Mopping“Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Isaiah 1:18


Housework! I intensely dislike it more than almost anything else in life! Housework is so endless! I vacuum and mop, and five minutes later, there is dog hair all over the floor. I wash, dry and fold clothes and the laundry basket miraculously fills up again. Dishes can all be organized in their proper cupboards and suddenly, there is another sink full. While I’m on my way to dress for company, I discover dust an inch thick in a place I hadn’t even noticed before. My “to do” pile grows exponentially while my “nice and pretty” house continues its march into oblivion.


My sins are like this too. Just when I think I have a handle on gossip, something unplanned slips out of my mouth. I think I have my use of four-letter words under control when a driver cuts me off and I blurt out an expletive. My sunny attitude guides me into a leadership role, but then I suffer from a serious attack of self-doubt, which makes me think I should be flogging myself in a dungeon instead of modeling for others how to live a Christian life.


In Frank Peretti’s 2003 novel This Present Darkness, angels and demons engage in lively spiritual warfare, affecting the lives of the book’s characters. This book has been criticized because there is no mention of the Holy Spirit’s empowering of believers to stand firm in spiritual battles. But this novel was a major player in my early understanding of “the powers of this dark world and…the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Peter tells us, Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). This same passage tells us about the “armor” God provides us to fight off Satan, enabling us to walk in God’s light. And when we do mess up, God promises to “wash, rinse and repeat” every time until our sins are “white as snow.”


Healing Father, help us to be ready for Satan’s attacks and to use all the tools You have given us to thwart his influence on our lives. Amen


Berlin WallSuddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. Daniel 5:5-6


In 1992, I visited “new” Berlin for two days and nights. Soviet troops were being withdrawn from what had been “East Berlin,” the post-WWII communist-controlled portion of the city established from 1949 until two years after my visit. The occupying Soviets were no longer conducting military exercises, but they “goose-stepped” through the city as we tourists gawked. Checkpoint Charlie, the best-known crossing point between the East (communist) and West (free) portions of the city, was still staffed by Allied and Russian soldiers.


Berlin was trying hard to establish a post-Cold War economy, and tourism was on the list of new ventures. Our hotel was a run-down former barracks for troops and their families. Small, double-occupancy rooms featured bare linoleum floors, a mid-twentieth century bath, and a huge armoire in place of a closet. The armoire hid plumbing fixtures that had supplied water to a single-wall kitchenette. The twin beds were iron cots with springs under lumpy mattresses, but on each pillow, the hotel staff had placed a green peppermint candy. So much for modern amenities!


By far, the most interesting attraction for us was the Berlin Wall, built in 1961 to stop emigration from East to West. The area adjacent to the wall became known as the Death Zone; many were gunned down while attempting to escape the oppression in the East. But now, the great human spirit had risen with a paint brush to squelch all memory of those evil days. Still mostly intact when I visited, the entire barrier was covered with graffiti in many languages, declaring sweet freedom in all the colors of the rainbow. This brightly embellished barricade reminded me of another wall in the book of Daniel. Both walls foretold the end of cruel oppression and the coming of a better life under new rulers (Daniel 5:22-30). The Berlin story encourages us that God is faithful to His people throughout history. God will have the last word over human oppression.


God of Freedom, we know You want all Your people on earth to dwell in peace with no worries of oppression. Until that day comes, sustain us with Your Word and Your grace. Amen


Open TombEarly on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. John 20:1


When I think about that first Easter morning, my mind gets all wonky. After the crucifixion, Joseph the Arimathean had gone “boldly to Pilate and asked for (some translations say “craved”) the body of Jesus” (John 19:38). He was a high council member but a secret follower of Jesus and took a huge risk. Pilate ordered guards so none of Jesus’ followers would steal His body and claim He rose from the dead (Matthew 27:65-66). (Pilate was clueless but possibly a little prophetic.)


Those guards took off when a violent earthquake hit and an angel rolled the stone away (Matthew 28:2). Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” found the tomb empty at dawn (Luke 24:1). The angel said they had just missed Jesus (Matthew 28:5-7), but He appeared just then. “Greetings,” He said, like they just had seen each other a half hour ago.  He told the women not to be afraid, and to go tell the others.


But nothing in the Gospel account tells us what Jesus was thinking and doing while He was in that tomb. Alone and cold, and wrapped up like the dead body everyone thought He was, at what point did He say, “Well, that’s enough of this! I think it’s time to rock the world!” One would think He’d be a little under the weather after all He’d just been through. But He could heal everybody else, so He could certainly pull Himself together. He even took time to fold the shroud that had been wrapped around Him. (His mother must have been so proud!) Was He hiding behind a Joshua tree when the angel spoke to the women, so that He could surprise them with the Good News, the turning point for all of mankind? We’ll probably never know all that was going through Jesus’ mind on Easter morning, but we know He went through it all to save us from our own sin-sick selves.


Atoning Savior, this Easter season, grant that each of us can grasp at least part the magnitude of the sacrifice You made for us! Thank You for Your loving grace that made all of this happen. Amen


Blank CanvasNow the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Genesis 1:2


My son-in-law is an architect, and I have a degree in interior design. We both like to draw, paint and create things. We once had a lively discussion at an art fair about the excitement we each have when we consider a blank page—sketch pad, water color paper, canvas—before embarking on some sort of artistic creation. My daughter, whose gifts do not include art, gave us a puzzled look while her husband and I talked about that moment when the wheels in our brains are turning as we decide how to begin a new “masterpiece.”


I imagine the angels watched God as He poised above the “formless and empty” void that would soon be called “Earth.” The Spirit of God, in His infinite wisdom, “was hovering over the waters,” with a divinely detailed idea in His mind. He raised His mighty arms and began to “paint” the world as we know it into existence. God first created light and darkness, then separated the waters from the dry land. Vegetation came next, followed by a great light for daytime and a “lesser” light for night. Sea creatures and living things on the land followed, and on the sixth day, God created man. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:3).  Although human emotions could never compare to those of the Lord, this feeling of accomplishment of completing a work of art with one’s own hands is a very satisfying sensation indeed!


Even if you only draw stick people, there is something you do that, when it’s completed, gives you a great sense of fulfillment. Whatever that is, the next time you finish, take a moment to thank God for His wonderful creation and the talents which you possess. You’ll feel even better in the act of gratitude, and God can say of your work, “It is good.”


Creator God, You have given each of us talents that we may not use or appreciate. Shine Your loving light on the things we do and make to Your glory, and give us the confidence to keep on keeping on. Amen




temple curtainAnd when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, He gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Matthew 27:50-51
One thing I love about writing this blog is getting to do a little research when I’m puzzled. I wondered why Jesus “giving up His spirit” was linked in Scripture to the tearing of the curtain in the temple. Hebrews 9:1-9 tells us a “veil” separated the area of the temple known as the “Holy of Holies,” the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence. Only the high priest was allowed to go beyond this curtain into the presence of God, and then only once a year (Exodus 30:10; Hebrews 9:7). It was clear that man’s sin separated him from God (Isaiah 59:1-2), and the priest was responsible for passing through the curtain to make restitution.


This “veil” was no Walmart café curtain! First century historian, Josephus,recorded that the veil was four inches thick and that horses tied to each side could not pull the veil apart. And yet, the moment when Christ died on the cross, the curtain was completely torn in two! Another significant factor about this amazing event is the link between Christ’s body being broken—in essence, torn—and the curtain being opened. Paul says, “We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body (Hebrews 10:19-20, emphasis mine). Jesus not only died as atonement for the sins of humankind, but His selfless act ushered all who believe directly into God’s presence. The curtain made of cloth was destroyed; in its place, we have Jesus Christ, the Son of God, walking boldly with us into firsthand fellowship with the Father. I imagine all those at Calvary who understood what the temple veil stood for were quaking in their boots. No wonder the centurion said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:29)


Atoning King of Kings, thank You for going to that cross for my sins. You have opened the way for all believers to come into the presence of the Most High God. Amen


Camera MenThen you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32


Canadian pop singer Ann Murray, popular during the 1970’s, had many well-known hits. One of my favorites was A Little Good News. The lyrics detailed a typical day in which we hear so much bad news through the media, it’s sometimes hard to stay positive. The point of the song is how nice it would be to turn on the television and hear the words of the chorus:
Nobody robbed a liquor store on the lower part of town Nobody OD’d, nobody burned a single building down Nobody fired a shot in anger…nobody had to die in vain We sure could use a little good news today


As Christians, we know the true Good News comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Gospel” means “truth,” and nothing is more true to believers than Jesus’ life on earth and death on a cross. Skeptics have said for centuries that Christ’s story could not have happened the way the Bible says because there is no proof. They contend that all the “eye witnesses” would have been dead before the New Testament was written. But 20th century biblical archaeologist William Albright concluded that the biblical accounts of history were largely accurate. And John A. T. Robinson, a biblical scholar and a contemporary of Albright, discovered that other scholars he had respected had not been honest with evidence purported to show when New Testament books were written. Robinson concluded that all New Testament writings were written by AD 45, in time for eye witnesses to still be alive to write them. And what we know about those eye witnesses is that they believed strongly enough in what they said had actually happened, they were willing to—and in many cases did—die for those beliefs.


In a world where “hyping” the news has become the requirement to get people’s attention, it sure would be wonderful if we could tune in for “details at ten” and hear the true and important account about Jesus!



Blood PressureOne of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. John 19:34


I have hypertension which is “controlled” with medication.  The highest I have ever tested…well, I’d rather not say! But there was one time when high blood pressure was not my problem.


I needed a “revision” of my original total hip surgery eighteen months earlier. My hip implant was recalled, like an automobile when the accelerator sticks or the air bags won’t deploy. I was sick for the year and a half I had the implant in, but until the body part company recalled their product, no one could figure out what was wrong with me. After the surgery, as the team was moving me to my hospital bed, I heard one of them say, “BP 80 over 40.” Half asleep, I rose up off the bed and exclaimed, “What did you say?” I had lost a lot of blood during the procedure, and had a difficult first night. The next day, I was the lucky recipient of two units of transfused blood. I was never in danger of losing my life, but it was a scary experience.


The gospel accounts indicate that Jesus died less than six hours after He was nailed to the cross, much sooner than the expected twenty-four hours or more. This raises the question, how did His life on earth actually end? He had been brutally beaten, and nails were used to secure Him to the cross, whereas other condemned prisoners were tied to their crosses. So He might have lost a lot of blood, which normally leads first to unconsciousness, then gradual death. The gospels indicate that Jesus was fully conscious, even talking to his mother and brother, and to the Father. John reported, Jesus said, “It is finished,” and bowed His regal head and gave up the fight (John 19:30). All of this has left Bible scholars—and me—to wonder if Jesus “chose” the moment of His death by stopping His own heart as part of this mysterious plan to save the world.


O Sacred Son of God, You took such unspeakable punishment for my sins! If I had been there, I could not have stood to watch. Thank You for Your unimaginable sacrifice. Amen


TestNow when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to Him, and He began to teach them. Matthew 5:1


When I was counseling at a two-year college in the early 1990’s, I spoke with a student who was from Ukraine, a former Soviet republic. He was preparing to take a math entrance exam at our school, to determine which level courses were appropriate for him. He held the study booklet out to me and showed me a page filled with multiple choice questions. He asked if he had the wrong booklet, and I assured him that he had the correct study guide. He said, “In Russia, we don’t guess. We learn the math without the answers.” This was a grim reminder of why, over many years, Russian kids have performed better in math and science than kids in our nation. And as it turned out, this Ukrainian guy was a math whiz and could have taught most of our courses himself!


What if Jesus’ disciples wanted the things Jesus was teaching them to be presented in a more “student friendly” manner? So, after the Sermon on the Mount, Simon Peter might have said, “Are we supposed to know this?” And Andrew said, “Do we have to write this down?” James wanted to know if there would be a test, and Phillip didn’t have any paper. Bartholomew’s pencil was broken. John asked, “Did the other disciples have this same assignment?” Matthew needed to go to the bathroom, and Judas said, “What’s this got to do with real life, anyway?” The little children, who had been allowed to sit on Jesus’ lap during the lecture, asked when they could go for recess. A Pharisee came up and challenged Jesus to show the syllabus for His course and asked if it contained appropriate evaluation techniques, the policy on cheating, and details on how to find Jesus after class. Jesus’ mom said, “Don’t forget to make your language all-inclusive, Sweetie.”


And Jesus wept.


Holy Teacher, deliver us from complacency when we hear Your Words over and over. These are the Words of Life, and You have promised to save us from testing! Amen


CavalryWhen Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?”  And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. Luke 22:49-50


Recently, I read a Good Friday devotion about Mount Calvary, but there was a typo, and instead it read, Mount Cavalry. Funny that the word “cavalry” was views in association with Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, trial, and sacrifice on the cross. Perhaps the typo was wishful thinking on the part of the writer: someone should have charged in and saved Jesus! His disciples were willing to come to His defense when Judas led the soldiers to Him. One even chopped off the ear of the high priest’s servant. And Jesus, about to be bound and dragged away, knowing what was in store for Himself, took compassion on the servant and healed his ear instantly, telling his disciples not to become violent.


What might I have done if I had been there with Jesus that night? I wouldn’t have fallen asleep! It should have been so obvious to these men who were so close to Jesus that He was in great distress, praying so hard He sweat blood. But I’m not much of a night owl, and any kind of stress just wears me out. So maybe I would have slept while Christ prayed. I am certain that I would have been outraged at Judas forsaking Jesus the way he did (Mark 14:44)! I would never do that! But would I later have stood with Peter, more concerned with warming my hands over a courtyard fire than standing up for the Man Who loved me like no other (Luke 22:57)? It is so easy to say that we would have defended Christ—led the cavalry to Calgary—but would we really have had the strength to take action to save our Friend, even if it meant to die trying?


Jesus knew that His followers would betray Him, but He went to that cross anyway. And now He is the One Who leads the Heavenly Calvary, doing battle with the forces of evil in our lives every day.


King Jesus, thank You for charging in and  keeping me safe from the enemies of spiritual warfare. Keep me vigilant each day when the enemy comes prowling like a hungry lion. Amen


Goat FarmerTruly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward. Mark 9:41


As a social worker in the 1970’s in a rural Minnesota county, I had a tough client, an old farmer I’ll call Jerome. He lived on an ancient farm site, at the end of a very long and rutted drive. Jerome raised a variety of animals—chickens, ducks, a couple of cows, goats—none of which were particularly well cared for. Jerome had recently lost his wife, and the county stepped in to help. There was a county health nurse and a couple of paraprofessional aides, and me, the “psycho-social” worker, each of us visiting Jerome at different times. All of us were female. But Jerome was belligerent and yelled at us, even groping some of those who helped with his personal care. Eventually, Jerome’s entire “team” requested an audience with the county board (all “old timers” like Jerome!).  I trembled as we presented our case: discontinue all services to Jerome unless he could treat us with respect. I was dumfounded when the board members agree. We immediately terminated Jerome’s case.


A few short weeks later, a young single mother came to her county worker, saying her newborn baby was allergic to her breast milk, any type of formula, and anything the doctors could come up with, except goat’s milk. The worker asked if I knew anyone who raised goats. Jerome came to mind, but there were so many barriers… Fast forward a week later, when I dropped in at Jerome’s farm out of curiosity and found Jerome cradling the baby while the young mother milked his goats. The two hit it off the minute they met. Jerome was lonely and grieving and barely able to care for his animals. The young mother was more than willing to help him with his chores in exchange for the milk her child so desperately needed to grow and thrive.


Isn’t it wonderful how God hooks us up with just the right person at just the right time? It was a miracle for crabby Jerome and a desperate young mom!


God of Grace and Compassion, help us see places in Your world where we can give that cup of water. Amen