God of “The Plan”

At the risk of being branded a heretic, I’ve decided to give God a new name.

It all started a few weeks ago at a Compassion conference, where I heard a young woman from the Philippines tell the story of how God rescued her from a hopeless situation.   I had no idea that an hour later, my own life would be turned upside down and I’d be clinging to her words.

Keewani Vallejo, telling her story

Keewani Vallejo, telling her story

Her name is Keewani Vallejo – but her friends call her Kiwi.  Looking at her today, you’d never guess she grew up in total poverty, living in a bamboo shack. Her twin brothers were born by C-Section – their mother cut open…without anesthesia. Three brothers died in childhood from medical complications. Her family lived on rice and soy sauce. And when it rained, they would wake up to flooding – the water dark, pungent, full of rats and garbage.

Things began to change when she was enrolled in the Compassion International sponsorship program at her local church. She began attending school.

But Kiwi was still living in poverty….

One day at church she asked her teacher “Ma’am, why are we poor?” Her teacher answered “Kiwi, I know this is your situation right now, but the Bible says God has plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and hope. Kiwi, this is your situation right now, but this is not your destiny.” (Jer. 29:11)

And so Kiwi began to break out of her “mental box” and dream of a life outside of poverty. Even though she could see no way out. And as Kiwi told us the various trials of her life, she kept reiterating her prayer – “God, this is my situation. I know you have a plan, even thought I can’t see it right now.” She then told us how God coordinated various circumstances that totally changed her life. Fast forward 20 years, and today Kiwi is a licensed physical therapist, giving others hope by sharing how God worked in her own hopeless situation.

God did have a plan, and it was good after all.wallpaper_20090804100302_18567063232

I’ll admit Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t new to me. Not at all. But it’s relatively easy for me to talk hope and future, when I have family, friends, church, money, and – if all that fails – I have government programs.  Heck, I even Facebook (I’ve seen some amazing posts for people needing jobs, money, friends, you name it – and answers flood in). In that environment, it’s easy to talk about hope and a future.

But when you’re living in deep poverty, with no options and no way out, it’s an entirely different thing to say “God has a plan – this is my situation, but it’s not my destiny.” To trust God in spite of everything you’ve ever known. That takes faith. In times like that, how long would I hold firm to “God has a plan” before I start to feel stressed?

And as I was pondering all this, it happened….

Within an hour of Kiwi’s talk, I received texts, emails, and facebook messages.  All saying the same thing – “EMERGENCY,” “Come ASAP,” “Mom fallen and in hospital.”  I would soon learn she was being taken to the Intensive Care unit.

This was not MY plan.  I had great plans for the conference I was attending that day.  I had friends coming to stay at my house that night.  I couldn’t “Come ASAP”…but I had to.  And so I began to pray “God, You have a plan. I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s good. Help me trust your plan.”

This may not seem profound, until you compare it to my normal prayers.  Because….well, let’s just say I am the master of planning. And I tend to prefer my plans to God’s plan.

Too often I pray:

“God, help me know what to do.” Which really means “I’ve got most of this figured out, but I’m stuck on this one point. If you’ll help me here, I’ll handle the rest.  Oh…and I’ll call on you again if I need you.

“God, please fix [this problem].” Which really means “I’m focused on this one problem, not the big picture. Even though I know You’re working everything for my good in the big picture…yeah, I’m still stuck on this one problem right here and now. Because it’s messing up MY plan.

But “God, I know You’ve got a plan, and I trust Your plan” is different. It means:

“God, you’re in control, not me.  I may want things fixed today, but I know you’re focusing on my best in the long-term.  I don’t know exactly what you’ve got planned for me, but even if it means tough periods along the way, I’ll trust you.”

So in the last few weeks of dealing with my Mom, I’ve been practicing “God, I have no idea how to deal with this.  But I know you have a plan.” And you know what?  God has shown His plan!  Seemingly out of nowhere, He’s provided people, information and resources where I didn’t see any – before I even got a chance to ask God or anyone else for help.

I hadn’t been alone – God was with me all the way.  He was using the very situation I wanted Him to get me out of to reveal Himself to me.  Showing me He was meeting our needs.   Building up my faith.  Preparing me to stand firm in the future.


Yes, God has a plan, and it’s way better than mine.  If I’ll only stay flexible, trust God and take the time to notice Him acting.

And so I’ve decided to give God a new name.  A name that helps me remember God is with me, and He’s got it all under control. That helps me remember my plan pales in comparison to His. You may have read some of His other names in the Bible. Names like:

  • El-Elyon – The most high God.
  • El-Shaddai – God Almighty
  • Jehovah-Jireh – The LORD will provide
  • Jehovan-Shalom – The LORD is peace.

And now my contribution to the list, complete with (definitely questionable) anglicized Hebrew:  El-Machashabah – God of “The Plan.”

How about you? How has God let you know He was with you in tough situations? If you had to pick your own name for God, what would it be and why?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

How My Personality Landed Me in the Mud!

I need to have some fun with today’s blog – so I hope you’ll join in!  Here goes…..

If you’re like me, you’ve got a personality trait or two that impacts most areas of your life, for better or worse.

My Trait #1:  If you give me a good challenge, I’ll probably agree to do it.  Even if it’s something most people in their right minds wouldn’t. For example…..

In 2012, my friend Amanda challenged me to do something called the Warrior Dash – a 5K Mud Run with various insane hurdles to get over.  First she told me it would be fun, and that I didn’t really have to be a runner to do it.  I wasn’t convinced, so I suggested perhaps people my age don’t do things like this (surely not, I thought!), to which she replied (and I quote) -“sure, plenty of old people do it”!

Did she really just call me OLD?  With that, she had given the challenge – and I accepted!  I would show her!

I was off and running, literally, to get ready for Warrior Dash.  I took a running class.  I pushed harder than any middle-aged non-athletic woman in her right mind should.  As a result, a few months later, I was sidelined with a stress fracture.  Warrior Dash was not to be – that year.

But that didn’t mean the end of the Warrior Dash!  Of course not, because….

Trait #2 –  Once I tell you I’ll do something, I keep my word – period.

Fast forward 2 years.  After recovering from my injury and doing a lot more running, I signed up for the 2014 Warrior Dash.  And this time, I finished!  3.4 miles running – lots of hills, barbed wire and mud – climbing cargo nets – even swimming across a lake.  The best way to share it is with pictures, so here goes:

The "BEFORE" Picture

The “BEFORE” Picture

I figured my clothes would get trashed, so I wore the most hideous clothes I had available.  When were those shorts EVER in fashion?  I can’t imagine why I ever bought them….15 years ago.

The rest of my sporty ensemble:

Ugly white shirt with red dots, which turned into my very own wet t-shirt contest shirt (thank goodness for sports bras!)

Garmin sports watch – which, fortunately, IS as waterproof as they say!

The shoes I never wear because they don’t fit right.  Kudos to my trainer friend Todd Soura for telling me to put holes in my shoes before the race – otherwise my wet shoes would have been even heavier and I probably would have drowned in the lake.

I LOVE my hat, so I took it off just before the race started.

WD2014 younguns

I did this race because Amanda told me plenty of old people do it.

See all the old people?  Yeah, me neither….


The start of the Mud

The start of the Mud

At the start of the race, there was a little mud.  I’d heard you should stay up off your knees to avoid scraping them.  That worked when we were going under netting.  Later on, it changed to barbed wire closer to the ground.  If you didn’t get down on your knees and elbows, you ended up with holes in your shirt from the barbed wire.  Yes, I learned the hard way….and ended up with holes in my shirt AND sliced knees.

More mud

More mud







wd2014 goliath1

Near the End!



WD2014 balancebeam









race collage

As I was running this infernal race, I have to admit I wondered if I’d finally taken things too far.  Was it possible there are things people my age just should not do?  I was two years older than when Amanda originally challenged me – if I’d just let this thing quietly die, I don’t think she would’ve ever noticed.


But I did it – because I said I would.

I couldn’t let myself off the hook.  And by the time it was over, I had two gashed knees, one less toenail, and a bruised tailbone.

But I did it…and that’s what counted.

It all comes down to those traits that drive my entire life.  Give me a compelling challenge and I’ll do it – no matter what.  Just ask my second grade teacher, who I’m lucky didn’t march me straight to the principal’s office after I accepted an (inappropriate) challenge.  Or the people that convinced me to go rappelling down cliffs.  Or to be the target in the dunking booth at work.  Or spend my vacation with people living in poverty.WD2014 fire

These personality traits have worked great for me – they helped me finish my education well, they helped me in my career.  They helped me honor commitments to God, even when the going got rough. They’ve helped me be there for people when they needed me.  They’ve been a real plus.

Yes, God gave me some pretty good traits when He made me, but the problem is that Satan knows just how to exploit them.

DONE - The "After" Picture

DONE – The “After” Picture

Because the ugly truth is when I’m challenged and I tell you I’ll do something, the ME inside my head kicks into high gear.  I can slog my way through lots of things – by myself – no God needed.  That’s my natural tendency.  And sometimes that means I end up covered in mud – literally or figuratively.  Over the years, I’ve been reminded countless times how I can take the toughness and feistiness God built into me and use it in ways He never intended – as self-reliance, rather than determined reliance on God.

I know y’all are thinking now “What did they talk her into doing in second grade that almost landed her in the principal’s office”?  Or better yet…..”What crazy NEW challenge can we give Diana – do you think she’d really do it?”

You never know friends, you never know.  I just might!

But be forewarned.  Because I’m not the only one with these quirky little character traits that can be both good and bad.  No…..You have some too. (Yes, I’m talking to YOU).

SO – here’s the deal.  If you’ll share a brief story in the blog comments about a wonderful character trait of yours that’s landed you in some funny or awkward situation, I’ll consider a new challenge.

So bring ’em on!  Let’s have some fun :-)  We’d all love to hear your stories in the comments!




I Have a Confession to Make

Just What We Wanted - Our Very Own Porta-Potty!

Just What We Wanted – Our Very Own Porta-Potty!

Ever had one of those times when you wanted to crawl into a hole?  Yep, me too.  Just the other day, for example…..

We recently started having some maintenance done on our house.  It wasn’t a surprise – I knew it was coming.  We’d been anxious to get the work done. Hubby signed a contract.  Brian the foreman called and gave us the start date and time.  The porta-potty appeared in our driveway.  ALL the signs were there.

So you’d think I’d be ready, wouldn’t you?  But NO……

When Brian rang our doorbell that first morning and came into the house, was I fully dressed and ready to meet him? Nope – I’d been doing my normal “non-morning-person routine” – procrastinating, having one last cup of coffee, dragging my feet.

I always keep a camera handy for those....awkward moments.

I always keep a camera handy for those….awkward moments

So I did what came naturally – made a panic-stricken dash for the bathroom, where I sat in darkness waiting for him to leave.  I kid you not.  Don’t ask me why I didn’t turn on the light…there may be some psychological explanation about darkness reflecting embarrassment at my appearance.  I don’t know, but that’s what I did.  Until Brian went back outside.

Then he reappeared at the back door and walked into our kitchen.  And I (still in my robe and frizzy hair) sank down into the family room sofa cushions, hoping he wouldn’t notice me.  Trying to be invisible.  If Brian saw me, he was polite enough not to comment.  And for that I am forever grateful.

I wasn’t ready for Brian to come. Even though I knew he was coming. Even though I had plenty of warning.  Why couldn’t I get myself ready?

And as I cringed in the sofa, I realized I’d had hints of this feeling before.  Usually when my mother talked about how

My view of what my mother expects Jesus returning will be like....

My view of what my mother expects Jesus returning will be like….

wonderful it will be when Jesus returns.   This has become a fairly frequent topic of conversation with her – more often than you or I would discuss.  I think it’s partly because of her age.  When you’re facing the ever-nearing and increasing likelihood of dying, there’s an appeal to just bypassing the whole death thing by having Jesus return. I also suspect she envisions herself staring into the sky from her driveway, watching the whole “Jesus Returns” thing like some Cecil B DeMille movie.  It would certainly add excitement to her life!

But here’s my confession –

Whenever she says “wouldn’t be be great to be here and see Jesus returning” my answer is usually a very tempered “uh-huh.”  Outwardly I agree, but inwardly I’m not quite as confident.  You see, I have a slightly more pessimistic view of how Jesus returning is likely to play out.

I think it would be great if Jesus returned while I was in church, in the middle of awesome worship.  Or telling someone about Jesus.  Or caring for the poor.

But not all parts of my life are ….well…ready for company on a moment’s notice, if you know what I mean.

And it’s not just about Jesus returning.  Because I have no idea whether Jesus will return today, next week, or in the year 4014.  There’s probably a decent chance that I will die someday – just like people have been doing since Adam and Eve. But whether Jesus returns first or I die first, the result is still the same.  I’ll be standing face-to-face before God and Jesus.  Not me and Hubby.  Just me.  Alone.

And if I haven’t gotten my act completely together with God by then, it will be like me – a child of God – standing there in my pink bathrobe, with no makeup and messed-up hair.  Wishing I’d done something to be more presentable.

And as I thought about it more, I thought about the Hubby. It’s different with him.  He sees me all the time – and I don’t cringe at the thought.   He certainly sees my flaws. But he loves me anyway.  He’s seen them, we’ve talked about them, he helps me work some of the flaw-edness out of my life.  He knows things about me I’m not even ready to admit to myself.

And yet he loves me. He sees the potential in me, not just the current reality.  And it’s that vulnerability we have with each other, the trust that he loves me regardless and he works to help me overcome my flaws – that’s what has made us closer.  All because I’ve openly shared all my flaws with him.

The cringe factor is gone.

And then it hit me.  THIS is why the Bible tells us to confess our sins to God. For years I’ve known “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”  I’ve always viewed this as just describing a transaction – “I confess, God forgives.”  But it’s more than that.  It’s also relational.  Because when I bring my shortcomings to God and confess them – yes, He forgives me.  But it also opens me up to a much deeper relationship with Him.  We’ve discussed my shortcomings.  He’s said “I forgive you.”  He’s helping me overcome those sins (good thing, because on my own I’ve not been too successful!).  He sees me as perfected, because Jesus died to take away my sins.  We can be closer because I’ve experienced His unconditional love – in spite of me.

“If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”  1 John 1:9

Another confession –

I’ll admit that in the past I haven’t been too consistent about confessing my sins to God.  OK – Maybe if I did a “whopper sin” – but otherwise, confession hasn’t featured prominently in my prayer life.  The smaller sins tended to just slide on by.  After all, I’m alot less sinful than I used to be….  And I would rather spend my prayer time asking for things and praying for other people, rather than dwelling on my sins.   But when I don’t confess my sins, well….I can’t even forgive myself, much less experience God’s forgiveness.

I know I’m not the only one.  King David was a man after God’s heart – and even he messed up big time by sleeping with Bathsheba and then having her husband killed to avoid discovery.  And after trying to avoid the topic with God, even David experienced the restored relationship with God when he said “I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them.  I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’  And you forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble.  You surround me with songs of victory.” (Psalm 32:5)

And with that, I decided it was time for a confession experiment. If confessing could make me not want to cringe before my Lord about some parts of my life, then bring it on!

And while I was doing that, I decided to go for the gusto!  No more of those wimpy confessions – like (hypothetical example) “I told a little white lie today.”  Because those are merely symptoms.  While I was clearing the air, I wanted to get at the root of my sins. Why did I lie? Because I want to look good, because I care more about me than about honoring my God, because I am proud and self-centered.  Because I don’t trust God to get me through the consequences of telling the truth.

Why confess just symptoms, if the root issues remain?  Whatever it was, I was ready to bring it before God.  Because on the day I end up standing before God, just me….I don’t want to be cringing.  I want to be saying “Thank You God – that was SO awesome how you helped me overcome that!”

So lately I’ve been spending time each day focusing on confession.  And you know what? I don’t think I’ve shocked God yet.  In fact, I’ve never been so motivated to confess my sins.  I’ve got plenty!  But I have a great God who forgives me and helps me overcome.

How about you?  Have you “come clean” with God about your sin?  If so, what was your experience?  Or (like me) do you tend to avoid confession?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

My Sabbatical Year – Rediscovering Me

Absence-ManagementWhat happens when you suddenly find yourself with 50+ hours of free time each week?  When a large part of your identity is just….gone?

Virtually all of us will experience this at some time in our lives.  It happened to me two weeks ago when I left my job – and the structure it gave the last 32 years of my life.  For you it could be job loss, the end of a relationship, a sudden illness, a child leaving home, a death or even the end of football season.

Anticipated or not, the result is the same.  Yesterday you were a valued employee, a student, a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a child of your parents, or healthy.  Today you are no longer one of those.  Who are you now?  What do you do?

If you’re like me, things may have been too hectic anyway.  I often said I’d love to catch a break.  But now that it’s here….now what?

Several years ago, after a death in our family, the folks from hospice cautioned us not to make any major decisions – that after a major loss, you need time to reorient yourself.  But our life couldn’t wait!  So we sold our house, moved 1000 miles away, bought a lot, contracted with a builder, and made a hundred different decisions about options for our new house.  (The house worked out ok, if you were wondering!).  Forget grieving, we were busy!

I don’t want to do that now.  I want to take time to reexamine who I am and where I’m headed.  What does God have for me?  I want to spend time in prayerful consideration understanding what is of God….and what is not.

Before I announced my departure, I knew I’d have a sudden void in my life and wanted something to ease the transition.  So I volunteered to help a friend with a 3-month project.  I joined the YMCA.  I scheduled a visit with Mom.  That’s ok. I think that was smart.  Where we can smooth an abrupt transition, that’s appropriate.

But deciding the direction of my life for the long haul?  That’s more serious.  As much has I’d like it, God doesn’t often smack me upside the head with the answer.  And both God and Satan can put potential options out there for me to see.  One is God’s will, the other is just a distraction.  Within 2 hours of announcing my departure, I received an email from an organization I already volunteer with – an offer to engage more deeply.  Maybe.  Within 4 hours, I received my first contact from old coworkers, many of whom are now engaged in consulting work.  I would be good at consulting.  But is that why I retired?  To do more of the same?  Maybe not…..

It would be comfortable to sign up for several commitments so I can to keep my schedule as jam-packed as I’ve been used to.  And then I’d be stressed, behind on the things that really matter, missing the people I want to be with – in fact I’d be right back almost exactly where I started.  Not smart….

So as I head into this new chapter – this thing I refuse to call retirement (because that smacks of “you’re OLD”), I’ve made a commitment.  To me, to the Hubbie, and to God. For one year, I am going to swear off making major commitments.

I will not take on any significant new long-term roles, paid or unpaid.  A limited project?  Ok.  Specific dates with no ongoing weekly commitment?  OK.  Beyond that….ask me next year.

This is my year to figure out my life.   To spend time with the ones I love, to meet new friends.  To be intentional.  To learn to trust God….to REALLY trust Him.

This is my sabbatical year.

Here’s what I’ll be doing – in no particular order.

1.  Reconnecting with friends and family.  Want to do lunch?  Want to go on an adventure?  Give me a call!   My relationships have taken a back seat due to the demands of work – it’s time to fix that.

Last week I had fun experimenting with fireworks photography

Last week I had fun experimenting with fireworks photography

2.  Exploring/renewing hobbies – I want to learn to use my new camera better.  I have a huge stack of unread books – hopefully I can plow through some of those.  I want to do more cooking and try new recipes.  I want to learn to tune my own piano.  I want to try kayaking.  I want to go target and trap shooting with the Hubbie.  I want to run Disney’s Princess Half Marathon.  I’m thinking of brushing up on my Spanish.  Have another idea?  I might add it to my list!

My Work and Home Offices - All Crammed Together.  Too Much Junk!

What Happens When You Bring Your Work Office into Your Home Office – Too Much Junk!

3.  Purging surplus possessions.  There hasn’t been a good purging in the Gleaton household since shortly after we got married, when we had a spectacular garage sale to offload most of Hubbie’s bachelor stuff.  With his permission of course…..  It’s time for another one!

4.  Getting myself in shape!  Did you ever say you’ll get in shape once you have more time?  Yeah, I’ve said that for 32 years.   I’m hoping now to actually do that.

5.  Reconnecting with God in a challenging way.  Sure, I have a spiritual routine.  Daily devotions, go to church, etc.  But I’m convinced God wants much more than that.  I want to focus on being in-tune with God and in-the-moment, seeing others each day as God sees them and relating to them  with Christ-like love (instead of my natural tendency to  focus on to-do lists and long-term projects).

6.  Exploring opportunities for serving others – In the midst of all this, I want to be open to new or better ways of serving others.  I have no idea how this one will unfold.  Stay tuned and we’ll figure it out together!

When this year of sabbatical is over, I hope to have a different story.  Instead of saying “a large part of my identity is gone,”  I hope to be saying “I’m so excited about the future – here’s where I’m going.”  I hope to have figured out what Michael Hyatt calls a Symphonic Life, where all the parts of my life are aligned around a common purpose and important parts of my life don’t get squeezed out.

But right now, this sabbatical year is a bit of an adventure, one day at a time.  Where will I end up, and what will it look like?  Who knows….but God has a plan, and that’s good enough for me.

How about you – have you ever lost a major part of your identity?  How did you handle that?  Did you ever take a sabbatical?  Have an idea for something I should do?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!




Why I’m Leaving My Job

What I Feel Like....

What I Feel Like….

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…..Ecclesiastes 3:1

The rumors are true…..

Actually, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time.  It’s taken quite a while to wrap my head around the idea that something I spent my entire life either preparing for or doing is coming to an end.  Finally I decided, and I had my speech all ready.  But when it came time to tell my boss, all I could manage to say was “It’s time, I need to leave.”

And with those words began the unraveling of a 32-year career, 27 of those at my current employer.  An employer I’ve been privileged to work for, that’s helped me grow and contribute to the lives of thousands of our customers.

When I first started working, my young engineer coworkers and I all told ourselves we’d retire as early as we could.  Who wouldn’t want to quit work and just get on with enjoying life?   In the end, I see how simplistic that view was.  Because over the last 32 years, my career and I have become almost inextricably linked.

Bayway (1)

I Spent the First 5 Years of My Career Here at the Bayway Refinery & Chem Plant

My first “real” job was making motor oil additives at a petrochemical company.  For five years I got some of the best experience an engineer fresh out of college could get.  But I began to wonder – was I really making a difference?  The result of my efforts was that car engines didn’t get as much sludge build-up.  Is this what I wanted to look back on at the end of my life?

Drug Active Ingredients are made in equipment like this (NOT MY COMPANY)

Drug Active Ingredients are made in equipment like this (Stock Photo, Not My Company)

And so I completely changed fields to make medicines.  Not stuff like Tylenol or BenGay – we made medicines that treat serious diseases.   I’ve seen many letters from patients, telling us their lives were saved or made so much better because of our products.  I watched as my own critically ill father made an amazing turnaround over just a few hours….right after the hospital started him on one of our products. That made it all worth it.  It’s stories like my father’s that keep you going in a very challenging environment.  What we do matters – often in a very big way.

In 2008, God began to challenge me.  The thought kept coming into my mind “Could you leave all this if I asked you to?”  In my head I said “Yes, I believe I could.”  In my heart, I wondered.  I knew someday God would ask me to make a choice, and I hoped I would have the courage to make the right one.

Assignments came and went.  I had the good fortune to work with our plants and suppliers all over the world. I traveled to South America, Europe, India and China.  My current position is one of most challenging and enjoyable I’ve ever had – as it required us to transform how we do business, and we were navigating major change on many fronts.  I’ve watched my team really step up and learn to do what they needed to – and will need to continue to do long after I’m gone.  They’re a great team, and I’m very proud of them.

And then it came – what I had secretly dreaded.  The “would you be willing to give it all up” moment.  After many discussions with family and select friends over many months, it became clear that it was time to leave.

And I said yes.

I’d like to tell you that I said yes quickly, but in reality it’s been a process over many months.  I’m thankful for a God who is patient with me, who didn’t give up when I started waffling or dragging my feet.   God is patient, but He is also persistent.  Trust me, I know firsthand. So here’s why I’m leaving.

1.  I love my job.  But there are people I love more.

Bottom line – the more years I work, the less time I have for the people I care about – my family, my friends, and the Compassion sponsor children I’ve been blessed to come alongside in many ways around the world. I began to realize that God gave me my job for various reasons – to help others by making medicines available and accessible, to earn a living, to develop skills I’d need to serve Him and others.  But everything has its season.  When I was younger, career was extremely important – because I was young and unskilled, couldn’t make ends meet, and wanted to do something that would make a positive impact on people.  And I’ve done that.

Mom and I (2009)

Mom and I – 2009

But as much as I’d like to stay in my comfortable position, God has taught me that what was obedience in one phase of my life can be disobedience in another. My world at work has changed over the last 32 years, and so has my life outside of work.  My mother has gotten older.  The needs of my family and friends have changed. Just because God put me at my company 27 years ago doesn’t mean God meant for me to stay there forever.  We grow and move on – the only question is when. God has impressed upon me that I need to serve others in ways I can no longer do while working full time.   It’s time for my “employment phase” to come to an end, but that doesn’t mean God is done with me yet.

2.  Life is short

For most of my life, I was looking ahead to what I’d become.  No more.  Now as I look around I’m unable to escape the reality that life is short.  That was indelibly etched on my heart the day my father died.  Friends and colleagues at work have died.  As much as I’d like to say “I’ll just work 5 more years,” I’ve come to realize I may end up regretting that choice.  Because for some, there may not be 5 more years.

As I’ve learned in my career, timing can be everything.  Opportunities pass you by.  God has a plan for me – and His prompting has been clear that now is the time for the next part of His plan to start.  Life is short – I need to get moving before I find the opportunity has passed me by.

3. There’s rarely a “good” time to leave your job

For quite a while I’ve been telling myself this isn’t a good time to leave work.  There’s been massive change for several years, and it would be great to reach a point of stability and then leave.  But it’s clear this rate of change is the “new normal,”  and there will never be a GOOD time to leave.  With enough advance notice, plans can be put in place to smooth the transition.  We’ve done that. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll hear someday my team has done even better than if I’d stayed.  I believe I will!

4.  If someone in my shoes asked my advice, in a heart beat – I’d tell them to go.

One day, after I’d rehashed the pros and cons of leaving for the thousandth time, I asked myself what I’d do if one of my people asked my advice on how to handle the very same situation.   And immediately I knew I’d say “There’s no doubt – you should leave.”  I’d be disappointed to see them go, but I wouldn’t dream of holding them back. And with that, it was settled. I knew what I had to do.

And so……

I still want to make a difference.  But going forward, I’ll be doing that in a different way.  I’m not entirely sure what my life in the next few years is going to look like.  But God does, and that’s all that matters. What about you?  Do you think I’m crazy for doing this?  Have you ever made a major life change – or are you contemplating one?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

I Met God at the Philadelphia Zoo

I’ve been away from the blog for a bit….there are some things in my life I’m not ready to blog about…yet.  But don’t worry – all things will become clear very soon!

In the meantime, Hubbie and I had a chance to go to the Philadelphia Zoo.  We hadn’t been there in about 10 years, so we figured it was time.  The weather was spectacular and it seemed like a wonderful time to wander in a beautiful setting and enjoy some time together.   Just the two of us.  And thousands of other people.  And some animals.

You may remember I have a new camera I’m trying to learn to use, and the zoo seemed a great place to experiment with it.  So please humor me as I show you a few of my favorite pics from the day.  Like this one:

tortoise 1

Tortoise Close Up!

Now here’s a face only a mother could love – a mother tortoise, that is. Somehow, when you get up close, you see more of the personality and less of “just a slow lumbering animal.”

We learned a group of tortoises is called a “CREEP.”  How appropriate!  Well, the zoo has a nice area where the tortoises roam free and do whatever their tortoise hearts desire – swim in the pond, creep across the yard,  eat, you name it.

zoo tortoise2

Tortoise Licking up a Leaf

Did you ever wonder how a tortoise eats?  I mean have you really studied it?  We watched the tortoises ripping up grass, but I never thought about how they pick up the small bits of grass since they don’t have lips like ours.  And then we say this guy…. sticking out his tongue to pick a leaf out of the mulch.  Who new???

zoo giraffe5


Then it was on to the “tower” of giraffes – always a favorite of mine.  We stayed a while, watching their leg joints “snap” into place with each step, and then seeing them reach awkwardly down to eat some grass.

zoo giraffe1

Giraffe Stretcchhhhhing for Food

Have you ever seen giraffe eyelashes?  They’re quite remarkable – check out those uppers!

zoo giraffe2

Giraffe Eyelashes

zoo gibbon2

Mother and Baby Gibbon

This little Gibbon baby and his mom were just too cute.  This is the one time he was visible – the rest of the time Mom was swinging on the jungle gym with the baby clinging to her stomach.

zoo monkeys

Do You Know What Kind of Monkey This Is? I Don’t….

I never figured out what kind of monkey these are, but I love their expression! We had quite a time watching this guy who’s aptly named a Silverback Gorilla.   He watched us for a while, all macho-like, then ripped up a big hunk of sod in his hand and threw it at us as he charged us.

Silverback Gorilla

Silverback Gorilla


He did have a softer more pensive side, though….zoo silverback gorilla5

zoo penguins

Humboldt Penguins

The penguins are another favorite of mine.   Just wait until the zoo keeper hints feeding time is near, and all their heads  immediately snap over in his direction!

You probably don’t want to go to the zoo with me, because I’ll totally ignore you (just ask Hubbie – fortunately he didn’t mind, because I was so enjoying the camera he gave me).

I LOVE being at the zoo and watching the animals – all the different kinds of animals, each so different from the other.  Some very beautiful, some not – but each amazing in its own way.  I get transfixed, and it makes me forget the other things pulling for my attention – all the deadlines, problems and uncertainties in life that can hang like a dark cloud over me.  When I’m at the zoo, I am just amazed at what I see.

flowers As I planted flowers at my house the next day, I thought about how much I enjoyed flowers too.  I’m not particularly good at growing plants, and I rely heavily on Miracle Grow to prevent plant disasters.   I realized I got that same feeling from digging in the dirt, looking at the delicate roots and various flowers of my new baby plants, and then sticking them in their new homes on my deck.

I think I figured out why I love hanging out with animals and flowers. They’re all part of God’s creation, aren’t they?  That’s obvious, but that’s not all.

In Genesis 1,we read about God creating the plants and animals and placing them in the Garden of Eden – for us.  Eden was to be our home, where we would live with God and enjoy His creation.  Can you imagine that?  It blows my mind, really, to think that God would ever want to hang out in person anywhere with me – ME. But that’s what the Bible tells us.  God made the garden, and He made it all very good –  a beautiful home for us to be with Him. Can  you imagine hanging out with God, learning from Him all the intricacies of all He created, and why He made each one as He did?  (I personally want to know why God made scorpions….)  It’s kind of like having a personal tour of the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo – only on a much grander scale.

Well, you probably know that Adam and Eve messed everything up – for themselves, and for you and me.  They sinned, and that was the end of living with God in the garden.

And today, society tells us God is dead, God started things going and then left it all alone, God doesn’t care, God is angry at us, God just wants to punish us, etc.

But it’s all wrong.

Because when I read the Bible, I see something very different.  I see a God who created a beautiful place for me to be with Him – and that means God WANTS to be with me.  And after Adam and Eve sinned, God didn’t leave mankind totally alone in the world with no “tour guide.”  Because God still wants to be with us.  God’s desire to reach out to us didn’t end – it was just complicated by our sin marring the relationship.

And in this broken world, He gave us bits and pieces of His creation – clues as to what He originally intended, places where, if we will just slow down and stop, we can see Him in nature and catch our breath to realize that….yes….God IS there, revealing Himself and His creation to us. It never ended – God still wants to have relationship with us.  And so even though we live in a far from perfect world, God is still there, showing us His creation as He’s done since the beginning, revealing His glory.

And when I see it, I am amazed…..

That explains my zoo trip.  I met God at the Philadelphia zoo that day.  God showed me His creation…and I watched in awe.  And took some photos to help me remember my special time with God!

Well, you may not care for the zoo like I do.

You may not be impressed by my animal photos.

But you know what?  Everyone has their own part of creation that speaks to them.  That makes them forget time, worries and cares.  That makes them stop and go “Wow – God, this is AWESOME.”

There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.     – John Calvin

YOU have one of those special places too, where – whether you realize it or not – God is waiting to meet you, to delight in showing you what He has made, and in doing so, telling you about Himself.

Where is your place?  Perhaps for you it’s a waterfall, a field of flowers, the ocean waves, a forest, or a beautiful sunset.

My friend, Murgendra Mehta, meets God in His creation as well, and captures the beauty in wonderful photos (his make mine look like child’s play).  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mrugendra taking pictures at a zoo (as soon as he reads this, I’ll probably get a call to tell me he HAS taken pictures at a zoo).  But put him in an area with nature or waterfalls, and he takes tremendous shots – ready reminders of God’s creation when we can’t be in nature ouselves.  Here are some of my favorites – you can click on the photo to link back to his webpage to see which are YOUR favorites.  (If you like, you can also purchase his work on the website).   I LOVE it when God shows me His creation.  The presence of God makes me forget everything else.  Deep inside of me, God has placed a desire to enjoy His beauty and reflect on my Creator.  It’s what He always intended – that I would enjoy the beauty that He made for me.  Too often, I get caught up and miss out on the wonder of God’s creation.  But I’m convinced my world would be much better if I would intentionally make time every day to enjoy creation, where God delights in showing off for me.

The Bible tells us that one day God WILL make all things new – restoring creation to the original beauty He made for us.  And I will be in God’s presence.  It will be perfect – just like God intended it all to be.

Today we just have the preview – a dim view of what God intends.  It can be easy to miss.  I need to stop and look.  But it’s there.

I met God at the Philadelphia Zoo.  How about you – where do you meet with God and marvel in His creation?   What makes you stop….captures your mind….makes you forget all else by God and His wonder?    I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments….

4 Unforgettable Lessons from Running the Race!

Having Fun Before the Rain

Having Fun Before the Rain

Last week I ran my first half-marathon – an exciting, miserable morning I’ll never forget.  The weather forecast had been glorious – 57 degrees and sunny.  But 48 hours before the race, everything changed.  The temperature dropped into the 40’s, with wind and rain all day.   In the end, it was a record-breaking 3 inches of rain – a monsoon.  The great adventure I’d so looked forward to became something just to endure. During my hours of running I pondered, reflecting on things I’d learned – all about running, some about my life as a follower of Christ.  I will never forget…..

Running Lesson #1 – Garbage Bags are a Girl’s Best Friend!

Never Underestimate the Ability of a Garbage Bag to Keep You Warm!

Never Underestimate the Ability of a Garbage Bag to Keep You Warm!

When I heard it was going to rain, I frantically searched the internet to see how best to cope. I soon got the magic answer – garbage bags!  They keep you dry, they keep you warm.  You can tear a hole in the bottom for your head, and then holes for your arms when you’re ready to run.  And if you ever get too warm (I didn’t!) and want to get rid of it, you can just toss it!   I kept mine on til the end – I’m convinced my trusty garbage bag was one of the main things enabling me to finish – and it certainly kept me from catching pneumonia!

Running Lesson #2 – Hydrate, But Not Too Much!

Well, this was a new problem for me – a delicate topic, but here goes.   It’s always wise to visit “the little room” – or in this case, the Porta-Potty – before you line up to start the race.  I did that.  But I’ll admit the length of this race – a first for me – had me a bit stressed.  My mouth was dry as cotton.  And so I kept sipping at my water bottle, hoping to get rid of the dry mouth.

Nothing worse than a LINE at the Porta-Potties!

Nothing worse than a LINE at the Porta-Potties!

Unfortunately, I failed to take into consideration that it takes a lot longer to line up 10,000 runners for a half-marathon in Philly than it does a mere 300 runners for a local 5k race.  Lots of time to be nervous and sip water – in retrospect, way too much water.  And before the race even started, I knew I was doomed.  I tried to convince myself it was all in my head, but to no avail.  I was trapped in the starting area with no relief in site.  When the race finally started, off I ran, hoping to find a Porta-Potty before things became critical. At last, I found one!  Only to find out there was a slow moving line – a 15-minute wait! I eventually gave up and ran another 2 (very desperate) miles to find a shorter line.

Running Lesson #3 – Train Tough – Beat Your Body!

half marathon yet more garbage bagsIn my mind (and actually, in all my prior experiences), all races were accompanied by beautiful sunny skies.  Whether cold or hot, it was always sunny.  But not this day!  At the start of the race, I managed to stay fairly dry.  I knew running in my garbage bag would generate enough heat to keep my torso warm.  But the rest of me?  Well…..

By mile 5, I started to feel cold water seeping into my shoes.

By mile 5 1/2, my shoes and socks were soaked.  My feet started to go numb.

By mile 7, my fingers were getting stiff.

By mile 8, my fingers were totally non-functional.  I had brought gummy bears in a zip-lock bag for snacking to help keep my blood sugar up, but by this time I couldn’t open and close the bag any more, let alone pick up gummy bears and put them in my mouth.  I resorted to sticking my face in the bag to get at the bears, and just held the bag closed to try and keep my gummy friends dry.

By mile 9, my gummy bears were all wet and had become “Slimy Bears”….and more and more of them eluded my mouth, slipping out and landing on the street.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned I was very naive about running.  Sure, it’s a physical sport, but it’s also a mental sport.  As you run, your mind keeps telling you to stop.  Like the serpent in the garden of Eden trying to derail Eve, the mind says it’s ok to stop – just for a little while.  It says you’ll never finish.  You will die of cold.  Yes, you might be able to do this in good weather, but how could you ever finish this under these conditions? Everyone will understand if you don’t.

And as I wrestled through these mind games, these lies told inside my head, I suddenly realized what Paul meant in I Cor 9:24-27 when he says “Do you not know know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.  They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  

I’ve read 1 Cor 9:24 more times than I can count. I generally think of it in terms of watching the Olympics. I sit on my comfy couch and think “Yes, it’s just like these athletes.  I can envision them training so hard!” But this day I realized I’d never really personalized what it meant for me. During my hours of running through the cold soaking rain, it hit me.

I had failed to train correctly.  

Oh sure, I’d put in the miles. I’d even run in the cold. Since this race was so early in the year, I’d run through the winter, much of it outside. I’d worked on developing the mental toughness to will myself to keep running when I wanted to quit.  But when it rained….I ran on my treadmill.  In my very dry, very warm  house.

And this was my downfall.

So when the race-day weather forecast changed, I found myself scrambling to figure out what to wear, how to prevent blisters from waterlogged socks and shoes.  And as I ran, I thought about the importance of trying to anticipate the various situations I might encounter, and then making sure I incorporated some of the most probable challenges into my training program.  I needed to train tough!

Because if I’d trained in the cold rain as I should have, all this would have been a non-event.  Cold and miserable, I could told myself “no problem – I’ve done this before.  I know how to get through this.”  Instead, I kept trudging along hoping I would make it to the finish before I froze.

Which made me wonder over my hours of running…..when Paul talks about beating his body in I Cor 9:24, he wasn’t just talking about running – he was talking about life. What does that look like for my life as a Christian?  To intentionally put myself in very uncomfortable situations – over and over and over – so that I’m assured of finishing well, attaining the prize waiting for me?

I’m still pondering this one, but here are some thoughts.  Getting up early to spend time in God’s Word….Every. Single. Day.  No matter how tired I am.  Intentionally spending time with the unlovable – the unpopular, the controversial – listening to them, befriending them, sharing with them.  Wading into areas of desperate poverty – sharing life with those in poverty, understanding what it’s like for them, sacrificing time and resources to help them lift themselves out of poverty.   Following God’s leading, even when it doesn’t conform to society’s expectations.

I need to be more intentional about doing this, because I believe it can really grow my faith and transform how I live my life for Him.  I believe because I’ve seen first-hand.  The  trips The Hubbie and I have taken into areas of deep poverty  in Latin America and Africa have transformed my perspective on my ability to live on next to nothing.  I know I could survive financial ruin, because I’ve seen God provide in dramatic ways for my friends living in poverty.   That’s one worry I don’t have anymore – where my faith is sure.  What other worries need to be trained out of me by training tough, beating my spiritual body?

Running Lesson #4 – Stay Focused on the REAL Prize

I started out thinking I was running for personal satisfaction, a t-shirt, a coffee mug and a medal.  In the end, none of that mattered.  Honestly, what really motivated me

Crossing the Finish Line! (still in my garbage bag)

Crossing the Finish Line! (still in my garbage bag)

to keep going was the thought of a warm shower back at the hotel.

In the race called life, we anticipate many rewards – happiness, success, family.  During life’s tough training, sometimes it looks like we’ll never finish, we can’t possibly last.  And that’s where keeping our eyes on the prize  – the one that REALLY counts – makes all the difference.

Don’t ever give up hope – and don’t ever stop pushing and beating up your spiritual body.  We will finish, and it will be worth it – because it will be glorious!  

How about you?

What kind of races are you running?  Maybe you’re a “real” runner, and like me, you need to consider a different kind of training to help you prepare for your next race.

Whether you’re a runner or not, we’re all running that other race called life.  How would God have you “train tough” to be ready for the challenges you’re likely to face?  If you’ve already stepped into uncomfortable situations instead of staying comfortable, how have you seen your faith in God grow as a result?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Toilets, Lightning Bolts, and Other Lessons in Prayer



Sometimes I feel like a contestant in series of TV game shows.  Just recently, for example, I had to choose between two different options for a major change in my life.  For those who used to watch the show “Let’s Make a Deal,” it was like Carol Merrill offering the prize behind Door #1 or Door #2.  The contestant must select Door #1 or #2 without knowing what’s on the other side of the door.  It could be a new car, it could be a monkey, it could be a $1 bill.  And so the person chooses, hoping they’ve made the right choice – but afraid that when the door is opened, everyone will know they made the wrong choice.

Now I was that person staring at Door #1 and Door #2.

Make a choice, and make it soon. The choice that hopefully aligns with God’s will for my life.  Did it really matter in the long run whether I chose #1 or #2?  I didn’t know…because I couldn’t see the other side.  It could be a very important choice, or a totally inconsequential choice.  But because it had the potential to impact several other people, I wanted to choose wisely, as God would have me choose.

And so…..I went with “Phone a Friend”  (yes, from “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”).  When all else fails, I call on my prayer partner.  We don’t live close, but thanks to the wonders of technology, we can be in touch at a moment’s notice.   I explained my dilemma, the pros and cons of my options, and my desire for God to guide me.  Actually, it was more like “I need clear direction as to the right option.  You know…..a lightning bolt this weekend would be nice.”  Funny how cavalier we can be when approaching the Almighty.  “Hey God, how about telling me your will for my life – oh, and let me know in the next 2 days – and send a lighting bolt or something else unmistakable to be sure I don’t miss it.”  I’m lucky He didn’t hit me with a lightning bolt right then!

Prayer partners are wonderful, because when you feel lost or hopeless, you know you’ve got someone in your corner pulling for you. Someone lifting you and your issues up to God even when you can’t.  And so I went about my life, knowing my prayer partner was doing her part.  Waiting…..

It’s at this point that I need to tell you a lesson I learned on prayer many years ago.  I lesson taught by a toilet.


This is about what we looked like – trying to have a little fun in our crisis!

I was living in a house of 8 women…and 2 bathrooms.  And as inevitably happens, one of our two toilets….ahem…..well let’s just say it no longer flushed.

All our attempts at flushing it were met with threats of great flooding.  You get the idea!  We tried everything, and I mean EVERYTHING.  Nothing worked!  We had no money for a plumber.  We were stuck.  Finally, when we were truly desperate, one of our group suggested praying over this stopped up porcelain beauty.  Because God wants to meet our needs, right?  And if ever there was a need, this was it!  8 women and only one functioning toilet is a disaster if ever there was one!  So after much anxiety, one of us, I don’t remember who, suggested we pray over the toilet.  We all gathered around, and just as we were about to pray, a shred of doubt began to fester.  There was one camp – “Isn’t this sacrilegious?  To pray over a toilet?”  And the other camp “We can bring ANYTHING to God – He cares for our needs, and this is a NEED if ever there was one!”  Ultimately, the latter camp won.  We prayed and we prayed.  And then we flushed.   And the water….well…..it rose and rose and rose.  It reached the very rim and threatened to go all over the floor and down into the basement apartment under our house.  And then one of the “Let’s pray” camp sighed “I guess God’s not going to fix our toilet after all.”

We had reached the end of our faith.

But just then it happened!  All of a sudden, it cleared with a huge WOOSH, and all was well.  And thus the lesson I’ve never forgotten, the one taught me by a toilet….God answers prayer, but sometimes He brings me to the breaking point in my faith to show me I can trust Him more – sometimes I give up too soon.

Back to my original story.  There was no lightning bolt or flaming arrow or even as much as a smoke signal that weekend.  The little voice of doubt was whispering in my mind that God wasn’t going to provide clear direction after all.  I was just going to have to make a decision and hope God would intervene if I did something really stupid.

I had reached the end of my faith.

A week later it happened.  A conversation – not at all what I’d expected.  Someone explained to me why Door #2 was not only right – it was good for me and good for others in ways I hadn’t imaged – that I hadn’t even dreamed were possible.  Suddenly all the fog cleared and the path forward became brutally obvious.  Of course – it had to be Door #2.

I went on my way, relieved to have a plan.  I shot a quick note to my prayer partner telling her I would go with Door #2.  She replied…..”So, was this the lightning bolt we were praying for?”  And then I realized…she was right!  I needed clear direction.  I prayed for clear direction.  But I didn’t expect to get such clear direction.  To avoid disappointment, I’d reduced my expectations to hoping for a mere hint as to which choice to make.  I’d given up on God answering in the direct way I’d asked.  But He did.  And because I wasn’t expecting it, I missed it!

Oh me of little faith!live-expectantly

I wonder how many other answers to prayer I miss because I don’t live expectantly?  Or I expect, but not very much?  And if I were to spend my time waiting, really looking, how many other answers to prayer would I see?  Not because there were more answers, but because I was looking for them?

And at that moment I realized another benefit of having a prayer partner.  Not just someone to lift me up in prayer, but someone to help me see when my prayers are answered.   God answered my prayer in a way designed just for me, and He didn’t want me to miss it.  So He used my prayer partner’s words to point it out.

How about you – Has your confidence that God would answer your prayers ever fizzled out too soon? Do you have a prayer partner?   If not, how do ensure you see all God’s answers to your prayers?  

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments – and especially if you were one of my housemates praying over the toilet that day! :-)



Weird Bible Wonderings #1

Every once in a while, as I read the Bible from my 2014 perspective, a weird thought enters my head – a thought I just can’t get out.  Not long ago I had one of those days.

weatherI spent an evening with friends, talking about a snowstorm that was supposed to hit our area the next day.  It seemed we just couldn’t get enough of talking about what might happen.

“What time will the snow start?  How many inches?  Will it be fluffy or heavy?  Is there going to be freezing rain mixed with the snow?  I wonder if they’ll cancel school?”

The next day, I found myself obsessively watching the snowfall predictions on Weather.com to see exactly how many inches we were going to get, because after all……well, it just matters!


And then it happened….my Weird Bible Wondering.

I wonder.....

I wonder…..

I wonder…..

When they were in the wilderness, did the Israelites spend as much time talking about the next day’s manna as we do the next day’s snowstorms?

You see, back in the book of Exodus when the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, food was tough to find.  So they griped and complained about their situation to God.  The very same God who’d just pulled off a string of great big miracles to liberate them from Egypt.  So – in retrospect – it was pretty gutsy of them to complain.  But God (in a waaaaayyyy more gracious response than I could ever muster up), told them He’d provide manna.  Every day there’d be just enough manna for each of them to collect and eat.  Except the day before the Sabbath, when there’d be two-days’ worth, so they could rest and observe the Sabbath.  Yes, the God who’d already performed amazing miracles clearly spelled out how He would provide for them day by day.  They didn’t have to worry, they just needed to trust.

So how do you think the Israelites responded?  I can just hear them now…..

“How much manna will be on the ground when we wake up?  Will it be fluffy manna or heavy manna?  Do you think it will be windy? If so, the manna may blow away. Or sand may get mixed in and make it all gritty – yuk!  What if it rains – will it turn into manna-mush?   What if we’re still hungry – do we REALLY have to wait until tomorrow for more manna?  Watch out for yellow manna!

“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  Corrie Ten Boom

It may sound ridiculous, but I’ll bet there were at least a few of those conversations.  Because human nature is, after all, remarkably consistent.  We love playing the game of “what-if” rather than relaxing in the knowledge that God has promised to provide.  Yes, sometimes just trusting God doesn’t seem as satisfying – it doesn’t satisfy our love of speculating about the future, it doesn’t make for good conversation around the coffee bar or wherever you happen to hang out.

So yes, I bet they DID talk about this, even though God told them His plan – very clearly.

And we know they didn’t listen – or if they did, they didn’t trust what He said.  We know, because they hoarded the manna.  Thinking ahead to the uncertainty of the next day, they collected more the one day’s manna.

You see, the Israelites were focused on what they thought were their needs.  Truth be told, we all are.  The Israelites were hungry, so they thought they needed food.  But God knew what they really needed – they needed to trust Him.  So God made the leftover manna rot – because God was determined they would learn to trust His provision one day at a time.  Just like He’s determined with us.

Thousands of years later, I’m like the Israelites and their manna.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I’m contemplating some adjustments in my life – clearing out some major time commitments to make room to serve God more.  To be honest, I’m not 100% sure what that will look like.  Not even close.  And my mind keeps spinning on what might happen – like a person about to get snowed on, or like the Israelites with their manna.

“What will I do with my time?  What if God doesn’t make it incredibly obvious what I’m supposed to do?  What if He makes me wait 40 years like Moses before He’s ready to use me?  I could be dead by then!”

And so I’m learning that “what if” isn’t just a fun game I play as I try to guess my future.  It’s destructive.  It does nothing to help my stress level.  It does nothing to help my faith grow.  In fact, it may just be listening to Satan whispering in my ear…..that God can’t be trusted.

But what if….instead of spending my energy playing “what if,”  I focused on seeing how God is meeting my needs today – right here? right now?  Would I be surprised to find my average existence is actually quite amazing?  God’s full, personal attention and intervention, meeting my needs, showing me opportunities to serve Him?  Would I be able to trust Him more?   Would I find, if I focused on trusting God, that my “needs” pale in comparison to God my provider?

But that would mean I need to stop looking at my fears, my “needs,” and look instead at Jesus.  All. the. time.  Consciously choosing to look at Jesus, when Satan wants me to look at my uncertainties, my fear that my needs won’t be met.  But Jesus knows my needs – and Jesus wants me to learn to trust Him.

Dream Hard Trust HarderIn the end, a life spent trusting Jesus everny day is way more exciting than a life spent worrying.   Just ask Peter….who ended up walking on water.  Just ask Moses…who saw that Red Sea parted.  Just ask Paul who – imprisoned with his life in danger – kept his eyes on God and saw countless souls come to faith through his words.  Just ask Corrie Ten Boom, Billy Graham, or Hudson Taylor.  Or perhaps some Christ followers you know.  No, a life spent trusting Jesus is not boring – when you look and see Him working, it’s exciting!

And in the midst of all that, I’m still obsessing about how much snow we’re going to get  this winter – even though it really doesn’t matter a whole lot.  In the end, we will get snow, and when we do I’ll stay home from work because the roads will be treacherous.  We may lose power or (gasp!) our internet connection.  Our cell phone batteries may run down.  We may get colder than we would like.  The pipes may burst.  But I will survive.  On the off chance I don’t….I’ll be rejoicing with Jesus.

And the God who worked miracles for the Israelites – who was obsessed with teaching them to trust Him….He WILL bring me through my own times of uncertainty.  And if I pay attention, I’ll be amazed at His provision.

What about you?  Do you spend your day playing mental gymnastics about what might or might not happen in the future?  Has God ever surprised or amazed you at how He’s met you needs?  We’d love to hear your story in the comments!

Faith – Cruising on Auto….

The gift that taught me about faith

THANKS Dear! Fortunately, the gift made up for the card!

I have a new toy! (The Hubbie did great for my birthday!)

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been fascinated with photography.  It started with my first Brownie camera – remember those?  But somehow all I ever progressed to were “point-and-shoot” cameras.

Because I always had one rule – my camera must be convenient.

It couldn’t be heavy, it needed to fit in my purse, it needed to be easy to use.  I wanted artistry that didn’t interfere with my life.  Now don’t get me wrong – point-and-shoot cameras have become pretty good over the years.  But looking at other people’s photos, I know I can do better….a lot better.

If only I had a “real” camera to take advantage of all its features.

the gift that taught me about faithSo I was delighted when the Hubbie got me a “real” camera for my birthday, with lots of lenses, settings,  buttons, dials and other gizmos that attach and plug in….somewhere.  I’m still figuring out where.

Which leads to my next dilemma….how do I use this thing?

Because when faced with a “Kodak moment,” I need to set up the camera to capture my spectacular picture. And for that, using my camera needs to be second nature.

But there’s a major temptation I face, every time I use it.  It’s called….Auto mode.  That evil Auto mode…..

Faith on Auto

Auto Mode – the Great Tempter!

It seems the marketers knew there’d be lots of people like me who want good results, but don’t want to do the up-front work for outstanding results. So they made Auto mode, which essentially turns my camera into just an expensive point-and-shoot model. Trapping me forever in the world of pretty good, but not great….and definitely lacking the competence to work a “real” camera.

What do I need to be competent?  Not much. Actually, I have everything I need – except practice.  Taking the same picture over and over, using different settings – in MANUAL Mode – seeing what works and what doesn’t.  Changing lenses until I figure out how to do it quickly. Over and over. It will happen if I spend the time.

But somehow it’s never “the right time” to practice.  It’s just so tempting to use Auto.  Nikon gave me a booklet on how to set the camera for each kind of picture.  A reference manual.  But how can I see a great shot – and then tell everyone “hold that pose” while I go read the reference manual?  Tell your family that.  Tell a bunch of wiggly kids that.  Tell a sports team to freeze the action for a few minutes. HAH!

But my friend Auto……

Auto is easy.

Auto is comfortable.

Auto makes me look like I know what I’m doing…..even when I don’t!

I love Auto…..

But……only spending time in Manual mode gives me the maturity I want.

I got a bit uncomfortable when a little voice hinted to me that this was like my faith.  

There’s a difference between interest and commitment.  When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient.  When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results.  – Kenneth Blanchard

I often wish I had great faith – like Paul, or Billy Graham.  God’s made it clear – God doesn’t play favorites with our faith.  I CAN have great faith, if I’ll get out of “Christian Auto” mode, be willing to roll up my sleeves, work in “Manual” mode and trust God, step by step.

Now Auto mode is not entirely bad.  It’s kind of like training wheels for your bike – supporting you, helping you develop basic skills.  We all need to start in Auto mode.  But we miss out if we stay there.

What does Christian Auto mode look like?  It may be different for you, but here’s what it looks like for me:  focusing only on building and maintaining relationships with Christians, because they support me in my spiritual walk without really challenging me.

Not bad….but if I want to have mature faith, I need to move into “Manual mode”, stepping out in faith and trying new things.  For me, that means focusing on developing relationships with non-Christians, especially those that are “unlovable,” or involved in “the big sins.”  Being their friend, loving them right where they are, in tangible ways so they can see the love of Jesus in me.

Maybe you can relate to that.  Or maybe to these:

Auto: Attending Bible studies, but not reading the Bible myself (other than perhaps looking up some verses for Bible study homework).

Manual – Daily Bible reading and studying – on my own.  Finding one thing each day to apply…..and then applying it.  Reading the Bible all the way through….several times.

Auto – Talking about something I do at church, without ever talking about faith issues.  Or inviting friends to church so they can hear someone else talk about Jesus.

Manual – Learning to talk about my faith in everyday language folks can understand.  Initiating spiritual conversations with non-Christians, that progress all the way from general spiritual topics to helping them commit their lives to Christ.

Auto – adding items to a prayer list.

Manual – routinely getting on my knees for my needs and the events of my day – that one day.  Sharing with others about how God answered my prayers that day.

I have to confess – so often I intend to operate in Manual – but in that last moment, I cave. I resort to Auto.  It’s a day-by-day moment-by-moment thing – so many decisions, each one about whether I’ll step out in faith, or whether at the last minute I’ll say “Maybe next time.” Each “next time” delaying the growth of my faith to maturity, my ability to trust God and capably handle the situations that are coming my way.

So….over the next several months, I’m going to spend a lot of time with my new camera…first in Auto mode, but quickly moving to Manual mode.  Because I want to grow in my photography skills.  And that “evil Auto” button is my reminder that I need to shift into Manual…to gain Maturity.

And when it comes to Jesus?  I’m asking Him for an opportunity each day where I can wade into Manual….for Maturity. My current area of focus is making social connections with those that don’t yet know Jesus – a divine appointment.  I’m excited to see what God will do as I practice trusting Him!

How about you – when does your faith slip into Auto?   Or perhaps you can encourage others with the story of how you were able to step out in your faith?  I’d love it if you’d share your perspective in the comments!