Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Mary: The Dark Days of Winter

The dark days of winter,black with lantern

Big Idea: Christmas and winter can be a difficult, dark time, but as life goes on, reflect on the Light of the World who brings us comfort in the darkness.

No More Christmas Lights

So Christmas is over. With the tree down, that spot in the room was dark last night. 

I have cleared out the Christmas decorations already. The nativity set is out of mind. Baby Jesus is tucked away. Life goes on. 

Three days after Jesus was born, Mary still had baby Jesus on her hands. He cried when hungry and needed to be changed.

The shepherds had come and gone. 

Christmas can be depressing

Mary was thinking about upcoming circumcision on the eighth day. Little Jesus would surely cry, she worried.  Jesus was her first baby. It was all new to her. She was far from family, far away in Bethlehem.

Joseph was worried. How would they eat? Where would they stay? A baby and his mother gotta eat.

Christmas can be hard. During the holidays there are those who have recently had someone who died, left the family, or moved away.  Holidays are hardest alone. Where is peace on earth?

For some, the parties, gifts, and upbeat music have been fun. Now gifts and bills ring hollow. Is this all there is to life?

Unwed mother gives birth in a barn

When will a baby be born? You might have a good idea but it is not predictable.

As a mid-wife in West Africa, cultural taboos prevented women who had not given birth yet to attend a birthing. First time pregnant women get no information what to expect.

One year I had four wives of pastoral students who were 15-16 year olds with first-time pregnancies. One sharp gal was really scared to give birth and had lots of questions. I coached her on what to expect. She was wide eyed.

About two weeks later after birth, she showed up on my front porch with the other 3 pregnant women.

“Mademoiselle can tell you what to expect when you have your baby,” she said as her baby cooed on her back. “Listen. It will help.”

What about Mary? Did anyone prepare her? Was there a village midwife available or did Joseph deliver the baby? Why do births happen mostly at night? Many nights I delivered a baby by kerosene lantern!

Unplanned pregnancy

A year prior Mary would not have guessed she’d be pregnant.

The angel just showed up. “God thinks a lot of you,” he said (Luke 1:28).

Poof. She was pregnant. No one understood. Not Joseph. Not her parents. Not her neighbors…

Jesus was a little surprise. But oh what a surprise!

Mary’s experiences gave her a lot to think about. (Luke 2:19, 51)

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2;19 NIV

Take-a-ways for Mary

1, God never changes. In our surprising life situations God knows and can be help us. He has not changed and able to do what He has done others.

2. God is with us. Emmanuel, a name given to Jesus, means God with us. He gets us. Jesus walked this earth in sickness and in health. In hardship. In broken relationships. He is with you in this.

3. Take time to ponder. Contemplate. Meditate. Read the Word of God. Ponder. Pray. Like Mary.

Mary’s Light

Mary gave birth in the middle of the night, in an animal shelter. It must have been smelly, dusty and unfamiliar. But the morning light came. Mary had light. The Light of the world. 

What do we have in common with Mary? We too find ourselves at times in a dark and dirty place. It feels especially brutal to the human spirit on the cold, dark days of winter. 

But there is hope and light to comfort us in the form of Jesus, son of Mary, son of God. Seek Him in your dark and dirty winter days. 

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine.  Isaiah 9:2 NLT

Now 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. 2 Thessalonians 2:16 NLT


Up next: Breathe
Past: Advent: Bathsheba’s Love


1. How do you find Christmas? Joyful? Harried? Quiet or perhaps too quiet? Depressing? Have you ever had a really hard Christmas? Why was it hard?

2. What gives you peace from God in the Christmas story? Ponder on that and treasure it.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Advent: Bathsheba's Love

Bathsheba's Love

Big Idea: Though Bathsheba experienced heartbreak from David’s rash sin, rather than letting the  consequences of sin define her, she chose to speak out with love.

Commander takes soldier’s wife, kills husband

My husband is a military man. Codes of conduct ensure trust between military members. Integrity is a core value. Taking a soldier’s spouse for your pleasure is never right and does not engender trust.

David should never have let this happen. Hollywood’s story of David and Bathsheba implies she was a seductress. But honestly we don’t see that in the Bible.

What we know about Bathsheba

  • Her grandfather, Ahithophel, was one of King David’s advisors. (2 Samuel 15:2)
  • Her father, Eliam, and husband, Uriah, were both part of David’s Mighty Men, an elite fighting force. (2 Samuel 23: 34,39)
  • Both Uriah and Bathsheba carefully followed Old Testament practices of purity
    • Uriah wouldn’t sleep with his wife while preparing for battle. (1 Samuel 21:5)
    • Bathsheba bathed for purification after menstruation in desert conditions, probably using a water basin. (Leviticus 15). It was not a leisurely bubble bath.
  • The Bible does not say Uriah and Bathsheba had children. They may have been newly married.
  • Bathsheba was summoned by the King. She may have felt she couldn’t refuse him.
  • When Uriah died in battle, Bathsheba mourned for him. (2 Sam. 11:26)
  • When Bathsheba lost her baby, she mourned. (2 Sam. 12:24)
  • After the death of her husband Uriah, David made her his 7th wife. (2 Sam. 11:27)
  • David was chastised by Nathan the prophet for his sin. Bathsheba was not. (2 Sam. 12)
  • David’s private sin had grave consequences for his family and kingdom. It bred open sexual sin by his sons, and a divided political world. (2 Sam. 13 and following)
  • Her second son was Solomon, considered the wisest man in the world. (2 Sam. 12:24)
  • David promised Bathsheba Solomon would be the heir to the throne. (I Kings 1:13)
  • She was an advocate for her son, Solomon, reminding David to hand him the throne. (I Kings 1)
  • Bathsheba spoke to King Solomon advocating for what she felt was right. (I Kings 2)
  • She is most likely the Proverbs 31 woman. Most scholars believe “King Lemuel” was Solomon sharing advice from his mother, Bathsheba. It was about how to act as a king, to value women, what a woman of value is. I am sure Solomon realized that is what she became! (Proverbs 31)

Love out of heartbreak

I believe young Bathsheba, though she did not protest against David, was taken advantage of. She was a voiceless victim. David paid dearly for his sin, but Bathsheba was affected too. The consequences of sin affect more than the individual. They affect those around them too. 

She was heartbroken losing her husband and then her first baby. She must have been heartbroken with David how his grown sons acted in public, trying to destroy the kingdom and openly sleeping with other women in David’s family.

In time, Bathsheba found her voice to be an advocate for family, for politics, and for women by presenting the picture of the Proverbs 31 woman. Indeed, her advice in Proverbs is loving and wise.

Why was Bathsheba in Jesus' genealogy?

Bathsheba was the fourth woman mentioned in Matthew 1 as part of the genealogy of Jesus. Each one was a surprising part of Jesus lineage.  In fact, Uriah, the murdered husband of Bathsheba, is also mentioned.

Jesse was the father of King David. David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah). Matthew 1:9 NLT

Jesus was remarkably equally God and equally man. He came to take on flesh and understand mankind, so He could conquer death and sin. These flawed human beings in Jesus' genealogy show us he took on flesh as we know it, with all the gnarly baggage it entailed.  In all the scandal and emotional scars of David and Bathsheba, He took on the family baggage of human kind.  He gets us. He walked as one of us. 

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. I John 1:14 NLT


Lessons from Bathsheba

  • Love your spouse.
  • Love your children.
  • Even after being a victim, or making a mistake, find your voice and act honorably.
  • Stand up for what’s right.
  • Be an advocate for others.
  • Know that with God's help you can overcome your family baggage.
  • Jesus came for families like yours and mine.

The sayings of King Lemuel—an inspired utterance his mother taught him.  Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.   Proverbs 31: 1,8,9 NLT


Up next: Mary: The Dark Days of Winter
Previous post: Advent: Joy for Ruth



1. Have you suffered at the brunt of someone else’s sin? Have you gotten involved in something wrong because you felt you could not say no to someone more powerful? How has this effected your life? Reflect on the example of Bathesheba.

2. In learning more about Bathsheba what new aspect have you learned about her life? What can you admire about her? How might her example be helpful in your walk in life?

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Advent: Joy for Ruth

Joy for Ruth

Big Idea: Ruth, from the genealogy of Jesus, found joy though she experienced multiple losses.

Migrant Widow finds Love in the Barley Fields

A beautiful love story is presented in the Biblical book of Ruth. Before the joy of love, she went through heartbreak, hunger and lived with a bitter mother-in-law.

There was famine in Israel. A family from Bethlehem migrated to Moab to survive. Their two boys married Moabite women. Then the father and two sons died. It left deep wounds on these three women.

The mother, Naomi decided to go back to Bethlehem. She told her daughter-in-laws to stay in their homeland and marry again. One agreed to stay. The other named Ruth begged Naomi to take her along. Her eloquent speech is often quoted at weddings. But it was declared to her mother-in-law.

Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. Ruth 1: 16 NLT

Anger at God

Naomi’s bitterness and anger were so palpable; she arrived in Bethlehem asking everyone to call her “Mara,” which means “bitter.” Tragedy sometimes leaves people feeling like this toward God.

“The Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty.” Ruth 1: 20-21 NLT

Ruth seemed gentle though she lost her husband, and left her family and all she ever knew behind. Living with a bitter mother-in-law must have been extra taxing.

What is Gleaning?

Ruth and Naomi must have been hungry, for Ruth decided to glean in the barley fields.

From ancient societies to the present day, the poor can go behind harvesters in farmer’s fields to gather what’s left behind. This practice is called gleaning. My parents gleaned potatoes in North Dakota in the 1960s when my father’s company experienced a lengthy strike.

When Ruth started to glean, Boaz the field owner, noticed Ruth. Others told him of her kindness to Naomi. He asked the other workers to leave extra food where Ruth gleaned and then gave her lunch with his field workers.

The Kinsman Redeemer

When Ruth came home with so much food, Naomi told her she found the field of a relative! Naomi, noticing how Boaz had treated Ruth, saw a possible marriage match!

Naomi coached Ruth to present to Boaz at the barley threshing floor while he slept and lay down at his feet. 

Boaz was surprised and honored. The Levirate practice was possible, which was to marry a close relative to produce an heir for the passed husband. Additionally another practice would be fulfilled, called Kinsman Redeemer, to help a relative in need or in trouble to save the family.

Boaz was willing. Even better, it was a love match!

Their offspring was part of the lineage of King David and Jesus the Messiah. (Matthew 1:5) Amazingly the redeemer of the family line through the non-Israeli Ruth would produce the Redeemer who would also rescue us in our desperate need. 

Joy when all is lost pictured on snow

Ruth, a heartbroken penniless migrant widow who scavenged for leftover food found joy. She experienced joy when all was lost.


Up next: Advent: Bathsheba's Love
Previous post: Advent: Peace for Rahab


1. Ruth seems less scandalous than the other women in the genealogy of Matthew. But what might have been some of Ruth’s emotions through this ordea?. Think of her losing her husband, leaving her homeland, living with a bitter mother-in-law, needing to scavenge the earth for food…

2. How might you relate to something in Ruth’s life?

3. How was Boaz her rescuer? Can you see Jesus as rescuer in your life?

He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. Psalm 103:4 NLT

They will be called “The Holy People” and “The People Redeemed by the Lord.” And Jerusalem will be known as “The Desirable Place” and “The City No Longer Forsaken.” Isaiah 62:12 NLT

Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. Galatians 1:4 NLT

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Advent: Peace for Rahab

Big Idea: Rahab found peace, love and faith in the midst of war, and she was ultimately in the genealogy for the Prince of Peace.

Wartime Bride from the Red-Light District finds Peace

There’s something about the potential for loss and the desire for belonging in war that draws couples together. It has for many centuries.
Unsplash by Andres Molina
Over 3000 years ago a woman from Jericho’s red-light district was valiantly rescued with her family finding peace, faith and love for eternity. Literally. Her offspring from wartime marriage was Boaz, then Obed, Jesse, and King David of Israel. Ultimately, her line became part of the line of Jesus the Messiah.

The Spy Who Loved Me

Cue the James Bond music. This story began with two spies needing cover. They lodged near the city gate with Rahab, a brave, shrewd Canaanite prostitute. When gruff voices came to break her door down looking for the spies, she hid them on the rooftop.

Did previous clientele tell the amazing stories of the Israelites coming out of Egypt, or was she just impressed with their faith? After re-routing the city soldiers, she made a tremendous declaration.

“I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath. 12 Now therefore, please swear to me by the Lord, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth” Joshua 2: 9, 11-12 (NASB)

The spies agreed if she marked her place with a scarlet cord, with her family in place, they would be rescued.

The Day the Walls Fell

The day of battle came. The walls came down and it was like a bomb had gone off. The spies kept their promise and found Rahab and family and rescued them (Joshua 6). Years later it was remarked the entire family was still living with the Israelites.

Rahab married an Israeli named Salmon. Was he one of the spies who encountered this brave woman on the spy journey? Many Biblical historians have asked this same question. The Greek text in Matthew implied Salmon was princely.

The Family Tree

Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Matthew 1:5 NASB

In the ancestral tree from Rahab and Salmon, Boaz was born. His wife Ruth was also part of this lineage. Incredibly two non-Hebrew women were closely tied to the Royal family of Israel’s King.

Hebrews 11 is a Hall of Faith, highlighting Old Testament faith examples. Rahab, still referred to as a prostitute, shows faith changes who you are. 

By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace. Hebrews 11: 31. NASB


Peace when war and desolation comes

Our war bride may have wondered when the walls came crashing down if she would be safe. Not only did she find safety. She found peace. The Prince of Peace.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:11 NASB

Up next: Advent: Joy for Ruth
Previous post: Advent: Hope for Tamar



1. When do you feel a lack of peace or life in total chaos in your life? What grounds you and brings you back to peace? How well does it work for you?

2. Reflect today on Jesus as your Prince of Peace. He wants to be your rescuer. He will come for you like the spies did for Rahab.  He will bring you peace. Reflect on that!

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Advent: Hope for Tamar

Hope for Tamar

Big Idea: The story of Tamar in Genesis 38 shows us patience, resilience and hope in the midst of a hopeless situation.

I Blackmailed my Father-in-law to have my Baby

You’ve had double-whammy disappointments. The door is now closed. How long do you wait till you give up hope? Tamar’s bizarre story in Genesis 38 models patience, resilience and hope. All that was lost was redeemed, even well into the future.

From the Beginning  

Genesis is about beginnings. After Adam and Eve’s choice of their way instead of God’s way, humanity followed suit and spiraled out of control with broken relationships, selfishness and hatred.

But God had a plan to pull us out of chaos and re-establish Eden-worthy friendship with mankind. God called Abraham as the father of Israel. Jesus, Son of God, born of a Jewish woman, was sent to be our rescuer.

Who is Judah?

The term “Jews” comes from the name Judah, of which became the predominate tribe in Israel.

Judah is where Tamar’s story began. Abraham’s grandson Jacob had 12 sons, one named Judah. Judah left the family homestead, married a Canaanite woman and had 3 sons.

Judah chose Tamar a Canaanite for Er, his first son. Son #1 was such a cruel man God took his life.

The Levirate Law

According to ancient law, if a man died without an heir, his brother had to marry the widow and the offspring was considered his brother’s child.

Son #2, Onan, was a very cruel man too. He even made sure Tamar would not get pregnant. God took his life too.

Tamar, the Return Gift

Since son #3 Shelah, was still a child, Judah sent Tamar back to her father. That’s like giving back a gift you don’t like. Tamar had no say in any matter. Even when son #3 was grown Judah never sent for Tamar.

She remained a widow, likely considered no good, thrown away. She kept waiting. Hoping.

Trickery and Blackmail

One day she heard Judah was coming. She dressed like a prostitute and sat by the road. Judah saw her and propositioned her!

He never knew it was Tamar! She wanted a pledge of his identification till he sent payment. Later when he sent payment people said there was no prostitute there.

Three months later, he heard Tamar acted like a prostitute and became pregnant. Incensed, he asked she be burned for this! Tamar then pulled out his identification.

“Recognize these items?” she asked.

Sheepishly he stated, “She is more righteous than I.”

An amazing ancestry

Tamar birthed twins. One of them, Perez, was an ancestor of both King David, and later, Jesus.

Jewish genealogy never includes women except Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus mentioning 4 women, 3 of them non-Jews, all of scandalous reputation.

Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar). Matthew 1:6

Three things to learn from Tamar

1. Be patient.

Women had little say in domestic issues in ancient Middle Eastern culture. She was powerless to change her situation. She waited, and waited a long time. Years! God saw her pain. Not only did she have twins, she ended up in a genealogy of honor.

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. Psalm 40:1

2. Be resilient.

Resilience is important for mental health and well being. We keep going on, pressing forward. There needs to be an ability to endure, and bounce back from difficulties. Tamar, when she saw an occasion to resolve what she had been promised, executed a plan flawlessly. We are not informed whether she prayed or not. However, her sons were clearly connected with the faith of their father and God was honored.

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9 NLT

3. Have Hope

In a hopeless situation where Tamar was victimized and probably the butt of many rumors, she kept hoping for a child and hoping to be rescued from her impoverished state. We do not sense bitterness in her. We only see her move forward. She was rewarded with twins!

Judah’s brother-in-law, Joseph, noted:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20 NLT

God is always working. The answer from God is not often immediate. But in the big picture, God is in control. He is always waiting for us to come to Him and eager to help us even before we ask.

I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! Isaiah 65: 24 NLT

The earthly heritage of Jesus

Being listed in the genealogy of an important person was an honor. How amazing that a Canaanite woman posing as a prostitute to trick her father-in-law to have his baby was in Jesus’ lineage.

Truly the emphasis on these scandalous people in Jesus’ lineage points to the fact that Jesus came for Jews and non-Jews alike. He came for victims and beggars. He came for the broken mistreated people. He took on our sin. And He came to restore us to Eden-worthy friendship with God.


Up next: Advent: Peace for Rahab
Previous post: Advent: 5 Scandalized Women


1. Can you relate to Tamar on some level? Perhaps in waiting? Perhaps in disappointment?

2. Look over the Bible verses in this blogpost. Is there one that resonates with you today? Sit with it a bit. Chew on the words. Talk with God about it.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Advent: 5 Scandalized Women

Big Idea: The women noted in the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew reveal that anyone can find light in this very dark world.

5 Women in Jesus' Ancestry

Today there is heightened awareness of mistreated women and cultural diversity. The Bible reveals four scandalous women who are surprisingly ancestors of Jesus.

The Bible does not shy away from scandal and victimized women. It reveals how we can find light in a dark world.

The 5 Scandalized Women

The headlines for each of these women could sound like a Jerry Spring episode or a hot Harlequin romance novel.

· Tamar: How I blackmailed my father-in-law to have his baby

· Rahab: The rescued red-light war bride

· Ruth: The refugee widow finds love in the wheat fields

· Bathsheba: Commander takes soldier’s wife, then has husband killed

· Mary: Unwed pious teen gives birth in a barn

Reflecting on Women at Advent

Advent is celebrated in churches worldwide for the 4 weeks before Christmas. It means “the coming” and is designed as time to reflect about Christmas.

We will follow a common Advent patterned theme series:

· Tamar: Hope when no hope is in sight

· Rahab: Peace when war and desolation comes

· Ruth: Joy when all is lost

· Bathsheba: Love out of heartbreak

· Mary: Light in a dark and dirty place

No matter what your hardship or dilemma, take heart in how these 5 women mattered. They mattered to God and they made an impact on the world.

Listen to a few words on this subject of God seeing those who are hurting in Mary’s spontaneous poem of honor to God.

He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.
He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.
He has… remembered to be merciful. Luke 1: 50, 53,54b

I need a bit of mercy today. How about you?

The four Sundays before Christmas are the official days for Advent, but I will post as usual on Wednesdays. If you would like to set up an Advent wreath, read this blogpost.


Up next : I blackmailed my father-in-law to have his baby
Previous post: Three Simple Steps to Thankfulness When Life Caves In


1. What do you want to ask of or say to God? Tell Him. You might think He won’t be happy to hear what you have to say, but He’s not fragile. He can handle it. He wants to open dialogue with you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Three Simple Steps to Thankfulness When Life Caves In

 Big Idea: Practice being thankful when life caves in,as it does not come to us naturally.


Life is Caving In Again

It happened again this week. I got another emotional punch in the gut. My mind started whirling and turning to self pity. Then a little voice went off like a cell phone reminder. Practice thankfulness. It is the week before Thanksgiving, after all I told myself!

 I recently went to the orthopedic surgeon to get my cast off. We hoped I could start walking again after being off my foot for 5 months. But the bone is still not fused together. How can this be? This is taking FOREVER. I left with that gut punched feeling again.

I already had written this blog post about my cancer reoccurrence (almost 2 years ago), but I changed the story.  This is fresh. Does crisis never end?

Spouting off platitudes is unhelpful

Of course there is always something to be thankful for. But to spout off platitudes is unhelpful. Life is hard. Life hurts. Reality disappoints. However, getting eaten up by bitterness is not productive or a good testimony. Learning to be thankful is essential.

Three steps to thankfulness 

1. Just do it

Sometimes we need to go through the motions whether we feel like it or not. In customer service one is taught to smile as you talk even if you don’t feel like it. Evidently just the smile makes what you say sound better.

Two mad kids
Photo by Izzy Park on Unsplash
When you and your siblings fought as kids didn’t your mom say – OK tell each other you’re sorry.  She made you say it whether you meant it or not. And while it still smarted, you moved forward.

In marriage, one should say “I love you” even on days when we don’t feel like it. Love is more than a feeling. One gets past the rough day. The loving “feeling” comes back as we keep practicing love.

Go through the motion and thank God whether you feel like it or not. The emotions will catch up.

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 NLT

 2. Give God a treat!

We live in a “me” culture that does not reward or easily grasp sacrifice.

As a mom I sometimes put aside a treat for my kids (which I want to eat myself). I know they will be thrilled.  

But why save something for God? He has everything. So I ask myself. What is a treat for Him?

Sacrifice is something we give God to please Him.  We may prefer to keep it selfishly for ourselves. But a humble thankful attitude honors Him. He relishes our thankfulness like a special treat.

I don’t mean to make what we give God trivial like giving a dog a treat. Instead consider what tickles and delights Almighty God. Isn’t it amazing that we can touch God with our attitudes?

 “Giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.” Psalm 50:23a NLT

 “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalm 51:17 NLT

 I believe thanking God warms His heart.

3. Practice, practice, practice 

When is it necessary to practice?

playing piano
Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

  • When we need to build up strength.
  • When we are not very good at something.
  • When we want to hone our abilities.
  • When we want to keep in good shape.

Practice. Practice. Practice. 

When I felt that knot in the pit of my stomach I knew it was time to practice thankfulness again. I need practice because I need to strengthen my habit of thankfulness for the next hard experience I will face. Again! I need to intentionally turn my heart to Him.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Philippians 4:6 NLT

This Thanksgiving, practice thankfulness. How can you put thankfulness into practice today?


Up next: What I can learn from 5 Scandalous women
Previous post: How am I supposed to be nice when I'm SICK!


1. When do you grate against thanking God? When does it not come naturally for you?

2. Could you practice a short prayer of thankfulness right now in whatever circumstance you are in? What might remind you to be thankful when you are punched emotionally in the gut?

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

How am I Supposed to be Nice, When I Feel Lousy!

Woman with head down and words, how and I supposed to be nice when I'm sick?

Big Idea: God wants the Fruit of the Spirit at work in me always, even when I am sick, in pain or depressed.

I Get Grumpy

I get grumpy when I’m sick. My husband confirms I can sound harsher than I intend. I am working on acting nicer when I feel lousy. It’s a work in progress.

It must have been about 30 years ago. At 6 am someone insistently knocked at my door. I groaned. I had malaria. My head was killing me. I really didn’t want to get up,

I had to answer the door. I was the school nurse at a Bible Institute in West Africa. Maybe someone’s wife was having a baby. Or perhaps they had a serious cut.

“Good morning Mademoiselle,” the young man said. “I’m here to get vitamins please.”

I was not a happy camper. I was the one sick and they woke me at 6 am for vitamins? I read him the riot act. I had dispensary hours for this. This is not an emergency. Has he no respect for me?

Sheepishly he apologized but explained they were headed to his home village. His grandmother was weak and needed vitamins, he explained. Tylenol would be nice too.

Sigh. I had some on hand in my dispensary kit and gave them to him. But I reminded him of the usual dispensary hours.

The fruit of the Spirit is not conditional

As I indignantly went back to bed, I felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit. It sounded like this in my head. “Diane, you know the fruit of the Spirit in the Bible, right?”

“Yes, Lord.”

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 NLT

I continued to sense God telling me, “These characteristics are not conditional. They should not emerge only when you feel good. You should display them even when you are sick, even when people treat you unfairly, even when you are tired or overworked.”

This is not how I think. It was definitely God telling me this. It shot me right in the heart. It impacted the way I looked at my flaws that I used for excuses. It has forced me to hone patience, kindness and joy even when feeling under par.

Decrease the Verbal Missiles

So how can we practice decreasing our verbal missiles in sickness and pain? Consider these 4 approaches.

1. Acknowledge your situation.

You’re human. Verbalize fatigue or frustration matter-of-factly. The Psalmist does this. Job vents in Job 34-35. God listens. Job’s friends do too.

2. Stop yourself.

When you want to blurt out something unkind and stupid, stop yourself. If you speak harshly in a tough moment, apologize quickly and start fresh. It will likely be appreciated.

Take control of what I say, O Lord, and guard my lips. Psalm 141:3 NLT

3. Be kind

There is a beautiful country song sung by Tim McGraw that reminds us to always be “Humble and Kind.” The New Testament, written about 2000 years earlier, wrote similarly,

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32 NLT

Sometimes it is best to say nothing.

Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut. Proverbs 10:17 NLT


4. Pray

Keep your heart close to God. Pray always (I Thessalonians 5:16) like breathing in your heart to God for strength, help, and comfort. In rough moments when you want to lash out take a deep breath and breathe a quick prayer in your heart to Him for help.

I've Been Getting a lot of Practice

With migraines, cancer, a broken foot, and all my other illnesses I have gotten a lot of practice. I still mess up especially with my family who sees me up close and personal. But just being conscious of my tendencies and aware in prayer keeps me as a work in progress.

The series for the month of November is about how the Bible helps us when we are sick or discouraged. If you are finding it helpful, forward it to a friend!  Also subscribe so it comes weekly to your email by sending your email address to  We will never sell your email address to anyone!


Up next: 3 Simple Steps to Thankfulness When Life Caves In
Previous post: 5 Shocking Statements the Psalmist Makes about Pain


1. Under what condition do you tend to lose control when you should be kinder? In Illness? With a certain person? In a debate atmosphere? When you feel bested?

2. Have you found a verse or a prayer strategy that helps you in that circumstance? Does one of the 4 suggestions listed sound like something you want to try?

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

5 Shocking Statements the Psalmist Makes about Pain

Waiting for surgery

Big Idea: Pain and suffering is understood by the Psalmist in the Bible who models frank dialogue with God.

Pain off the Charts

Writhing with abdominal pain in the hospital a couple of months ago, I cried and moaned in the darkest of night in prayer. My electronic Bible search uncovered 5 shocking statements the Psalmist uttered in pain. His pain taught me how to endure mine in those dark hours.

I had broken my foot, then my gallbladder caused my liver to backup, turning me jaundiced with itching head to toe. By my third hospital day with little to eat or drink, I was parched. An ERCP procedure unclogged the common bile duct but bile poured out on my pancreas. My pancreatic pain the next couple of days was off the charts.

I get migraines. I process intense pain talking softly to myself or moaning softly out loud. Sounding decidedly like David in the Psalms that night I looked up how pain was expressed in the Psalms. The Bible does not sugarcoat life nor show off spiritual giants as perfect humans. The Bible shows us how to cope with real life.

5 Shocking words from the Psalmists

1. How long will you forget me?

Straight and to the point, he does not sense God in his pain. He feels forgotten. Abandoned.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Psalm 22:1 NLT

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? Psalm 13:1 NLT

2. I am exhausted and completely crushed.

Illness get wearisome. Pain is downright exhausting. It is hard to bear.

I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart. Psalm 38:8 NLT

From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Psalm 61:2 NLT

3. You keep track of all my sorrows.

The King of Israel, a ruler and warrior, cries. He sobs. He knows God sees the tears. Our tears and our pain are not hidden from Him and The Psalmist finds consolation in this. I do too!

I am worn out from sobbing. All night I flood my bed with weeping, drenching it with my tears. Psalm 6:6 NLT

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8 NLT

I am exhausted from crying for help; my throat is parched. My eyes are swollen with weeping, waiting for my God to help me. Psalm 69:3 NLT

4. I am alone and in deep distress.

I often have trouble sleeping. It is especially worse in pain or worried about something. In pain one often feels alone, and the middle of the night pain and anxiousness is increasingly worse.

Turn to me and have mercy, for I am alone and in deep distress. Psalm 25:16 NLT

They have left me among the dead, and I lie like a corpse in a grave. I am forgotten, cut off from your care. Psalm 88:5 NLT

5. Hurry please.

It is so interesting that, in talking to the God of the universe, the Psalmist asks Him, pleads with Him to hurry. And he adds, please.

O God, don’t stay away. My God, please hurry to help me. Psalm 71:12 NLT

O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry! Listen when I cry to you for help! Psalm 141:1 NLT

How this helped me

I love it that we can tell God exactly what we think and don’t need to feel He is going to slap us for it. God wants our authenticity, not a fabricated front or flowery words. He is real, and He is real with us. The Psalmist, through each Psalm, reflects what he knows about God and affirms truth. He leans on it. As I read these verses on that painful lonely night in the hospital, I used this model to pray and felt His comforting presence.


Up next: How am I supposed to be nice when I feel LOUSY!
Previous post: 3 Things I Miss Since I Broke My Foot


1. Have you ever had a really frank conversation with God? What was it like?

2. Do you have a favorite Psalm that helps you in difficult times?

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

3 Things I Miss Since I Broke my Foot

The Big Idea: My life has become disrupted since I broke my foot, but the word longsuffering is strengthening me. 

[Each weekly blog in November will focus on how the Bible has strengthened me through several health crisis.]

3 Things I Miss Since I Broke my Foot

Back in May doing yard work I twisted my foot. An X-ray showed NOTHING! 2 weeks later I twisted it again leaning akwardly on it as I reached for something that dropped. This time I broke SOMETHING! The pain was unbearable if I stood on it. I broke the 5th metatarsal of my left foot and found the first twist had a hairline fracture too small to be noticed. My life has changed since I have been off my foot for almost 5 months! Here is a quick list of 3 top things I miss doing.

1. Buying groceries spontaneously

There is no spontaneity in going shopping for me anymore! I used to pick up something on the way. On a serious grocery shopping day I would zig-zag from one store to the next picking up the top too-good-to-be-true sales.  This summer, corn was $1 an ear or more. When I found it at 25 cents an ear with my husband in tow I went crazy there, then at the next store with an unbelievable price on ribs. My poor husband! He patiently took me and acknowledged he can see why I do that. Sigh. Since this broken foot has lingered without adequately healing for months now, with mercy on my husband I now do one shopping excursion a week at one store.

2. Relaxing in the shower

For starters, baths are absolutely forbidden! To get down into a tub, and out again is totally impossible. As for the shower… I need a shower chair to sit on or at least to rest my left knee. I do not have the greatest balance or endurance on just one foot and I CANNOT slip and I CANNOT put weight on the broken foot. So I need to hurry, and I need to have my phone nearby (I put it in a zip lock baggie) so I can text my husband if I need his help. With a hard boot to take off, I could manage OK. Now I have a post-surgery cast which must not get wet. The plastic sleeve makes the wet shower floor even more slippery! I’ve learned to take fewer showers! I hope no one sitting next to me at church notices!

3. Walking my neighborhood

Recently I decided I need exercise. I know! Consider my cute little scooter from Amazon exercise! Yes, it is cute. At a restaurant a wide-eyed three year old looked longingly at it and wanted to touch it. My husband offered her a ride to her mother’s horror!

So one day I asked my husband to come with me on my first attempt to walk the neighborhood on the scooter. Little did I realize that every twig or littlest pebble could throw me off balance. A couple of near falls reminded me to keep my eyes on the sidewalk. Our neighborhood sidewalks happen to be uneven and cracked. 

Did I mention our street is on a steep hill? I figured that would be a nice workout. But the slightest of inclines in which I could usually walk without hesitation seemed like Mount Everest on my scooter! Needless to say, we turned around to go back home after passing 3 houses and I never ventured out again.

Longsuffering: a Word to Remember

My journey with a broken foot has gone on far too long! A Biblical term that has taken on a whole new meaning to me is “longsuffering*.” I appreciate this verse from Colossians 1:11.  In the New Living Translation it goes like this: 

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy. Colossians 1:12 NLT

It uses longsuffering in the King James Version:

Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Colossians 1:11 KJV

Whatever you are going through today, may you find patience and joy. 


UP NEXT: 5 Shocking Statements the Psalmist Makes About Pain

PREVIOUS POST: Exile Patterns



What changed everything in your daily life, even for a temporary season? Do you have a verse in the Bible that helps you cope?


Diane with magnifying glass

*Through the Magnifying Glass   

- using the Blue Letter Bible as a resource.

Take a closer look with me at the word longsuffering in the Bible... 

In the Old Testament God describes Himself as having it. The Hebrew word used has a lot to do with patience and being slow to get angry. 

2 verses using Longsuffering - Ex. 34:6 and Num. 14:18
Strong's Definition of Longsuffering in Hebrew
About the Hebrew Word Longsuffering from the Genenius Hebrew-Chaldean Lexicon

In the New Testament the Greek word used to describe longsuffering is used both to describe God, and also to describe Christians because of God's strength and Holy Spirit in us. It is mostly used as long suffering and patience in the King James. Other translations may use patient endurance. For a lot more detail see the clip from Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. I love the description for Christians that it is "the opposit of despondency and associated with hope." This is the encouragement I need and the quality I need to build in the midst of a health crisis. 

3 Examples of New Testament Bible verses with longsuffering: Col 1:11, Col 3:12, and 1 Tim 1:16
Longsuffering word in Greek as explained by Strong's.

Longsuffering explained further from Vine's DIctionary of New Testament Words

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Exile Pattern

Happy birthday to anyone but me.

Big Idea: The Exile imagery in the Bible describes when God’s people are cut off from all that is familiar, needing to hold on to God alone.

Happy Birthday to Anyone But Me

I moved to New York City straight out of college. I took a day off for my birthday. How does one celebrate a birthday in the largest city in America not knowing anyone yet?

Getting groceries, the entire store sang Happy Birthday to one of their employees. I closed my eyes and imagined it was to me too. But I knew it wasn’t. I stopped at the post office. Someone yelled across the room “Happy Birthday” to the person next to me in line. That evening as I watched a sitcom on TV, you guessed it. Somebody celebrated a birthday on the show.

My birthday all by myself mocked me.

That sense of strangeness and aloneness is part of the Biblical image of exile. Out of my comfort zone with all the familiar props removed, God whispered, “Trust me. I am still here.”

The Exile Pattern

Adam and Eve experienced exile. They second guessed God, getting banished from their paradise habitat. Later in Genesis, the story of Joseph is all about exile. The trigger idea is associated with the phrase going “down.”

    Down into the cistern (Gen 37:24)

    Down to Egypt (Gen 37:15. 39:1)

    Down into the dungeon (Gen 39:20)

We too use the term down when things don’t go well.

    I’m feeling down.

    He’s down with the flu.

    Our portfolio is down.

Exile Happens

Throughout the Old Testament, exile happens, often because one chooses against God’s way. This was not in Joseph’s case, and God had a special mission to prepare for him. He was sent for a purpose into exile. When God’s people go down into exile, God desires it will drive them to Himself. and to use them.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ Jeremiah 29:13-14 NASB

The New Testament reminds believers this world is not our home. We are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), strangers in exile on this earth (Heb 11:13). The longer we know Jesus, the more this world feels like we don’t belong here. We walk through this strange planet feeling alien, strengthened best when driven to Him. He will see us through our Exile.

As Joseph told his brothers,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20 NLT

God is with us in our exile moments. He wants these uncomfortable experiences to draw us closer to Him, depending on Him more than ever.

Check out this BibleProject video on Exile for more insight.

[The four blogs for October are based on the four primary patterns (also known as themes) in the movements of Genesis presented by the BibleProject. Next month's theme will be about how I have learned to be thankful in the midst of physical health issues.]

Up next: 3 Things I Miss Since I Broke My Foot
Previous post: The Blessing and Curse Pattern


1. Does an experience come to mind when a trial or hurtful event was difficult, but later you could see that God used it for good? If you cannot think of something, in quiet prayer ask God to show you He was at work.

2. What Bible verse or passage comforts you when you feel alone, or separated from all that is familiar, for instance, during the early days of the pandemic?

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The Blessing and Curse Pattern

Big Idea: Choosing God’s way brings blessing. Choosing willfully against God’s ways brings baggage and consequences that are the opposite of blessing. 

Blessings from a Beggar

Shopping at West African market
It was hot so I waited in the shade to be picked up after shopping at the West African market. Islam, the predominant religion there requires giving to those in need. Those in need ask. After awhile one gets a little jaded when the next open hand insistently reaches out.

I was alone that day and exhausted. A very old woman shuffled to me with graying, matted eyes. She held out her hand, not sure if I spoke the language. She said in Maninka, "White lady, please, I need money for food."

I sighed at the interruption, and reached into my bag. I was exhausted from the sun and a busy schedule.  I fumbled through my colorful bag over fruit and canned goods till I reached my money. I grabbed a bill. It was about 15 cents US equivalent at the time but more than what’s usually given a beggar. The woman took it, sighed and moved it in and out focus. Then she looked startled!

“Why, white lady, you have given me much! I shall eat rice today!”

She poured out Maninkan blessings on me including one of my favorites, “May God pour out His blessing on you!” My eyes started watering up with tears. I wanted to scoop her in my arms with love like Jesus surely did with the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:48). I blurted back “Bless YOU!” but she was already making her way to a rice stand.

A Blessing

Blessing, what does it mean? It is a common word that we use casually within both the church and in secular society.

As with the Tree of Life, the word is used like bookends from Genesis 1 to Revelation. It carries a developing theme. On the fifth day of creation when the living creatures were created God blessed them. God said to the creatures, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

We tend to think of blessing in terms of plenty. It is indeed tied to abundance. It might be financial, but it might be abundance and goodness of family, spiritual strength and peace and so on. The blessing pattern on the patriarchs of Genesis develops quickly to include responsibility for what God has entrusted to them. They are blessed to be a blessing. They are stewards, a responsible party, for what they are given. We should do likewise!

A Curse

Many might think curses are about voodoo or witchcraft with hexes put on people. Rather God allows people to choose their own way and deal with the consequences. One reads in Exodus 11:10 “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” Pharaoh had hardened his own heart already numerous times. The intent of Exodus 11:10 is that God let Pharaoh’s own hard nature take over, causing its own consequences and difficulties. In the New Testament we have the example of Romans 1:28, giving people over to a depraved mind due to similar stubbornness.

Check out this BibleProject video on the Blessing and Curse for more insight.

[The four blogs for October are based on the four primary patterns (also known as themes) in the movements of Genesis presented by the BibleProject.]

Up next: Exile Pattern
Previous post: Tree of Life Pattern


1. How do you usually use the word blessing? Is it a word you use a lot or not very much? Why?

2. Has this blog given you a new insight on blessing and/or curse as a Biblical pattern? Reflect on this passage from Numbers 6:24-26 and thank God for His blessings offered to you.

“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26 NIV