Category Archives: christian growth

God Is Good All the Time–Or is He?

I often see posts on the internet that make me pause. For instance, today I saw a post from a Facebook friend updating her son’s health condition a few days after a surgery. Things are going well, and she added the comment, “God is indeed good.”

And, I believe that God is good. I will regularly respond to someone who says, “God is Good,” with the accepted-in-Christian-circles response–“all the time.”

But do I really live like I believe that? We hardly ever add the thought, “God is Good” after the announcement of bad news, do we? I have to say that this came to mind today because I got some disappointing news. It wasn’t earth-shattering, and I nor none of my loved ones are ill or facing tragedy. But it was a “no” answer to a prayer request that I was really starting to believe might be a “yes.” I mean, we had asked lots of people to pray about this. Everyone who heard our request seemed to be willing to pray about it, and enough time passed between the time we started to ask and the time we got the answer that people were checking in to see if there was an update. So I was starting to let myself hope it would be positive. So after this disappointing “no” answer from God, do I really believe God is good all the time?


I believe that He says no to us for a reason. I also believe that He says no over and over again to requests that seem like yes would be better.

I also know that I don’t have all the information that God does. He knows what He will do 1 month, 1 year, 10 years down the road. He knows that answering yes to this thing that seems so obvious to me is the best solution might really end badly. He knows. He knows. I don’t.

My knowledge of God’s goodness is a comfort. It is a balm to me when I get disappointing news or even when I get devastating news. But sometimes, I have to really lather myself up in the balm before I can let it sink in and accept it. Sometimes I have to take some time to process events in order to remember the truth that God is Good All the Time!

The hymn What E’re my God Ordains is Right sums it up for me:

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
His holy will abideth;
I will be still whate’er He doth;
And follow where He guideth;
He is my God; though dark my road,
He holds me that I shall not fall:
Wherefore to Him I leave it all.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
He never will deceive me;
He leads me by the proper path:
I know He will not leave me.
I take, content, what He hath sent;
His hand can turn my griefs away,
And patiently I wait His day.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.

Whate’er my God ordains is right:
Here shall my stand be taken;
Though sorrow, need, or death be mine,
Yet I am not forsaken.
My Father’s care is round me there;
He holds me that I shall not fall:
And so to Him I leave it all.


I have been blessed throughout my life to know Christians from a variety of backgrounds, and, even now, I am working for a church in a denomination different than my own. I am grateful that God is big enough to reach people through His own means that I don’t always understand. I am also thankful that I don’t have to understand these things–God does.

Where I work, I run into people with big hearts who love Christ and His gospel. Do they agree with all my theological beliefs? No. Does that matter? No. We can agree on the things that are important, the things stated in the Apostles Creed:

I believe in God the Father, Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;

He descended into hell.

The third day He arose again from the dead;

He ascended into heaven,
and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost;
the holy catholic church;
the communion of saints;
the forgiveness of sins;
the resurrection of the body;
and the life everlasting.


I can work alongside these brothers and sisters in Christ because of our shared beliefs in Christ and Him crucified, of Christ and His resurrection.

Living among so many Christians from different backgrounds for these many years has made me a bit sad.  I am sad that we have to have so much conflict.  Even within our denominations there is infighting. The very fact that the Christian church is split into many denominations and the sinful attitudes and mentalities that lead to such splits and perpetuate them is distressing. It is hard to see Christians so divided.

We can learn so much from each other about how to love more like Christ. May we be willing to put our love for Christ over of love of being right so we can spur each other on to love and good deeds.

An Open Thank You Note to My Advent Angels + A Word About Giving and Receiving

On one of the final days of November, I received an e-mail from the pastor of our church telling me that he had a box of gifts that someone wanted us to have. We wrote back and forth a couple times to work out the logistics of my getting the box. Having been in the situation of “needing” extra help from others over the holidays for some time now, I expected this to be some packages to be saved for Christmas Day to be shared with my family. I picked up the mysterious box from the church office the last day of November after choir rehearsal ended. My son carried to the car and then into our house when we got home. I opened the box eagerly to see what it might be.

Inside, I found many prettily wrapped gifts with tags attached to each one along with a typewritten note from the givers of the box. Generally, the note explained that this box contained a gift for me for each day of advent. It was prepared by two people who wanted to help me remember my worth as a “daughter of the King.” The box also contained a generous gift card to use to purchase some things for my family.

Tears were my first response because I was humbled. I had spent much of October and November wondering how we might purchase gifts for our kids for Christmas without incurring more debt. November was a hard month, as we were forced to purchase new tires for our van early in the month, and then I really felt God nudging me to visit my mom with the family for Thanksgiving, a trip from which we had just returned. The expense of the trip was felt in the family budget. When Mark went back to work at his part-time job that first week after we got home, he was greeted with the news that cutbacks are coming soon, and that his job would be cut in some fashion. So I felt sure that this box was evidence of God’s notice of my concern and worry about the coming Christmas season. Then, of course, beyond Christmas gifts, I was concerned about how we would manage beyond December.

However, my second response was not as pious as the first. My second thought was, “How needy do we seem?” And, “Are we always going to be the family that needs help?” I was getting more than a little angry with God for once again putting me on the receiving end of someone’s charity.

Yet, as the month of December wore on, I woke up each morning and was delighted by each small gift from my “advent box.” I received blank books to write in, a beautiful tea cup and saucer set, lotions, cooking utensils, a book, slippers, socks, Christmas items, and a very pretty snowflake necklace, just to name a few of the things from my special box. Every gift had a different tea bag attached to it, and I was thrilled by each one.

God was working on my attitude through the generosity and kindness of these special sisters in Christ who decided to bless me this advent season. Whoever they are, their gifts showed that they had some idea of what I like and what would make me feel special. These were not just gifts for the sake of having something to give, thoughtfulness was behind each one.

In addition to these gifts from my “secret Advent Angels,” as Christmas drew closer, Mark and I received anonymous gifts from others at our church to help with Christmas expenses. I also received gifts of thanks and kindness from people where I work that added to our holiday celebration. As I entered worship on Christmas Eve, I felt very blessed by God for the way He once again showed me that He is my Father in Heaven who wants to give me good gifts. The gift of His son Jesus was revealed to me over and over again through the kindness and love of others given to me and my family this Christmas season.

As I alluded earlier, this is not the first time we have been in this situation. Truly, every year, our family receives some sort of unexpected blessings from anonymous givers, and it is not just at Christmas time.

We are NOT really poor in the truest sense of the word. We are struggling, to be sure, but some of that struggle is the result of our own actions in the past. Yet God is not stingy in His blessings to us. He does not sit back with a record book and review all the decisions we have made to determine whether we deserve to be blessed or not. He gives to us and blesses us because He is our Father who loves us. That is all. Oh how I need to learn that lesson with my own children! Perhaps that is why we are not yet in the position to be the giver. I long to be the giver. I long to be the one who is able to bless others. Yet I wonder how much of that is pride. How can I know?

Here is what I do know—God has faithfully met our family’s needs for 20 years now. He has not seen fit to take us beyond that yet, but He has never forsaken us, and, I believe, He never will. Once again, this past Christmas season and year brought many evidences to us of God’s lavish grace. So to those of you who were a part of that, who were instruments of God’s grace to us during this time, we are very grateful. We appreciate your acts of love and faithfulness. We appreciate your being Christ to us. I pray that we can be as generous to others in whatever ways we are able. I want to remember that it is more blessed to give than to receive and to live accordingly.

A Lesson from the Lord’s Prayer

So Mark and I were talking last night about how we so much want to have our situation change in regard to the overarching category of financial provision for our household.  We keep praying, but it seems when we make a step forward, there are at least 2 steps back.  Then, there’s the whole worrying that what we are able to do now could go away because of the current economic situation and other circumstances beyond our control.  We left our conversation consoling one another that God has always provided for us to this point, and all we can do is trust He will continue (while, of course, doing our part.)

Then this morning, we went to church.  After the worship service, we teach 3rd grade Sunday school.  I confess, that when I have been the one doing the lesson, I haven’t done much preparation.  But this is the second week I have asked Mark to teach the lesson.  I should just be the helper every week because even when he is teaching the young children, Mark brings out things I never see.

The overall theme of the quarter in the Sunday school curriculum is worship.  So we have had a couple lessons on the temple and the tabernacle, comparing the worship of the Old Testament to our worship today.  Last week, we talked about Daniel and his refusal to worship the King and his desire to obey his heavenly father and to worship only the True God.  The Lord’s prayer was tied to the lesson beginning last week, and that continued into this week.

Today, our Bible story was about Hannah, and her desire to have a baby.  We read the story, and we talked about how Hannah persistently pled with God to give her the desire of her heart.  After many faithful years of petition on her part, God granted her request, and Samuel, who would become an adviser to the king of Israel, was born.

The phrase of The Lord’s Prayer we focused on today was “Give us this day, our daily bread.”  I say these words over and over again, mostly in public prayer, and it wasn’t until today that I realized this little phrase is more directive than I have ever given it credit for.  In this little phrase, we are being told to ask God to meet our needs each day.  Bread, symbolic of the staff of life, the body of Christ,  the hope of the world, is definitely God’s gift to us, but He wants us to ask him for it every day.  He wants to hear from us–to have us tell Him that we know He is the one who provides all that we need.

Also, through the conversation Mark was leading of these 8-year-olds, I saw a connection of the Lord’s Supper to the “daily bread.”  In the Lord’s Supper, we are being refreshed, renewed, restored, and prepared to enter the world as representatives of Christ, the bread of the world.  When we pray for the “daily bread,” we are also praying for Christ to work through us every day–that we would have Christ in us in a way that is meaningful to ourselves and those around us.

Maybe this isn’t too profound for the rest of the Christian public.  But for me, today, where I was, it was what I needed to hear.  I was convicted that I just “expect” God to work and provide too much of the time, and I don’t call on Him enough to meet my daily needs–to provide our daily bread.  Yes.  I often (if not always) thank Him for the food at meals, but daily bread goes a lot further than that–it is the full-orbed stuff of life that we need to ask God for.  He wants to hear from me that I know I can’t survive apart from His gracious will.


Church Camp Redux

I went to church camp every summer when I was a kid.  It was the highlight of my summer because we didn’t really ever go on family vacations.   Camp was normally during mid-July, and from the end of the school year until the day we left for camp, my friend Carlene and I would call each other on the phone at least once a day to go over the “list” to make sure nothing of supreme importance was left at home during camp week.

Another important part of camp was the Bible/spiritual part.  We would memorize countless verses to earn points for our team.  We had Bible studies together everyday, and of course, there was a campfire worship service every night, culminating with the big last night of the week-crying because of the work of the holy spirit-throwing sticks in the fire to represent the sin you were repenting of-CAMPFIRE.  After I would get home from camp, it would take another week to decompress, to sort through what I learned, and to set out to be a better Christian by keeping all the promises I made to myself and God regarding my behavior.

Here’s where the REDUX comes in.  I attended a 2-day leadership seminar sponsored by the Willow Creek Association this past Thursday and Friday (The Global Leadership Summit).  The seminar is two days of well-known Christian and business leaders speaking on topics relevant to Christians in leadership roles.  I went as a part of group from the church where I work.  My post-seminar personal debriefing has a very familiar feeling–I feel like I did after church camp as a kid.  I am re-evaluating my personal piety practices, my work habits, my personal schedule.  I am asking myself how I can be a better Christian in all the roles I play in my life.

I know the tone of this post sounds somewhat sarcastic, and well, I am a bit jaded about these intense periods of teaching and spiritual contemplation and what kind of real impact these sorts of things can have on my life.  BUT, I ultimately think times like these can be helpful.  I am blessed to be in a church where we partake of the Lord’s Supper each week, and through that practice, I find myself being better about personal repentance and keeping a shorter account with God.  But hearing the thoughts of Christians outside my own tradition for a concentrated time and allowing my guard to come down so the Holy Spirit can prick my conscience is still good.  It is helpful for me to take a little spiritual inventory, and consider ways I might become more like Jesus.  The part that is a lot like my church camp experience is that ultimately, I will probably fail in my resolutions to make a change.  Ultimately my behavior may not be noticeably different to those around me.  But I am counting on God’s grace to use the experience I had this past week in the same way that he used camp when I was a kids.  I am counting on His forgiveness when I fail, and I am counting on Him to change me just a little bit and to slowly change me in more noticeable ways for His glory.  I am also starting to count the days until I can attend the Summit again.

About a Boy

about a boy

“A person’s life is like a TV show.  I’m the star of The Will Show, and the Will Show is not an ensemble drama.”  — Quote from Will, one of the main characters in About a Boy

This post is loosely related to the last one.  Have you ever seen the movie, About a Boy?  It is one of my favorites.  The story is about, well, a boy, named Marcus.  He is nerdy and “poor” and lives with his single mom in a suburban environment in England.  He finds himself wishing for friends, and through an unlikely connection, he meets and becomes friends with an adult man, Will, who is single and lives by the philosophy that all men are islands.  By the end of the movie, both Will and Marcus both discover that life is better when lived in community.  As Marcus comments, “Couples need back-up.”

I am thinking a lot about what living in community means.  The fact is, with 4 kids in a city with no family, community is very important to us.  We count on the help of others every week to make our lives work.  That being said, it isn’t easy to do this.  Sometimes it feels like we are needy–like we are the only ones who have to make that phone call to ask someone to pick up one of the kids because we can’t get across town in time.  I would like to feel more like we can live in community where there is give and take, where people feel comfortable calling me to ask for help more often.  Sometimes I think people don’t call us because we are known to be busy, but I also want to be known to be generous and accommodating and helpful when it is within my power to do so.

I started this post on Saturday of last weekend, and interestingly, our pastor preached a sermon on Sunday about the community of believers in the Book of Acts.  My husband also preached a sermon where he talked about community.  Hmmm . . . coincidence?  I don’t think so.  I think we all long for more relational lives of meaningful interaction with others. But in our society, it is difficult to bring about.

In About a Boy, Marcus sensed what he wanted/needed, and he started to pursue it until his life looked more like what he longed for.  Real life, unfortunately, is not as neatly constructed as movies or over in a couple short hours.  So we have to work at things for the long haul.  Now I am challenged as to how best to pursue community in my own life without turning others off in the process.

Building Friendships as Grown-ups

The other day at work, the 23-year-old ministry associate who works in my office asked me, “How often do you and your husband get together with other couples your age?”

I answered,”Maybe once a month now, because, well, we have 4 kids, 2 jobs+, a dog, and only 24 hours in a day.”

He was a bit disappointed with my answer.  You see, he and his young wife have been in St Louis for about 2 years, and they haven’t made a lot of good friends.  It is hard to go from the college environment where all you do is study, sleep, eat, and think of ways to socialize with all those people who are just like you and who live right next to you!

It takes real work to make friends after you enter the adult world.  Even in the church, where building relationships with other Christians is supposed to be part of the deal, it isn’t always easy.  We have to go out of the way to strike up friendships, and even then, it often feels unnatural and awkward.  If you’re married, you have to figure out ways to include your spouse in new friendships.  Then, add the kids, and you have to work them into the equation, too.

The sad thing is, that even in adulthood, we feel those same insecurities we had in high school about reaching out to other people.  We worry about reactions.  We worry about rejection.  We worry that our houses aren’t up to par for visitors.  We worry about being vulnerable.

I propose that we have to get past all these worries and just get out there and make the effort.  We have to set aside a day here or there every so often and make a plan to get together with friends.  We can’t live in fear, and besides, as Christians we are commanded to love one another and to bear each others burdens.  It’s a lot easier to obey those commands if we take the time to get to know the people in the trenches with us.

Big Kids, Pushing 20, and Life

Big Kids

Calvin turned 15 on April 28, and Charis was 8 on May 8!  Bookends of our children.  Babies are completely gone from our household.  Evangeline was 12 in June.  Nevin is 13.5.  Did we ever really believe this day would come?  In a year we will be the parents of 3 teenagers!

Pushing 20

Years of marriage, that is.  I am so grateful for the nearly 20 years I have had with Mark.  We often feel overwhelmed with life–the mundane things, the difficulties, the struggle, and the tension we feel because we believe circumstances can be better.  But when I consider all God has done for us, all He has brought us through, all that we have faced together, I can only praise God for the husband of my youth.  I want to praise Him for all the trials, too, but I am not always so good at that.  Still, I know that I much prefer being in God’s hand and knowing He is faithful to the idea of trudging through life without Him.  I am so thankful that He gave me Mark to trudge along beside me!


I continue to learn much about how to live.  I think the greatest thing about my forties has been realizing how naive and stupid I really am.  It is so much less stressful to realize I can’t solve all the problems I face.  There is a freedom in this realization that leads me to greater faith in God’s strength to hold me up and move me forward.  I am more free to trust Him more.  I wish I could say I have gotten completely out of His way, but I can’t.  I am just learning how to let Him work more.

Psalm 90:12-17 is a great passage that reminds me that my days are numbered and that I need to follow God’s leading and make the most of what I have been given.

Psalm 90:12-17
12  So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13   Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
14  Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15  Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16  Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17  Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!

Not Blogging Since October, 2010

I decided my blogging hiatus was getting old, so I am giving the old blog another go.

I have been thinking a lot of why I quit blogging for a while.  Yes.  It is true that working full-time has carved a big chunk out of my “spare time.”  But, ultimately, I think it has been because I haven’t felt like I have anything much to say.  Most of my old family posts are now covered with Facebook in much smaller bits–better for everyone.  But I really feel like I want to have something to say.  So I will give a try to finding this and that in the news, books, or other common cultural element to comment on here and there.  If I get too busy or tired, the few who might stop by will forgive me, right?

So I’ll start blogging again by sharing a Psalm that has been meaningful to me.  No commentary.  Just God’s word:

Psalm 34–ESV


I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
and let us exalt his name together!

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

11 Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.