got stuck in the grocery store blood-pressure machine.



If you’re not as creative in coming up with excuses, there are webpages that have already done that for you:

“I always say food poisoning.”

“I have a bat in my kitchen cupboard.”

Oh, to tell the truth.  Research suggests that about 60 percent of us have a hard time getting through a ten-minute conversation without lying at least twice and that the average person lies about 11 times a day. (Research doesn’t lie, you know.)

Truth, any way you look at it, is held in decreasing esteem. I suppose one could nitpick about distinctions between honesty, dishonesty (as in the above examples), and Truth as a spiritual concept, but I think it all boils down to one’s worldview. Is self at the center, or Jesus?

In our relativistic culture, a claim to truth is equated with a judgment upon those who disagree. This perspective, however, separates truth from grace, and the two are more compatible than we may realize on the surface.

As a Christ-follower, I believe that He is the truth and His Word is truth that transforms. According to 1 Corinthians 2, this conviction is an outcome of grace and the Holy Spirit’s work in my heart, not my own wisdom. As Randy Alcorn says, “Truth is far more than facts. It’s not just something we act upon. It acts upon us.” And so, I don’t claim truth as if it is mine and guard it as if defending my own ego, my own infallibility.

Christ is the fulfillment of grace and truth in perfect harmony (John 1:14). I know myself and how tempting it is for me, as a fallible person, to be arrogant with the truth at the expense of grace or to be soft with grace at the expense of truth. And so, I claim Jesus and ask Him to set my mind & heart in the balance that He exemplifies.

We know by grace that grace may be known” (Douglas Groothuis).

The ability to discern truth is a work of the Spirit, and I am learning to see myself as not an owner of this gift but its servant. Jesus is inextricable from the Truth (“I am the way, the truth, and the life“), and as I am a servant of Jesus, I am a servant of the truth.

Because Jesus is the Life, I am also a servant of life. According to Proverbs 18:21, my words (and yours) have the power of life and death. Societal issues – the ones that get us into arguments about truth – are, at the core, sacred issues about life, its holy origin, and God-ordained designs.

And so, for me, resigning “pro-life” or “traditional marriage” to political platforms is a cop-out. It’s my everyday responsibility to choose words and actions that honor God in the most ordinary of ways in my home and communities.

I’m not waiting for a court ruling or an act of Congress to set society right; I’m asking Jesus for a right spirit within me. This doesn’t mean that I confuse grace with approval/tolerance of immorality. Love covers but doesn’t justify sin. I’m learning that a high view of truth and a high view of grace go hand in hand. I look at myself and I see how far & how often I’ve fallen short of God’s holy, absolute standards. And then I grasp the wonder of His grace that sent His Son to the cross.

The Scripture says –
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view (2 Corinthians 5:14 – 16).

Christ died for my life. Your life. Your neighbor’s life. The sex slave’s life. The homosexual’s life. The refugee’s life. The unborn baby’s life.

As a Christian, that truth has to radically transform how I see and treat life – whether young or old; rich or poor; able-bodied or impaired; slave or free; weak or strong.

Truth lets people know where you stand, but grace lets people know you love them (Pastor Eric Mason).

And if Christ’s love is what truly compels me, my goal is not to win political or philosophical arguments. My goal is to be like Him and make disciples.

As Albert Outler prayed,  “Lord, protect us from the mindless love that deceives and the loveless truth that kills.”

This prayer expresses our holy dependence upon God, that we might live humbly and uphold truth as grateful recipients who engage culture without haughtiness or fear or condemnation but with love, fervent prayer, and confidence that God is in control and is still moving all things into His redemptive, eternal purposes.

And let’s take every opportunity to support and encourage our pastors and pray especially that they would speak with grace, that truth may be realized, and speak with truth, that grace may be received.

O my Lord,
Let not my ministry be approved only by men,
or merely win the esteem and affections
of people;
But do the work of grace in their hearts,
call in Thy elect,
seal and edify the regenerate ones,
and command eternal blessings on their souls.
Save me from self-opinion and self-seeking;
Water the hearts of those who hear Thy Word,
that seed sown in weakness may be raised in power …
Make my every sermon a means of grace to myself,
and help me to experience the power
of Thy dying love,
for Thy blood is balm,
Thy presence bliss,
Thy smile heaven,
Thy cross the place where truth and mercy meet.

A Minister’s Prayer, From The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

It is false piety to preserve peace at the expense of truth. It is also false zeal to preserve truth at the expense of charity. –  Blaise Pascal

Truth-oriented Christians who address abortion and homosexuality without grace are dead wrong. Grace-oriented Christians who assume every attempt to speak out against these comes from people who know nothing of grace, are equally wrong. Since Christ is full of both, we dare not choose truth over grace, or grace over truth. – Randy Alcorn

If we speak of “our faith” we should emphasize that the truth is not our possession; rather the truth possesses us. No one put it better than G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy who confessed concerning Christianity: ‘I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me.’ – Douglas Groothuis

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples” … not converts to your own opinions.  – Oswald Chambers




Belong {Five Minute Friday}

I’ve done a lot of things in my life to belong. Belonging happens on different levels, through different ways:

I earned it. In order to belong to a certain club, society, or alumni association, I had to demonstrate some desired competency or achievement.

I pitched in. As a member of a team, I’ve done my part to help the group function and meet its goals.

I gave. I simply paid my dues and I belonged.

I showed up. I entered this world as a daughter and a sister. Though my name is different now, I’ll always belong to this family.

The most treasured and meaningful belonging happens, however, when I don’t DO anything. Like my seminary professor used to say, “Stop trying so hard. You’re a human being, not a human doing.”

The purest of belonging happens where I can just be. It’s the place of acceptance and security and value that’s not based upon what I do but on who I am. It’s receiving rather than achieving.

Perhaps it’s not so hard to belong through any of these means. But as I write, I look around this home of ours, this most precious place of belonging. And I think about how it came to be, by every one of these ways …

We earned it. Somewhere along the way during friendship and courtship, through truthfulness and integrity, my soul mate and I earned each other’s unwavering trust.

We pitched in. For 20 years now, he and I have done what it takes in major and minor ways to make a marriage and a family.

We gave. Since we gave our vows to God and one another, we’ve given much forgiveness and sacrificial love in order to fulfill those promises.

We showed up. (At the altar in the church of course). But also on the altar of I’m-going-to-put-your-needs-before-mine. If my beloved is mine and I am his, this has to happen

And, best of all, we allow each other to be. Yes, this partnership requires all of the above effort, but at the end of the day on any given day, even if we have done, given, or earned NOTHING, nothing changes. I am his wife. He is my husband.

Our belonging isn’t secured by what I get from him and what he gets from me.

Our belonging is sacred because Jesus gave.

Just as Christ loved the Church and presented Himself as an offering.

Lord Jesus, even in those moments when the motions of married togetherness feel obligatory, may our attitudes and actions follow Your pure model of marriage…

May our belonging be our offering. Amen.


Today’s post is linked with other fantastic writers through Five Minute Friday, a weekly link-up with Lisa-Jo Baker of Surprised by Motherhood. Check out what others are saying about “belong” here this week.










Five Minute Friday: Pushing Back the Dark

As I’m angered over what has happened to the kidnapped girls in Nigeria, I wonder – what can I do? A world away, I can sign a petition and speak out on their behalf over social media, but these actions seem too small to make a difference.

But when a sense of helplessness comes over me, I have to remind myself that image-bearers are light-bearers. As Jesus came to be Light in a dark world, His followers are here to push back the dark. Perhaps my flame is small but it can’t help but penetrate darkness. And when I put my candle next to yours, the light spreads.

You and I cannot do everything, but individually and collectively we can do something.

Because today’s Five Minute Friday writing prompt is “grateful,” I’m thinking of light-bearers who push back the dark.

I’m grateful for —

The woman who leads Bible study at the jail.

The fellow customer who runs my groceries to the car in the pouring rain.

The family who organizes a baby shower for clients of the pregnancy center.

The former sex slave who shares her story to wake us from our ignorance.

The man who takes vacation to dig wells in a thirsty country.

The husband who works hard to serve his family and his newly widowed mother in law.

The kids who joyfully play games with the nursing home residents.

The stranger who pays for my mother’s lunch “just because.”

The woman who surrenders her secret to begin a ministry of compassion.

The couple who opens their home and hearts to the orphan.

And of course … the mothers who fill our lives with love, laughter, and light.


My 5 minutes are up, but for the rest of this day my thoughts will be full of more examples of people who make this world a brighter place.

My heart is full too … Thank you, light-bearers, and shine on.


~ Renee

Grateful for my inspiration today –


Lisa-Jo Baker, Surprised by Motherhood: Five Minute Fridays

Josh Wilson, “Pushing Back the Dark” –




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Superficial and Significant (or What I Learned in February)

Usually I’m not a big fan of February, except for my daughter’s birthday and Chocolate Day, oops I mean Valentine’s Day. And when you’re in a season of grief, it’s a relief to get through one more day, and especially a string of long, winter days. But as we are halfway between Christmas and Easter, I’ve come to realize that February days are generally void of merriment but they’re not without meaning. These are the days when intentionality is essential to my soul. My lawn is dormant (no grass mowing = bonus!) but my soul can’t be. I must choose to embrace hope in the in-between.

So when writer, speaker, and artist Emily Freeman (Chatting at the Sky) asked her followers to consider what they’ve learned in February, I started thinking that this February, probably more than any other, has touched a barren place in my heart with the limitless bounty of God’s grace.

Here’s a little of what I learned, with touches of superficial, significant, and in-between:

1. I really prefer the summer Olympics over the winter Olympics. By the second week of the Sochi games, my interest had grown, well, cold.

But I was struck by 2 things about the Olympics: I really liked Proctor & Gamble commercial about moms who are dedicated to the aspirations of their kids who turn out to be Olympians. But I liked even better the AT&T commercial about the mom who is taking care of her kids and, oh by the way, training to be an Olympian.

And while watching the Olympics, it occurred to me that many of the events are focused upon an individual athlete – the figure skater, the skeleton racer, the snowboarder. But in the shadows of the spotlight are hundreds of people who give the Olympians their moment to shine. And success and failure best happen in community. Bronze medalist Erin Hamlin returned to an “Olympic-sized celebration” thrown by her NY village of 600 people who enthusiastically supported her through many years of training. In the 15-K skiathon, Swiss cross country skier Dario Cologna waited 28 minutes after his gold medal victory to congratulate Peruvian Roberto Carcelen who competed with a broken rib and finished in last place. And when Russian Anton Gafarov fell in the cross-country race and broke his ski, Canadian cross country coach Justin Wadsworth jumped into the moment to replace it.

These examples remind me that, in my successes and my failures, I’m not alone. Yes, there’s personal effort and accountability, but for the most part I’m intertwined with people that I call spouse, family, friends, neighbors, church, and community. On my best day, gold-medal moments come only with lots of support and encouragement from the people who pour grace into my life. And on my worst day, these people remind me that this is a race for the long-haul, and it’s time to persevere.

2. There’s something about being creative that is so good for the soul. I think it has to do with the image of God. Because God is the Creator, and when I use my hands I remember and celebrate and reflect His creativity. I used to be a crafty person with a little cake-decorating business, but those days are sadly past. One of the happiest, most fulfilling days that I’ve had in a long, long time was the day of preparing for my daughter’s birthday. It reminded me of how my soul craves creativity and art and celebration. As image-bearers, I believe that creativity will be one of those eternal characteristics that we carry into Heaven. I can’t wait to see what that looks like!



3. Flexibility is a component of fitness, physically and spiritually speaking. Stretching involves going beyond the usual range of motion. Maybe it’s trying something new. And perhaps it feels awkward. But flexibility is a learned characteristic that makes my spiritual muscles more pliable. Sometimes I need to set aside my usual routine and range of motion and allow God to move me as He wills and where He wants.

4. Speaking of exercise, faith benefits from a work-out. On February 18 came a question from the daily devotion by Charles Spurgeon, “For how can you know that you have faith until your faith is exercised?” Just a few minutes after reading that, I called my husband to let him know that I really wanted to attend a writer’s conference but I was anxious about the cost. His reply? “Sounds like a time to exercise some faith.” Yeah, he’s a good guy like that.

5. Not a lesson I wanted to learn, but it’s true — girl drama is alive and well among grown women. At least my most recent rejection helps me be more sensitive to my preteen daughter’s fears. So now I’m doing some reading about women in relationships, and I have more studying and writing to do. But for now, let me say one thing – Just Be Nice.

6. The recent epic snowstorm in the South made me realize how easily dissatisfied we are. Within 2 days on social media, the same people who had been pining for the first snowflake were posting status updates along the lines of Get.Me.Out.Of.This.House. Another classic example of the old adage – be careful what you wish for (ahem, preaching to myself).

7. Speaking of snow, I am so glad to be a Southern girl who somehow got hitched to a Massachusetts-raised (ok, Yankee) husband who is not afraid to drive in the stuff.

8. From the Gideon Bible study by Priscilla Shirer, I’ve learned many things, but one thing that has really struck me is the realization that I am simultaneously in the younger and older generation. There are wise women in front of me who are sharing beautiful examples of discipleship, marriage, and motherhood while I am setting a path for women who come behind me. I need to be intentional about creating and maintaining mentoring relationships. This place in life is a gift, and I want to be a faithful steward.

9. It’s a glorious thing when the Body of Christ functions as it is meant to. When tragedy hits someone in my community, my merciful heart serves best when joined with a brain and hands and feet. It’s amazing to see how God provides through the gifts of His people when they operate as one. We are better together.

10. In times of crisis, a cell phone just doesn’t do. Recently, as my mother and I were coming out of a restaurant, I noticed a lady in front of us who seemed disoriented. When she turned to face us, she immediately blurted, “My sister just told me that she has stage-4 cancer.” Without missing a beat, my mother enveloped her, gave me a subtle elbow in the side, and said “We’re going to pray. Right now.” And we did. Sacred moments happen in person. Even with strangers.

11. I have a tremendous appreciation for people who know math, from 6th grade calculations to taxes.

12. The Word of God is alive and rich and unending in its applicability to life. I love to read a familiar verse but see it in a new light. One of my favorites is Isaiah 49:16 – “I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me.” Until just a few days ago, I thought of “walls” in the way of obstacles, frustrations, and figurative mountains in my way. And that made sense to me; of course God gets it when I keep banging my head against sins or hang-ups that hinder me from moving forward in faith. My name is written on His hands, and He remains faithful and compassionate. But then I learned that the “walls” in this verse refer to the rubble of destroyed Jerusalem. And I got a brand new picture – God sees my brokenness. My ruined dreams. My weak places and failures. But God’s purpose is not destroyed. In fact, the very next verse tells me that a plan to rebuild is in place.

God is a redeemer and a restorer. And that’s the most valuable lesson I will carry out of these February days….