Monday, August 31, 2009


I had set a terrible precedent for my children. From their earliest memory, they had two wardrobes – summer and winter – one hanging in the closet and one boxed in storage. It wasn’t because I bought them so many clothes. It was because we were blessed with truckloads of hand-me-downs. Our daughters had six generous girl cousins, and we were a pastor’s family in gracious churches. However, these great blessings caused immense closet constipation. So in their teen years, we instituted the “buy one, bury one” rule. For each new piece of clothing that was hung in the closet or laid in a drawer, one piece of clothing was withdrawn, pitched, dumped, scrapped. I thought this little arrangement was working well until our oldest daughter recently moved into an apartment of her own. Trina had been living with us for a little over a year, maintaining most of her wardrobe in her own room, but spilling some clothes into her sister’s closet, while Emily was at college. When Trina moved into her cute, little apartment, she had one closet. One closet. She stuffed her dresser drawers full and then hung the remaining shirts and dresses in her single closet. “Smashed” doesn’t begin to describe it. “Smooshed” can’t portray the sight. Three months later, Trina called in a panic. Her closet rod had plummeted to the floor, leaving her clothes in a pile, and the landlord refused to pay for the repair. Why? Yep. Too much weight on a rod held by only one brace. Her dad became Mrs. Fix-it, using five sturdy braces to hold the clothes rod. He left a bill on her counter - pictured above - and gave this advice, “Sometimes you’ve got to give up to get more….” Sounds like something God would tell Abram.

Gen. 13:1-4 – “So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold. From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the LORD.”

  • Two things tell us Abram was restless/troubled: 1) He returned to a place of spiritual significance from his past; and 2) He called on the name of the LORD. Both are excellent paths toward a peaceful spirit.

Gen. 13:5-9 – “Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. And quarreling arose between Abram's herdsmen and the herdsmen of Lot. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time. So Abram said to Lot, ‘Let's not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Let's part company. If you go to the left, I'll go to the right; if you go to the right, I'll go to the left.’”

  • Don’t miss the difficulty of this situation. Lot was the only blood relative still in Abram’s household (besides Sarai), his only living heir at this point. Yes, God had promised children, but where were they? And in this culture, to divide your wealth means dividing your strength and protection against invasion. This is a step of faith not only in God protecting relationship but in God protecting life and property.

Gen. 13:10-13 – “Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, toward Zoar. (This was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.”

  • Lot chose the best land but the worst influence on his soul. In giving up the outward splendor, Abram guarded his inner holiness. However, Abram was still restless, moving from place to place in the land of Canaan. Doing the right thing doesn’t always bring instant peace.

Gen. 13:14-18 – “The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.’ So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.” (emphasis added)

  • After the arguing shepherds were divided, after Lot took his bleating sheep and spitting camels to Sodom, FINALLY, the LORD’s voice echoed in the silence. Abram had waited a long time to hear it. He’d traveled a lot of miles, experienced a lot of conflict, and given up his nephew, Lot. That’s a lot of “lots.” Was it worth it? Look at the promise: Land in every direction, children more numerous than dust. And now Abram’s caravan has room for him to get off his camel and WALK through his Land!

Lord, I’ve been told many times that I can’t “out-give” You, that You never ask me to give up something without returning blessings tenfold – or even one hundred-fold. So why do I clutch so tightly to people, when it’s time to say good-bye? Why do I hold onto possessions, when I should let go of old treasures? Teach me the value of letting go in order to allow space for You to give more.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Has your life ever been too good? Have things ever gone so well that you’ve been afraid it couldn’t last? I was watching a chick-flick recently, and a woman who thought this very thing said, “My life is too perfect. Something terrible must happen to me sooner or later, so I’m not taking any chances.” She altered her daily routine, cutting out any activity involving risk. Jogging, oh no – too dangerous. What? It’s like when you get a new car, and you drive slower. What happens? You get rear-ended! Or you’re wearing white or khaki pants and eating bar-b-q ribs. Gotta be extra careful, right? What happens? You drop a rib on the pants because you’re over-thinking the pants! Sometimes we fear our way into a snafu. That’s understandable for an unbeliever or atheist, right? They can blame fate or karma or last night’s fortune cookie when something bad happens. But should those who believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing God fear an inevitable evil? Well, we shouldn’t, but sometimes God’s most faithful followers do. After sharing my testimony in 1996 at a women’s retreat, a sixty-five year-old woman asked to speak with me privately. “Why has nothing bad ever happened to me?” she asked and went on to recite the litany of blessing God had bestowed on her. Terror-stricken, she asked if God might be saving up some cataclysmic event for the end of her life. In shock that someone could live such a “charmed life,” I think I fumbled some half-coherent Bible verse and hoped for the Holy Spirit’s application. Now, many ministry years later, I would share a lesson my husband used when he coached sports teams. If we try “not to lose” instead of “playing to win,” defensive mode robs us of life’s gusto, zeal and confidence. We begin trying to fix things that aren’t broken, using our own creative solutions instead of letting the Creator calm our fears.

Gen. 12:10-13 – “Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, ‘I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, “This is his wife.” Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.’” (emphasis added)

  • Famine sent Abram to Egypt, but FEAR prompted Abram’s deceit before they ever arrived. “…as he was about to enter Egypt…” says Abram conceived the plot before he was confronted with any real danger. Living our lives clutching fiercely at God’s blessings can rob us of the miraculous ways God might choose to work on our behalf.

Gen. 12:14-16 – “When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that she was a very beautiful woman. And when Pharaoh's officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, menservants and maidservants, and camels.”

  • Our fears can prove very valid, and God gave us intelligence and forethought to avoid danger before it happens. On the other hand, Satan loves to affirm our fears and feed them by bringing about the very circumstance that keeps us awake at night. Was Abram’s plot good planning or a failure to trust God? It’s a walk on the spiritual tightrope to decipher that truth. Perhaps the more important lesson is this: Regardless of Abram’s decision, God was always more interested in their relationship and the PROCESS of building faith than in Abram making a SINGLE right decision.

Gen. 12:17-20 – “But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram's wife Sarai. So Pharaoh summoned Abram. ‘What have you done to me?’ he said. ‘Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, “She is my sister,” so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!’ Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.”

  • Sometimes – not always, but sometimes – God rescues us when our fears plummet us into bad decisions. God returns us to a place of “FINE” living. But consider Abram’s new state of “FINE.” He now has even more “FINE” to protect, and his name is “Mud” in the palace of the world’s most powerful leader. Furthermore, because he has not overcome this particular fear, it’s even more difficult to believe God can protect “FINE” the next time (as I examine in the "SHEEP GOING DEEP" section of the e-devotional. If you'd like to sign-up for the mailing, just drop me a line at ).

Lord, in Your remarkable grace, You sometimes rescue me from myself and then give me the chance to relearn the hard lessons. When life is going well, I want it to stay that way. I like FINE. Help me to like You more than I like FINE. Help me to want You, to trust You more than I want peace or pomp. Help me to trust in Your goodness, when life seems too good or when danger seems imminent. Through Your strength, I will not live in fear but by faith.

Monday, August 17, 2009


To the right, you'll notice Roy and Mesu Andrews saying, "Huh?" after just having learned they would be parents. That's me with a parenting book in hand. Why is it that we can’t just accept good news the first time we hear it? With shocked awe, we say, “You’re kidding me!” or “Nuh-uh!” A woman who thinks she might be pregnant buys three pregnancy tests at the drugstore – must see three pink plus signs – before she calls the doctor to make the appointment to be told for the fourth time that, “Yes, indeed, Fertile Myrtle, you are pregnant.” In such cases, repeating oneself is generally thought to be a joyous occasion; however, there are other circumstances in which repetition is tiresome. My husband happens to be one of the most patient people on earth. I’m not kidding, not exaggerating, not poking fun. I’ve watched him take a deep breath and deal with a kind, calm tone in situations that would have sent me wildly into a crowd and landed my picture on the post office wall. But his patience dries up when you ask him to repeat himself. It’s the cardinal sin. One “huh?” and you’re dead meat. A single, “What did you say, honey?” and you’re headed for the obit’s. I’m better off to sit in complete silence than ask for a repeat. After a few moments of awkward non-rebuttal, he figures out that I haven’t heard him and usually repeats the statement a little louder and clearer. It’s a flawed system, but it works. I’m just thankful he didn’t adopt the “I love you once policy” that some men hold dear. You know, the “I told you ‘I love you’ on our wedding day, and you should consider that status unchanged until further notice” approach. A one-time notification is seldom enough to convince a human being of any truth. God knew that, and He spoke to Abram repeatedly, reinforcing his promise several times in several ways…

Gen. 12:1-3 – “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’” (emphasis added)

  • If God appeared to you and said, “I have something great to give you, some great ministry to do through you, some great blessing to bestow on you,” would you believe Him? Has it ever occurred to you that by the simple fact that God fashioned you uniquely in your mother’s womb, gave you distinctive personality traits and exclusive life experiences, you have become a one-of-a-kind treasure to Him? He does have a plan and purpose and blessing crafted specifically for YOU. Now, what are you willing to sacrifice to receive it?

Gen. 12:4-7 – “So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. Abram traveled through the land as far as the site of the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.” (emphasis added)

  • The Lord appeared again to Abram. Notice, He didn’t appear immediately, when Abram arrived in Canaan. Abram toured the countryside and found that his Promised Land was already inhabited. Did he perhaps doubt God at that point? Maybe he thought he’d heard the LORD wrong, read the pink plus sign on the little stick wrong…. So God appeared and clarified – gave a little more information. God seldom gives us the full picture, only bite-by-bite pieces that we can digest in the moment.

Gen. 12:8-9 – “From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD. Then Abram set out and continued toward the Negev.”

  • After more wandering, Abram felt the need to worship the LORD again. He built an altar to Him…but God was silent. No reassuring answer this time, no clarification, no repetition. Why? The fact is, God repeats Himself, but doesn’t always do it when we think He should. God is God, and we must acknowledge that we cannot force His hand…or His mouth to speak.

Lord, Your gracious communication with me is exactly that – gracious – given to me because You desire a relationship with an undeserving, yet forgiven creature of Your design. Thank You for Your voice. I cherish the still, small whispers when they come. When they don’t come, give me the grace and courage to believe You will speak at some point in a way I can hear You.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Now, what coach could scream at a face like that?

I’m a slow reactor. I don’t jump when someone leaps out from a corner and says, “Boo!” It’s frustrated my girls for years. I touch a hot iron, and when the smoke begins to rise, I think, “Hmmm, I should take my finger off that iron.” I eat three bites of something green and slimy before I realize I don’t really like cooked spinach. Get the picture?

Well, my maternal instincts were no different. It took a few years before my “Mama Bear” claws grew to full length – but when they did…they were razor sharp. It happened when our oldest daughter, Trina, was a freshman in summer volleyball. League rules stated every kid played equal time. Trina’s coach missed that line in her contract and decided to play everyone except my daughter and one other girl in the tournament. I was livid and went to the ladies’ room to cool down after the first game – which happened to be in the girls’ locker room. I was sitting in the stall – minding my own business – when I heard my daughter’s coach screaming in the locker room at a couple of girls about their pathetic attitudes, how they should be team-players and stop moping about sitting the bench. I walked out of the stall and saw my daughter and the other “bench-warmer” in tears. Boing! Out came the Mama-bear claws! I ripped that coach to shreds with every ounce of pent up maternal instinct. It was ugly. But here’s the worst part. I was so upset, shaking so badly, crying uncontrollably – I had to walk off my anger, and I missed the rest of the tournament games! I don’t even know if Trina got to play. So what started as a righteous cause, ended as an abandoned rescue because my emotions got the better of me. I started slow, peaked, and finished weak. Ugh. But our Heavenly Father doesn’t have issues of delayed reactions and pent up emotion. He works patiently with His children and their children’s children to complete the plan He ordained. First, He created. Then, He began anew. Now, He waits patiently with purpose….

Gen. 11:10-26 – “This is the account of Shem. Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. And after he became the father of Arphaxad, Shem lived 500 years and had other sons and daughters. When Arphaxad had lived 35 years, he became the father of Shelah. And after he became the father of Shelah, Arphaxad lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters. When Shelah had lived 30 years, he became the father of Eber. And after he became the father of Eber, Shelah lived 403 years and had other sons and daughters. When Eber had lived 34 years, he became the father of Peleg. And after he became the father of Peleg, Eber lived 430 years and had other sons and daughters. When Peleg had lived 30 years, he became the father of Reu. And after he became the father of Reu, Peleg lived 209 years and had other sons and daughters. When Reu had lived 32 years, he became the father of Serug. And after he became the father of Serug, Reu lived 207 years and had other sons and daughters. When Serug had lived 30 years, he became the father of Nahor. And after he became the father of Nahor, Serug lived 200 years and had other sons and daughters. When Nahor had lived 29 years, he became the father of Terah. And after he became the father of Terah, Nahor lived 119 years and had other sons and daughters. After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran.” (emphasis added)
  • We know from Gen. 10:25 that Peleg was named such because “in his time the earth was divided” – so Babel occurred approximately 101 years after the flood. The total of all bold numbers indicate 292 years between the flood and Abram’s birth. I’ve never been a math gal, so all this is leading to a point. Though God didn’t seem to have fellowship with humankind at Babel, he hadn’t given up. He was patient in His plan of redemption. But the waiting wasn’t pleasant. Humankind remained distant from their Creator, and the life spans from Shem to Abram decreased. Shem lived 500 years, but Abram’s grandfather, Nahor, lived only 119. Imagine the despair of every generation seeing many of their own children die before them. Imagine the looming feeling of doom. The world may have seemed far from God and hopeless, but God was systematically moving toward Abram – the man through whom a nation would bless the world.

Gen. 11:27-32 – “This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no children. Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Haran, they settled there. Terah lived 205 years, and he died in Haran.”

  • Gotta think ancient Mid-eastern culture here. No airplanes. No McDonalds. No police protection. Terah’s youngest son, Haran, died and left three children – Lot, Milcah and Iscah. Milcah was evidently old enough to marry Abram’s brother, Nahor (her uncle – ick…think ancient Mid-eastern culture, remember). Who knows what happened to the other sister, Iscah, but Papaw Terah flies the Ur coop with Son Abram, daughter-in-law, Sarai, and grandson, Lot. The whole caravan is all revved up to go to Canaan, but they run out of steam by the time they reach Haran (the city name is spelled differently in Hebrew than Terah’s dead son’s name). Ask yourself. What drove Terah from Ur in the first place? Why not take Nahor and Milcah? Why didn’t he take his other grand-daughter, Iscah, too? What family issues boiled beneath the surface? Sounds like a bad soap opera, doesn’t it? But my point is that Abram, the man God chose to bring His Covenant Promise to the world, came from a complex, mixed up family.

Lord, there’s a lot of family baggage that could impede my progress on life’s journey. My heart bears scars that can distort my view of Your map. Open the eyes of my heart to see Your way clearly. I don’t want to stop before I reach the fullness of blessing You have planned for me. Lord, I want to finish strong, regardless of family obligation or strongholds. The only way I can do that is through Your strength – not mine.

How has God shown Himself faithful in bringing YOU out of a tough family situation?

Monday, August 03, 2009


Instead of a picture, I've got a YouTube video I'd like you to see...the perfect picture of "Babel"...

A four-year-old sucks his thumb and cuddles a satin-edged baby blanket. A teen cherishes her grandmother’s antique ring. A father and son bursts with pride to restore a 1957 Chevy. Why do we hold so tightly to the familiar and clutch at the old and frayed for comfort? My husband is not overly sentimental, but practical. He wears clothes until they literally fall from his body in shreds. When we were newlyweds, I made the near-fatal mistake of throwing away one of my husband’s holey t-shirts. Notice I said hol-EY, not HOLY. But you would have thought by his reaction that the silly piece of tattered poly/cotton blend was holy! By the time he realized it was gone, it was truly gone – irrevocably buried in some landfill – but I had learned my lesson. I would never again throw away my husband’s shirts. No matter how frayed or faded they became, I’d leave those ceremonial decisions up to him. Unfortunately, when my mother came to stay with our girls for a week, I forgot to inform her of our non-discard pact. Another shirt got tossed during her servant-minded laundry day, and this T-shirt was a keepsake (as they all seemed to be). So the next time Mom stayed with the girls, I explained about the “no throw away rule.” She apologized to Roy for her previous “oops” and we left for our next trip with full confidence that all Roy’s shirts would be safe in the loving hands of his penitent mother-in-law. When we arrived home, as expected, all shirts were present and accounted for…with one exception. The one T-shirt that was literally falling apart at the seams (the whole shirt was worn-sheer) sported a brand new neckline. Mom had cut off the frayed collar and purchased new material, sewing a bright yellow collar on this old T-shirt. Oh my. Roy was – speechless. But the shirt lived on, the collar extending its drawer-life another 5 years or so before it found its way to the happy-shirt-shack-in-the landfill. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with liking comfort or hanging onto familiar things…unless they stand in the way of our moving forward with God. That’s when it became a problem for Noah and all our ancestors….

Gen. 11:1-4 – “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, ‘Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly.’ They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.’” (emphasis added)
  • Being at peace isn’t wrong. Progress and intelligence isn’t wrong. However, feeling satisfied and smart can lead to SELF-SATISFACTION and SELF-FOCUS, and that isn’t just wrong, it’s SIN. When Noah and his family left the ark, God said, “…fill the earth.” (9:1) Notice that Noah’s descendants wanted to build themselves a city for their own names so they could do the exact opposite of God’s command – NOT SCATTER over the face of the earth. Comfort and self-seeking leads us in the direct opposite direction of God’s command to move and fill the earth with His presence.

Gen. 11:5-7 – “But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.’”

  • Think about it. Did the LORD need to come down because He couldn’t see from heaven? Duh, no. He came down so humankind could watch Him assess their sin. Evidently, there was no human being alive God wished to confide in, fellowship with – as he once had with Adam and Noah. It’s as though He had to break into their world to remind them He was there.

Gen. 11:8-9 – “So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel--because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

  • Humankind tried to thwart God’s good plan by settling into their selfish desires. But God WILL have His way on this earth, and in His perfect wisdom, He allows each human being to make his/her own choices to become an obedient or rebellious part of that plan. My job is simply to focus on God and let His plan work its way through me.

Lord, sometimes I get more concerned with knowing the plan that knowing You. Maybe that’s why the comfort of my familiar ways is so appealing, and the unknown path toward You is so frightening. Give me the courage to keep my eyes on You, not the plan – on becoming more familiar with my Heavenly Father, not self-focus and self-satisfaction. Your plan has never been to harm me or to make me uncomfortable just to see me squirm. You call me to move, to stretch, to grow in order to fulfill a plan beyond my small-sightedness. Give me the courage, the desire, to seek You when discomfort comes. Give me the discipline and grace to seek You when I’m comfortable.