“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. . . I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it, so men will revere Him.” Ecclesiastes 3:11,14

I love autumn in Colorado when the snow is a sugar dusting on top of the mountain peaks and the deep green pine trees pay homage to aspen leaves shimmering in rivers of gold undulating over scrub brush ablaze in deep reds. The air is crisp and fragrant with wood smoke and spice. The light is softer now, framing everything in gentle sepia tones. Sounds are muted, too, from the soft crunch of leaves underfoot to the gentle breeze stirring each gathered pile.

Nature seems to be slowing down and I feel the call to a slower pace as well. The hectic, playful days of summer are over and the still winter silence looms ahead. This is a season of reflection. There is a gathering of thoughts and feelings, memories, and dreams; a harvesting of moments captured in amber and preserved for sustenance during long winter days.

Looking out my window this afternoon at my leaf-laden lawn, I reflected on these verses in Ecclesiastes, and I realized that autumn is an amazing reminder of God’s providential power, love, and care for His creation. Earlier in Ecclesiastes, Solomon reminds us that “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:  a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot” (Ecc. 3:1-2). From the surface, it appears that the harvest season is a time of endings –  crops are gathered in and fields lie fallow, plants and trees are bare and brittle, days are shorter, and nights are longer, porch swings are empty and front doors are closed tight against the chill. But there is beauty and purpose in these autumnal endings, even if we don’t always fathom them.

Below the surface, where only God sees, life and nurturing continue. Plants prepare for the winter frost by shedding their leaves enabling them to conserve energy that will be needed for spring buds. Broken and dead branches are pruned back, and a bed of straw covers seeds to protect them from germinating too soon. This is also time for the gardener to reflect on his harvest and make plans for changes that need to be implemented to improve his yield.

It is in the slower pace of autumn that God’s nurturing continues in me, below the surface of my life where only He sees. In times of reflection with my Bible open and my journal near at hand, there is time to settle down in Him and allow Him to work. Often, dead limbs of sin and selfishness need to be cut back; the soil of my heart is mulched with the nutrient of His truth; and a warm blanket of His love covers and protects the tender seeds He will bring to fruition. Reflection is also a time for honest evaluation before the Lord. I want this hidden, often hard, work of autumn to continue in my life. I want to yield myself to necessary endings, so I am ready for new beginnings.  I want to fully cooperate with God’s sanctifying work to conform me to the image of His Son. This is a slow process; it is the work of autumn.

It is here, in this changing season around and in me that I know the eternity God has set in my heart. The longing for forever, of no more endings, burns within me as I yield myself up to the goodness of His providential care. I breathe in the autumn air and breathe out praise! There is a time for everything under heaven, and everything God does will endure forever. This is the hope of autumn; this is beauty. ©

Reflection Questions:

  • How has God grown me during this past season of my life?
  • Harvest Inspection:
    • Who is God calling me to love sacrificially?
    • How joyfully do I respond to difficult circumstances?
    • How do I exhibit peace in the middle of the chaos of our world?
    • Where do I need to show patience in my daily interactions with others?
    • What act of kindness can I do anonymously this week?
    • How can I acknowledge good in others?
    • What area of my life have I neglected that needs my faithful commitment?
    • Who needs a gentle touch or word from me today?
    • In what area do I need to exercise self-control?
  • Are there endings that need to be evaluated, released, and even celebrated?


Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:1-11)

Death by stoning was the punishment for her sin. She knew it, and she knew she deserved it. Yet, in the darkness of night when the knock sounded on her door, she felt compelled to open it even as she felt the pain of those stones tearing her flesh to shreds. There was no pleasure or joy for her anymore, although he seemed to feel no shame or fear. He came and went seemingly without thought or care while she cowered, consumed by panic, waiting for what she knew would eventually be her fate.

She thought about not answering the knock tonight, about never answering it again, but he would have found another way to condemn her if she resisted. Now as dawn’s first light snaked between her closed shutters and this man that she thought she loved slept peacefully beside her, she tried to fight the rising dread that shrouded her heart. Suddenly, her door crashed open and shouts of outrage from the teachers of the law and the Pharisees assaulted the morning stillness. The inevitable had finally happened. In the chaos of the moment, as she tried to gather her cloak around her nakedness, she saw him slide out unnoticed and realized she would be facing the charge of adultery alone. She was inexplicably calm, although tears of shame flooded her cheeks.

They dragged her roughly along the cobblestone streets, shouting “ADULTERESS” for all to hear. When they reached the Temple courts, they forced her to stand before the crowd gathered around a rabbi. Her robe was barely closed, her hair falling in tangled mess down her back, her face bruising and streaked with dirt and tears. Her shame was now complete as they thrust her in front of the rabbi, causing her to stumble, and proclaiming to the gathering crowds that they had caught her in the very act of adultery. They demanded this rabbi judge her according to the Law of Moses and sentence her to stoning.

The crowd grew strangely silent then, for this was no ordinary rabbi. This was Jesus teaching in the Temple that day, the one the Pharisees tried to trap, the one who called God his own Father. Everyone waited expectantly. If he sentenced her to stoning, he would nullify his teaching on forgiveness of sin; if he let her go, he would be in violation of the Law. There was no sound made as Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. The Pharisees broke the silence with continued demands, and at this, Jesus stood up and said quietly, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he bent down and continued writing on the ground with his finger.

What must her heart have felt at that moment when the rustle of tunics and slapping of sandals began to drift away from her one by one? Unexpectedly, she was alone with Jesus. Not one accuser was left. She stood there quietly, head still bowed, offering no excuses for her sin, and not trying to shift the blame to the man who had escaped. She simply waited and then responded in awe to the Master’s question, “Has no one condemned you?” The love and compassion in his eyes brought her to her knees. As she told him there were none left to condemn her, she heard him say, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

She did not know what he had written in the dirt, but she knew that the same finger that wrote the Law of Moses on tablets of stone – twice – had written a new law of grace on the tablet of her heart. She understood now and believed the words of Jesus whispered in the marketplace: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” She was a new creation. No longer compelled to sin, no longer condemned, no longer shamed. Compelled now to praise; forgiveness, freedom, peace, and joy flooded her heart, and her tears became an anthem of worship.

Father, I needed this reminder today! This woman, broken by sin, stood accused, shamed, and condemned before You only to find forgiveness and mercy in Your presence. The accuser of my soul can be relentless in his reminders of my sins and failures, heaping sharp stones of condemnation and shame on me when I am weary or unsuspecting. Then, as I wait, in quiet, humble repentance, I hear You speak truth to my battered being, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” I am a new creation, no longer condemned, no longer shamed. I can walk in forgiveness, freedom, and peace, compelled to praise with tears that are my anthem of worship. I love you Lord! ©


“Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between His shoulders.” Deuteronomy 33:12

Shortly before my fourth birthday, my parents and I visited Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. The Caverns are famous for their more than 100 caves filled with stalactites hanging from the ceiling, stalagmites rising from the floor and colonies of bats roosting and diving from rocky cliffs. The trails are steep going into the caves, and in the mid-1950’s this was not a place to allow a child to roam freely. What I remember most about this excursion was my dad insisting that I ride on his shoulders while we were in the caves although I wanted to walk like the big girl that I was. As he hoisted me up on his shoulders and wrapped his strong arms around my legs before we entered the main cave, I sat with my arms crossed over my chest and a large pout on my face. It didn’t take long, however, for me to unfold my arms and wrap them tightly about my dad’s neck as the darkness closed around us. Throughout that day, my dad must have been tired from carrying me, but he never put me down, and I rested content in the safety of his arms.  

This verse in Deuteronomy is a life verse for me, perhaps because of that experience in Carlsbad Caverns, and perhaps because I can still act like a petulant child demanding to run ahead or lag behind or wander off, because “I’m a big girl now!”  Then, just as the darkness looms in front of me, I find myself running to Jesus, being lifted on His shoulders, and wrapping my arms tightly around Him. Over the years, God has imbedded truths from this verse into my heart, and I am learning to settle into His everlasting arms.

In this passage, He addresses first my identity. It is not “who” I am that matters, but “Whose” I am. I am His beloved! This word beloved is used of a song of love. That takes my breath away! Loved so deeply that the Good Shepherd left the 99 and came to find me and rescue me. Loved so completely that the Son of God took my sin upon Him and died for me that I might have life eternal with Him. He calls me His Bride, cherished, and adored as the apple of His eye. I am His!

Then He commands me to rest secure in Him. Just like my dad would tolerate no argument from me about riding through the caves on his shoulders, God’s imperative is for me to settle down in Him. Daddy knew the cave was dark, the path was steep, and there were potentially harmful things ahead of us. He knew the safest place for me was on his shoulders. God knows every detail of what is ahead of each of us. He knows the pitfalls, the stumbling blocks, how treacherous the terrain can be. His desire is for us to confidently, without fear, settle down in Him. And He reminds us that His surrounding protection is constant and continual. We are enclosed, covered, and hidden safely in Him for all eternity. Nothing, and no one, can snatch us from His hands.

Then, because I can struggle with doubt, God tells me again the He loves me and that resting between His shoulders is where I am to abide. For the tribe of Benjamin, they were to abide between the mountains of Zion and Moriah, a place sacred to the LORD. As a believer in Jesus Christ, God dwells in me through the Holy Spirit, and my home is in Him. It is in His presence that I am to remain; it is there that I am protected and assured, and content; it is there that I truly rest. It is there, in His love, that I find peace and purpose and delight. It is there that I am at home.

              Father forgive me for kicking and fussing and wanting to go my own way. Thank You for loving me, for carrying me between Your shoulders, for protecting me and surrounding me with your faithful watch-care over me. Gentle Shepherd help me learn to rest in You, to settle into Your strong arms to dwell securely without fear knowing that You know what lies ahead and You will bring me safely home! ©


Photo by EYu00dcP BELEN on

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet He could not keep His presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about Him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at His feet.”

It had been another long night in a string of nights that stretched into endless days. There seemed to be no relief from the physical and mental torment her young daughter suffered, and certainly no relief for herself. She had to be vigilant. If she relaxed her watch for even a moment, her daughter’s fits could result in serious harm to herself and to others, not to mention the destruction of their tiny home. It had happened before, too many times.

She hadn’t always been this way. She was such a sweet baby with her curly black hair and chocolate eyes that took in everything. But suddenly, without warning, her daughter began to have uncontrollable tantrums. Then her fledgling vocabulary turned into curses and screams. There was no calming her, and even her exhausted slumber was now riddled with thrashing and shouting. Nothing helped. Not even the offerings she had left on the altars of the Greek gods scattered throughout the city. But she would never give up searching for a way to rid her daughter of this demon!

That morning, after tying her daughter to the bed, she left with her water jugs and joined the women at the well. She never had time to stop and listen to the chatter and gossip that flowed as freely as the well water, but this morning she heard something that made her pause. A Jewish rabbi had arrived in their town on the border of Tyre and Sidon! This was unheard of! What was he doing some 63 kilometers north of Galilee among a settlement of Gentiles? The women said he was staying at a house nearby but didn’t want anyone to know about it. Nothing stayed a secret in this town, however. The women said he had performed great miracles among the Jews, turning water into wine, healing the blind, and even casting out demons! Hearing this, the woman dropped her jugs and ran to her neighbor’s house where the man was staying.

This Syrophoenician woman knew that faithful Jews would have nothing to do with the Gentiles. They were considered unclean. She had been called a “kynarion,” a dog, a shameless and wanton woman by more than one Jew. Her chances of being seen by this teacher who did not want to be known in this region were slim, but she had no choice. She had to try! Not bothering to knock on the door, she stumbled in and immediately fell on her face at the feet of the rabbi, and in humility, with tears streaming down her face, she begged him to  drive out the demon from her little daughter.

I imagine it was with tenderness in his voice and softness in his eyes that Jesus responded to her: “First let the children eat all they want for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” The words were expected, but they pierced her heart with conviction. She was persuaded, she was unclean! She needed the Master’s touch as much as her daughter did. And so, she confessed with the tiny morsel of faith she had: “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” She had no argument more persuasive than her simple faith and cry for mercy, so she left everything at His feet. And there she found mercy for herself and her daughter whom Jesus healed at that very moment. Mercy overflowing in time of need, in response to a simple, fervent prayer of faith. ©

Jesus, I am like this Syrophoenician woman in desperate need of Your mercy every day.  How grateful I am that You are never hidden. You promise in Jeremiah 29:13-14, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD.” And your mercies are new every morning! Help me be resilient in intercession and grant me faith as big as a mustard seed to believe Your promises and to leave everything at Your feet. Mold me and change me, Father, by the power of Your Holy Spirit and the Truth of Your Word.


Nehemiah 4:6-14

“. . . Therefore, I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’”

              I’m so tired, Lord! Every bone in my body aches with throbbing intensity reminding me of every brick I’ve lifted into place. My nails are broken to the quick, my hands are cracked and bleeding. My mind is numb from the never-ending monotony, and my heart is terrified and confused. I don’t understand what’s happening, and I’m too weary now to care. The wall is only half done, and even though many of the gaps have been closed, the rubble is everywhere. I can’t even walk home without falling over piles of broken brick and debris. Sanballat’s jeers and threats of attack are jarring in intensity and the fear that now surrounds us is like a shroud. It’s all I can do to sit here, my back against the wall, my knees drawn close to pillow my drooping head, too tired to get up and too tired to lie down.

              In the beginning, Nehemiah’s passion for You filled me with hope and excitement. It wasn’t hard then to picture the walls of Jerusalem completely restored. We all worked so hard to get to this place, laughing and singing and cooperating as a team. But now there is only silence to punctuate the groans of hefting brick after brick all day long. Strife and in-fighting from our neighbors and friends who have left and deserted the work mean there are fewer of us to carry on. We are at a crisis point now. The pace is frenzied as the enemy actively prepares for battle. We take turns standing guard while others build. Even the women and children are pressed into helping. But the task is too big and the obstacles too great. The enemy flings flaming arrows of despair and doubt daily. Our strength is giving out, and all I see is brokenness, a half-build wall with gaps still too big to fill and a depleted force too small to defeat these enemies.

I am exhausted, Lord!

              These emotions are all too real to me today, Lord! But it is here in this bone-deep weariness, when all my human efforts have been used up and I finally slump to the ground emptied and drained, that I hear You whisper, “Don’t be afraid! Remember the Lord who is great and awesome and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” It is in these moments of weariness that I remember that Your purposes will always prevail. Your plans will never be thwarted. You are greater than the opposition, and You promise to never leave me or forsake me.

              You have not called me to rebuild a wall but to break down walls put in place by the enemy of our souls. The battle you have called me to fight is on my knees with the sword of Your Spirit and the shield of faith. You will take care of the rubble and the gaps in the wall and the fiery darts of the enemy. My task is to remember that You are Elohim. You created all things and by You all things have their being. You are El Roi, the God who sees and knows every circumstance of my life, every tree that I hide beneath. You are El Elyon, the Sovereign God Most High, who is in control of everything. Nothing can touch me that hasn’t been first sifted through Your loving hands. You are El Shaddai, my All-Sufficient God, my Almighty King, full of strength and power, able to keep every promise You make. You are my Strong Tower against whom no power on earth, in heaven or in hell can prevail.

              When I remember and focus on who You are, how can I be afraid? How can I be weary? You renew my strength and enable me to continue to fight on my knees for my family and my home.  Encourage me, Jesus, to keep my eyes firmly fixed on You. Teach me to be like Nehemiah who “carefully looked things over” and then stood firm proclaiming Your truth. Equip me, sustain me, help me persevere, to stand guard and to pray on, doing the work You have laid out for me.


“A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes.’ ‘You see the people crowding against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me.’ But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your sufferings.’” Mark 5:24b-34

Unclean. . .outcast. . .pariah. . .outsider. . .sinner. . .desperate! These words defined her, they echoed in her head day in and day out. For twelve long years she had suffered under the weight of these words hurled at her in derision and contempt whenever she dared leave the security of her home, the once beloved place that was now her prison and would soon be her tomb. The words hurt far more than the stones thrown to accompany the insults, shredding her dignity, tearing her heart to pieces. She was set apart in her misery.

The Leviticus laws were well known to her, and she had followed them as closely as she could all her life. She knew she was not permitted to enter the temple or participate in the ritual of her faith until at least seven days after her bleeding had ended. She understood that this law was part of the Almighty’s decrees for holiness for His chosen people. But her bleeding never stopped. The rites and ceremonies of her faith that had always comforted her were now denied when she desperately needed them. The loss of hope was the pain she couldn’t bear.

In the beginning, there had been hope. Her husband had been a wealthy man and encouraged her to seek the best medical advice available. Physician after physician was consulted, herbs and potions and treatments prescribed and followed. The humiliation of the examinations and painful courses of treatment were endured in a vain hope that dwindled with each shekel spent. And still the bleeding continued. Desperation replaced expectation. And still the bleeding continued.

Now the money was gone, along with her family. They could no longer endure the guilt by association, the label of “unclean” that clung to them. The physicians were gone too. They left as soon as there was no more money to pay them, their promised cures a mirage in the desert of her life. There was nothing they could do for her. She was incurable. Alone, she sat in the dark, unable to bear the false optimism the light brought with it. Her spirit wasted away with her body, and she lay on her cot waiting to die, willing the suffering to end. Until the noise from the crowds outside her door could no longer be ignored.

Even in her isolation, she had heard murmurings of this Jesus of Nazareth. All Jerusalem was talking about him, and the opinions drifted through her shuttered window like fine dust. Some said he was the Messiah; others claimed he was from Satan. No one could deny his miracles. She heard that he healed lepers, cast out demons, gave sight to the blind and made the lame whole. All this came back to her as the crowd grew outside her door, and she couldn’t help but wonder if Jesus could heal someone like her, an outcast and sinner so vile. In spite of herself, a tiny spark of hope was ignited, and it was enough to dare her to action. The risk was great. By venturing outside her door, weak in body and spirit, she risked death by stoning. She should have been outside the walls of the city. To touch anyone in the crowd would render them unclean. How could she dare do this? And yet, how could she not?

She was desperate. She had exhausted everything. Jesus was her last hope. And so she dared, thinking in her feverish mind, that if she could just touch the very hem of his cloak she would surely be healed. She covered herself from head to toe and waited just inside the door for him to pass. Then, throwing all caution aside, she boldly pushed her way through the press of bodies all around her until she could gently reach out with her fingertips and graze the coarse linen of his garment.

In that instant, the miracle she sought became reality. The bleeding stopped and she felt the strength flow through her body. In that instant, she was aware that the crowd was not longer moving. Jesus had stopped, turned, and was looking into the faces of the people pressed around him. He had felt her touch! She was so careful! It was just the lightest of contacts and there were bodies all around him as he walked. How could he know? But he did, and he was looking for her. She was exposed now for all to see, her sin no longer hidden from view.

Ashamed and fearful, she fell at his feet and with trembling tears, she confessed. She was a sinner, an outcast, unclean, a pariah, and in her desperation, she had dared to touch the Holy of Holies. Cowering, she waited for his angry rebuke and the stones of penalty that would seal her fate. Instead, she heard his gentle voice speak the sweetest words she would ever hear, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.”

For twelve years this woman was defined by the words hurled at her. She absorbed them into the marrow of her being: outcast. . .unclean. . .pariah. . .sinner. . .desperate. But in that one moment of her greatest desperation, when there was truly nothing left for her, when all her hope centered on simply touching the very edges of the Master’s clothing, the definition of her life changed forever in one simple word – “daughter.” In the beauty of that word, the tenderness of the Father washed over her as the depth of longing in her heart was fulfilled. She was no longer an outcast, and exile, unclean, a sinner. No longer was she set apart in her misery. With one touch she went from desperation to devotion, set apart in wholeness and in holiness, a daughter of the King.

Too often I have let the words of the enemy define me and isolate me. Help me today, Lord, to reach out in desperation to You and to hear You speak gentle truth into my soul, calling me Your daughter. Grant me faith to believe I am who You say I am and to walk forward in freedom.



At the LORD’s direction Moses kept a written record of their progress. These are the stages of their march, identified by the different places they stopped along the way.” Numbers 33:2 (NLT)

“The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:23-24 (NLT)

My beautiful great-granddaughter, Hazel James, was 8 months old on Saturday and is already starting to walk. Crawling still gets her where she wants to go, but any time she has the opportunity, she is on her feet walking with Mommy and Daddy holding her hands. My granddaughter posted a sweet video on social media showing this tiny baby girl holding on to the handles of an activity walker and pushing it in front of her as she walked by herself. Scarcely taller than the handles, she was clearly delighted with her independent mobility, and I was simply amazed! What struck me even more about this picture, however, was what was almost hidden from view. There in the background was her Daddy. All you could see was his hands on either side of his baby girl, close enough to catch her should she let go of the handle or stumble and fall. Mommy, too, was hidden, but every step Hazel James took that day was recorded. With those first steps of independence, Hazel James was looking forward with no idea where she was going. But her Mommy and Daddy knew all along! She had no idea her parents were right beside her; she had no idea that she was never outside the view and protection of their love and that they were taking this journey with her. She also has no idea that their love and care will go with her no matter where her steps take her, no matter how hidden from view they might be, no matter how independent she becomes.

As I watched that video over and over this weekend, God reminded me of the parallels in my own life. Over the past three years, I have been learning to walk differently on a road unfamiliar to me. After walking hand-in-hand with my husband for almost 50 years, things changed for us in a matter of seconds with his diagnosis of Glioblastoma. For eleven months we walked that journey together, still holding hands, until God took him home. Now I have been relearning to walk on my own, and I have no idea where I am going. Sometimes the path is steep, and boulders block my way; sometimes the path is a narrow cliff with a vast canyon of darkness looming beside me; sometimes the path is straight; sometimes it is full of switchbacks. I have stumbled in exhaustion over tiny pebbles; I have crawled at times, too weak to stand. The fog and mist roll in at unexpected moments, and I can scarcely see the road in front of me. Battered and bruised, I have cried out in loneliness and fear, not wanting to take one more step on this journey.

And then, at just the right moment, the sun comes out, and I see in the shadow behind me the hands of my Father encircling me. I realize I am not alone; I am not in danger; I am not lost. He is directing every step of my journey, just as He always has. He knows the beginning, and He knows the end, and He is recording each stopping place along the way so that I might see His faithfulness and His goodness. This road is not unfamiliar to Him, and I can never wander from His sight or away from His protection.

Every journey is different, and we are all at different stages in our journey. One thing is certain, however: God delights in His children! He is directing our steps. His arms encircle us to guide us and protect us. We are never out of His sight, and He will not let His children fall. That comforts me and encourages me to keep on walking.

Father help me to be like Hazel James! Help me move out in faith one step at a time, with my eyes fixed forward, not looking behind me, not looking to the left or to the right, trusting that You know where this road leads. May I live in the truth of Your promises. Thank You for directing my steps. Thank You for Your faithful, everlasting arms that protect and guide me.  And thank You for recording each stopping place on my journey to the Promised Land.


And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:36-38

Anna woke long before dawn. It was her lifelong custom. Laying on her pallet in the cool darkness her tiny room, waiting for her aching joints to loosen enough to rise, she recited the morning prayers she learned from her father. She remembered scampering out of bed as a young child and hiding behind the curtain as her father put on his prayer shawl and began chanting the prayers of the day. She loved to hear him singing praise to God. Her father was Phanuel, meaning “face of God,” and he often told her the story of Jacob’s encounter with Yahweh at Peniel when he had wrestled with God and prevailed. It was not the only passage from the Torah she learned from her father. She craved the Word. Her husband, too, was a scholar who shared his knowledge with her, but he had been gone now for so long. They had only been married seven years before he died. The ache of grief, like a broken bone that never healed properly, washed over her once again.

How is it possible, she thought, that she was 84 years old and had been a widow for more years than the average lifespan of women in her day. The Scriptures had been her solace during her soul-wrenching grief, the temple her place of refuge. Now, with her tiny room in the temple courts, she never had to leave. It was her home. She was able to serve both day and night, to participate in synagogue services and study sessions. Her craving for the Word had only increased. She knew the words of the prophets and shared them continually with other women, and she waited with eager expectation for the fulfillment of the coming of Messiah. She wanted to be ready for Him when He came, and she was devoted to fasting and prayer. Today would be a day of fasting for her, and she was eager to be in the Temple Courts, so she laid her grief aside and got up to meet the Lord!

Anna was there that day when Joseph and Mary carried Jesus into the temple to present Him to the Lord as the first-born. She heard Simeon, full of the Holy Spirit, as he blessed God, with this tiny baby in his arms:

For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

How her heart must have leapt within her! Could it be? Could this be the Messiah? She knew the words of Isaiah, and her spirit must have testified to the Truth before her, because suddenly, she could not keep silent. Her voice burst forth in praise! I wonder if her old bones were strengthened at the sight of her Savior and if she was able to dance in delight.  I do believe that the loss and grief that had been this widow’s constant companion for most of her life was instantly replaced with unfathomable joy and overwhelming peace! And for the rest of her years, she told everyone she encountered about Jesus. She could not be silent!

Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, weaned on the story of Jacob at Peniel, had seen the face of God in this baby Jesus – Messiah, Savior, Son of the Most High.

Father, there is so much for me to learn from Anna. I want to be passionate for Your Word. I want to know it and live it and share it. I want to be defined by devotion to You, faithful in prayer and fasting, and eagerly awaiting the fulfillment of Your promises. Anna was prepared for Your coming! I want to be prepared when You come again! Please let the joy of my salvation to be manifest. I don’t ever want to be silent about Jesus! Thank You for sending Him to be my Savior.


“My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.” Psalm 62:5

This gift of silence, of a quiet inner stillness, is a treasure deeply hidden and seldom mined. We live bombarded by noise. Our minds are assaulted by a cacophony of discordant decibels from the ringing of the alarm to the final click of the TV remote. Combined with the visual noise bouncing off our phones, laptops, and video games, it’s no wonder we exist in a state of perpetual exhaustion. Our eyes and ears and minds struggle to find rest as we race from one urgent racket to another, day after day. Moments of silence are rare, even in our worship services, even in our quiet times with the Lord. We are uncomfortable with silence; we don’t know what to do with it.

I realize that the unending chatter of the mundane often deafens me to the whispered calls of my heavenly Father. I don’t hear Him speak to me because I’m listening to the urgent noises around me. My prayer time is frequently filled up with the litany of my words and a hasty “Amen” without allowing any time to simply listen. In this, I miss the opportunity for intimacy with Jesus, the blessing of knowing Him more, and I believe that grieves His Father’s heart.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my dad. He died October 9, 1990, and even after 32 years, I still miss him. One of my favorite memories happened on an ordinary Saturday morning in the fall of my 11th year. Dad had been working in the yard all morning, and the back of his old 1957 Ford pick-up was full of bags of leaves and pruned branches. My chores finished; I was sitting on the step engrossed in a new library book when Dad noticed me. “I’m going to the dump, Snooks. Want to ride along?” I didn’t hesitate but closed the book and jumped in the truck alongside my dad. He smiled at me and off we went. What is extraordinary about that time is that Dad and I were silent the whole way out of town to the dump and the whole way back, and I was conscious of a closeness and contentment I had no words to describe. To this day when I smell the perfume of fallen leaves and dried cornstalks that is the essence of Autumn, I am transported back to that day when the warm breeze ruffled my hair through open windows, and the rough weave of the seat cushions left indentions in my bare legs, and I luxuriated in silence with my daddy. Back at home, he smiled at me again, handed me my book and we both went back to doing Saturday. As I hopped out of that pick-up, however, I understood somehow that I had received a priceless gift, intentionally chosen, and gifted especially for me from a father who loved me without question. That day I connected with my Daddy’s heart and he connected with mine.

God uses silence and stillness in my life in much the same way Dad used that long ago trip to the dump. When I pause to quiet my soul and wait in silence for Him, I connect with my Father’s heart. The deafening noise of the world fades, and I clearly hear Him whisper my name. These are the moments of intimacy that grow and deepen my faith. His Word speaks truth into my own heart. Sin is uncovered and confessed, praise and worship flow freely, and I hear Him singing over me in love. Hope is renewed as I yield to His sovereignty, and I am refreshed.

This doesn’t happen by chance and it is not without cost. Just as I had to close my new library book and hop into that old Ford pick-up, I need to intentionally make time for silence and solitude in the routine of my daily life. Jesus is waiting. He is there in the everyday moments that make up my day. I don’t want to miss the opportunity to sit next to Him!

Father, help me today to “be still and know that You are God.” Help me to mine the treasure of silence and solitude, and to wait silently before You. Open my ears to hear You whisper my name and hold me so close that I can hear the beat of Your heart above every other sound around me. Let my silent stillness be the music of worship, the song of praise to You alone and for Your glory.


On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then he straightened up and praised God. Luke 13:10-13

              Bent over, crippled by life, unable to straighten up, her perspective shrinking day by day and year by year, all this woman could see was the ground immediately in front of her. The dry, dusty, rock-strewn dirt of Israel was her world. No longer could she lift her eyes to the hills in praise; no longer could she feel the warmth of the sun caressing her cheeks. The glorious sunrises and spectacular sunsets over the walls of Jerusalem were no more than shifting shadows to her; the tender expressions and rapturous joy on the faces of her loved ones were lost in her memories. The vibrant colors of her panoramic view were reduced to minimal shades of brown and grey.

              Over the years, the woman came to know the music of life in a new way, depending on it to fill the void of her limited vision. Now it was the sounds that protected her from harm of encroaching crowds, running footsteps and rumbling chariots. Her ears welcomed the greetings of friends and family and found comfort in the quiet of a new dawn. Favorite pastimes no longer available to her crouching frame, she became adept at identifying personalities by sandals. Her guiding map consisted of rock formations as well known to her as the veins in her own feet. The seasons were identified by the nuances of shrub growth and the variety of crawling creatures that inhabited her limited world, now reduced to an endless ache in her back and pains in her neck.

              And yet, she remained faithful. She was there in the synagogue that Sabbath day. It was her custom. Slowly she had followed that well-worn path to God’s house, seeking Him in her brokenness, her crippled gate measured and hesitant as she entered His courts, never dreaming how her perspective was about to change.

              She couldn’t see Jesus, but she knew He would be there. She heard the murmuring of the crowds about this teacher who amazed even the temple leaders. The solace of cool marble floors breaking the tedium of dust and dirt, she was there among the curious, small and invisible, bent over in pain, unable to see.

              But Jesus saw her! There in the synagogue on the Sabbath, engaged in teaching, surrounded by the towering heads of the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus looked out and He looked down, and He saw her. This broken, bent, crippled woman who could not see Him, but the one His infinite eyes had never lost sight of was fully seen by Him in that moment in time kept just for her.

              He met her in the only way she could receive Him – He called her forward. I wonder, did He call her by name, the one He had given her before the foundation of time? Or was His voice so compelling that she had no choice but to move between the forests of legs that crowded her outlook? Oh, how sweet His voice must have sounded and how beautiful to her were His feet, the very feet of the One who would soon be pierced for the sins of the world. As her eyes focused on the worn leather of His sandals, she heard the love and compassion in His voice as He spoke words of freedom to her alone, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.”

And then He touched her!

              Immediately, for the first time in eighteen years, she straightened her back, raised her head and looked full in the face of Immanuel, God with her, the Holy One of Israel. In His eyes, the infinite love of the ages, the tenderness of the Great Shepherd, the very glory of God, twinkled just for her. And she praised her Creator, her Savior, and her King.

              She must have fallen at His feet in worship at that moment, the dust of His sandals now precious to her; she must have clutched His hands in thanksgiving, the very hands that had kept her from falling all those years and had finally, according to His perfect timing, lifted her head and changed her perspective forever –

              From pain to praise,

              From brokenness to blessedness,

              From temporary monotony to eternal magnificence,

              From the inconceivable to the incomparable,

              From dirt to Deity.

Jesus, too often I am bent over and crippled by sin or the painful circumstances of my life dominate my perspective. Brokenness, grief, physical infirmities; the drudgery of laundry and dishes and work demands; the never-ending responsibilities of wife and mother, daughter and sister, friend and neighbor – all these can weigh me down. I miss the majesty of the moment. But there, in the smallness of my vision, You see me, You call me forward out of the grime! Change my perspective, Lord, from the temporal to the eternal and help me not to miss the blessed magnificence of Your incomparable Glory!