Wednesday, February 24, 2021

4-Waiting… and Waiting: Bible Survival

 The Big Idea: When it feels like God is not responding train your mind to worship, not worry.

Waiting with Worship: My Heart Protection Plan.

We do not wait well. We are used to microwaves, drive-through service and cell phone accessibility. Amazon can make sure you get what you order by mail in two days. We wait because of technological glitches or waiting on hold for customer service. We want what we want and we want it NOW!

God often says wait.

God always answers prayer, but it is like a traffic light. Sometimes He shows us "no" like a red light. At times He says "wait awhile", like a yellow light. Other times We have a "yes"! We get the green light!

Most of us don't wait well.

The truth is through the waiting He forms and shapes us to be more of whom He wants us to be. He  waits for us to cry to Him and grow in our faith. Some of my closest time with God was while in waiting mode. I didn't find it good at the time. Looking back, I see it as something special God and I went through together.

If I told you I am getting better at waiting, I would be lying. I've had a lot of practice (and I mean a lot of practice) but I still have sleepless nights and have had to coach myself through the worries.



We wait on God for little things and big things. I am referring especially to the big things when we wait for a long time. But littler waits can wrap us up in anxiety too.

  • Job/Career: Direction such as getting into a college, or an internship. Getting that stepping stone job. Hoping for a change of a new boss or wanting a different shift.
  • Mates: Direction to find the right mate. It could be the salvation of a mate. Seeing a habit broken.
  • Kids: Being about to have kids. Direction for a child. We watch them go through their own quests as if it were our own. And can't do much but pray for them. It could be acceptance into a program to help a special needs child, or one with an addiction.
  • Health/Cancer: That pathology report. Is it cancer or not? It could be waiting for a transplant. It might just be living with a broken body where there seems no end in sight.

There is much more but you get the picture.


I always hoped to marry a godly man with whom I could serve the Lord. In my mid-thirties I had not yet seriously dated anyone. I asked God numerous times to take away my desire. He often filled me with peace, but He did not take that desire away.  

A couple months before I met my husband to be, I was convinced a single missionary living nearby must be the man for me. If I ever married, I felt, it must be a missionary. And of course aside from friendship, this man never offered me any hope there would be anything more. Still I decided I could wait and see what God might do as I prayed about it.  The man invited me to attend an event. And he showed up with a date. Someone I knew. I was shocked. It seemed it had been far easier to wait when I was in Africa where I did not have an active social life.

I hated the way I let my heart be jerked around by my own wistfulness.

In reading the Bible, praying and journaling, I wrote down a plan to help me wait in the midst of my desires and anxiousness.  The key thought: waiting with worship. I knew I needed to fix my gaze on God continuously. But how? What would that look like?

I use the phrase, "Heart Protection Plan" and you might think it is only applicable for romance.  Our heart breaks for many reasons.  For not getting in the school you thought was perfect. For not getting that promotion you felt cut out for. For a wayward child messing up choices. For a looming divorce from one you thought would be yours forever. We need to guard our hearts and look to God for solace and guidance.

I wrote this plan in my journal. I used some alliteration to help me remember.


1. Focus on the CHARACTER of God

  • God loves me
  • God never changes (circumstances do)
  • God is my Creator who knows all and is all powerful
  • God is in control

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:17 NIV

2. Trust in God's CONTROL

  • Worship Him while you wait and remember His attributes
  • Express to Him your trust because you know He's not wringing His hands. He's got it.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9 NIV

3, Be honest and CONFESS frets

You can trust Him with your anxieties, mistakes, bad days, etc.

Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. Relieve the troubles of my heart and free me from my anguish. Psalm 25:16-17 NIV

He won't give up on you, exasperated.

4. Get busy and CONSTANTLY serve Him

  • Serve God with your whole heart
  • Don't seek to take matters into your own hands - Let God

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19 NIV

Be productive for spiritually good things

Do good.

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16 NIV

5. You have value - COUNT on Counting

  • Remember you are loved by a great God, you are important to Him
  • Expect Him to direct in His time because He has a plan

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Psalm 32:8 NIV

Ask Him to make your life a blessing

With all my heart I want your blessings. Be merciful as you promised. Psalm 119:58 NIV

Reflect that you are valuable to God and have a purpose for being in the Body of Christ

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11


I mentioned putting this together a couple months before meeting my husband-to-be. You must be thinking, ah ha! Trust God and He will give you what you want! That was not how it played out. My husband to be was a new widower. And he was not a missionary. He was a chaplain. I did not see him as a viable future mate, and he did not see me as one either, for he never planned to remarry. As our friendship grew my heart was drawn to him. I could see us serving God together. But he had to move and reminded me we are just friends.

It was three years after meeting that we got married. Honestly I spent many prayer times going over this heart protection plan again so I could reaffirm that God loved me and would take care of me no matter what.

I needed to keep my focus on God, not any other human being.

It was good training. A few months into marriage we entered a devastating period waiting on God a lot. Having lost his first wife to breast cancer, I was diagnosed with the same disease. The journey was scary and arduous.

Of everything I hold dear, that which I value most is the very real presence of God. He cannot change. He has promised to be with us and He will be.

Train your heart to focus on God and trust Him. Keep honest with Him. Maintain a servant heart. And never forget, you matter to Him.

Up Next: Rock Bottom

Previous Post: Embracing Lent
Previous Post in Series: Sleepless in Cleveland


1. When have you had to wait on God? How did that go?

2. Which of the 5 parts of the plan do you think would be most meaningful to you? Why?

3. Could you think of a situation you are waiting on now and try applying these ways of focusing on God? Journal about it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Embracing Lent


The Big Idea: Take advantage of the Lent period to prepare yourself for a more meaningful Easter. 

An Evangelical's Tips for Meaningful Lent.

Today is the first day of Lent. I grew up in a Baptist church, so Lent was not in our vocabulary. I assumed it was a going-through-the-motions ritual enforced by the Catholic Church. My husband who is a Protestant pastor, was raised Catholic. He realized as he experienced ministry, that taking six weeks before Easter to look toward the Cross and Resurrection of Christ was very helpful.

Lent is the period of 40 days before Maundy Thursday during Passion Week. It is to be a time of fasting  prayer and repentance. It is not a time to beat yourself up.   Rather it is time to focus on our imperfect nature of sin that separates us from communion with God, therefore being grateful for what Jesus has done for us to make us right with Him. 

Lent can help us set aside time in our busy distracted life for focus on God. There is a structure to it, as  with Advent, to have reminders and take time to focus on Him. In the Old Testament we see that God is all about ways to remember who He is and what He did for us. The older I get, I am all for reminders!

We don't know exactly when, in Church History, Lent was proposed. However the root of it is in the Bible from Jesus Himself. He fasted for 40 days in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry. We see other examples through the Scriptures. People in the Old Testament fasted to pray and seek God. Queen Esther notably had her staff fast for a three days about a very important meeting with the King (Esther 4). There are numerous other Biblical examples.

Traditionally this time leading up to Passion Week was for fasting. It started to take on different forms that became various traditions of abstinence from meat, for instance, and other things on certain days of the week during Lent. But there is nothing in the Bible with special commands for Lent, and these are traditions. Fasting according to God's Word is most often coupled with prayer.

So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer. Ezra 8:23

And it is not about looking pious before others. Jesus made that clear. Isaiah in the Old Testament also talked a lot about that.

And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. Matt. 6:16

I like a variety of tools to help me get into God's Word, to pray better and to get to know Jesus better. This is what they are. Tools. Some years I do something for Lent and some years I don't. But most of the time I do. Most people think of Lent as a time for deprivation, such as fasting, or giving something up. There are times this is useful. I always find when I am craving something and take a fast from it, I try to point my longing or hunger to God in prayer.


But Lent can also be a time for adding something that will enhance your spiritual life, in particular something to draw you closer to your walk with the Lord or to enhance your understanding of the cross of Jesus and His act of salvation. Here are some examples.

  • Read through one of the Gospels several times in different translations.
  • Read through all four of the Gospels.
  • Find an article on the cross of Christ to read each week from favorite authors. Christianity Today often has thought provoking articles.
  • Memorize a series of verses, such as one each week. One year I memorized Isaiah 53 during Lent.
  • Find a place to volunteer in the community or at your church, and try to do that weekly during Lent.
  • Read a book about the cross, salvation, prayer, etc. Here is a list of 10 best books about the cross 
  • Put together your own playlist of songs related to Christ’s work on the cross: songs about the Blood of Jesus, the Cross, victory over death, and so on.
  • Watch a movie or a video put together from the Bible Project each week related to the theme. There are a lot of movies about the life of Jesus. The Bible Project has a lot of thematic 5-7 minute videos and longer podcasts.


Sometimes in the Lent period we will look for a special opportunity to focus on Jesus. If you look up religious events in your area, often on the website of a Christian Radio Station, you will find these special opportunities.

  • Attend a program on the shroud of Turin, an apologist about the reality of Christ, or a Christian lecture.
  • See a play at a local church, such as a passion play or Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Fury.
  • Often a new Christian movie comes out in the theatre.
  • Find a place that has The Stations of the Cross and walk through in prayer.

These are merely ideas. I trust this might get you to think about what you might do. May you find great blessing in focusing on Jesus during this time.

Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. Hebrews 9:14

In 2007 I wrote a blog series for each day of Lent. It was my Lenten addition that year. Find it here

Up Next: Waiting...and Waiting...

Previous Post: Sleepless in Cleveland



1. Do you associate Lent with a traditional church of your youth? What kind of thoughts does it bring up for you? How does that compare with my view on the value of honoring Lent?

2. What might be the benefit of focusing on the cross or the blood of Jesus during this period? In what way might it make an impact on Easter Sunday for you?

3. Do any of these suggestions spark an idea to try? It does not have to be the same as mine. Make it your own!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

3-Sleepless in Cleveland: Bible Survival

The Big Idea: When you can't sleep use Scripture verrses to help

Six ways the Bible can help you sleep!

As a baby, my mom said sleep was impossible for me. She thought maybe I was too curious about everything going on. A creak in the floor or a cough from my dad, and I was wide awake looking around.

I am a very light sleeper. I hear ever tick of the clock and every car that zooms up the street. At least until I can finally fall into deep sleep. After an evening meeting, I play over in my head all the conversations I participated in.

It is even more difficult when I have something serious to worry about. However, I have learned a few tricks over the years how to apply scripture to my need for sleep. I can tell you I have put this into practice

I would like to recommend six ways to use Scripture to fall asleep.


1. Meditate on a verse or a passage familiar to you

I gave an example recently about using the 23rd Psalm to meditate on. With that you could take a verse or a phrase and emphasis different aspects in your head. You could repeat a phrase, examining it, and making it a prayer.

Here are a couple examples:

It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Psalm 127:2

You can go to bed without fear; you will lie down and sleep soundly. Proverbs 3:24

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

2. Get up and read the Bible

There are several ways you could approach this. If you are reading through the Bible in a year and have gotten behind you can catch up on some reading. You might want to go through a shorter book in its entirety such as Ruth in the Old Testament, or Philippians or another epistle in the New Testament.

a. List of sleep verses. Read over a list of sleep and peace from worry verses. Here is a PDF of a list.

b. Read a favorite Psalm or one good for sleep. Suggestions might be Psalm 4, Ps 91, and Psalm 116. Favorites are often Psalm 1, Psalm 19, Psalm 23, Psalm 34, Psalm 103, Psalm 139.

c. Read stories in the Bible involving sleep. There are a lot of them but here are a couple good ones to recommend.

Genesis 28:10-22 - Jacob sleeps as God speaks to him.

1 Kings 19 - How God brought sleep to Isaiah when he was worried.

Mark 4:35-41 - Jesus asleep in the storm. Read the whole chapter

3. Listen to Scripture

Put earplugs in for your ipod or phone with the audio Bible or meditation songs based on Scripture. YouVersion has audio Bibles on it and you can start listening.

But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life. Psalm 42:8

4. Think through lists in the Bible.

This might really test your Bible knowledge, which may drive you to study it more the next morning. Here are some examples to think through.

  • What happened on creation each day.
  • Recite a Psalm or the Lord's Prayer.
  • What are the books of the New Testament in their order.
  • Think through I Corinthians 13 for the "Love is" section.
  • Name the Armour of God or the Fruit of the Spirit

5. Pray

You can use a Bible verse to help you pray. You can also pray for lists of family or friends. Are you worried about someone or an issue in particular? Pray about it.

God knows how often I pray for you. Day and night I bring you and your needs in prayer to God, whom I serve with all my heart by spreading the Good News about his Son. Romans 1:9

Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice. Psalm 55:17

6. Godly Fantasy

Imagine yourself in a Bible story. Think of being in a crowd when Jesus is getting ready to feed the 5000 and imagine what it would be like to be there. Talk to the little boy with his five loaves and two fishes. Interview one of the disciples. Or think about being in the tent with three strangers visit Abraham, or put yourself with Sarah as she is listening from the other tent while preparing a meal for them. Talk with Sarah about this crazy promise from God to have a son.

Each of these methods help me get my mind off of the issues trying rob my mind of peace.

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3


Up Next: Embracing Lent
Up Next in Series: Waiting...and Waiting
Previous Post:Finding God's Will


1. What keeps you from falling asleep at night? Are you prone to having trouble falling asleep?

2. Which suggestion appeals to you more to help you fall asleep?

3. Is there a verse you would find helpful to memorize so you can use it when you are anxious?

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

2-Finding God's Will: Bible Survival

The Big Idea: Bible verses that help you trust God and seek His will.

Can I know God's Will?

In the mid-sixties on a cold day in September. We lived in Grand Forks, North Dakota where the black rich soil grew the best of crops. My mom and dad took us to a potato field where combines were harvesting potatoes. Mom gave each of us an old ice cream bucket and invited us to help gather potatoes left behind in the dirt. It was called "gleaning," just like what Ruth did in Bible times.

"It's because Daddy's job is on strike again," Mom explained. "This will help us to have enough potatoes to last us through the winter."

We filled a large sackcloth full of potatoes, stored them in sand in the basement, and ate them through the winter.

How does a child feel when their parent's world caves in? 

I remember the first time Dad's job went on strike. Dad tried to sell World Book Encyclopedias door-to-door. Then he got a job processing milk. Mom became a Tupperware lady. 

My siblings and I pitched in monthly to clean the local Red Cross building. We got by. But we all knew money was short and we should all pitch in.

Less than two years later, Dad's company went on strike again. By the time it would be done, dad would have been off work for almost a full year between the two strikes. We could hear his disgust and frustration by now.

"I need to look for a new job, Eileen," he told my mom. "I can't keep doing this anymore with a company with this attitude."


As kids, we had not really noticed the hardship. 

Then we started to notice the cracks in the serene facade as the strike got longer and longer. I started to worry about my dad. But one night, at our church's Wednesday night prayer meeting, my father stood up to share a testimony.

"I want to share two verses with you tonight," he began, "that have been important to me for a long time. 

 'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

A couple chapters later is another favorite verse. 

 'Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.'  Jeremiah 33:3 NIV

 As you know, I have been out of work for awhile now because of the strike. We feel I need to find something else. I don't know what that is, but I know I can depend on God and call on Him. He will take care of us. I find great comfort in that and I hope you can too in your situation."

I felt better about our family situation after that night. And I decided I needed to remember these verses for the rest of my life. They got marked in my Bible.


Years later in college, I went back to these verses when I was not sure where I would get my first job. The hiring market had completely upended and no one was hiring in my home state of Minnesota. I wanted to panic. It helped a little that the rest of my class was in a similar situation. Still it was very unnerving. 

I made these verses into homemade bookmarks to remember them. I put them on a 3x5 card and propped them up on my dresser. I remembered them when I prayed.

Another verse in the Old Testament became a significant part of seeking God's Will for my life.

The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Isiaiah58:11 NIV

This verse allowed me to trust Him when I found Him leading me to be a missionary in Africa. It was not what I had expected. I really thought I was to go to Japan as a missionary. But He changed my course. 

I knew as I prayed and sought Him, he would guide. And He would satisfy my needs and give me strength.

Later I was at another standstill in life. I was very torn. I was a missionary and I thought I was supposed to go back to Africa. That was my life calling, right? But I kept getting led in another direction regarding service to God in the United States. 

This would be a total shift from how I had envisioned what I thought God had for my life. 

How could I know what to do? 

What was the right thing to do?



When I suggest you mark up your Bible, it helps you find verses again and again during the hard parts of life. His Word for us is eternal. It is always relevant. 

Often the trials and upheaval of life gets harder each time. We can lean on the former verses, for it helps us build on what we have already experienced. 

God's Word is active. It is not static. It is not dead. It is living and active (Hebrews 4:12 NIV). It grows in us and deepens. It reminds me of a diamond that has multi-facets. You bring the verse out in a new situation and find the relevancy and understanding to be a new, deeper hue.

By this time, colored sticky notes were available. Instead of writing these verses on 3x5 cards, they went on colored sticky notes. I put them on my mirror, in front of the kitchen sink, on the door of the fridge and any other spot I frequented. 

By this time these verses were memorized. I could reflect on them and pray through them at any time during the day.

It fixed my mind on Him and was like nourishment for my soul day and night. He answered my prayer for guidance. It was never immediate. It always took time. I think this is in part, because God loved how much I leaned on Him in moments like these. 

I look back on these days as a sweet, special time of intimacy with God. 

And these verses are precious to my soul.


Up Next: Sleepless in Cleveland
Previous Post: MRI Meditations


1. Have you worried about your parents too? Or worried how to provide for your children?

2. Where do you turn when you have no idea what to do?

3. Is there a verse in the Bible that gives you comfort? How might you apply this in an unnerving situation?