Denial is Undeniable

Since early March I have been serving as a substance use counselor, speaking with individuals and leading recovery groups online. This is a new specialization for me, after nearly 30 years of general practice. It has me so far outside my comfort zone, personally and professionally.

I embrace the opportunity to be stretched so much and to grow in knowledge, insight, and compassion. I can’t tell you it is lots of fun, but I believe the Lord wants me here for a time.

As I’ve interacted with my clients, I’ve become acutely aware of the level of denial that has afflicted them in their addictions, and still exists in their various manifestations of resistance to treatment.

In the process, I turn the mirror on myself. I can see more clearly my own tendency to deny my own flaws, weaknesses, unhealthy habits, and disordered thought processes. We are all blind to what it is we are blind to until light breaks through to remove the veil.

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Scripture comes to life on this topic in hundreds of places! I happen to be reading Jeremiah right now in my daily devotions, so I’ll focus on the insights of this strange and courageous weeping prophet.

Jeremiah spoke to Israel and Judah in the midst of their diaspora and impending destruction. Because of their relentless attraction to idolatry, especially Baal worship, God’s people faced judgment from within and from without. Their cultural bonds were crumbling, and their land would become unfruitful. They were surrounded by enemies whom the LORD would allow to overtake them.  

God had warned them repeatedly with the voices of countless prophets, but the people of God were stuck in denial. The LORD asks,

“When people fall down, don’t they get up again? When they start down the wrong road and discover their mistake, don’t they turn back? Then why do these people keep going along their self-destructive path, refusing to turn back, even though I have warned them?” (Jer. 8:4-5).

Why do God’s beloved people do this, generation after generation after generation? Why do we think that the consequences of sin and rebellion will be deferred indefinitely? Is there any biblical basis to believe that we are entitled to disregard the commandments of God, grieving his heart and forsaking his ways, and never reap a bitter harvest? Do we have the right to trample on the grace and mercy of God?

This is what addiction does. It clouds judgment of reality. It numbs our sensitivity to God’s Spirit and his voice.

But don’t think that we have to be in active addiction to experience numbness toward God. We can all become sloppy and complacent and slip into denial. We need friends—and sometimes wise counselors—to tell us the truth. We need prophets like Jeremiah (and the New Testament and modern-day prophets and apostles) to remind us of who we are, and what God intends for us to become. Jeremiah cries out,

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (6:16).

Having been warned and chastened, they still refused to hearken to his word and forsake their idols.

Most addicts and alcoholics know, in some hidden recess of their brains, that they are on a path of destroyed relationships, chronic illness, premature death, and complete loss of self-respect. But it might take years for them to break through their denial and see this reality.

It’s not easy to hear the truth, especially when we’re enjoying the delusion that negative consequences only come to other people.  When we think we can postpone addressing our own sin addictions, because they’re not as bad as another person’s sin addictions.

Even Jeremiah, who was as surrendered to the LORD as a person can be, saw his need for correction, his need for the LORD to break through to him. He writes,

I know, LORD, that a person’s life is not his own. No one is able to plan his own course. So correct me, LORD, but please be gentle. Do not correct me in anger, for I would die.”

I believe the Lord is gentle with us. But he won’t compromise the truth, and he doesn’t condone sin and rebellion. He wants us to be free to pursue him and his “good, perfect, and acceptable” (Rom. 12:2) purposes for us. Not in denial or under the influence of the wrong spirit, but alive to “the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2).

I join Jeremiah in his prayer. Lord, correct me gently. I’m listening.

The Assumption of Good Will

Hello Dear Reader,
This is one of my earliest blogs from back in 2018. It came to mind as I am dealing with some minor misunderstandings with a colleague. I was reminded of my very human tendency to make negative judgments about myself or the other person when there is conflict. And I know I’m not the only one who is subject to this. The remedy is often simply to assume the best instead of the worst and see what follows. I hope you enjoy this revisiting of a favorite topic.

Ruth E. Stitt

Sometimes the people in our lives behave in confusing or offensive ways.

Over the lifespan, each of us develops explanatory models to assist us in understanding our own and others’ behavior. These models are highly subject to error.

One of these is what social psychologists label “fundamental attribution error.” This means that when someone behaves in a way we don’t like—another driver cuts us off in traffic, or cuts in line at the market, for example—we tend to believe that this is because they have some sort of internal character defect of laziness, carelessness, or selfishness.

In contrast, when we are explaining our own similar behavior, we attribute it to external forces and circumstances. When I am the one in the wrong, I quickly rationalize that I had a good excuse based on my circumstances. I had a very important meeting to get to, perhaps. But when you commit a…

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The Glorious Tabernacle

I finished reading the book of Exodus this morning. There are so many things I am inspired to write about this book of the Bible that I hardly know what to pick as I sit here at Panera, fingers poised on keyboard.

What I choose to focus on today is the story of the Tabernacle built while the Israelites were wandering through the wilderness. There are enough fascinating aspects of this part of the Exodus story alone to keep me going for days. But I will attempt to hit some high points where Scripture comes to life.

First, I acknowledge Moses, the servant of God, who was faithful to follow the Lord’s instructions to the letter, doing all things “according to the pattern” shown to him on the mountain (Ex. 25:40). Forty times (in the NIV) the text refers to Moses conducting his ministry “just as the Lord had commanded him.”

 Beyond the miraculous power of God displayed by Moses throughout the ordeal of escaping from Egyptian slavery, Moses was entrusted with the law and covenant, from God’s lips to his ears. He was to impart and enforce God’s commandments so that God’s favor would extend to the entire nation of Israel.

As if this were not enough responsibility, God then made him general superintendent over the construction of an elaborate Tabernacle structured to represent the Lord’s presence with them as they traveled.

In all of these appointments, God extended extraordinary personal favor toward Moses, promising,

 “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you…I will indeed do what you have asked, for I look favorably on you, and I know you by name.” (33:14,17)

Isn’t it amazing to know that like Moses, we too can live in the full assurance that we have found favor with God? He promises us that he will personally accompany us on every journey, and knows each of us intimately. This is exactly the truth of the gospel for those to come to him in faith!  

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’So we say with confidence,’The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” (Heb. 13:5-6).

Next, I can’t help but try to imagine how the building project was undertaken by a people who were on a long meandering journey toward a home they had never seen. They didn’t have standing workshops for metalwork, weaving, embroidery, woodcarving, tanning hides, mixing incense, processing oils, or the many other skilled crafts necessary to complete this massive, movable worship center. How on earth did they organize it all, store the supplies, coordinate crews of craftsmen and women, doing everything exactly as the Lord had commanded? It boggles the mind.

This brings me to Bezalel, identified as the most worthy, skillful craftsman among the hordes of the tribes of Israel. He was the chief project manager. The LORD declared about him,

“Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!” (31:1-4).

Bezalel was the whole package, exactly the right person to oversee the work. Notice that even though he must have exhibited his talents previous to this moment, it was the filling of the Spirit of God that qualified him to lead this huge project.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that, like Bezalel, we too can diligently pursue our natural and God-given abilities, and God will fill us with his Spirit so we can create beautiful displays of his glory? This is indeed what he has done.

Jesus promised,

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father” (John 14:12-13).

And Paul reminds us,

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Eph. 2:10).

We have all we need to make and do beautiful things that honor God. Which brings us to the Tabernacle itself. My goodness, what an amazingly beautiful, God-honoring thing!

It required 2,200 pounds of gold, 7,545 pounds of silver, and 5,310 pounds of bronze! All of the sacred instruments, furniture, and utensils were made of pure gold. The walls and roof were woven from linen and goat hair and covered with tanned animal hides.

God emphasized 13 times that the ark, the tables for incense, the lampstand, the altar with its four horns were each to be made of “one continuous piece”. As I picture this, the ark, for instance, would be one molded piece of gold, including the top, with its golden cherubim crossing their wings over the mercy seat. No seams. These were no patchwork, thrown together works of craftsmanship.

Isn’t it wonderful to know that God can take the raw materials of our lives, even the broken, disjointed pieces, and melt them together to form a whole, integrated, worshipping work of art? Indeed, everything can be refined and restored perfectly, fit for worship in the heavenly tabernacle to come! 

In his Revelation, Jesus describes this place of perfection:

“God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.’And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!…It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children” (Rev. 21:3-7).

We also learn from the story in Exodus how is was that human were found worthy to serve as priests in God’s magnificent Tabernacle. The first ministers were Moses’ brother Aaron and his sons. They were to be set apart, anointed, and clothed in the most ornate, gem-encrusted costumes. They were to represent all of the tribes of Israel as they made sacrifices on the golden altar. They were sinful men like the rest, but God provided a means of sanctification so they could bear the words “HOLY TO THE LORD” inscribed upon the medallions attached to their turbans.

Isn’t it incredible to realize that by God’s grace, we can stand before God in worship, and he sees not our iniquities and failures, but our holy, righteous standing in him through Christ. We are sealed with his mark on our foreheads. Indeed, he has made us to be priests in his household, set apart as living sacrifices.

“You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9). I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Rom. 12:1).

Finally, why did Yahweh give Moses such elaborate, detailed instruction regarding the Tabernacle? What was the significance of this structure that would that was moved from place to place, following the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night?

In all of its magnificent opulence, it turns out that the Tabernacle in the wilderness was just a “type and shadow” of the sanctuary in heaven. The author of Hebrews details how “the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.A tabernacle was set up…” (Heb. 9:1-2). The priests entered regularly to bring animal sacrifices to atone for intentional and unintentional sins against God. Until…

Christ came as high priest…he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands…”

Christ went into the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle and made atonement for all of us once for all time. The curtain was torn that separated us from our Most Holy God! This had to be done through supernatural power; it couldn’t be accomplished by human hands or human will.

The Tabernacle in the wilderness (and later situated in Shiloh) was merely “an illustration” of what was to come, and what is now available to us! A glorious illustration, yes, but only an illustration of an infinitely more glorious reality.

Isn’t it exhilarating to realize that Jesus is preparing mansions in glory for us? He is preparing to receive us and usher us into the rewards of being with him forever?

Indeed, Jesus the Messiah, the only eternal High Priest, presides in his heavenly Tabernacle, awaiting the day when he can gather in his kingdom as one to share in the joy of his Father.

God is the Sorter

While ensconced in my current reading through the Gospel of Matthew, something that is popping out of the text is the idea that at the end of the age, God, with the assistance of some angels, is going to sort us out.

Skeptics or deniers of the validity of the Bible and the Christian message often point to its exclusivity claims as their primary objection. How can it be, they ask, that God will judge people according to their beliefs about this one man, Jesus Christ? How can we believe that trusting Jesus is the only path to eternal life—if there is such a thing as eternal life?

Others ask, what about the Buddhists, and the Muslims, and the people who’ve never heard of Jesus, and the little babies who die before reaching an age where they can understand such things, and those with intellectual disabilities who lack the cognitive skills to comprehend abstract ideas?

These are all valid questions, and there are some very grounded theological answers to them. It is not my aim in this little blog to present all of those biblical arguments. But I’ll point to a few: the fulfillment of thousands of years of prophecy, the resurrection, the teachings of Jesus, and his claims about who he was and what he came to do. These may not be satisfactory arguments for people who have no openness to the gospel. They would call them self-referential and circular arguments. They are somewhat correct on that count, so it requires more discussion if we are to convince these folks.

But my reflection today is not on the arguments for the exclusivity of Christ. Instead, my reflection is on a truth Jesus taught through several parables, that God does make a distinction somehow, between those fit for his kingdom and those who are not.

God is allowing human history to unfold until the time he has foreordained that he will bring it to a conclusion. In the meantime, he is building a new kingdom populated with a certain category of people and will remove all who don’t fit into this category. Before going any further, let me share three of the illustrations provided by Jesus, the master storyteller.

And he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats:And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand,’ Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world’” (Matt. 25:32-34).

Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets but threw the bad away” (13:47-48).

Photo by Sirikul R on

The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared… “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time, I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” (Matthew 13:24-26,28- 30).

The sheep mill around in the same pens and graze in the same fields as the goats, but only the sheep will remain after the sorting. The kingdom net takes in all kinds of fish, but only some will be kept, and the rest thrown away. In this kingdom, weeds grow up right along with the wheat. The wheat will be harvested, and the weeds burned in the fire.

I didn’t say these things, Jesus did. And he said them with authority, because he knew God had assigned him to be the chief sorter at the end of the age.

I don’t know everything about how Jesus and his Father and the Spirit and the angels will do this sorting. If they wanted me or anyone else to have a full picture of it, they would have given it to us. I know a few things, but only a few. This makes me very grateful that God is the sorter and I am not.

The criteria for sorting have nothing to do with ethnicity, or age, or intelligence, or skin color, or nationality—I’m certain of that.  I know it’s not just about good and bad works. It’s not about religiosity.

I argue (with good biblical support) that the criteria for the sorting process is whether people acknowledge and love the King. And this is tested and validated by how we love each other. Because these things are matters of the heart, God must be the one who sorts us out, because we don’t even truly know our own hearts.

This is the answer I give when I don’t have time for a lengthy theological discussion. I don’t have all the answers, but there is someone who does. And he does the sorting.

All I want is that I’m a sheep and not a goat, a stalk of wheat and not a weed, a healthy fish and not a stinker to be thrown on the compost pile. That’s enough.

Sobriety (revisited)

I originally wrote this post, “Sobriety” in August of 2020. Little did I know that less than a year later I would be working as a substance use disorder counselor. I’ve never specialized in the recovery field, and I’m learning much about what is clinically helpful for those in recovery and what is not. But as always, my chief calling and purpose in life is to keep my thinking and practice rooted in Scripture, and to share how Scripture comes to life in every experience, if we are awake to it. So I’m re-sharing some of the Bible’s teaching on this very timely topic.

“Sobriety” is a word so beautiful when spoken by recovering alcoholics or addicts celebrating freedom from controlling addictions. My big brother is one of them. He calls me now and then and reports to me, “I’m still sober,” and I give joyful thanks and praise to God every time I hear it.

If you ask those who have gotten sober, they will tell you that there is a lot more to it than merely abstaining from a particular mind-and-body-altering substance or behavior. Sobriety encompasses a comprehensive life change–in thinking, behavior, emotional regulation, relationship, purpose, and value system.

The founders of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous understood this well. Though AA has been adapted to be applicable to a diversity of worldviews, its founders were Christians, and the Steps started and ended with God, their “higher power.”

The program starts with confessing helplessness to manage our own lives and surrendering our unmanageable lives to God. We ask him to restore us to sanity. We accept conviction over our harmful behavior, seek to make amends, and commit to following a more honest, morally clean life. The pièce de ré​sis​tance is Step 12:

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

Sobriety turns out to be a spiritual awakening, to be shared with others who long to be awakened. It sounds a lot like repentance to me, and receiving one of the fruits of repentance, a sober mind. A sober mind allows us to live a principled, righteous life. A sober mind gives us a capacity to overcome self-obsession and begin serving others.

Did you know that the Bible speaks in many places about the need to be sober, or sober-minded? It is one of the benefits of the new birth, as well as a characteristic of a maturing disciple. One of the most familiar passages is this:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8).

Sobriety means we aren’t asleep at the switch, or under the influence of any worldly power. If we are to avoid the plans the enemy has for us, we must be sober and watchful.

 The same writer, Peter, also tells us that when our minds are “alert and fully sober,” they become more hopeful also, joyfully watching for the return of Jesus Christ. We are empowered not to conform to our former desires, but to live in obedience to God, continual prayer, and a love for others that “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 1:13-14; 4:7-8). Don’t we want to grab onto that way of living and not let go?

The Apostle Paul, after exhorting disciples to become living sacrifices, as their “reasonable service,” admonishes them,

“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Rom. 12:1-3).

This expresses another important aspect of having a sober, sound mind–that we have a realistic, honest appraisal of our own strengths and weaknesses. In my encounters with recovering addicts, this is one of the most refreshing aspects of their awakening. They are able to admit their faults, and at the same time, discover the ways that God has gifted them with strengths and talents. They—and all of us—need to understand how God wants to use us, even in our weaknesses, as he has uniquely fashioned us.

Some passages in the New Testament are more literal in their use of the two Greek words translated “sober.” In the Pastoral Epistles to Timothy and Titus, sober mindedness is a way of life expected of elders, deacons, older men, older women, young men, and young women. No one is left out. We are all responsible for the way we represent the name of Christ in the world.

This doesn’t just mean that we aren’t to be drunk and disorderly. Other words used in connection to this picture of sobriety are discipline, dignity, self-control, faith, love, patient endurance, solid faith, purity, love, devotion, hospitality, nobility, integrity, wholesomeness (Titus 2:1-7, TPT)As I said, comprehensive life transformation comes with a sound mind. It’s a whole package.

There is a sense in which every compulsive, sinful behavior can be characterized as lust—an inordinate, illicit craving for something to satisfy our fleshly desires. When we begin to live our lives in God, the flesh still lusts against the Spirit. But the good news is that the Spirit fights back. If we commit our time, energy, attention, and wills into the keeping of the Holy Spirit, he will help us. He will show us the way to keep our hearts and minds pure.   

I’ll finish with Paul’s wonderful exhortation to the Thessalonians. It applies to all who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and want to please him in every way:

You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet (1 Thess. 5:5-8).

We don’t need alcohol, drugs, or any other life-controlling compulsion if we can embrace this joyful path of sobriety in the Lord. Let us put on the mighty armor he has provided and live as those who belong to the light.

Verbs and Adverbs to Live By

As I’ve been reading along in the Scriptures recently, I’ve come across some verb-adverb pairs that form simple statements about living a life that pleases God.

Sometimes I can be a woman of many words (as my readers may have noticed!). But I like the way the Bible sometimes condenses meanings into few words. The Hebrew and Greek languages promote this. When translators attempt to find the best match for a Hebrew or Greek word, often simpler is clearer and more accurate.

So here are a number of these verb-adverb pairings I’ve searched. They could be bumper stickers. Or cross-stitched on a quilt. I’m sure you can find more; this is only a beginning.

Put together, they could form a personal creed. They are stated in the imperative second-person tense, so you can also consider them commands to YOU from the High Commander. Your mission, should you choose to accept it.

Listen carefully.

Give generously.

Act justly.

Walk humbly.

Lend freely.

Speak boldly.

Judge righteously.

Live honestly

Love fervently.

Do it….daily. (That one’s mine).

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The Potter and His Pots

Last week I wrote about the bigness and majesty of God. This week I am led to speak of the smallness and fragility of humanity.

A chief metaphor for this contrast between God and man is that of a potter and the pots he forms from fresh clay or he re-forms from shards of pottery that have been discarded and reclaimed by him. The metaphor appears first in the Psalms, several times in Isaiah and Jeremiah, and in three New Testament passages.

We are pots in the hands of a Master Potter.

The prophets use the metaphor to emphasize the audacity of human beings who disrespect the creative actions of God, and think they are more important and powerful than they are. Isaiah speaks of “those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord…as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!” He asks rhetorically, “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘You did not make me?’ Can the pot say to the potter, ‘You know nothing?” (Isaiah 29:15-17).

Isaiah returns to this theme 16 chapters later, crying,“Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter,‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?” (Is.45:9).

Then, Isaiah answers himself:Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay; you are the potter;
    we are all the work of your hand”
(Is. 64:8).

Photo by ritesh arya on

Paul quotes these verses in Romans 9 to prove the point that God decides what to do and what to impart to the many different kinds of pots he has created. We dare not question him on this as though we are smarter than he, or as though he lacks the power or wisdom to rule and reign over his creation.

Period. It’s not complicated.

Throughout human and biblical history, human beings in every generation challenge the artistry of God in their lives and circumstances. They think thoughts and pursue exploits that challenge his sovereignty and authority as Creator. They use their bodies in ways that bodies were never meant to be used, sexually and violently. They use political, economic or demonic power to oppress others far outside of the will of God.

In Psalm 2:9, the psalmist reminds his audience that when the leaders of nations exalt themselves above the knowledge of God, God is able to “dash them to pieces like pottery.” It doesn’t take a lot of strength for a person to smash a clay pot. Think of what the omnipotent Lord of the universe can do if he chooses to.

But our God loves mercy. I rest on this rock of truth as a child of God, and as a minister to broken people.

Jeremiah’s book contains perhaps the best-known reference to the Potter and his mercy toward his broken pots. Jeremiah travels to the potter’s house to learn the lesson God has for him there. As he observes the potter at the wheel, he notices that “the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so, the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him (Jer. 18-4).

Added to the other passages about pots and potters, this one tells us that God is interested in picking up broken pieces and forming something new, “as seems best to him.” He is not scared off by our marred nature. He is perfectly able to make a new, more beautiful, more functional, more pleasing pot out of shattered shards.

How great is the creative, life-restoring goodness of God!

If he promised to do this restoration work for the fractured nation of Israel, he can do it also in his church. Paul writes to Timothy,

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use.Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Tim 2:20-21).

As Christ-followers, we are vessels in God’s exceptionally large house, his kingdom. He knows where to find us, and he knows how to utilize each of us for distinct purposes. He even has a personal development plan! If we desire to be made holy and most useful, there is a path to that goal: to allow him to cleanse us, sanctify us.

I know some brothers and sisters in the Lord who stay in a spot very close to the Master’s hand. He can reach for them easily, and use them to accomplish his purposes. I learn from them as I desire to move closer and closer to the throne, to always be within his reach.

He is working on all of us. We just need to stay on the wheel, and not jump from his hands.

The Bigness of Everything about God

In the flurry of activities and tasks that come with starting a new job, I’ve been finding it harder to settle myself down to write my blog each week. But I’m determined to show up and publish something. When I show up faithfully, Holy Spirit is already waiting for me. He is more faithful than I could ever be.

I love how creativity works in this relationship with him, or how being in relationship with him spurs us on and inspires us to use our creative gifts to bring glory and honor to him.

This morning I was reflectively reading Isaiah Chapters 40-44. And what I saw there was how grand and exceedingly EXTRA God is in every way. I simply want to extol him and ascribe to him all that he is due.

  • Where he has knowledge, he has all knowledge beyond compare, and seeks no counselors to advise him.
  • Where he is vast and majestic, sitting “above the circle of the earth,” he makes us look like grasshoppers.
  • Where he has mercy, he “never grows faint or weary…no one can measure the depths of his understanding.
  • Where he is creative, he spins out stars, “one after another, calling each by name.
  • When he is tender and protective, he feeds his flocks and carries the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.
  • When he renders judgment, he is perfectly just, and “will not stop until truth and righteousness prevail throughout the earth.”
  • When he makes a covenant, he never fails to confirm it and fulfill everything he has promised.
  • When he sees his people in trouble, he comes near with exceedingly great compassion and words of comfort: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine.”
Photo by Tobias Bju00f8rkli on

I could go further, of course. These are only a few passages that attempt to describe the extraordinary greatness and goodness and power of our God. This sums it up, and these are his words, not mine:

You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God. There is no other God; there never has been and never will be. I am the LORD and there is no other Savior.”

These days I have to shield myself from the consciousness of the extent of foolishness and wickedness displayed by our human leaders. When I look at earthly realities face on, I am so sickened that it makes it hard for me to function at my best.

Instead, I need to fix my gaze on this God who knows the end from the beginning. This one who never falls or fails. This one I can only adore because I can’t hope to ever understand him. He is so EXTRA in every way!  

Faith and Common Sense

(This is a somewhat revised post originally published in November 2019. I kind of like this one, and thought it was worth revisiting. I hope you enjoy it too.)

Faith in antagonism to common sense is fanaticism, and common sense in antagonism to faith is rationalism. The life of faith brings the two into right relation.” (Oswald Chambers)

This is worth a thought or two, and even better, an application to the lives we live.

Having been a Christ-follower for 36 years, I’ve been involved with many communities and churches. I’ve led worship and/or taught and/or counseled God’s people in multiple settings. The Lord has enabled me to navigate in Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, Vineyard, non-denominational, and a variety of charismatic streams of doctrine and practice, including a cult or two. I also spent 3 years studying in an evangelical seminary where I had wrestling matches at times with my classmates and professors about how to properly handle Scripture and how to lead in Christian discipleship.

All this exposure to diverse viewpoints within the church have required that I attend to Oswald’s wisdom stated above. Early on, most of those who had known me well before my conversion thought I had become a fanatical Christian. I went from being a hippie intellectual to suddenly subletting my cozy co-op apartment in New York City and venturing into the unknown as an evangelist. I wound up in west Texas of all places!

There was little of common sense involved in my decisions back then. I was in a wild romance with Jesus and it didn’t matter if it made sense to anyone. But because of my fanatical zeal, I wasn’t as effective a messenger of the gospel as I might have been. Ordinary people just trying to survive probably found me immature and off-putting, and I don’t blame them.

Then I began to pursue the appropriate developmental goals of people in their twenties. I found a husband. We had babies. We bought houses. We worked, we played, we worshiped, and we struggled at times, like most people do, with keeping it all going in the right direction. My husband and I became thoroughly responsible, reliable, sensible people.

I went to school to become a licensed counselor, and as the Lord would have it, I attended a very secular, clinical program. This turned out to be of great benefit to me, because at every turn I tested the theories and practices I was being taught against the revelations of the word of God. I kept a lot of stuff and discarded a lot of stuff from the realm of psychology and counseling. What remained after that reinforced a passionate and common-sense approach to the life of faith.

Faith is not simply mental assent to a particular set of ideas. Neither is it an other-worldly floating above the very real difficulties of being a human.

Faith is a way of life that allows for sublime mountaintop experiences and mundane everyday tests. It is the rebar that undergirds the road on which we travel. The life of faith is a life of experiencing the peace and joy of Jesus in all circumstances, especially in our suffering. It works just as well on cloudy days, rainy days, sunny days. It keeps us steady in the storm.

The steadiness provided by this “right relation” between faith and common sense is greatly needed in our chaotic contemporary life. We need people around who can think and feel deeply at the same time.  I love the fact that I can be a fool for Christ and at the same time offer wisdom to others in their confusion or despair.

I’m by no means a rationalist. I don’t dare dismiss the supernatural in favor of science, and there is no good rationale for doing so. God doesn’t need my permission to perform miracles all around me. Please do, Lord.

But I also live in a place called reality, where people sin and suffer, use and abuse, divorce and die too soon, and I am called to minister to them where and how they are. Someone must remind them of the enduring hope that we share.  Someone must clearly articulate the standard for disciples to live by and exhort and comfort when they fall short of it, which we all do. Sometimes I am the one who needs that exhortation and comfort, and I turn to trusted friends at those times.

All the while Jesus keeps calling us to him with great gentleness and love:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-29)

Doesn’t it make perfect sense to follow that call?

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Staying Connected

I love being a musician and worship leader. I love playing my guitar before the Lord, because I know that the sound it produces when I play changes atmospheres. And in that changed atmosphere, I see the Lord touch peoples’ hearts.

Many guitar players are gifted with technology, but all the pedals and wires, switches and inputs and outputs—not my thing. Cables especially; I’m always tripping over them or getting tangled up in them.  When I led worship up in Ohio, before leaving the platform after a practice or service, I would wait for my husband to come and make sure I was untangled enough to safely walk away.

For this reason, I always appreciate those who have a gift for running sound and making sure equipment is working as it should and helping the musicians flow in their anointings.

This morning, as I was setting up and plugging in, getting ready to run through our songs for the service, I hit a snag. The tuner wouldn’t give me a reading and my in-ear monitors weren’t feeding me my guitar sound. But I could hear my voice in my vocal microphone.

The worship pastor and sound man and I looked at the monitor panel, the sound board, and the guitar settings and didn’t see anything out of place. And then, we saw that my input cable was not completely connected to the pedal board that was connected to the system.

What occurred to me in that moment was a concept I learned called Occam’s Razor. Occam was a philosopher and theologian known for the brilliant idea that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Or at least, it should be considered, and not eliminated just because it seems too simple.

The answer in this case was simple: I wasn’t getting any power because I was not properly connected to the source. The analogy to spiritual power is pretty obvious.

If there is no connection at all, there is no power at all. That’s clear. Without the infilling of the Holy Spirit that connects us to the source of all truth, wisdom, and goodness, however we might try to make an impact on the spiritual realm, we can’t do it. Jesus said that if we are not integrally attached to him, “abiding in the vine,” we can do nothing (Jn 15). We can do nothing in his name that is, or for his kingdom. The stuff that matters the most.

Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3:5).

We don’t have access to spiritual power until we become born again of the Spirit.

We can also be connected in part, but not as completely as we need to be, like I was this morning. The tuner was receiving a signal, but it was garbled, and the tuner became confused and unstable. I could hear only part of the mix.

If we are not careful, we can find ourselves with one ear tuned to the good news of the Lord and the other ear tuned to the endless flow of bad news from the world. It can become difficult and confusing to discern the truth, and without the truth, we can’t operate in full spiritual power. We must worship him “in Spirit AND in truth” (Jn. 4:24), and to do this we must remove the impediments to our solid, reliable connection with him.

I’m glad we were able to quickly solve our little technical glitch and get on with the ministry. Often in the spiritual realm, it is also a simple answer:

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”
    Your face, Lord, I will seek.
(Ps. 27:8)

Let’s stay firmly connected to him this week, my friends.