What Color Is Jesus?

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”                                                                                                                                                                                                            Isaiah 53:2

On my kitchen windowsill is a Christmas card I received a couple of years ago. It is a simple but colorful drawing of the Christ Child in the manger, with several shepherds kneeling in adoration. All the people in the picture are jet black.

Am I offended by the lack of historical accuracy? Not at all. Nor have I written back to the sender, saying “By the way, Jesus was Jewish, and the shepherds were Jewish, and that picture makes no sense.”

Nope. I love that card, because of who sent it and where it came from. The greeting inside is a hand-written note from one of my friends in Uganda – “To my favorite author.” Elsewhere in the note is written in big letters, “UGANDA LOVES YOU!”

Lately there has been some heated discussions regarding the question of “what color was Jesus?” This question was the basis for accusing whole cultures of racism, western European types in particular. It seems that some European paintings of Jesus show Him looking, well, like a European.

But then, why not?  I would expect pictures of Him in, say, a Mexican church to look more Hispanic. In Asia you can find pictures of Jesus looking Chinese or Indian.

There’s a reason for this, and I’m guessing those reasons were more theological than historical.

These artists were probably aware of where Jesus lived and died, and yet they decided to paint Him in a way that made Him more relatable to the people of their own culture. These artists weren’t ignorant. On the contrary, I would respectfully suggest that their critics are the ones who might be missing the point.

And what is the point? What is the message of the Incarnation?

The point is, the Son of God – God Himself – left His home in heaven to become one of us (“us” being Humanity).

As a Man, Jesus went through the same experiences we go through. He was hungry. He got thirsty. He experienced weariness and pain and loneliness. He knew fear and stress and the sting of other people’s hatred. He empathized, He grieved, He knew anger and frustration. These are things experienced by every person that ever lived, every color, in every era, and in every corner of the earth. He came for all of us – for black and white, Hispanic and Asian, Middle Eastern and Native American. And for every race, every nationality, every ethnic group, He took our sins upon Himself and took them to the Cross, where He died for the forgiveness of all of us.

One of my favorite outreaches, the Jesus Film Project has been showing the gospel in video form for decades. Their movie, “JESUS,” the dramatization of the gospel according to Luke, has been translated into more than 1800 languages! Until the pandemic shut down the world, small teams of technicians and evangelists would trek into the remotest places, set up their equipment, and show the film to whole villages at a time. The people would gather to watch and be mesmerized to see the gospel story played out in their language! Now of course when Jesus was on earth He didn’t speak in the tribal languages of these obscure groups, but that doesn’t matter to them. They watch, they listen, they understand – and they believe! 

SIDE NOTE: If you are a linguistics expert and want to get nitpicky about the language Jesus really spoke, you might want to rent “The Passion of the Christ,” where the dialogue is in the original Aramaic. (You might also want to make sure the subtitles are turned on.)

The Apostle John’s description of Heaven in Revelation describes a multitude of people that could not be counted, people “from every nation, tribe, people, and language.” (Revelation 7:9) I’m guessing none of those people got hung up what Jesus looked like when He walked the earth as one of us. Who knows? When we enter into eternity, He may show Himself to us in a glorious new color we have never seen before in this life! (Yes, my imagination can go wild when I think of entering eternity after leaving this finite world.)

The Incarnation is a profound reality, one well worth reflecting on.  John 1:14 says,     “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In these days of arguing about anything and everything, let’s focus less on the flesh and more on the Word.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for leaving the throne room of Heaven to live in this fallen world as one of us. Thank You for offering Your life for all of us as the perfect sacrifice. You paid the debt we could not afford, so our sins might be cancelled out and we might live with You forever. And now, as we place our faith in You, we can look forward to eternal life in Your glorious kingdom, along with Your children from every nation, tribe, people and tongue! What a glorious day that will be!  Lord, help us to focus less on the superficial and more on what’s truly important – how much You love us, how much we love You, and how much we should love one another in Your name. Amen.


To Seniors and Others Missing Out

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.         Colossians 3:2

This piece, originally entitled “What Else Matters?” was posted May 3 of last year. I wanted to share it again, for all my readers who are or have seniors missing their prom, graduation, and other festivities they thought they would be enjoying now. Feel free to share this with them. I hope it encourages those who are feeling the loss.

It was the morning of the National Day of Prayer. I was sitting in the auditorium at City Hall, listening to my daughter’s school choir singing a goosebump-raising rendition of “You Are God Alone.” They were warming up for the city-wide prayer meeting that was starting in half an hour. And I was crying.

My daughter Kelly had been having a rough time in high school. The migraines that had first appeared when she was four years old had continued to plague her through grade school and middle school and had caused her record absences through high school, in spite of years of prayers and attempts to find a solution through medicine, both traditional and “alternative.”

But in spite of enduring more pain than some people suffer in a lifetime, Kelly had found a few sources of pleasure in her life. By far her greatest joy was singing, and her favorite part of school was choir. When the students performed, Kelly’s face radiated with unmistakable joy. She had looked forward to the national Day of Prayer and taking part, and as I had said goodbye to her that morning and she left for school, I had whispered a special prayer of thanks to God for this special day.

My optimism had been short-lived, however. Kelly had called me from the parking lot of a McDonald’s half a mile from school to tell me about the migraine that had assaulted her shortly after she had walked out the door. When I had suggested that she come home, take some medication, and rest until the assembly, she had sobbed that if she didn’t show up at 8:00 she wouldn’t be allowed to sing with the choir.

There are definite advantages to a small Christian school, one of them being teachers who know each student well and practice grace along with discipline. As I called the office to explain Kelly’s dilemma, the choir director, who “happened to be” right by the phone, responded with compassion. She said to let Kelly come home, take a pill and a nap, and meet the choir at City Hall at 11:30 if she was feeling better.

But the medication that knocked out the migraine had a way of knocking out the patient as well, and when I had tried to rouse Kelly for the prayer meeting, she had been hopelessly (and predictably) dead to the world. Now as the choir finished their warm-up and filed off the stage, there I sat, with nothing to do but feel sorry for Kelly, thinking of all the important high school events she had missed and would never again get a chance to do. And yes, I’ll admit I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, as well. (When “BabyBear” hurts, “MamaBear” hurts, too.) So in spite of my efforts to contain them, the tears flowed.

I was digging through my purse, looking for a tissue when I came across my small New Testament. Since the prayer meeting didn’t start until noon, I knew I had twenty minutes to kill, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend them wallowing in self-pity. So I pulled out the Bible and prayed.

Lord, Jesus, please encourage me. I don’t want to feel this way today!

I was not in the habit of looking for answers to problems by haphazardly opening the Bible; I hadn’t done that since college. But since I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, I opened the Book at random, planning just to read until I found something helpful, or until the prayer meeting started, whichever came first.

The scripture that first caught my eye was the last chapter of Mark:

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb, and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen!”                    (Mark 16: 1-6)

Something told me I had seen enough, so I stopped reading.

OK, what does that have to do with Kelly’s migraines? I wondered. But then I pondered the significance of the passage.

Jesus is alive … JESUS IS ALIVE! That means that death is not the end … for Him or for us! And it certainly means this life isn’t the be-all and end-all for those who trust in the Lord. – It’s barely the beginning!

Yes, my daughter had missed the National Day of Prayer, over a hundred days of high school, and numerous weekend festivities. She had missed Homecoming, but someday she would be at the greatest Homecoming in history. She had missed singing in the choir that day, but someday she would sing in heaven’s choir forever. Kelly loved Jesus, and she would get to spend forever with Him, at the never-ending, greatest celebration of all time. When one had that to look forward to … what else mattered?

What else matters? I asked myself, and I found that in spite of my pity-party, I was smiling. I decided that I would pour myself into the Day of Prayer and keep a better perspective on life from that day on, by remembering the one thing that really matters –

Jesus is alive!

Excerpted from BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?)                           c 2015 Ann Aschauer

Prayer: Lord, we rejoice that You are alive! Keep us mindful of what really matters. In Your name, amen


On Being Transparent

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.     Isaiah 64:6a

I don’t do windows.

Well, every few years I try. There will be that bright sunny morning when the light is streaming in, and the need for cleaning is so obvious, I grab the window cleaner, spray bottle, rags, paper towels, and squeegee and get to work. Two or three hours later I throw in the towel (and everything on it) and once more promise myself, never again!

Every summer we go to the house in Michigan that my grandparents built it in the 1940s. It was elegant then and it is still elegant now. Forty-six years ago, my husband Marty and I got married there, and two years ago our youngest daughter was married there. The house has French provincial architecture, fireplaces, a bay window, and French doors that open onto a patio overlooking the lake.

It also has windows that have had a curse put on them. Or maybe it’s just the paint on the frames that dissolves every time any liquid touches it… Each magical little pane is specially made to get dirtier the more it’s wiped. After several attempts at cleaning, the glass will go from mildly dirty to ridiculously streaked on the outside – when you’re looking out. Of course, when you’re outside looking in, all you see are the streaks that are inside. I have on occasion treated the job like an Olympic event, “the Window Sprint” – Can I run outside and get that streak off before I forget where it is? Pretty soon I’m streaked too, with sweat and dirt, and breathless with exasperation. No gold medal here.

(Now please don’t write and tell me how you clean your windows. Believe me, I’ve heard the advice, all about vinegar and newspapers and yada-yadda-yadda… I’ve tried it all.)

A few years ago, we put our house in Port Huron up for sale, and one of the many jobs that needed to be done was … clean the windows. [Insert scary horror movie music here.] When a perfectly gorgeous day came up and I had absolutely nothing on my schedule, there was no excuse to put off the job, however desperately I wished for one.

I was delightfully surprised to find the job was not only effective but surprisingly fun when it actually worked! I found myself singing as I got into the rhythm -squirt-squeegee-wipe, squirt-squeegee-wipe – and pretty soon I was looking around for more windows to clean. At the end of the day, I was standing in the living room, gazing out at the Lake Huron, relishing the fact that the windows were virtually invisible, and I may as well have been standing outside. >Eureka!<

For some reason I took this to mean I now knew how to clean windows, so when we later went to Portage Lake, one bright, sunny day I confidently grabbed my trusty squeegee and began to make the dining room gorgeous, one little pane at a time, forgetting that these windows were cursed… Two hours, one roll of paper towels, one bottle of Windex, and one tantrum later, there was not one pane that was totally clean. I threw up my hands and yelled “I GIVE UP!” followed by a few other things that were probably inappropriate for a Christian to be saying.

Have you been there? I don’t mean just with windows, but anything that you’ve tried to “fix,” that only gets worse the more you try? As I stood there that day, hot and exhausted, scowling at the streaks blocking the view of the beautiful lake, I figured the only way to get a clear view would be just to break the windows. That’s it! Just take out the pains – er, panes – completely, and the view would be great. Of course, that would have made the house a bit drafty and buggy, so Marty didn’t go for that idea.

It occurred to me that I was looking at a picture of sin. The Bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, all of Mankind has been under the curse of sin. For many people, their lives may seem “good enough.” But then the light of God’s truth shines through, and it becomes painfully obvious that we “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 6:23) The more we look at our sin, the more it bothers us.

So, what do some of us do? We try to clean up our act. Somehow, we think we can make it right on our own, although it should soon be apparent that if we were so capable of doing good, our lives wouldn’t be such a mess in the first place. After trying to make things right, we see that we have failed, and more often than not, our feeble attempts have made the situation worse than ever. At this point we should see that we can’t do this ourselves. But some of us refuse to believe we’re that helpless. So, we try harder, thinking if we could just try hard enough, we’ll finally clean up our lives.

The bottom line is, we can’t fix the mess ourselves. We have only two choices. We can avoid the Light and hope nobody notices the dirt, or we can go to God and ask Him to help us. Fortunately, He can. In fact, He sent His Son, Jesus, to take all our dirt onto Himself. When He died for us, He was taking our sin and nailing it to the Cross, and we never have to be enslaved by it again. He can make our lives clean, and He can shine His light through us. Isn’t it a relief to know we don’t have to try to clean ourselves up?

I haven’t yet figured out how to get Jesus to do my windows for me, but two years ago before our daughter’s wedding, we did hire a professional exorcist – er, window cleaning service. Now when I look out through the crystal-clear glass and remember how it used to be, I know what a mess I would be without Jesus. I’m just grateful that I’m not without Him, and that He was willing to do what was necessary to make me clean, so He could shine His light through me.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, in ourselves we are powerless to clean up our own lives. Thank You that You have not left us on our own, but You have shed Your blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, that we can live the lives You want us to live – the lives we truly want. We choose to trust You to shine through us today, in Your power, in Your name. Amen

Satan’s Obstacles, or God’s “No”? Part 3: Planting Seeds

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. – I Corinthians 3:7

Having started the day of the St. Patrick’s parade with emotional misgivings and unexpected delays, annoyances, and inconveniences …

Satan’s Obstacles, or God’s “No”?

Satan’s Obstacles, or God’s “No”? Part 2: Obstacles

… my evangelizing partner Lilly and I had decided that anything short of an impossible hurdle was not a red light from God, but a distraction or obstacle from the other side. And so, not having run into any brick walls, we headed for the parade route, along with my little granddaughter Charlotte, who probably had more enthusiasm at the moment than the other two of us put together.

As we approached the first group of parade-goers, I took the lead, and Lilly remained quietly in the background – praying, I hoped.

Charlotte, however, wanted to take part, so, after I read the questions and the participants guessed at the multiple-choice answers, she announced the correct answers and their explanations. People seemed quite taken with this little lass, and they also seemed fascinated by the story of Patrick, which only the those who had attended Catholic school seemed to know anything about. When finished, I offered each group the little booklets I had made, and about half accepted, so they could quiz their families and friends.

I shared the contents of these booklets a few years ago:

Who Knew?

With each encounter, Lilly handed out bookmarks she had made. On one side was pictured a shamrock. On the stem Lilly had written the word, “LOVED,” and on the three leaves, “by the FATHER,” “by the SON,” and “by the HOLY SPIRIT.” On the back she had simply written in green, “You are loved.”

As we were received positively by every group we approached, my rebellious emotions went through a transformation. Having decided and committed to “just do it,” it was as if whatever had been holding me back had quickly given up. Charlotte’s excitement was contagious, and the general celebratory mood of the afternoon lent itself to the approach, Let’s just have fun with this!

Once the parade started to pass our block, we were reluctant to intrude on the spectators. But when there was a lull, to the point where people were wondering if the parade was over, we crossed the street to a McDonald’s to get Charlotte something to eat.

Inside, numerous teenagers were clustered around tables, engaged in animated conversations. While some might find this age group intimidating, I was drawn to them. This was the age I had taught and loved for years!

It still delights me that a group of teens – boys and girls – could be approached by a white-haired elderly woman and happily invite her into their world. I would ask, “Anybody here want to take a quiz, see what you know about St. Patrick?” Faces would light up, with cries of “Oo! I do!”

“So, you know about St. Patrick?” I asked the first table. They replied, no, they didn’t have a clue, but they couldn’t wait to take the quiz, anyway. I read the questions and the options, from the trick answers to the questionable ones, to the downright ludicrous, and hands shot up, disagreements ensued, and when Charlotte read the correct answers, there were triumphant high-fives. I felt as though I were back teaching a fun lesson to my beloved high school students. Once again, I felt like the “favorite teacher.” (I was much cooler in high school as a teacher than I ever was as a student.)

Four teenaged girls took the quiz, and when asked the final question, “Why is the shamrock the symbol of St. Patrick?” all four picked “D. According to legend, shamrocks sprang up overnight, covering Patrick’s first church in green, symbolizing life.” All four were wrong.

Man, I’m good!” I laughed. “I made that one up.”

“You did?!” they gasped, wide-eyed.

“I’m a writer,” I explained. They asked what I wrote, and when I told them I had written books – some of them novels for their age group, in fact – they wanted to know where they could get them. I gave them each one of my business cards.

This bit of serendipity had not even been on my radar.

The last group we approached was a gathering of four boys and four girls, all about sixteen. When I asked who wanted to take part in “the St. Patrick’s challenge,” most accepted, while a couple of them hung back to watch. They asked if I was filming – would this be on TikTok?! Apologetically, I said, no, I was technologically challenged. One young man slipped a phone from his pocket and looked as if he were recording it himself. (No, I don’t know if he was.)

After the usual guesses, disagreements, high-fives, and laughter, one of the students said, “You should post this on TikTok! You’d make a lot of money!”

When it became obvious that “a lot of money” didn’t phase me, another one of them asked, “Why are you doing this? Are you Irish or something?”

“No,” I said, “I’m a born-again Christian, and this is my way of sharing Jesus with other people.”

Another young man said. “Then you should put this on TikTok. You’d reach more people.”

As we headed back to the car, I thought, “Maybe next year …”

I’m sure some will ask if I saw anybody make a decision for Christ that afternoon, and the answer would be “no.” Sometimes we just plant the seeds. Or water seeds someone else has planted. Or show a bunch of young people that Christians can have fun, too. And on rare occasions, we’ll have the privilege of harvesting souls.

But planting, watering, harvesting, it’s all Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for not letting my emotions run my life. Thanks for giving me the strength to obey You even when I don’t “feel like it,” and for so often helping me to “feel like it” once the decision is made. Thank You for the rewards of obedience, whether we experience them quickly or have to wait until we get to heaven. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(P. S. Scripture tells us that as Christians we will experience ridicule, rejection, and even abuse. And yes, we should be prepared, because there will be those days. But thankfully, this was not one of them.)

Satan’s Obstacles, or God’s “No”? Part 2: Obstacles

After yesterday’s “cliff hanger,” I was persuaded to post the continuation of the story earlier than next Friday. I have been mostly consistent (O. C. D.?) about posting once a week, on Friday. But, when I’m doing a story with a lot of details, I don’t want a post to be too long, because some readers will just skip something they don’t have time to read at the moment. At the same time, making y’all wait a week for each installment might lose some of you, too. (Who stays focused on one story that long these days?) So, here’s segment 2, and the final segment just might be posted tomorrow. Or Friday. Maybe Friday I’ll have nothing. And I suspect no one will die because of it. Let me know in the comments what you think.

No weapon formed against you shall prosper … Isaiah 54:17

As I related in my last post ( https://seekingdivineperspective.com/2023/03/17/satans-obstacles-or-gods-no/ ), I was conflicted the morning it seemed I would finally make it to the St. Patrick’s Day parade for an outreach I had wanted to do for years. The age-old dilemma of discerning God’s will in the midst of conflicting circumstances reared its head, and I wound up promising the Lord that I would go, no matter how I felt or what complications arose. I prayed that if He truly didn’t want me to go, He would put an obstacle in my path that I could not get around. Otherwise, I would assume they were the enemy’s distractions, or even the Lord’s speedbumps, but not roadblocks.

It seemed someone didn’t want me going, because that morning, besides my emotional misgivings, the following “glitches” came up:

1.). My evangelism partner was lacking the enthusiasm she’d had when we had met before to pray and plan. I was to find out later that she was dealing with some chronic pain issues, and this was a bad day for her. But, God bless her, she had decided, as I had, that there are times we just obey, whether or not it’s comfortable or convenient. We had talked earlier about how the Lord had sent His disciples out two at a time, possibly so that while one was talking, the other could be praying. It looked as though I would be the talker today.

2.) I was asked by my daughter if I would take two of my grandchildren to the parade, and I agreed. When I arrived to pick them up, one of them was still barefoot, cranky, and whiny and didn’t want to go. I ended up getting said child ready and dropped off at our house to “hang out” with “Beepaw.” (So much for getting to the parade early.)

3.) Parking was predictably very difficult – but not impossible.

4.) Before getting out, I leaned over to get something off the floor. The chain holding my glasses caught on the gear shift. A small explosion followed, scattering hundreds of tiny beads all over the inside of the car.

All of these were hardly deal-breakers, just inconveniences. It occurred to me that the more obstacles were thrown my way, the more it could mean the enemy didn’t want me doing this – and the more it must be something important and worthwhile! (Aha!) My mood lifted a bit as I brushed tiny beads off my lap. I smirked, muttered under my breath, “Nice try,” stuck my glasses in my pocket, and left the mess in the car to deal with later.

I made my way toward the crowded streets, with my nearly-silent partner, who I hoped was silently praying, and my little granddaughter, who didn’t seem that interested in being silent …

Not exactly what I had originally envisioned.

But then, this wasn’t about me, was it?

Prayer: Lord, Your plans are rarely what we think they are, but I’ve learned that they are always better. Thanks for the adventure of trusting You when things look crazy and out of control. I know that You are always, always in control. Thanks for letting me come along for the ride. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Satan’s Obstacles, or God’s “No”?

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” – John 4:7

As I woke up on the much-anticipated day, I was not at all sure that what I had planned was really from God.

The “much anticipated day” was the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade. I had hoped to engage in my own kind of outreach, taking advantage of the “mission field” in the streets of Louisville – the estimated 10,000 people attending.

For years I had been trying to get a group together to mingle with the attendees, introducing them to the gospel through the testimony of the life of Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. I had prepared a 4-question, multiple-choice quiz that I would offer people, to test their knowledge of just what it was they were celebrating (besides “green beer and poor choices,” as my friend Rachel put it). I had put together colorful booklets with the quiz and the explanation of the plan of salvation, which people could keep if they’d like.

Plans had fallen through in past years. There was the year the weather had been cold, windy, and raining; the year the Covid lockdowns started the exact scheduled day of the parade; the following year, when the parade had been postponed; and at least one year where everyone who had told me they’d go with me had had “something come up” at the last minute. (No judgment.) This year I had started with a handful of people that had been whittled down to one young lady who, it appeared, was indeed committed to come with me.

But I had a sick feeling in my stomach, that feeling you get when you wonder what-the-heck you’ve gotten yourself into. Although I knew God’s opinion was the only one that mattered, I had let myself be affected by some who had opined that the approach was a bit gimmicky, comments that my explanation of the Trinity (actually, St. Patrick’s explanation) was insufficient theologically, and some unspoken messages I was sensing, whether intended or of my own imagination.

If you’ve read many of my posts, you know that I put scant confidence in the opinions of others or emotions. Emotions can lie. I have had ample experiences when the Word of God and my emotions were giving me opposite messages, and I needed to choose which one I would act on.

Then that age-old question of how to discern the will of God comes in; are these misgivings His way of telling me today is not the day to do this – or perhaps there is never a good day to do this?

Or, is this an excellent day to reach others, and is what I’m feeling an attack from the enemy of my soul, using my emotions to try to stop the plan?

I have learned that God is much more interested in my obedience than in my emotions. Besides, once I make the decision to obey, the feelings often will fall into line. But to obey His will, I needed to know what that will is. So I did the best thing to do in these situations; I prayed.

Part of the answer came in the form of familiar Scriptures, and the rest could be credited to the Holy Spirit, or what some might call logic or “common sense.”

The Scripture that came to mind was the fourth chapter of the gospel of John, which tells of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at a well. The woman was alone, coming to draw water at the hottest part of the day. The other women had already drawn and left; this one was an outcast.

Jesus began a dialogue with her by asking her for a drink of water. Over the next few verses, the conversation transitioned from talking about water to the relationship between Jews and Samaritans, to Jesus’ cryptic statement that if she knew who He was, she’d ask Him for “living water,” to the woman’s five failed marriages, to the question of whether Jesus was a prophet, to theological differences between Jews and Samaritans, to Jesus finally telling the woman outright that He was the Messiah.

Considering this story of evangelism by Jesus Himself, I came to the conclusion that one person’s “gimmick” is another person’s meeting someone where they are.

At the well, rather than going up to the woman and saying, “Hey, I’m the Messiah,” Jesus used water as a bridge her heart. I entertained the notion that it was probably OK for me to use a celebration of St. Patrick as a springboard to discuss of the gospel that he had shared with the Irish. It might not be everyone’s way of evangelizing, but since there are many different kinds of unbelievers, it could well take many kinds of believers to reach them, including quirky, retired teachers like yours truly.

Granted, the shamrock is an insufficient explanation of the Trinity, but when I had asked my critic for an alternative, we had agreed that it’s something none of us can adequately explain. Besides, far from being seminary students, many of the people at the parade might not even know God loved them! I would meet them where they were – surrounded by images of shamrocks – Patrick’s object lesson to the pagans.

Thus, I decided to ignore my misgivings for the time being and just obey the Great Commission. We have Jesus’ command to spread the gospel, and as far as I know, He never said anything about having to feel like it. I did pray that if doing this wasn’t God’s will, that He would put a roadblock in my way that I could not get around. (I’ve known Him to do that before.) Satan might introduce all kinds of inconveniences, but unless they made it impossible to go on this mission, I would assume I had the green light from the Lord, and He would help me get around any and every obstacle.

In a few hours it would all be over with.

To be continued…

Prayer: Lord, how we let our emotions dictate! Forgive us and help us to practice obedience in the small things, so when the really difficult trials come, we’re ready to obey You in the face of excruciating obstacles, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Practice Makes … Better.

So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:6,7

Last Friday high winds tore through our area, toppling large trees, which tore down power lines affecting nearly 400,000 people. We were without electricity for four days, although I was grateful we had water, some heat from a gas fireplace, and a functioning gas stove.

Thankfully, our daughter Joanna’s family did not lose power. I say, “Thankfully,” because Saturday night she was throwing a big party for my 70th birthday. That day, as she was busily cleaning the house and telling the kids to stay out of her way and not undo all her work, I sheepishly asked if I could shower there, as our water heater is electric. (I’m not a fan of cold showers.) She said, “Sure.”

Assuming I had the same instructions as my grandchildren, I tried to contain my presence to the bathroom. I say “tried,” because it didn’t quite work out that way…

Joanna has one of those versatile showerheads I love that’s on the end of a hose. I realized, though, that I should have at least glanced at it before turning on the shower, as water immediately came spewing out all over the bathroom floor. I reached for the showerhead to aim it back into the stall, at which point it popped off the holder and fell onto the tiles of the stall (The hose was, of course, just long enough to reach the floor.), where it bounced, landed in the middle of the bathroom, and separated itself from the hose. (Uh-oh…)

I was busy grabbing towels to soak up the puddle, fearing my darling daughter would start seeing water dripping from the ceiling. (That wouldn’t add to the stress, would it?) I didn’t notice until I tried to reconnect the showerhead to the hose, that said showerhead was broken.

My first instinct, as always, was to call for my husband Marty, handyman extraordinaire, to come to my rescue. My phone, however, was downstairs, where my busy daughter was preparing for my party. I didn’t want to stress her out by letting her know there was a problem until it was at least on its way to being fixed. I called (yelled) for my granddaughter and asked her to please bring me my purse. She complied immediately. (I love that kid.) I tried to text my husband but got a cheery “Text not sent. Tap to try again.” Realizing I had no cell connection, like the dignified 70-year-old, I checked to make sure no one was upstairs, then tiptoed from one room to another, wrapped in a bath towel, desperately trying to get a signal.

Marty finally got a couple of my frantic texts and realized I had a problem and needed him to come “Fix it!” I got two texts from him: “Do you need me to come over?” and, answering his own question, “Yes.”

“What Are the Chances?!”

It just so happened that my other daughter, Kelly, had come up from Tennessee for the occasion, and had already given me my birthday presents: A bottle of perfume … and a new shower head! She and Marty had already installed it, and that next morning as my hero flew to my rescue, he brough the old one with him, just in case.

All’s Well that Ends Well

The happy ending of this story is that (1.) the old showerhead was a standard size and fit perfectly, and (2.) when we came downstairs, far from being stressed out, Joanna was laughing.

It turned out she already knew something was going on. While I was tiptoeing around upstairs, stepping over toys and clothes in the kids’ rooms, trying to find a cell signal, Joanna’s husband, who knew I was (allegedly) showering, had asked her to go upstairs and get the car keys off the bathroom sink. She had tapped on the door and, not getting an answer, opened it to see water and towels on the floor with a broken showerhead in the middle of them. She had merely thought, I don’t wanna know, grabbed the keys, and gone back to work.

I look back on that series of “crises” and smile. I can see where I have grown, probably very gradually, as I have faced the unexpected events of my life, large and small. Twenty years ago, something like the shower crisis would have thrown me into a full-blown panic attack, extreme irritation (rage), and/or a bad mood affecting my attitude for the rest of what was supposed to be a very special day. As it was, besides the annoyance of not being able to reach Marty right away, I was aware even at the time that the whole thing resembled a sit-com; no one was going to die, and God was probably up to something I didn’t yet comprehend. Relieved to see Joanna laughing (far more mature than I was at her age), I felt free to laugh, too.

I enjoyed telling the crazy story to my friends at the party. It was fun seeing their expressions go from Oops, to Oh no! to OH NO! to amazement at the “coincidence,” to laughing with me at … was it “Murphy’s Law,” or “God’s got this!” ?

I am acutely aware that there are believers suffering in unimaginable ways, and as far as trials, tribulations, and persecutions, I know little or nothing. But in learning to trust the Lord in these smaller things, I truly hope I am being trained to trust Him in the bigger things later on. I should not expect to bravely die a martyr’s death someday, if I’m losing my temper at minor annoyances that come up on a daily basis.

(Baby steps.)

Prayer: Lord, we like to think our faith is strong. We trust You to sustain us through the great hardships that are ahead. Help us practice that faith in the smaller things that come up today and not be so set in our own agendas that we lose sight of You the moment something goes “wrong.” We want to trust You in those things, too! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Be Prepared. It Might Be a While.

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” – Matthew 25:13

Those of you who follow this blog are probably aware that I just turned seventy. Friends may joke about being “over the hill,” but being over the hill isn’t so bad. Consider this: When you come up over the hill, the view suddenly changes. You see things you’ve never never seen before. (“Divine perspective”?)

Seventy seemed so old when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. I remember the eve of my 40th birthday, lying awake with the sobering realization that I was getting older and there was nothing I could do to stop it! Before I knew it, it was my 50th, and I started understanding the saying, “Life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.”

Sixty came, and I was encouraged by the news that according to a recent poll, the 60’s were the happiest decade of life, followed by the 70’s as the second happiest!

And here I am.

When I was younger, this thought of the relentless passing of time frightened me, but as I’ve matured and my faith has been strengthened, I am comforted to know that I am ten years closer to heaven than I was on my 60th birthday, and way closer than I was on my 40th! This is all simple math, I know, but as I give my attitude over to the Lord, He changes fear into serenity, and a crabby old lady into a contented soul.

On days when I see the world careening toward destruction, I start thinking I don’t want to be here when the “bovine poo” (as fellow blogger “Insanity Bytes” would say) hits the fan. That cowardly attitude is totally selfish, of course. The darker it gets, the more we’re needed to be the “light of the world.” As the “salt of the earth,” we’re needed to slow down the decay of civilization long enough to share the Truth with whoever will receive it. (Matthew 5:13-16) And I plan to do that until I take my last breath.

Still, the thought that I was in the home stretch (Psalm 90:10) was exhilarating at times. It was, that is, until Greg, a young man at our church, announced that his grandmother had passed at the age of 104. My first selfish thought was, Good grief, you mean I could be here another 34 years?! Greg shared that she had been faithfully serving the Lord to the very end, turning my mind back to a recent theme of my prayers:

Finishing well.

I have witnessed people close to me and people in the public eye running with God with enviable zeal for a period of time, only to fizzle out or crash in flames. Some have publicly proclaimed that they no longer believe in Jesus, while others merely show by the way they live their lives that He’s no longer important to them. One reason I find myself wanting to “go home” soon is that I do not want to be one of those people! I don’t want my flame to burn out or be snuffed out before its time. Lord, help me to finish well!

Sunday night Greg gave the devotional message at our church, and it proved very timely for me. It was about the parable of the wise and foolish virgins (bridesmaids) waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom.

In those days the bridegroom went to prepare a home for his bride, and when it was ready, he would return for her. The bridesmaids were to greet the returning bridegroom with their lamps, lighting the way to the wedding feast.

In this parable, five of the bridesmaids were wise, and five were foolish. The bridegroom was delayed, and as they were waiting, the lamps of the foolish ones burned out. Panicked, they begged for more oil from the wise ones, who had brought extra, but were told there may not be enough for all of them. While the foolish bridesmaids were out buying more oil, the bridegroom came. And by the time they returned, the banquet had started, and they were locked out.

This parable illustrates the importance of being ready when Jesus, the Bridegroom, returns for His bride (the Church); no one knows the day or the hour.

In most messages on this topic we are admonished, “Be prepared! He may come today!” But rarely do we hear, “Be prepared! It could be a long time.”

In other words, Be ready and stay ready.

Being a Christ-follower isn’t a walk down the aisle, a baptism, and you’re all set. Jesus’s admonition to “count the cost,” as well as this parable of the wise and foolish maidens, is telling us we’re in it for the long haul. Following Him isn’t a sprint followed by coasting; there is no “coasting.” The current of this fallen world is flowing in the direction of evil. If we stop swimming against it, we won’t stand still, we will be swept away. Our relationship with Jesus should never be neglected or taken for granted. Staying connected with Him is the only thing that can get us through this life uncorrupted.

When Jesus returns, He will be met with two responses: Some will be overjoyed at His coming, but many will be appalled, ashamed, and terrified. There may be those who have served Him halfheartedly or not at all since placing their trust in Him as Savior, and it’s not up to me to judge their hearts or whether or not they’ll be locked out of heaven. But I know I don’t want to be one of them. Jesus gave everything for me, how could I give Him less than all of me?

So, whether I live the seventy years described in Scripture or I last as long as Greg’s grandmother, I want to keep the Lord’s light burning brightly in my heart every day.

I want to finish well.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my life is in Your hands, and I trust You with it, whether it’s for another day or another thirty years. Take me and use me however You desire, until I see You face to face. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Embracing the Inevitable

One of my first blog posts shared my thoughts “On Turning 65.” It’s hard to believe I am now staring down the barrel (JK) of my 70th birthday! In honor of the occasion, I have these additional thoughts and memories to share:

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life. Proverbs 16:31

My high school class had their big reunion last May. It had originally been planned as our 50th in 2021, but because of world-wide “complications” (‘nough said), it turned into our 51st.

We gals are pushing 70 by now, so it should have been no surprise that the vast majority have long given up on the hair coloring thing. As I walked into a room full of silver and white, I realized I was one of the few holdouts. By the end of the weekend, I had decided to ditch the denial and, as another famous white-haired character has sung, “LET IT GO!” I had already tried using a lighter shade each time I colored my hair, but it had only succeeded in taking it from dark brunette to a dingy, mousy brown. So, while some of my friends refer to the graying transition as a “journey,” I decided I didn’t have the time or patience for a “journey,” I’d just leap into the time machine and “git ‘er done.” I had a friend who was skilled in this kind of transformation, and couple of radical highlighting sessions later, I look more my age.

Or less like someone my age desperately trying to look 20 again. (*eye roll*) This was a huge step in my quest for “divine perspective.”

I grew up with an older sister who excelled in sports and possessed a lot more confidence than I had. Many a conversation with peers began with the question, “So, how’s your sister?” (“Fine.” And I’m fine, too, thanks for asking.)

But when I turned fourteen and was on a trip to Europe with my parents (and no sister), out of my usual environment I began to notice male heads turning and giving approving looks in my direction. I realized then that I might have a certain asset that the world values highly, although even at that age I knew it was the shallowest of qualities.

Beauty has its disadvantages, especially if one is prone to laziness. It’s easy to persuade oneself that attraction equals respect. Although I married young, I found that being “cute” could still open doors and how much men would do for a smile. As for younger men, I found it adorable when one of my students had a “crush” on the teacher, even as I pretended not to notice.

I don’t remember if I was in my 40’s or 50’s, but there came a day when I looked in the mirror and realized some things had gradually changed over time. I thought, Dang. I’m going to have to come up with a personality….

All my life I had known, deep down, that looks don’t matter to God. (“Man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart.”) I liked to think I was always kind to the less attractive, patient with the elderly, and compassionate towards the disabled. I had spent time in the hospitals and nursing homes, ministering with my music. But now the thought of actually being one of them … I was going to have to get used to this.

I had several epiphanies as I grew older. One was the classic experience shared by many moms – being out with my daughter, having the nostalgic experience of having heads turn, then realizing those smiles were directed at my beautiful daughter, not her mom.

A more encouraging epiphany was learning that I was a favorite teacher in the high school, because “she’s fun,” “she’s funny,” “she tells good stories,” and other reasons having nothing to do with “pretty.”

Probably the most edifying sign that I was changing in the right direction, was when one of my pastors quoted me in his sermon and elaborated on the (apparently) profound thing I had said. Later on in the same sermon, he alluded to something else I had said! With a thrill I realized the Lord was transforming me. While I had been someone worth looking at, now I was becoming someone worth listening to! And I know – I have always known – that this is a step up. How many times did I try as a baby Christian to “witness” to an attentive young man, and having shared the most profound truths with him, realized he hadn’t heard a word I’d said?

So, the “journey” of my first seventy years hasn’t been from one “look” to another, but from the immature embracing of the superficial and fleeting to the deeper, the eternal. I’ve known all my life that this body is going to die and decay. How much of my life has been a frantic race trying to postpone the inevitable, slowing down the process for as long as possible? But what has made my life worth something were the hours I’ve spent pursuing God – running after Him, seeking His wisdom, which the wise Solomon declared was more valuable than gold … or rubies … or some sparkly thing… You get the point.

I know the Lord promised us we would have new bodies someday – perfect bodies that would never wear out or die. The longer I live, the more I look forward to that day.

At the same time, I don’t believe there will be mirrors in heaven. Sure, if we look at one another, in our resurrected bodies, we might be dazzled by our beautiful, yet recognizable loved ones. But we won’t care what we look like. We’ll scarcely be conscious of ourselves at all.

Our focus will be on Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, we rejoice in the life You’ve given us, even as we realize its brevity. Our fragile bodies are wearing out even as we speak. And so, we thank You even more for the promise of new birth, new life, new bodies to live in as we share eternity with You, giving You all the glory. In Jesus’ name and by the power of His blood, amen.

When God Says “No” … Again Part 5: Harvest

So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers.I Corinthians 3:7-9a

My friend “C” had been experiencing what began as a nightmare that threatened to kill her faith. Falsely accused and sentenced to four months in jail, C had seen every prayer answered with a resounding “NO.” But the Lord was holding onto her through the whole ordeal, and as she clung to Him, she began to see His hand working through her in the lives of the people around her. I was privileged to have a part in the plan, as C led a small group study on prayer, using my book BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?).

In case you missed the beginning of her story, here are the first four episodes:

When God Says “No” … Again Part I: The Nightmare

When God Says “No” … Again Part 2: Eggs, Carrots, and Coffee Beans

When God Says “No” … Again Part 3: Tilling the Soil

When God Says “No” … Again Part 4: Sowing Seeds

C continued leading the small group study until her (early!) release, and happily, one of her “girls,” “D” was released soon after.

D had made a commitment Christ during her incarceration and was experiencing a brand-new life. Now drug-free, she was off the street and living with two other women, one a fellow believer. She landed a job – her best paying ever. She reconciled with her children after years of alienation. And she joined a church, which, due to a fire, was having services in a tent at the time. D faithfully came early to every service to help set up and stayed late to help take down.

And D wanted to be baptized. Since the town was located on one of the Great Lakes, it only made sense to have the late summer baptism on the beach. I was about four hours away, and there was talk of my coming for the baptism and meeting her. I thought it would be great fun to surprise D. But when it was said that as the author of BARRIERS I was somewhat “on a pedestal” in the eyes of the women in the jail, the notion raised a red flag for me. Meeting me was not what the coming event was about! Baptism is all about Jesus, period. C and I may have planted and watered, but the Lord was the One who had opened D’s heart, drawn her to Himself, and given her new life.

So, I suggested to C that maybe I could meet D sometime in the future. As I requested, C sent me pictures of the baptism, where it was easy to spot D; she was the one whose face was radiant!

I hope that someday I can go back to my old stomping ground and get together with C, my friend Kelly, who had introduced us, D, who was brought to faith through the circumstances the Lord brought about (or allowed), and maybe even C’s other friend, “R,” who has kept in touch with C and was just released at Christmastime. – Glory!

Maybe I’ll also pay a visit to the women’s section of the county jail, where there are still about a dozen copies of my guide to biblical prayer circulating. (Bible study, anyone?)

In closing, here’s a flashback that may give some encouragement to aspiring authors:

Years ago, I attended a writing and speaking conference, where part of the program was a sort of editorial “speed-dating.” Small tables were set up where writers had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with agents and editors from major publishing companies. We had fifteen minutes to make our pitch before moving on to the next publishing big shot. I had copies of my newly printed book, BARRIERS, to give to any rep who showed an interest.

As I proudly showed my “baby” to one editor, she took one look at the cover and rendered her judgment.

“We would never publish that.”

A bit taken aback, I asked why.

“The title. The cover. It’s too negative.” BARRIERS has the subtitle, “So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?” The background is a brick wall and barbed wire.

I turned the book over to show the woman the back cover design – the brick wall knocked down and Jesus’ nail-pierced hands reaching through the rubble.

“Doesn’t matter,” she informed me. “We don’t publish anything with ‘don’t,’ ‘can’t,’ or ‘won’t’ in the title.” Then she opened the book anyway and looked at the table of contents. Chapters had titles like “Barrier #3: Wrong Motives” and “Barrier #5: Wrong Priorities.” She made a sour face. “People don’t want to know what they’re doing wrong,” she said as she slid the book back across the table.

If you’re a writer, you’ve probably been there at one time or another. I was deflated.

Now I look back on that episode and smile. If I hadn’t been forced to be my own publisher, I couldn’t have sent so many (signed) books to the jail so quickly. And while it’s true that a book with a sunrise on the cover and a title like My Utmost for His Highest might be wildly successful with a much broader audience, would such a book on the book cart at a jail be snatched up by women who have hit rock bottom? I can imagine my reaction would be, That’s all I need, another book to remind me what a failure I am. But a book with a snarky title and a brick wall and barbed wire – that I could relate to! (I always told my speech students, “Consider your audience.”)

So, that’s the “divine perspective” I’ve arrived at while relating this story. The Lord not only has a plan for my writing, but He’s setting up scenarios long before they’re even on my radar.

So, whenever I’m disappointed, I just need to remind myself, God’s up to something. Just trust Him and wait.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for all you do for and through us – the times we’re exhilarated with the sense of Your moving in us, and the times we’re not at all happy with what’s happening, but You bring about good anyway. Help us to trust You always, in pleasant times and unpleasant. In Jesus’ name, amen.


When God Says “No” … Again Part 4: Sowing Seeds

[Jesus said] “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered, because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, even a hundred times.” – Mark 4:3-8

After two tries, I had finally got copies of my book, BARRIERS (So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?), to my friend “C” and her cellmates. A “mix-up” with the first shipment had resulted in several other copies circulating through the jail.

If you missed the beginning of this saga, here are the links to catch you up:

When God Says “No” … Again Part I: The Nightmare

When God Says “No” … Again Part 2: Eggs, Carrots, and Coffee Beans

When God Says “No” … Again Part 3: Tilling the Soil

It was evident from her letters that C’s faith was making a comeback. Instead of continuing to ask why God had abandoned her, she was now focused on others. She was even looking at what appeared to be setbacks as “God’s-got-a-better-idea” scenarios, trusting that He was in control and can be trusted. She wrote in one letter:

Girls began taking [the books] to “plant” them on other people to get them in trouble, so I figure maybe they will read them. Maybe they need them more right now.

Instead of being frustrated at the mix-up with the books and the delay for her and her friends, C was reasoning that the questionable motives of the women who had snatched the books up weren’t anything God couldn’t work around. While inmates were trying to get their rivals caught with too many books in their possession, who would have stopped to consider that God could pick which books and use them for His purpose?

I continued to write to C, including questions from the BARRIERS study guide to use in her discussions with the others in her pod. However, things didn’t go exactly as I had envisioned, as C’s third letter told me.

We had a few of our girls moved out of our unit and new women moved in. They are NOT interested in learning or studying God’s Word. One actually keeps calling me and one other girl “Bible Thumpers.” She needs extra prayer. 🙂 (She also kills cats for a passtime, so maybe a lot of extra prayer.“)

I honestly was disappointed that some of the original “girls” who had wanted to study prayer had been moved out. I confess I saw that as a setback, but I was encouraged to see that C’s response to it was, Just pray more.

That same letter closed with something else that encouraged me, both as an author and someone who had been praying for the situation from the beginning.

Thank you for being there for me as well as the rest of the women in our unit and pod. We are really enjoying your book and have heard others who are reading it on their own tell me that they really enjoyed it as well and it helped to put things in perspective.”

“Perspective”! – YYYESSSS!!! Divine perspective!

Maybe the women who had “planted” the books had been planting more than they realized! And maybe the interested ones who had been moved out of C’s pod were reading it on their own and sharing some of the content and related Scriptures with others. (I smile as I envision seeds of God’s Word, being carried on the wind of the Holy Spirit to “whosoever.”)

I continued writing C and enclosing study questions, which she was using to teach anyone within reach and interested.

C’s next letter had more encouraging news! (Ironic, isn’t it, that I was at our beautiful family summer home by the lake, receiving encouragement from a woman falsely accused and jailed for the summer!)

One of my fellow “podmates” has really gone so far these last few weeks. Her excitement over everything she reads has helped me to be excited again. I want to be just as excited as the first time I read it. (I hope you understand where I’m coming from with that.)

Yes, C, I do. There’s something uniquely inspiring about a “baby believer” discovering the grace of God, the power of prayer, the victory of light over darkness – the Abundant Life! – for the first time.

Now on to my little secret … 🙂

I’m going home! After I served 70% of my time I could apply for a timecut. My lawyer said I had a 5-10% chance of getting it but I got it! So instead of going home August 22 I am going home July 28! My mom, 1 sister, and [“T”] are the only ones who know so shh… 🙂 Praise God!

I scrambled to send C one last batch of study questions for whatever lessons she had time to share. I felt so honored to be in on her “little secret,” which, of course, was huge for her. I also chuckled, thinking that, whatever the enemy had planned to do to C through all this, it had clearly backfired, and he was canceling the mission!

Prayer: Lord, whatever the enemy of our souls has planned, You always have a better plan that trumps his. Knowing this, how could we ever get discouraged? But we do, and yet You are patient with us and delight to draw us back to faith as we watch Your plans unfold and marvel at Your grace. Thanks for what You did last summer in that jail. May the ripples there continue, as You reach out for the lost through faithful people like C. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(Next Week, the final chapter: Part 5 – The Harvest and Perspective)

When God Says “No” … Again Part 3: Tilling the Soil

For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you, and you will be cultivated and sown. – Ezekiel 36:9

“C,” a young Christian mom, had been falsely accused of child abuse and sentenced to four months in the county jail. Although her plea of “No contest” was made to avoid a trial by jury, that would have risked up to 25 YEARS in prison, still four months away from her husband and very young children was a miserable way to spend a summer in Michigan, when other families were enjoying the beaches, parks, and pools.

If you missed the beginning of this story, here are the links to get caught up, if desired:

When God Says “No” … Again Part I: The Nightmare

When God Says “No” … Again Part 2: Eggs, Carrots, and Coffee Beans

When I received a response to the letter I had written C, it was obvious that she was struggling with her faith because of all the unanswered prayers. (Or rather, the “no” answers to everything we had all asked for.) Since the overwhelming emotion was that of having been abandoned by God, I offered to send her a copy of my book BARRIERS, with the subtitle “(So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?).” C accepted the offer and added that a few of the women in her pod (cell of eight people) were also interested.

I went to the jail website to read the rules for sending books. I learned that they couldn’t be hardbound (My books were all paperbacks, so no problem there.) and that they had to come directly from the publisher. I called and talked to the woman in charge, telling her that I was the publisher, and asking permission to send a book, or maybe a few books to the jail. I was told that I could.

Meanwhile, C’s husband, “T,” who was allowed frequent “face time” with her, got the names of the interested “girls” in C’s pod. I made one more phone call to the woman in charge and asked if I could sign the books, and she said that I could. I prayerfully wrote a little note to each lady and shipped seven books the next day.

The following Monday I got a text from T, saying he had “good news and bad news.”

I thought, Uh-oh, now what?

The good news was, the books had arrived. The “bad news” was that the woman I had talked to had been off that day, and her replacement had opened the box and put the books onto the book cart for the general population. All but two had been snatched up by other inmates.

(As an author not used to having my books “snatched up,” this did not seem like 100% “bad news” to me…)

I promptly sent another five books, and T gave C the heads-up so she and her friends could watch for the books and grab them. I also wrote her another letter that included the questions for the first few chapters from the BARRIERS study guide.

The next letter I received from C showed her being lifted from the initial feelings of total despair. Her focus had shifted from the misery of her situation and more toward others around her, as she could see she was beginning to have an influence on other inmates.

At first, the other women had made fun of her lack of “street smarts” (She knew nothing about the world of illegal drugs.). They had started calling her “Mom,” since she would occasionally reprimand them for being rude or behaving inappropriately. At first the nickname was a way to mock the newbie, but as they got to know her, it became more a term of endearment and even respect.

As for me, I had my own nickname for her: “God’s little coffee bean.”

And now C was about to start a Bible study on prayer, and why God sometimes doesn’t answer us the way we would like Him to.


Prayer: Lord, Your ways are not our ways. Thank You for the times You push us out of our comfort zones to accomplish things we never imagined. Help us to trust You in those times and know that if things aren’t happening the way we’d like, it is likely that You’re up to something, and that “something” is always good, because YOU are always good. In Jesus’ name, Amen,


I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. – Psalm 9:1

As some of you know, I recently recorded my novel, Counselor – my first audiobook!

Another “First” from 2022 – Expanding My Reach

Today I got word that Counselor is now available on Amazon, Audible, and will be on iTunes within the next few days. If you are an audiobook “reader,” or if you know someone who is, especially someone who is a “young adult” – or used to be one (I’ve been told the college setting makes older readers nostalgic.) – please consider Counselor for your next listen.

Counselor is a love story and a mystery, with a touch of supernatural. Someone has compared it to the first book in the Twilight series, only instead of twilight fading into darkness, this story is more predawn light growing into daybreak…

Prayer: Lord, thank You for another milestone in my life. Please use this audiobook to introduce more people to You. May they fall in love with You, as I have. In Jesus’ name, Amen.