For everything there is a season

“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

It’s fall back day today. The day our clocks turn back an hour to adjust for the coming days when daylight gets shorter and the night gets longer. It’s also the time of the year when leaves that have changed colors fall to the ground. Everyone tries to enjoy and soak in the beauty of autumn’s peak foliage days when the trees are at their grandest. I personally have two reasons for frantically taking pictures of fall foliage. One, the trees are truly picture-worthy to the point that I feel like I’m living in a postcard. And two, I know the colors won’t last long. The fleeting nature of this beauty brings an urgency to enjoy it while it lasts.

fall little mountain

Life is full of changing seasons. Our Creator and Father designed our journey that way and he has the best and wisest reasons behind it; some of which we understand and some of which we don’t. Each period comes with its own joys and sorrows. Some seasons are truly harder than others, we can’t wait for them to end. But then there are those that bring us so much delight that we don’t want them to end, and we question why they must.

In the book The Afternoon of Life, Elyse Fitzpatrick explains: “Why has the Lord so arranged the universe, from smallest molecule to the full course of our lives, so that we’re constantly faced with change? Because he wants us to observe and to learn. To learn that we are finite, dependent, weak, in need of daily sustaining. And to learn that he’s unlike us.” Psalm 102: 25-26 “Of old you laid the foundation of the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish but you will remain.”

fall little mountain 3

I find it beautifully paradoxical that the God who never changes, filled our lives with change. That life is not stagnant but is in fact in constant motion brings an urgency to make the most of our days. This does not mean we focus on checking things off a bucket list or living the best life now. The brevity of life should prompt us to pray like the psalmist asking for wisdom. So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12. The physical changes that come with chronological aging, while feared by many, should not discourage the believer whose sole security is the unending faithfulness of God from generation to generation. Mary, the mother of Jesus proclaimed “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.” Luke 1:50.
If we are in Christ, we can have the assurance that each season is an opportunity for God to lavish his grace upon us and knit our hearts to his, to make us more like Jesus and accomplish his will. The truth is, above and beyond the changes that are happening in our lives, there is an even greater work that God is doing for his greater glory. Our response is to love and delight in our God throughout the journey. His grace is sufficient to run the race that is set before us fall, winter, spring and summer. We can serve him regardless of the season. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

I know I cannot keep the leaves on the branches when God says it’s time for them to fall. Similarly, I can not hold back the buds when it’s time for the flowers to bloom again. It does not help to hold on to a season when he tells us to move on. Neither should we jump ahead before he leads us to the next one. Instead, we dance to his music for his rhythm is perfect. It’s never a beat ahead or behind. He does make all things beautiful in his time.

“If we hold tightly to anything given to us unwilling to allow it to be used as the Giver means it to be used we stunt the growth of the soul. What God gives us is not necessarily “ours” but only ours to offer back to him, ours to relinquish, ours to lose, ours to let go of… Many deaths must go into reaching our maturity in Christ, many letting goes.” Elisabeth Elliot

fall red little mountain

Never without hope…

Psalm 33:18 – Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.  

Conkle’s Hollow, Hocking Hills, Ohio

Cliffs and gorges are not my kind of thing at all, or so I thought. I’m not sure why but I’ve always associated nature hikes with physical injury. Climb a mountain? No thanks. I prefer going up the Spanish steps. Follow a trail? Only if it leads to Champs Elysees. Hence this past weekend was different from all other weekends because I went with my dear husband on a nature hike! Willingly! And absolutely loved it!

Following a trail through a gorge was particularly interesting. It was my first time to appreciate walking within a narrow valley or cleft between two hills, with steep rocky cliffs  on both sides.  Topographically, a gorge is a low point that can make one feel trapped.

I can’t help but think that in our hearts’ journeys, we do encounter something very similar.  In fact, more than a few of us may be navigating through emotional ravines of discouragement and are praying with the psalmist “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2  Believers are not exempt from periods of emotional turmoil. I’ve known this for a long time but I learned it again within a couple of months of serving as director of women’s ministry at our church. The difference is that we who are in Christ, are never without hope.

The apostle Peter said it well. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”  1 Peter 1:3  The empty tomb is our greatest reminder of the hope that is now ours in Christ; a hope that is permanent and can never be taken from us; a gift from our merciful God.  It is a hope that provides assurance not just today but for eternity. Peter continues to encourage us further “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13  I love how he describes the mind as a place of action. We know this is true in that our minds are indeed the battlegrounds where truth and lie confront each other. Even here, and especially here, we are to set our hope fully on the grace promised to us in Christ – our King who will one day return and permanently crush the father of lies.

Our walk with Jesus is not confined to grounds that are level. Our shepherd brings us to places high and low through paths that are easy and trails that are hard.  As my husband was leading me through the gorge during our hike, I was stunned by the majesty of God’s artistry that surrounded me, all of which I would have missed had I remained above at the level of the parking lot.  Down in the gorge is where one finds the stream. It becomes one’s companion on this trail.

Upper Falls, Hocking Hills, Ohio

Hearing the sound of the water reminded me of Psalm 42:1 “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you O God.”  A place that makes me yearn for my God, is always a good place. Down in the gorge is  also where the enormity and grandeur of the mountains is most evident as it is the only vantage point that allows a full view of the patterns and formations of rocks that make up the cliffs.  It made me think of the countless times the Lord revealed my nothingness so that I can marvel at his greatness; and oh, those moments are always precious. This gorge is also studded with caves – like hiding places  which spoke to me of his protection  as in Psalm 27  “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble, he will conceal me under the cover of his tent…”  God showed me that there is beauty in the gorge just as there is hope in the lowest and deepest points of our journey….because he is there and he is enough.

Old Man’s Cave, Hocking Hills, Ohio

Corrie Ten Boom who suffered in a Nazi concentration camp said “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”  As long as the Shepherd is with us, we don’t go praying for a different trail, which is often what we do. We desire better circumstances, easier routes, more favorable conditions. But all that is like staying at the parking lot and pitifully missing the purpose of the trip. Let us not prefer the comfort that prevents us from knowing the depths of his love. Christ went to the cross for us. Let us now go wherever he takes us.

“Give me the Love that leads the way
The Faith that nothing can dismay
The Hope no disappointments tire
The Passion that’ll burn like fire
Let me not sink to be a clod
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God” 
― Amy Carmichael

Romans 5:5 “..and hope does not put us to shame, because God‘s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”











’tis my God that leadeth me…

For you are my rock and my fortress and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me.” Psalm 31:3

road to the castle (3)
Tree-lined road leading to Vaux le Vicomte castle in Maincy, France

GPS has changed the way people travel. It has its flaws and risks but it has tremendously helped me find my way on the road, en route to new or unfamiliar places. I simply plug in the address of my destination and Google maps tells me how to get there. This navigation is made possible through signals transmitted by a network of satellites providing location information that spans way beyond the 20 feet ahead that I can clearly see with my own eyes.  Guidance from a system that sees the bigger picture keeps me going on the right path.

The Bible makes it clear that our God is a loving God who is committed to leading his people. Nehemiah recounts how God faithfully led the Israelites –  “You in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go.” Nehemiah 9:19  Like a good father, God does not abandon his people. He does not call a people to himself only to leave them to figure it all out on their own.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me.” John 10:27  What a powerful promise to us who are in Christ.  He who is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6) gave himself up as a sacrifice for us that we may become part of his flock – the sheep that hear his voice. We now have a Good Shepherd who knows us more than we know ourselves. Jesus, our Shepherd who is also the Word of God, writes his law in our hearts and renews our minds such that we see him as our ultimate joy,  obedience becomes our delight and the follow me happens.  Jesus, the Word of God, is our pillar of light that dispels the darkness within us, speaks to our discernment, and directs our steps. No wonder the psalmist exclaimed “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105  God takes no pleasure in seeing us fumble and stumble (though he sometimes allows it to teach us a lesson). It grieves him to see us wandering aimlessly like sheep without a shepherd. In Isaiah, God also declared that he will be a Teacher who will be there for the tough times.  Isaiah 30:20-21 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left

Considering the power of his word and the presence of the Holy Spirit in us, it is absolute foolishness on our part when we simply ignore his guidance; when we put on our earplugs of pride. Praise God for those moments when despite our deafness and callousness, our Father chooses to reach out with his own hand and  hold us with a firm yet loving grip that causes our hearts to soften and yield, such that we can keep on following him who always leads us for his glory and our good.

But thanks be to Godwho in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. 2 Cor 2:14

He leadeth me: O blessed thought!
O words with heavenly comfort fraught!
Whate’er I do, where’er I be,
still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

He leadeth me, he leadeth me;
by his own hand he leadeth me:
his faithful follower I would be,
for by his hand he leadeth me.

Sometimes mid scenes of deepest gloom,
sometimes where Eden’s flowers bloom,
by waters calm, o’er troubled sea,
still ’tis God’s hand that leadeth me.

(from He Leadeth Me – hymn by Joseph H. Gilmore and William Bradbury, 1880)



Chosen before the foundation of the world

Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Ephesians 1:4     

Taken at sunrise, onboard a train going up to Montserrat Spain

Really, Paul? Weren’t you just being poetic here? How could God have chosen me before the foundation of the world? I thought the first thing was “Let there be light” (Gen 1:3).

As head of a medical service one of my tasks is the hiring  of personnel.  I believe I have quite mastered the science and art of reviewing resumes and piling them into 2 categories. If I’m not interested, it goes to the “I wish you all the best in your future endeavors” shredder. If the resume looks great, it goes to the “invite this person for an interview” stack. The interviews would narrow it down to the best candidate who is then offered the position.

As far as I know, none of us submitted our resume to God and none of us were interviewed. To be chosen by him was and is totally independent of anything we could ever have done.  Chosen. This past participle form of the verb “choose” always involves a decision or action of someone outside of us. When we are chosen, someone else did the choosing. When God chose us before the foundation of the world, he was acting out of his infinite goodness and love.  It was dependent on his character and not based on our worth. 

A closer though still imperfect analogy would be the process of adoption. The infant being adopted has no clue about what’s happening. The baby doesn’t pay  lawyer fees, airfare/relocation expenses. The baby doesn’t have to prepare for the court hearings and other legal processes. The burden lies entirely on the adoptive parents. Once all is said and done, the baby simply gains  a new set of parents, a family, a home, a future.

If Paul’s words don’t convince us, then let’s see what Jesus had to say. In John 6:44, Jesus said “No one can come to me, unless the Father who sent me draws him…” And during his last moments with his disciples, he said “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.” (John 15:16). 

How does this help shape our identity? First, it establishes that our worth and our value is based on the fact that he chose us. We can lose our jobs, suffer illness, undergo bereavement, experience losses of all sorts, but none of these can rob us of the assurance of who we are in our Father’s eyes. Similarly we can succeed in our various roles, know prosperity, enjoy health and other good things, but none of these can even attempt to compare to the overwhelmingly glorious truth of God choosing us.

Secondly, it establishes our purpose – to be holy and blameless before him. And since only Christ walked this earth holy and blameless, this means we are to become image bearers of him, just as the branch is made of the same wood as the Vine. After all, the ability to bear lasting fruit only happens when we (the branches) remain in the Vine (Christ). Apart from him, we can do nothing.

Andrew Murray, who pastored churches in South Africa in the late 1800s  wrote “The deeper I enter into this purpose of His electing love, the more I will realize what the link is between the purpose from eternity, and the fruit to eternity: the abiding in Him. The purpose is His, He will carry it out”  (from The True Vine: a devotional).

Father thank you for choosing me before the foundation of the world. This is what your word says and your word is true.  I did not earn it. I do not deserve it. I will never be worthy of being chosen by you. Thank you that it was all by grace, sealed through the finished work of Christ on the Cross. Let me not seek any other identity except that which you have designed for me, and may you be glorified now and forever in the fruit that I bear as I yield and abide in absolute surrender. In Jesus’ name, Amen.



Avoir un macaron (Have a macaron)

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11 

“Je voudrais un macaron sil vous plait.” (I would like a macaron please.)  

Step inside historic Maison Laduree on Rue Royale – one of the most highly acclaimed pastry shops in Paris, known for its delectable macarons.  You will find the colors attractive and the aroma enticing.  The spectrum of flavors is quite overwhelming that it makes the task of narrowing down your choice to one or two (or three) somewhat challenging.

Maison Laduree, 16 Rue Royale, Paris, France

Life presents so many choices; some more serious than others. As followers of Christ we desire to know the will of God in everything and make decisions according to his commands.  Obedience (though not perfect in our present life) is the outcome of His saving grace; a result of our redemption. The apostle John clearly taught “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says I know him but does not keep his commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly, the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:3-6).  While we don’t always make the right turns along our journey and we are still often blinded by the world and by our weaknesses, our union with Christ transforms us in such a way that we grow in our yearning to follow closely God’s specific will for our lives.

I do believe there are times when our Heavenly Father, out of his graciousness,  puts forth an array of righteous and beneficial choices before us and calls us to pick one and love Him there .  I’ve heard a pastor illustrate this in a practical (and appetizing) way.  He said sometimes, God’s general will for his children, is like a variety plate of cookies freshly baked by grandma, whose delight is to see her grandchildren simply enjoy her baked goodies. She is neither more pleased nor less pleased if they grabbed the chocolate chip instead of the raisin oatmeal.  Selecting the gluten-free kind does not bring her greater joy either. Similarly, I cannot make the House of Laduree, who has been making macarons since 1862,  any more or any less famous whether I ordered salted caramel or pistachio or raspberry (…or all of the above!!!). Given the quality this brand is known for, I will surely enjoy my macaron(s). If I can have such confidence in a pastry shop (or in grandma’s baking skills), there is absolutely no reason why I cannot trust the Author and Perfecter of my faith when he blesses me with the opportunity to freely choose within the framework of his providence.

When he says, “Choose”, I should not dwell in introspection nor procrastinate under the guise of pursuing deeper discernment. The appropriate response is to obey. After all, what additional assurance do we require from the only One who has full knowledge of what is good?  Isn’t he the same Father who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32). If our God who is Perfect has already laid out the boundaries within which we have the freedom to choose, does it make sense to allow our fear of making a less than perfect choice paralyze us? Though it may not be our fear but our pride, in fact, that stifles us from yielding to Him who loved us first. (1 John 4:19) Our arrogance and disbelief hinder us from receiving what he offers and going where he leads. More than wisdom and understanding, we need humility and faith  to  joyfully live in reckless abandon, completely secure in the depth and breadth of his goodness, and totally surrendered to him whose ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9).

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” James 1:17  The Giver of life, the Giver of all that is good; He is our Father.  Let us worship him, and enjoy his gifts with thankful hearts.

“For all your goodness I will keep on singing, ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.” from the song 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman 















When God calls us to wait…

“But for you O LORD do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Psalm 38:15 (ESV) 

I was a weird kid. I always wanted to know the ending even before I finished reading a story. All that mattered to me was the final chapter and whether the characters lived happily ever after or not. I hated suspense. I couldn’t stand not knowing. And I confess that there were more than a few times, when I opted to take a peek at the last pages of a Nancy Drew mystery just to “check” if my suspicions were right about who the real villain was. All because I couldn’t wait.

Maison de Claude Monet, Giverny, France

Fast forward to adulthood and it became apparent that my dislike of waiting was and is true in most real life situations. Whether standing at a cash register line or during a season of unanswered prayer – waiting always feels unsettling.

In the story of Ruth, when Boaz came into the picture and Ruth found favor in his eyes,  Naomi said ” Sit still my daughter until thou know how the matter will fall.” Ruth 3:18a (KJV) 

We all know what Ruth had been doing before this. She was working hard caring for Naomi. Now there’s nothing for her to do but wait and see how God unfolds his glorious plan through Boaz, their kinsman-redeemer. Naomi’s advice to sit still was not given out of resignation but out of hope! She knew that Boaz will follow through. “For the man will not be in rest until he have finished the thing this day.” Ruth 3:18b (KJV)

Such waiting is not passive or useless. It is based on faith, lived out in trust and bears fruit, which is strength.But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles;they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 

By God’s mercy, he has shown me what I’ve been missing by refusing to wait. When I desire to arrive at the conclusion or get results right away,  I deprive myself of seeing how he thoughtfully and powerfully works in our lives moment by moment or page by page. I miss out on marveling at the meticulous details of how he weaves time, people, and circumstances, even the most unpleasant ones, into the fabric of his perfect will. I fail to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of his sovereignty – sometimes allowing, sometimes withholding, all the time loving.

Right now I am sitting at my spiritual porch, waiting on God about something. I know that I have brothers and sisters sitting on the same bench. It’s an uncomfortable bench, but it is a seat of grace and is perhaps the most secure place for us, for such a time as this.  Waiting deepens our intimacy with God and our covenant with one another. Life is never on hold when Christ, the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer, is holding it . He is working as we wait, in ways that are more important than we can ever understand. Praise him who calls us to wait.

For God alone my soul waits in silence, from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. Psalm 62:1-2



Till we find rest in him…

 He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23:2-3


Water lilies, Fondation Claude Monet, Giverny France

I’ve gotten used to it. Nine out of ten times when someone asks “How are you?”, the other person’s reply is, “Busy.” Busy has become a favorite word, a knee-jerk response to describe one’s life. And why not when today’s culture worships being busy. Few will admit it but no one wants to be thought of as not busy.  Among Christian circles, we hear the same thing. Armed with Proverbs 31, we calibrate our to-do lists after this Old Testament wonder woman who is knowledgeable in international cuisine, market investments, real estate; she even plants a vineyard, weaves her own bedding but doesn’t get enough sleep (v. 15 “she rises while it is still night”). Seriously, I do love Proverbs 31 and it is not about what she does but who she is – a woman who fears the Lord (though that warrants a separate blog). And although my intention is to talk about rest, I do have to be careful to not swing  to the other extreme – that of idolizing rest. This is where the worldly clamor for “me time” may be deceptively hidden in the “God rested on the seventh day” church lingo.

In everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven. Eccl 3:1  I do not claim to have the stewardship of time all figured out. I see myself stumbling in both extremes of busyness and idleness – neither glorifies God. But I do believe that like all of creation, time belongs to God and not to us, which means He has the rightful authority over how it must be used. He has given us 24 hours a day because what He wants to accomplish in us and through us can be done within that time frame. When I say there’s never enough time, I’m in fact questioning the sufficiency of his provision and in effect, doubting his goodness. In her book, Secure in the Everlasting Arms, Elisabeth Elliot wrote: “One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.”

So what about rest? What does that look like? I believe that rest is not so much a physical place or time, but rather a condition of the heart that knows its complete security lies nowhere else but in the arms of a loving Father. I don’t mean that God does not ordain specific times for us to set ourselves apart physically to restore our bodies and our minds. In fact, I absolutely treasure each time that God allows me to take some time off. But without the knowledge of God as our sole refuge, we can devote a huge amount of time (and money) in the most secluded place and find rest evasive. The psalmist knew where to find rest. Psalm 32:7 says “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. ” So it isn’t so much where do I rest or how do I rest, but more of Who is my rest or on Whom do I rest. Psalm 62:7 says “On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. The word refuge refers to a situation that is safe and secure, free from harm and trouble. We all long for that but it is nowhere to be found apart from God. It is Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who makes us lie down in green pastures, leads us to still waters and restores our soul (Psalm 23). Let us thank him for the rest he desires for our hearts to know. What he wills for us, he also faithfully accomplishes. We need only to be still.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.” hymn by Helen Howarth Lemmel (1922)

Thou hast made us for thyself O Lord and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”   St. Augustine










Steadfast and unchanging…

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

Ponte Sant’Angelo was built around 136 AD by emperor Hadrian to span the river Tiber, connecting the center of Rome to Castel Sant’Angelo. Today it still stands as one of the finest bridges in Europe, reliably serving as a footpath for locals, pilgrims, and tourists traveling to and from the eternal city and the Vatican City. It is a gorgeous piece of architecture that has stood the test of time for centuries. No one in his right mind would dare to replace it with a shiny steel suspension bridge with automated moving walkways. Thankfully, like most of Rome, the bridge is preserved by the laws governing UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Ponte Sant’Angelo – photograph taken from the side of Castel Sant’Angelo

But not everything is protected from change. It happens every time to everyone everywhere. In this fast-paced society, change occurs abruptly. Just when you’re getting used to a technology, a newer device enters the market. Even the most reliable things (or people) around us could change. I’m sure all of us have changed our minds about something at some point. Our tastes and preferences likewise vary over time. I don’t mean change is all bad (oh there are tons of changes I’m personally thankful for), but neither is it all good.

It should give us great comfort to understand that one of the attributes of God that makes Him different from us is his immutability. Jen Wilkin, author of the book None Like Him, calls this “his infinite sameness.” Unlike us created beings, our Creator never changes. He himself declared For I the Lord, do not change…(Malachi 3:6). We may not often think about this, but nothing provides us with greater stability than the knowledge that the God in charge of the universe is steadfast and unchanging. His mercy towards us today is the same as on the day He sent His only begotten Son to save us from our sin. He is as powerful today as on the day He created the heavens and the earth, or when He raised Jesus from the dead. Scriptures also tell us that our Lord Jesus, the second person of the trinity, is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). His perfection is such that nothing and no one can make him less good, less merciful or less just. His immutability is our security. That same relentless love of our Savior that secured our salvation will also pursue our sanctification. Discouragement becomes our baggage when we lose sight of this truth.

That God is unchanging ought to lead us to greater faith in and worship of Him. As Arthur Pink, author of Attributes of God wrote: But, all praise to His glorious name, He is ever the same. His purpose is fixed; His will is stable; His word is sure. Here then is a Rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty torrent is sweeping away everything around us. The permanence of God’s character guarantees the fulfillment of His promises: “For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but My kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of My peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee” (Isa 54:10).
Let us anchor our lives on to Him who is steadfast and unchanging. Because He is everything that He says He is, we can sing with all confidence and certainty “Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not, as Thou hast been, Thou forever shalt be…Great is Thy faithfulness, Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

(Great is Thy Faithfulness by Thomas O. Chisholm).

What builds character? An unexpected lesson from — olives

They say olive oil is good for you.  That’s nice because I love everything olive.  A good olive oil can transform a piece of toast into a gourmet appetizer. That thou shalt always keepeth a good bottle of EVOO in thy pantry is a wise culinary commandment.  One of the largest (if not the largest) producers of olive oil in the world is also one of my favorite (if not my most favorite) European destinations – Spain! In our most recent visit to southern Spain, my husband and I joined a tour to admire the Alhambra castle. The northbound trip from the coast of Malaga was beautifully saturated with views of rolling mountains and hills studded with olive groves. It was almost a 2-hour drive, hence, I learned about olives.

Olive groves of Granada Spain
Olive groves in southern Spain

As in most agricultural endeavors, water is essential for growing and sustaining olive trees. When there’s more moisture, the size of each fruit increases and the overall yield becomes greater. However, olive growers who intend to produce the best olive oil do not care for huge (watery) olives. These experts welcome periods of Mediterranean drought that are so essential in producing smaller but definitely tastier olives, which, after being pressed, give rise to high quality olive oil. Though I wasn’t aware of this before, I thought the idea resonated well with Scriptural truth.

The apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: Through him (Christ) we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  Romans 2:2-5

Suffering is unwanted. Much of life is aimed at eliminating suffering. Atheists continually demand a “convincing” answer to the question “If there is a God why is there so much suffering in the world?” Sadly, we who believe in Christ seem to be asking the very same question. Yes, we believe that God is there, but we still require an explanation from Him as to why our circumstances are not better, why our illnesses are not healed, why our relationships are not stronger, why our prayers are not answered. I know I do. I personally prefer a rainfall of remedies over a season of suffering. Praise God that he works according to his loving wisdom, and not according to our convenience-oriented preferences.  I am also thankful that he provides metaphors throughout His creation in order to show us the good that suffering produces. Amy Carmichael, missionary to India who was familiar with much suffering wrote this: “When the wind blows hard on a tree, the roots stretch and grow the stronger. Let it be so with us. Let us not be weaklings, yielding to every wind that blows, but strong in spirit to resist.”  That’s endurance. That’s character. And all that is good. It is God’s will for us, and (hello fellow parents!) it is also God’s will for our children.

Pastor and Bible teacher Chip Ingram (Living on the Edge) said one of the most important lessons our children should learn from us is how to suffer well. I realize that parental neglect of children is a serious problem in our society (and in many other places) but there is also a real danger in  “over-watering” our children. In our garden we’ve unintentionally managed to kill some potted dahlias by too much watering. Their roots never had a chance to stay dry and so they grew mold and rotted. For the sake of our  “arrows in the hands of a warrior” (Psalm 127:4)  we must also embrace the suffering that God allows in the lives of our children. Why deprive them of the strength of character that will surely follow?  Jesus who was like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, (Isaiah 53:7)  suffered well on our behalf. By his grace in which we now stand, suffering cannot destroy us. Suffering will strengthen us.

The Lord is my strength and my shield, in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults and with my song, I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7 






The melody of meekness…

Music is one of the most common things people resort to for relaxation. I am thankful to live in a place that is blessed with music, arts and culture, including a world-renowned symphony orchestra. Last weekend, I was delighted to hear them perform Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini Op 43. Of the 24 variations, my favorite is and will always be variation #18  where the music

cropped-cello.jpgshifts to a flowing gentle melody – a transition that is very noticeable because of its almost song-like quality, very different from the  2 variations that preceded it.  Listening to this tune  (which has been popularized in an old Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour movie) magnificently played by a phenomenal orchestra, was quite therapeutic.

But my blog today is not about music. For months now, God has been impressing upon me the value of meekness  and how much I have yet to grow in the image and character of Christ, specifically with regard to this heart issue.  So why did I start my writing with Rachmaninoff? Because like variation #18, meekness is a soothing balm in a world that is badly hurting with pride.

What does it mean to be meek? The synonyms of the word meek are: gentle, submissive, soft, and yielding. In academia, (and many other fields), these are adjectives that are rarely used during job interviews. Indeed meekness stands in stark contrast to everything the world applauds.  Society tells us that we are allowed, even encouraged, to be strong-willed, no matter what. Arrogance has become a right and meekness has been erroneously equated with weakness.

But meekness is in fact evidence of wisdom. Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. James 3:13  A person who is meek has come to understand his rightful place as a created being,  before a powerful Creator. In his book Humility, Andrew Murray wrote:  “Humility comes when we see how truly God is all.When the creature realizes that this is the true nobility,  and consents to be with his mind, will, affections, the vessel in which the life and glory of God are to work and manifest themselves, he sees that humility is simply acknowledging the truth of man’s position as creature, and yielding to God his place.”

Consider our Lord Jesus Christ – who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8  

Meekness is only possible when we are united to him who sought no glory for himself (John 8:50). We begin to grasp it when we look at how Jesus submitted to the Father in everything. Meekness is a fruit borne out of the work of the Holy Spirit in us, often in the crucible of suffering. We cannot fabricate it, but like a garment that is already woven for us by the finished work of Christ,  we must put it on and wear it constantly. He said Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matt 11:29  God not only values meekness. He rewards it. But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace. Psalm 37:11 

Meekness brings about much needed rest for our souls. Aligning our hearts with that of Jesus – He who is gentle (meek) and lowly – leads to rest.   Meekness acknowledges that all things come from our loving Father and therefore leaves no room for anxiety. Instead of engaging in a senseless power struggle with our Maker, meekness makes our hearts malleable in the hands of our Potter. Meekness not only upholds but furthermore finds comfort in the order set by God in relationships such as that between husband and wife (Ephesians 5).  Meekness is not passive but actively submits in obedience to the will of Him whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours, allowing us to experience the greater good that He desires for His children, over the mediocrity of our human choices. Meekness is not a position of oppression. On the contrary, it leads to greater joy. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord..Isaiah 29:19 It is only when meekness becomes the constant melody in our hearts, that we can dance freely and joyfully with Christ our Bridegroom.

In the book In His Image, author and bible teacher Jen Wilkin wrote: “Fullness of joy results when we seek to reflect our Maker. It is what we were created to do. It is the very will of God for our lives.”   May our lives become mirrors that reflect the meekness of Christ each day. There is not a melody that is more beautiful than His.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5