It Is Well

by Michele Mann

“Mr. and Mrs. Mann, I’m so sorry to tell you, but your son has a golf-ball size mass in his brain.” My husband and I listened carefully to the young neurosurgeon explain the results of the CT scan. “We’ll have to do an MRI to confirm, but it’s likely lymphoma.”

My heart began to race as the reality of the word “cancer” permeated the air like a thickening cloud. As I fought to keep my emotions at bay, my mind was clear and my words steady and sure, “But you aren’t sure. Am I correct? I mean, you don’t know conclusively.”

“That’s correct,” the doctor cautiously responded. “But it looks cancerous.”

I looked at the doctor, then looked at my husband, Jeff, and with the confident childlike faith only God can give I said matter-of-factly, “We don’t know what we don’t know. And we can’t be afraid of what we do not know. We rest on what we do know.”

img_3447We followed the doctors out of the back room of bad news and returned to Nate’s room in the ER. I gazed at my 11-year-old son, who just a week ago was putting together the Lego sets he had gotten for Christmas. On New Year’s Day he woke up with a slight headache we thought was the onset of the flu. When the headache persisted, but no other symptoms appeared, we thought it might be sinus related. As the headache worsened and couldn’t be relieved with the usual pain meds, we visited the ER, and got a migraine diagnosis. After migraine medications didn’t touch the pain, we knew we were dealing with something more sinister. We returned to the ER early on a Tuesday morning, and by midmorning got the CT results—a mass was sitting in the center of Nate’s brain.

As they wheeled Nate down the hall to the MRI room, Jeff and I followed closely, holding Nate’s hand and shielding his eyes from the bright lights that had become unbearable for him. The anesthesiologist and the radiologist met us. They whisked Nate away as the nurse pointed us to a small waiting room.

As we took our seats in that little room, I kept repeating to Jeff, “We don’t know what we don’t know. We rest on what we do know.” And what did we know? There is a God. He is real. He is faithful. He is personal. He is good. He is full of grace. He is healer. He gives eternal life. He rescues from the penalty of death. He gives life here in this temporary place. He promises He will prepare a permanent dwelling for His kids. He knows every day ordained for us. He knows the end from the beginning. I know Him. Jeff knows Him. My son, Nate, knows Him. And He knows us.

After we brought our list of “knowns” before our Abba, we both heard the same gentle whisper “Now rest. It is well.” We went to our phones. Jeff found the old hymn, and I found a newer rendition of the song. We listened to the words over and over and over again. As I listened to the words, I recalled the story I’d recently read about the author of the hymn.

Horatio Spafford was a successful Chicago lawyer. He and his wife Anna had five children, a son and four daughters. The Spafford’s lost their young son tragically and suffered financial loss in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. In 1873, Spafford sent his wife and daughters ahead on a vacation to Europe. He was kept behind by business, but promised to join his family soon. He found out a few days later that the ship had collided with another vessel. His four daughters perished. As Mr. Spafford was traveling to be reunited with his grieving wife, his ship sailed over the very place his daughters perished. It was at that place, out of a grieving heart, the words to “It is Well” were birthed.

As I prayed and pondered in those dark moments, I heard my Abba whisper, “Do you trust me? Are you willing to walk out what you say you believe? Will you surrender Nate to me? Can you say ‘It is well’ even if he has to walk a road of suffering? Even if the road he walks ends in death? Do you believe my words? Do you trust me?”

It was at that moment, I let the grief and shock and pain well up and overflow. In agony, I cried out to God from the depth of my soul. I did not like what my God was asking of me. But, like Peter, all I could say was, “To whom else shall I go? You alone have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:38) I have staked my life on the truth of Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life. I believe He died so those who accept the forgiveness offered through Him might live. If I believe it, then I must trust what He says is true. So I laid my son, my beautiful boy, on the altar and surrendered him to the One who loves Him more than I could ever imagine. My flesh cried out for God to spare my son, but the Spirit in me knew the answer to the question of surrender must be “Yes, Lord.” There was no other choice.

pexels-photo-108447After that heart wrenching hour of surrender, the Lord began to whisper His Word. As Nate was wheeled out the MRI back to his room, all I could think was “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.” I kept thinking, “Am I crazy? Here I am waiting for potentially devastating news and all I can do is give praise to God. This isn’t natural.” Indeed it wasn’t. Looking back now I realize it was supernatural. Supernatural grace. Supernatural peace. Supernatural love. At those moments, as we waited in the dark, God poured out His Spirit. He met us moment by moment.

When the neurosurgeon told us the MRI did seem to indicate lymphoma, but there was a slight chance it could be a brain abscess—he just needed the attending neurosurgeon to look at the results to confirm—we blessed the Lord. And we prayed. We asked all our friends and family to bombard the heavenlies on Nate’s behalf. Just as a child is free to ask her father for anything, I knew I could boldly go before the throne of grace with my request. But now my request was in full submission to my Father’s will. I had to trust He knew what was best. Even if I didn’t like the answer.

Two hours after we got the initial diagnosis, the attending neurosurgeon whisked in Nate’s room. Dr. Rocque (pronounced “rock,” so not kidding, only God) sat by the bed, and briskly announced, “Well, it looks like it’s a brain abscess. The only way we can tell is if we do surgery and puncture the mass. If we get pus, we know it’s an abscess. But we need to do surgery now. The risk is great if there is an infection.”

Jeff and I sat by Nate’s bed and stared at the doctor. We weren’t sure we heard him correctly. We asked questions. Dr. Rocque patiently answered. Then we prayed over Nate and sent him off to surgery. After he left we just looked at each other and wondered aloud, “What is God doing?” Eventually, we wandered to the hospital lobby where so many precious friends were waiting for us, standing with us during the darkest hours. God’s presence was so tangible, so real. His grace so abundant. It’s hard even now to describe the peace in the midst of what should have been our most anxious moments. After two hours, pexels-photo2we got the call from Dr. Rocque. As he came off the elevator to meet us he was smiling as he announced, “We have pus!” We rejoiced and we laughed at God’s goodness and mercy. We wept over His grace. We blessed the Lord at all times. His praise was indeed on our lips.

After an exhausting two weeks of tests to determine the cause of Nate’s abscess, and lots of trial and error in finding the right antibiotics to treat the bacteria that had invaded Nate’s brain, we were able to head home. As we loaded the car, the Spirit whispered, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” The verse played like a recording over and over and over in my mind. I knew it was a Psalm, but had no idea which one. After we were settled in at home, I looked up the verse and as I read the words I allowed myself once again to take a deep breath and lay everything bare before the Lord. I wept tears of joy and relief and gratefulness and wonder at God’s undeserved mercies. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy.” Psalm 103: 2-4

For years before Nate’s illness, I talked with friends about my awe of God’s forgiveness. I couldn’t believe that He would forgive my sin, that He would make me clean. It struck me often that the greater healing was not physical, but spiritual. I said the words, but now I walked them out. And I knew His goodness was no longer an ideology, but truth. Even if Nate’s illness ended in death. Even if God asked me to walk through unbearable agony. Even if my earthbound heart was shattered. He was still good. Because He had already brought me and Jeff and Nate from death to life. Even if Nate died, because of Christ, the ultimate healing had already been given. Before Nate’s illness those were words—afterward, it was reality. He is a good, good Father. And because of Jesus, it is well.

Because of Jesus, it is well.

Warts and All!

by Guest writer: Lauren Stovall

This is not a blog about warts. But it is. So nurses: lean in, and weak-stomached ladies: scroll away.

When I was younger, I had a wart on the heel of my foot. At first, it just blended in with my calluses and swirly footprint. (Who looks at the heel of their foot anyway?) Slowly it grew until it was obvious and even uncomfortable. Eventually it got so bad that I had a limp. I tenderly tried to live my life tip-toeing around the painful pressure in my foot. By the time I realized it was not going away, it was the size of a quarter.

You may not notice the symbolism of all this, or you may be a better person than I am and simply not handle your sin this way. But for all the weak humans here: you may notice that what I have just described is exactly how we deal with sin. We do not even notice that we have sin growing in our life. Temptation gradually spreads in our life until it seems impossible to get rid of it. Satan is a conniving genius. And I do not say that to give him fame, but to give you a flashing warning! As Christians, we often forget that Satan’s mission is to steal everything precious, kill our souls, and destroy every positive part of God’s Kingdom. The joy of this statement is that he can’t! It makes me want to laugh out loud as I sit at Cup’s coffeehouse. Satan so badly wants to tear down our lives, but ultimately he. will. fail. [For more on spiritual warfare, I recommend the book Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.]

As Christians, we often forget that Satan’s mission is to steal everything precious, kill our souls, and destroy every positive part of God’s Kingdom. The joy of this statement is that he can’t!

I mention Satan to remind us that the temptation we face is not going to be obvious at first. Sin creeps into your life slowly, leaving you completely unaware like a slow-growing wart hidden on your heel. For me, it was old British romances. At first, there was no shame in reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen or watching a classic movie like a red-love-heart-oldremake of Jane Eyre. It was subtle. It was sneaky. It was Satan. These innocent actions, though not sin at first, evolved.

As I type, my heart beats faster. Satan whispers, “You don’t need to admit this. You confessed this to God.” How tricky is that beast! Of course I have confessed my sin to God. Of course God has forgiven me! He cannot go against His own nature. God IS forgiveness, mercy, love, peace, redemption. Here it is though. Here is my sickening confession: I loved the romance books and movies so much that they became an addiction. I watched The Office to get to the kissing scene. I read cheesy Christian romance novels to get to the finale where the cowboy roped the girl and they had a dramatic kiss under the moon. It may seem innocent and harmless, but Honey-child, my heart was far away from innocent. Sin had spread so that I was accommodating my sin like limping with a wart on my heel.

For years, I allowed my dreams of love and romance to become an idol. This obsession festered uncontrolled and unconfessed. Every now and then my guilt would overcome me. I would ask God to forgive me, and swear off all romance “for the last time.” However, Satan always lured me back. The root of my wart was still there. I could not get rid of it on my own. I had no accountability and no motivation to air my dirty laundry so that it could be washed clean. I held the secret of my sin inside and let it contaminate my mind with dissatisfaction at the singleness God had given me, jealousy of different couples’ love, and lust for feelings or relationships that were not for me. I hope you are understanding the depth of my problem. I had sin: obsession that turned to idolization and lust.

Back to the wart: my mom, obviously concerned for my health, found out a dermatologist was the person to handle my problem. She scheduled an appointment. With much uneasy anticipation, we went to the doctor. I was fearful of going to someone who would probably hurt me while trying to help. However, I finally realized that I had to rid myself of the problem. So I went to the doctor. I decided that I really wanted to be healed. For good. Forever.

Full disclosure: It’s about to get gross. I was laid on the crinkly-papered doctor table on my stomach with the wart-infected heel sticking up in the air. Mom stood by with a grimace on her face. When you get a wart removed, they spray some cold, numbing chemical on your skin before putting the actual medicine in your foot. Frozen-skin spray on my heel. Then the needle. I hate needles. I only looked at it once, and that was too many times. The doctor began to repeatedly stab the needle into my still quarter-sized wart. The spray does not work. I can tell you, frozen heel or not, I felt those stabs. I did not count how many times the needle went in my heel, but afterward I had at least twenty visible needle-holes.

The process hurt. It was not easy. I did not enjoy the wart extraction, but it was necessary.

medic-hospital-laboratory-medical-40559Our sin must be handled the same. Once God has pointed out where the sin is and that it needs to go, we must submit to His Doctor hands. He is the One who pokes at our flaw and finds how far into our flesh the darkness reaches. He is the One who pries our hands loose from our sin. Because if I am being honest, I still do not WANT to be free from my sin. It is tough to let go of addictions. Their sinuous hold makes us believe that they are a part of us and our life will not be as happy or complete without them.

I could never take a needle and stab my own foot. It goes against human nature to attack part of your flesh. But it goes against spiritual nature to allow sin to coexist with our saved soul. As all Christians know, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24 NIV). Although this verse is talking about serving God or money, I believe the same logic applies to all sin. I cannot allow any idol to be in the same heart as God. Mostly due to the fact that God cannot be chill with sin.

One last medical bit: the wart did not magically evaporate that day. The medicine slowly killed the wart over a period of several weeks. Every now and then more of the wart would let go of my heel. I am no theologian, but I do not think God magically whisks away all our sin. We may have to pray for forgiveness and healing multiple times. Do not think for one moment that is because God is not big enough to remove your sin or even that you are too weak to really give up your sin. Instead, see this as a beautiful process. God is drawing you back to Him over and over again. Let Him hold your hand in the pain. Let Him hear your voice continually. Let yourself lean into His warm love. My eyes tear up at the thought.

As a fellow sister in Christ, I challenge you. Yes, you. Dear you, please let go of your sin. Stop trying to heal yourself with wart Band-Aids and self-help books that only patch the problem for an hour or a week. Go sobbing to God. Let Him take out your warty sin. Let Christ bleed all over your mess. Let the Holy Spirit drag your soul to God’s feet.

Praise Him. He IS healing. He WILL forgive you. He IS stronger than your sin. He IS a new life. He IS freedom from your addiction. He IS love.

I know this. I speak from experience. It may hurt. It may take time. You may go back to the Doctor for weeks and months. Oh Child, it is not easy to nod yes to a big needle of truth and separation from sin. But Honey-child: it. is. worth. it.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” James 1:14-16

Whispered Lies From the Enemy

by Dena Green

I recently spoke with a lady about some issues she was going through in life.  She was at a point of having to make some adjustments because of a medical condition and wasn’t really looking forward to those changes.  We chatted on about growing older and how we don’t like to make those changes in our life but they are necessary.  The conversation turned a corner when we began to talk about the Lord and where she was in her relationship with Him.  Big tears welled up in her eyes and she shared that she had regrets about some bad decisions that she had made in her past.  She didn’t feel that God could forgive her and that He condemned her for all of the “things” in her past.  She felt unworthy of His forgiveness.

This precious lady was a believer.  She knew Jesus, but was so wrapped in self-condemnation, that she hadn’t truly grasped the truth of HIS forgiveness.  She had believed Satan every time he whispered an ugly lie.  She walked into church thinking, “If they only knew, they wouldn’t even want me to be here.”

Oh my, how the Holy Spirit met with us that day!  He began to bring to mind scriptures that this precious soul needed to hear.

She needed to hear that Jesus forgave her sins…no matter what or how many.

I John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

I Cor. 6:11 – “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

She needed to be reminded that Jesus doesn’t condemn her and that she is not to walk in self-condemnation. 

In John 8:11, Jesus told the woman caught in adultery that he didn’t condemn her and to “go and sin no more”.  This lady was so relieved that Jesus didn’t condemn her for her past.

She needed to embrace and receive the freedom of forgiveness and to walk in that freedom.

John 8:36 – “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

She needed to listen to voice of truth and not the whispered lies of the enemy.  She needed to hear the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kiss and destroy.  I came that they may have live and have it abundantly.”

My new friend received healing that day for the sins that she was afraid to confess.  The Lord restored her heart and she forgave herself.  She gained freedom in knowing that Jesus forgave her sin and didn’t hold it against her.  Her tears of pain quickly changed to tears of joy and she left with the joy of the Lord shining on her face.

Have you lost sight of the truth about past sin?  Do you need to be reminded that no matter what, your sin is forgiven?  Do you need to be reminded that you are a daughter of THE KING.  He loves you and He paid the price for your sin.  You don’t have to carry the burden of sin and self-condemnation.  You can walk in freedom by leaving it all with Jesus.  Don’t let the enemy rob you of that freedom.  Listen to the voice of truth in I John 1:9 rather than the whispered lies of the enemy.

“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.”   Isaiah 61:3


Longing for the Desert

by Blaire Stephens

desert-drought-dehydrated-clay-soil-60013What comes to mind when you think of a desert? Maybe you think of some strange lizard that you have only seen on TV, being excruciatingly hot, so thirsty you can’t even swallow, or feeling so alone that you can’t fathom that anyone else in the world knows what you are going through (or certainly not anyone who cares). Rarely do we see a desert as a place of honor to be longed for.

So I don’t know where you are today in your walk with the Lord. Maybe you are walking closer to Him than you ever have before. If that is the case, soak it all in. Take in all of those precious treasures He is giving you and let them be etched into your heart. But maybe you just aren’t there right now. Maybe you’re still just trying to figure out exactly how what you are going through in your life really “fits” in the big picture. Maybe you’re struggling to figure out who this God is, and if this God really is Who He says He is, and if so, can He really be trusted?

I don’t know about where you are, but I know about where I have been many times in my walk with the Lord and that is walking through this life one step at a time. Many times not sure where He is taking me or quite frankly what in the world He is doing. It doesn’t seem like the most pleasant place to the world, but oh how He walks with and loves on me while I’m there!

One scripture that has been such a part of my journey over the past year or so is Hosea 2:14-15. God’s Word says,

”But then I will win her once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there , as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.”

pexels-photo-112641It is impossible to relay all the Lord has spoken and continues to speak to me through these scriptures, but one thing the Lord is compelling me to make sure we all understand is that He has us right smack dab in the middle of His hand.

We have all faced something in our lives that has not turned out the way we imagined…be it failure, loss, or disappointment…we have all been there in some form or another. That is one thing that the LORD has used in this scripture to be such comfort. He knows where I am and He meets me there.

HE WILL WIN ME BACK ONCE AGAIN. God knows that I am one stubborn child of His and that I am going to mess up, but that doesn’t repulse Him. He doesn’t get tired of pursuing me. He is persistent. He wants me…He wants you that much!

HE TRANSFORMS THE VALLEY OF TROUBLE INTO A GATEWAY OF HOPE. God never feels “hopeless.” He knows the victory is already His and He wants to transform those valleys into gateways right before our eyes.

HE LEADS ME INTO DESERTS. God doesn’t always just sit back and let things happen. He is sovereign over them. Just like with the Israelites in Exodus 13. The LORD led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness for their good. There was not one millisecond of the God-led journey that was not for their good and His glory! As crazy and against how the world teaches as this sounds, the LORD does not only allow the wilderness, He appoints time for them! But, why?

SO HE CAN SPEAK TENDERLY TO US THERE. How many of us have had those times in our lives that we see God as only a disciplinarian waiting for us to mess up? I know I have, but that is simply not true. God is a God of justice and he does discipline His children, but as a Father longing for His children to do what is best for them. He desires things for my good pexels-photo-24165and His glory. It is by “divine discipline” (Hebrews 12:5-9) the Lord draws us “to follow closely to His word” (Psalm 119:67). He wants to speak tenderly to us. Those moments we feel we can’t go on, He has truth He wants to saturate deep within our spirit. If we listen, He takes the bitterness and makes it sweet (Exodus 15).

So, I don’t know where you are, but I do know wherever you are in your journey, He is right there with you. Longing for you to cling ever so tightly to Him. Patiently waiting so He can reveal more of Himself to you. To your heart. In your situation.

What is your desert today? What is that one thing you wish you could change more than anything in the world that the Lord may be using to draw you closer to Himself?

Someone once said “God wants to take our desert and turn it into dessert.”

May we never waste the desert and miss the dessert!


To Be or Not to Be (Offended)?

Years ago our sweet pastor’s wife taught about taking offense. She remarked that when something was done to us or was said to or about us, we could choose not to be offended. For me that was revolutionary thinking. How about you?

pexels-photo-133021Is it a shocking idea that you have no right to take offense? You realize that you should forgive others, but do you quickly forgive and move on? Or do you enjoy the power of holding a grudge or being offended? What do you do with verses like Matthew 7:1-5 that talks about not judging and getting the speck out of your own eye first, or Romans 12:18 that tells us to live at peace with all men, or 1 Corinthians chapter 13 that is filled with characteristics for living a life of practical love? Do you equivocate? Pretend you’ve got it all together? Rationalize? In pride, we often focus on self and ignore God’s tuggings on our heart to truly forgive, to reconcile, to lay down our offenses at the foot of the cross.

We often think we are good at forgiveness. I’ve been there. In my early year, if you had apologized to me I would have been immediately gracious! I would hug you and genuinely forgive you. No grudges. Really! But if you didn’t apologize… whoa! Then I was offended!  I felt I had a right to be offended. Yet, I thought I was handling offenses appropriately.

What made a difference in my thinking, and what will change all of us? When we realize and accept that our offenses (sins) against Father God are so much greater than any of the petty things we hold onto that have been done to us, then God’s transforming work begins in us.

The parable in Matthew 18:23-35 where Jesus is giving a word picture of forgiveness to Peter and the disciples will clear up our focus as we allow the stark light of scripture to stream into the dark corners of our hearts that we keep comfortably hidden. calculator-solar-calculator-count-how-to-calculate-67599Jesus prefaced this parable with a command (a command, not a suggestion!) to forgive a person 70 x 7 times.  person. 70 x 7. A single brother. 70 x 7. Another Christian. 70 x 7 = 490 times! Then Jesus went on to tell the story, because stories pierce our hearts with truth.

God was piercing my heart. He was removing blemishes from my heart. He got my attention with that radical thought presented in our ladies Bible study group… I could choose NOT to be offended in any and every situation!

Once He had my attention it was like a seed being planted in my soul. The watering and fertilizing and sunshine started coming. Everywhere I turned I was confronted with verses and stories and examples of taking offense or not doing it. And that seed began to grow. I heard a stream of songs and sermons and wise proverbs on the subject. And it became a delicate little plant.

IMG_4148And this parable, of one who was forgiven of such a HUGE debt but was unwilling to forgive smaller offenses done to him, began to grow in my thoughts. And that plant started to thrive. I began to see the reality of my life and the HUGE amount of grace God had bestowed on me. I began to be humbled. I began to see reality, heavenly reality, through my blurred lens of self-righteousness and pride.

I realized no word spoken or deed done to me would ever come close to being as bad as my sin which nailed Jesus to the cross! My prideful, sinful heart which day after day after day after day chose my will over His and my ways over His, and my set of rules as to what was acceptable over His, had ruled my life. My self love had relegated My Creator and the God of the universe to the position of onlooker in my life, when in reality He rightly deserved the role of Chief Engineer, Conductor, President, Foreman, Principal, Boss,… the Sovereign Monarch of the domain of my life. Who was I that the Lord of the earth should take a back seat to me?

Over time that little seed turned into a way of life and a way of thinking for me. God’s love, His Word, and His grace worked in my heart as Isaiah 55:10-11 says “to accomplish what the Father desired and achieve the purpose for which He sent it.” You see when it comes to our Heavenly Father, His “Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible– terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.” (Hannah Hurnard – Hind’s Feet on High Places)

Since this transformation, other people may have benefitted from my less-easy-to-offend attitude. I’m kinder, softer. But I am the greatest beneficiary of the blessings that have come from learning to forgive immediately and not take offense. I now know what it is like to walk in freedom from taking offense, to lie down at night to sweet sleep, not agitation and anger; to take criticism without taking offense; to maintain long term relationships even through hurts and misunderstandings; to be insulted, ignored, or mistreated and not have it ruin my day; to walk through church on a Sunday morning with a mind full of kind thoughts and blessings and prayers for the dear brothers and sisters I meet instead of an offended spirit full of hurt, anger, and self-righteous judgment!

I still get tempted to take offense. I still have people say or do hurtful things to me, but each time I have an immediate choice to give up self and choose love. To forgive. The pexels-photo-112640transforming power of Christ and of the Word of God have changed me. When the God of love has planted that seed and grown a flowering, fruit-bearing plant in our hearts, personal offenses come into perspective and we can choose to walk in peace not prideful selfishness.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

God’s “…Love is beautiful, but it is also terrible– terrible in its determination to allow nothing blemished or unworthy to remain in the beloved.”

Hannah Hurnard – Hind’s Feet on High Places

The Dash

by Tracy Hacker

You may have read the title and are thinking you are about to read a story about running or a race, quite the opposite. This post is about life and how we choose to live day to day. The things we focus our time and energy on are eternal.

I had the opportunity recently to visit the gravesite where my grandparents are buried. Lots of emotions ran through my mind as we stood for a few minutes talking over memories and sharing funny stories about my grandmother and the joy that she brought here on earth. So many fond memories of spending time with her. Like many loved ones, she left this earth way too soon.

Standing in the middle of the small cemetery looking at all the headstones, names are different and the dates vary but one thing was the same on all of them… the dash. I had the opportunity when my grandmother passed away several years ago to be part of planning her memorial service. I remember sitting at a long conference table with my mom and several other family members as we began to put into a mere two or three paragraphs the life of this precious 92-year-old lady. We listed children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, those who went before her, the usual bits of information. I just kept thinking, “How do you put 92 years of a full life into a few paragraphs?” The days following were full of much laughter, remembering her personality, and joy. There was sadness as well, but her life was truly one of joy and definitely one to be celebrated!

James 4;14The reality of this life on earth is that if Jesus tarries, death is a reality. So the question comes … What will you and I do with the dash? That little line between the year you came into this world and the year you passed into eternity. How will we spend the time God has given us here on earth? The Bible refers to life as a vapor, fleeting and brief. The way we spend our days really does matter. The people that we invest in on this earth are  heavenly treasures. The car you drive, the house you live in, the money (or lack of) in your bank account has no heavenly value.  Jesus died that we might have life, not just any old life, but abundant life. The cross was a tremendous price for you and for me, for salvation and eternal life. The tragedy of the cross comes when we waste the opportunity He has given us to be a blessing.  We were created to worship Him with every part of our being, created to praise Him with our whole heart, anything less is wasted.

God wakes us up every morning with new mercies, precious breath and hours ahead to be a blessing. We are given a clean slate, a fresh start, a blank page every morning. He extends grace and mercy for us to walk through each day and to bless those we come in contact with and most importantly to share His love and grace with those around us. You and I can memorize scripture but if we do not walk out the love in those words with those around us, it is just words. His word is powerful and can change lives. You and I get to be a part of that by the way we carry ourselves and His message. My hope as you are reading this post is that you will be challenged to share Him more and testify to the hope that is within you. As a Christian, you and I have a story, we have been changed, redeemed, set free. Grace is real and forgiveness is lasting. So, what will you do with your dash?






Singleness & Praying for That Hoped for Husband

by Guest Writer: Brea Burelle

I am Single. Never been married. Never had that special guy in my life. Been on only one date. Yes, I am weird, but loved by God. Did I want to get married, go on dates and live my life with that special guy? YES!!!! Of course, I did.

house-car-vintage-oldI remember as a teenager and young adult dreaming about the guy I was going to marry. Like everyone I had my life all planned out. I could tell you all about my dream wedding: the dress, the colors, the receptions. What style of house we would live in. (You know the one – white picket fence.) I even had a list of possible names for my children. Life was going to be grand. Just perfect. Everything I had ever dreamed about. Except the Lord never brought the guy into the picture.

In my 20’s I knew about God, but didn’t have a solid relationship with him. Church was a place to have fun with my friends and look for my future husband. In the meantime, I was going on with my life. I had a job and purchased my first home, still with no husband in the picture. When are you going to send that guy, Lord? People would talk about praying for my future husband, but without a good Biblical foundation I had no idea what they were talking about or how to start. The Lord knows what I want, why should I pray for my future husband. I know God’s plan for my life includes marriage.

As I grew older, my relationship with the Lord grew. I was learning about God and his Word. Bible study became important to me. But still no husband. The years went by and I reached the milestone birthdays of 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45 and all the while I am questioning God: God, I thought we had this all planned out. Where’s my one true love? Why didn’t you fulfill my dream? Why am I not married? All my friends are married. Lord, my friends are having children. I want my own children Lord! Why am I not even dating? Am I supposed to stay single forever? Is there something wrong with me? Am I too picky? Lord, have I missed him? Did you ask me to do something and I didn’t obey you? Are you punishing me? But Lord, I have standards. I want a Godly man. I want a man who will take leadership of our household, a man that wants to study your Word. I don’t want to live as the world lives, I want to be set apart. I want my life to be based on your Word and your standards Lord.

pexels-photo1As my relationship with the Lord grew, I just took it that I was supposed to be Single. Okay, singleness is the path you have for me Lord. If that is your will I will accept it. I will enjoy life. I have friends: married and single. I can go on Mission trips and travel with friends. I’m happy. I am content. I am serving the Lord. Lord I know that you are my husband and I am your bride. Even though the Lord has provided for my needs I occasionally still long for that special guy. You know the one. He thinks you are special, opens the car door for you, handles the problems when things breakdown in the house. Lord, I might be single, but I would like someone to grow old with here on earth. Okay, maybe children aren’t in the picture anymore, but there are other options: Foster care, Adoption, maybe he’ll come with children and grandchildren. Lord, what is your plan? I know that God tells me in his Word that he had a plan for my life before I was even born. What I have had to learn is that it is HIS plan; it is not my plan. God called each of us here for a purpose. Each one of us has a different path to walk. Some walk the path of marriage, others a single life. Each of us have things that God needs to teach us and he has planned for us to accomplish.

pexels-photo-27633So let me ask you unmarried ladies a question: Did you pray for your future husband? Every once in a while you hear people talking about praying for their future spouse, but have you? I can’t say that I ever did. At least not any real serious praying. Mine was more like: “Lord, I want a husband, or Lord be with my future husband.” So you ladies that really prayed for your husbands and God answered your prayer, stand up and give your testimonies. Are we even teaching our young girls and single ladies about how to pray for their future husbands? What if God doesn’t bring that special mate? Are we teaching them to still follow the path God has for them, that God still loves them, that being Single is not the end of the world, to never give up, to not to let their desire for a husband keep them from doing all that God has planned for them, that God still answers prayers? Sometimes we have to be patient.

Just recently, I felt the Lord pressing upon me to begin pray for my future husband and future husbands of my friends. You see, I look out into our churches and wonder, “Where are all of godly, single men seeking the Lord?” I know that there are some single ones out there, but it is like looking for a needle in a haystack. The godly men I see are married. They are the ones I want my future husband and the future husband of my friends to learn from. I want someone who is already seeking the Lord. Maybe this is the singleness thinking in me, but how can I learn to pray with him if I have not already been praying for him.

Okay Lord, I will begin praying. But I didn’t know where to start. As I have grown closer to the Lord, I know that my prayers need to be more specific. So off to the Internet I go. I needed a list of things to pray for. During my search I came across the list below on a blog post by Cheryl Mackay and these are also in her book Finally the Bride, Finding Hope While Waiting. I have not read the book so I can’t give a recommendation. In fact, I know nothing about Cheryl Mackay, but when I read her list I knew that these are some things I would girl-praying-hands-eyelashes-41942want in a future husband. Who knows if I will ever receive a “Yes” to my prayer, but for the time being I will obey the Lord. I will pray for my future husband and the future husband of my friends that are seeking. You married ladies might want to pray some of these items for your husbands or you may want to share these with someone who is single. Pray them for your sons that will one day be seeking a young lady. Pray for the single men out there that they will turn to the Lord and become the Godly Leaders us single ladies are looking for.

  1. Pray for his walk with God, that he continues to grow spiritually and is prepped to be the spiritual head of a household, and that he makes God the top priority in his life.
  2. Pray for his ability to hear God’s voice, for his ear to be in tune to hear all of God’s instructions.
  3. Pray for his will to be bendable toward whatever God wants for his life.
  4. Pray for his emotional health—that any past wounds be dealt with and healed. Pray for restoration in all areas.
  5. Pray for his physical health.
  6. Pray that he break free of any unhealthy addictions, if needed.
  7. Pray for his career, his life’s work, that he be established in the field where God wants to use him and that he be wise with his resources.
  8. Pray for his ministry—that he be sensitive to God’s call on his life when it comes to ministering to and serving others. Also, pray for God to prepare both of you for the ways you will minister together.
  9. Pray for his preparation—that he yields to all that God’s potter’s hands would like to accomplish in him.
  10. Pray for God to send any trials necessary into his life that will allow the preparation process to be complete. I realize that may be a bit controversial. Knowing how much God has accomplished in my life through trials, I would expect nothing less of my husband’s journey toward me.
  11. Pray for God to prepare him to be a father, if the two of you will ultimately raise a family together.
  12. Pray for God to help him be responsible with his finances and prepare him to be a significant contributor and provider to the household.
  13. Pray for his identity as a man, his masculinity and self-esteem, that he grows into the man God wants him to be.
  14. Pray for him to not be distracted by any counterfeits—especially other women that God doesn’t intend to use for his growth.
  15. Pray for God to allow this man to see you the way God wants you to be seen, with God’s heart toward you.
  16. Pray for God to show you how to pray for your husband. Be open to whatever His Spirit may whisper to you, to cover your husband’s needs. If you feel God gives you something specific, write it down and date it. Save it for later.

Spiritual Doulas

joy-and-sadie-newbornIf you’re like many, you may not have heard the word “doula” before. It’s a word that represents someone who helps a woman in childbirth.  Doulas have been around for thousands of years and are often described like a mid-wife, but they usually aren’t the ones actually delivering the baby.  Rather, the focus of the doula is on easing the mother’s laboring discomfort and encouraging and supporting her through the pain.

After delivering my son in a very traumatic birth experience, I decided any future births would be assisted by a doula. I just so happened to have two great friends who were doulas.  This worked out perfectly for my last two births. When my baby girls came into this world, I needed the support of someone other than my husband who, as loving and well-intentioned as he was, had no real clue as to how to help me through the absolute toughest physical moments of my life. These ladies took turns rubbing my back or my feet; speaking in soothing tones words of encouragement and affirmation; wiping my brow with a wet cloth; feeding me ice chips; dousing me in essential oils; and cheering me on until my babe was safely in my arms.

It occurred to me not long after my first doula-supported birth experience that we, as women, or really we, as human beings, need doulas for life… particularly in the hard times. One of the mental roadblocks I had to having a doula with me, specifically one who was my friend, was that I would not have any privacy. Childbirth is messy, gross, beautiful, and hard! They were going to be all up in my personal business and there would be no physical privacy. Any amount of crazy I experienced during the pains of childbirth would be fully exposed to people who knew me well.  I wouldn’t be able to hide anything.

We need that in life.  We need people who can be all up in our business, who see it all. We need people we can’t hide the crazy from.  If we can be real in front of people, then we can receive the support we need.  We need spiritual doulas who are willing to get in the mess and the pain and the hard and the beautiful of our lives.  In this way, we can be encouraged, spurred on, pushed toward the end goal, and be uplifted as we navigate this journey of life.

We need to be spiritual doulas for others.  We need to be willing to walk alongside other women in their darkest, hardest, messiest hours, so that something beautiful and blessed and sacred can come out on the other side.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” (Hebrews 10:24)

“But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”  (Hebrews 3:13)

Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1)

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

Who in your life is a spiritual doula for you? Is there someone who needs you to become their spiritual doula? Ask the Lord to help you answer these questions and equip you with the gifts needed to minister to others around you.

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”  (Hebrews 6:10)

That’s me on the left and the rest of these gorgeous blondes are some of my Spiritual Doulas.


Top photo of me with my 3rd child courtesy of Deidre Ruth Photography.



Hit a Wall Lately ??

by Tammy Erbrick

Have you ever felt like you hit a wall when trying to hear the Lord speak? Life can get so overwhelming that you can literally drown out your Savior’s voice by all the busyness. I can assure you, He’s here, ready to speak. The challenge is being willing to listen! You see, if we don’t listen to our Savior’s voice – we can’t be given direction and just simple clarity of His day to day purpose for us. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

My sisters, God knew we would have the temptation to “attune” our mind to the pattern that is all around us. But Oh friend, when we allow Him to renew our mind – that’s where the sweetness of Jesus comes in! That is where we find His will for us in every detail of our day. And if your day is anything like mine – there is a LOT of detail!! God has a perfect will for us. We are not perfect creatures yet, until we make it to heaven, however, we should wake up each day striving to search and embrace what we can hold on to for that given day. Each day is a gift from Him laid out with a given purpose, but it’s up to us to place our focus and spirit upon Him, so He can renew our mind and refresh it with things from above!

We have allowed ourselves to become so comfortable we are “bored.” Even having a larger family, there is still idle time. Why do we pick up our phones instead of just allowing our mind to be “open” for him to speak? Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you keep opening your mouth ready to speak, but the other person doesn’t “slow down” enough so that you CAN speak?? Don’t you know that is how our Heavenly Father feels most days?? He is ever so ready to speak to His cherished daughters, but we get so overcome with distractions (some that we bring on ourselves) that He’s just sitting there with his mouth open and unable to speak a Word!


Take a moment right now and let the quietness of His Spirit sweep over you.

Let your mind be emptied of voluntary and involuntary distractions so that He can speak to you!

Allow Him to renew your mind.

As you fill your mind with his presence and peace – your next steps for the day will be so much clearer. Those things that about “put you over the edge” won’t seem as mountainous any longer. Philippians 4:8 reminds us that “Finally, brothers (sisters), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things!” Satan wants our mind to constantly ponder the things of this world, but don’t be fooled, my friend. Your Savior has a Word for you that’s like honey to your ears. Oh “Taste and see that the Lord is good, blessed is the man (woman) who take refuge in Him” Psalm 34:8. Let all your problems and worries take refuge in him today. Let the Lord speak – don’t leave Him waiting…