A Satisfying & Fitting Conclusion

An avid lover of books, I adore a satisfying, tightly woven conclusion. I close the book (or turn off the kindle), and just sit there enjoying my reverie. It’s the place where contentment and longing somehow dwell harmoniously. It’s wishing there were more adventures with a beloved friend. But if the author is worth his salt, it’s also knowing there couldn’t possibly be a more fitting ending.

Speaking of conclusions, it’s not unusual for me to open a new book and immediately flip to the end. Before anything else, I read the final paragraph. I suppose it’s a quirky little habit. But I love it. The last paragraph of a novel provides the perfect teaser; I can’t wait to know why the masked man leaves a rose on the bedside table. Just kidding, romance novels are not my preferred genre.

But seriously, the last few sentences make me want to know how all the pieces fit. Excitement builds. I’m about to get lost in an undiscovered tale. Enthusiastically, I return to the beginning ready to devour word upon word, page upon page.

Finally I come to the conclusion again. Sigh.

Now, I would submit to you that I have come across the world’s best conclusion. I know that’s a crazy claim, but I’m firmly convinced that out of all the satisfying conclusions in all the world’s books, there is one that surpasses them all.

Are you ready? Holy smokes. I’m so excited!

Now there are many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

John 21:25

Drop the mic.

Could there be a more fitting conclusion? The implications are staggering. Jesus is more than mortal tongue can express. If all scholars, through all of time, made Him the subject of their lives’ work, they still wouldn’t exhaust the reality of who He is.

The true Jesus is so much bigger than my truncated version of Him. I try to put Him in a neat little box. But He doesn’t fit. He is more than I fully understand, utterly inexhaustible. Therefore, If Jesus is so marvelous that the world cannot contain all the truth about Him, then is He not also far bigger in my life? And in your life?

Is He not able to do exceeding abundantly above all that I can ask or think? (Ephesians 3:20)

Is He not more intimately acquainted with every detail than I can possibly fathom? (Hebrews 4:15-16)

Is this Jesus not able to be trusted?

Likewise, this perfect conclusion to John’s book emphasizes the sheer magnitude of all Jesus accomplished. Salvation is more radical than we know; redemption had a greater cost. His incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension- in short, these words make up the gospel. And it is vaster, broader in its scope than we dare to comprehend.

Now imagine you’ve never read the book of John. What a conclusion! That’s an understatement, I think. Don’t you desperately need to see what came before?

Spoiler alert: among other things, He made the blind to see, He made the lame to walk, He raised the dead, He lived perfectly, He died, and He rose again. He took a penalty His bride could never have paid for herself. He reconciled. He justified.

Jesus is beautiful in His infinitude, yet also close at hand. He is near. Though we don’t understand all, God’s given us enough to know the only way to salvation and the end of the  grand narrative. (John 14:6; Revelation 22: 12-21).

We can know Jesus.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.(John 20:30-31)

In John’s perfect conclusion, contentment and longing mingle together in unblemished harmony. Jesus satisfies, and knowing that satisfaction, I long for Him more.

Well, I suppose in a post about conclusions, I should probably up with a good one.

I’ve got nothing.

So, its best to say with John, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus!”  (Revelation 22:20)

Talk about satisfying and fitting.

This post by Ami appeared first at aNew Season Ministries


Love the Unlovely?

I’m just so stinkin’ excited to share this post by my mother-in-law! It’s easy to love the lovely, but what about the unlovely?

I’m so glad she did.


unlovelyBy guest blogger, Jill Neff

Love, the word rolls smoothly off our tongue. We love God, our families, coffee, and chocolate chip cookies. But how does my heart respond when God asks me to love someone unlovely? Our “pretty package” was named Jonathan, a rebellious teen from the youth group at the church my husband pastored. Motherless at fourteen, cancer would soon make him fatherless at eighteen. And God was about to reveal a plan that was a far cry from what we ever imagined. Jim said, “He’s my only child, will you take care of him, give him a home, and see him through college?”

Well that doesn’t seem too hard – food, a warm bed, and some occasional laundry.  But God said, “Will you love him, this unlovely one? And point him to me?” Now that journey was not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

Jonathan embraced his new family with gusto; he called us dad and mom, was over the moon about his new siblings, and had more energy than any 5-year-old I knew.  But he charged through life with intellectual knowledge of Christ, and no real relationship with Him, so we butted heads often.  There were tears, disappointments, hurts, and anger, and many prayers!

How he drove me to my knees over and over, seeking wisdom and strength for this journey.  I didn’t completely understand God’s plan, but I did understand what God wanted me to do, love this boy who had lost his real family, love him when he lied, love him when he disappointed, love him when he hurt me.  So love him I did, with every fiber of my being, like a mother would love him!

Baby steps forward, big steps back; it seemed at times like this “pretty package” was just too big a challenge!  Finally there was the most important victory. Jonathan yielded his life and put his faith and trust in Christ.  Oh things didn’t change overnight, but gradually the steps forward got bigger, and the steps backward got smaller as God’s word penetrated his heart.

We saw him grow in Christ, be called to preach, and marry, Ami, the love of his life. And my mother’s heart rejoiced.  On January 25, 2013, God called him home, ahead of the planned surgery to replace the faulty valve in his heart.

And my mother’s heart shattered into a million tiny pieces. “Wait, God, this wasn’t the plan!  This is not what I expected!”  My heart mourned, and God held me close and simply whispered, “You let me love him through you, and that was my plan all along!”

People ask me if I would do this again, knowing the struggles, disappointments, and hurts.  My honest human answer is maybe not!  Here’s the interesting part, however. God didn’t just change Jonathan, He changed me. The love of God is unconditional, full of grace and flowing from His heart “even while we were yet sinners.” (Romans 5:8).  He is looking for a surrendered and obedient heart that He can work through. Because that’s His plan, to use His children to love those around us, those who need to know the love of God as more than just a fuzzy idea they once heard somewhere, to love those who need to know the love of God in salvation!

Perhaps there is someone that God has placed in your path, someone in your sphere of influence, someone who is not very lovely, but someone who needs God to love them through you.  My journey with Jonathan is complete, but maybe your journey is just beginning. Who does God want to love through you? “One more child, He said, for this family of three. One more child, He said, point him to me.”  Would I do this again….in a heartbeat!

Father, help my heart to be in tune with your heart. I surrender my heart and ask you to love the unlovely through me.  Bring those across my path that need to know you and help me share God’s love and the glorious message of the gospel. 

This post appeared first at anewseason.net

And you will find rest for your souls.

hustleMy fingers and toes were ice, but my face was flushed and hot. Wrapped in a blanket, wearing several layers, including socks and slippers, I could not get warm. The tell tale signs were like stealth fighters. spies on a covert mission. Try as I might to thwart them, I merely slowed their progress. The tactic changed. It was a full-on frontal assault, a barrage of symptoms wreaking havoc with my immune system.

Chills. Aches. Fever. Runny nose. Sneezing. Headache. Maybe the flu. Sick. Bleh.

I hate being sick. I especially hate it now that I’m a widow. Going to the store to get my own OJ and chicken noodle is no fun when my head feels twice its normal size. Being sick feels worse alone.

My first reaction is typically denial. “I’m not getting sick. I’m just tired. I have too much to do. Can’t get sick. I don’t feel well just because I think I don’t feel well. It’s all psychological.

Finally I give in and accept reality. “Ugh. I feel awful.”

To the couch I go, knowing rest is a primary need. I admit, initially it’s wonderful to alternate sleep with a movie marathon. Sometimes slowing down is a beautiful thing

Read the rest of the story here at Intentional By Grace.

do better

Waiting? An agent of transformation

wait patientlyWait. It is the theme God emphatically presses on my heart these days. I’m at a place of unknowns, obstacles, and blocked paths. There’s nothing I can do. My hands are tied, and I feel like this has been the trend for a long time.

And God says, “Wait.”

Now, I admit that I don’t always wait well. For some folks, taking a step into the unknown is challenging, but for me it’s when I can’t take a step forward that makes me crazy. I’d much rather be able to step boldly into God’s plans, than be stuck on pause. I’d rather be able to take risks, than be stopped in my tracks.

Because I can’t see what God is doing, sometimes fear of the future creeps in. When wait is the theme, sometimes I gravitate to worry and anxiety.

Yet God says, “I’m doing more than you understand.”

Sometimes waiting seems purposeless. I’m not always sure what I’m supposed to learn. I guess I want to distill the lesson to a succinct sentence and move on. But perhaps that’s the point. Sanctification takes time; transformation isn’t always instantaneous.

Wait a sec, let me define our terms. When I believed on Christ for salvation, I was justified. I was declared innocent by His blood. I was saved. Think of it this way, justified means, “God sees me just as if I’ve never sinned, just as if I’ve always obeyed.”

Sanctification, on the other hand, is the aspect of the gospel in which God is transforming me to be what He already declared. I am being saved. It is lifelong. God initiated it, He’s passionately committed to it, and He will complete it. (Philippians 1:6, I Thessalonians 5:23) Sanctification is also corporate; God is sanctifying His church, creating a people for Himself.

Then there’s glorification. I will be never ending new. One day, I’ll be removed from even the presence of sin, perfected, with Christ forever. I will be saved.

So, for the girl who hates to wait, wouldn’t it be nice to skip over sanctification completely? I mean, let’s get straight to glorification, baby!

However, I know God’s thoughts are so much higher than mine, His ways past understanding. (Isaiah 55:8-9) I know I want to be more like Christ. I want to be set apart for HIm. I want to be the stone with all its rough edges smoothed away by the tumbling of the sea. I want to say with Charles Spurgeon, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”

Sanctification, then, is a necessary and beautiful thing. God is committed to my holiness because He’s committed to drawing me closer to Himself. Keeping this perspective teaches me to embrace the waiting, and reminds me that waiting teaches me to trust, to rest, to relinquish control of my faulty plans, and to surrender my desires to Him.

I’ll admit, perspective doesn’t alway make it easier. I often fail. Yet because Jesus fully surrendered to the will of His Father, set aside His own glory for a time, and waited perfectly for it to be restored to Him, I can wait. The gospel of Jesus empowers me to do what He commands me to do.

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.” Psalm 37:7 ESV

Therefore, when waiting is the pervasive theme, I’m learning to praise God for it. I recall that waiting is one agent of transformation.

“Praise the Lord, I tell myself, and never forget the good things He does for me.” Psalm 103:2 NLT

While I’m waiting, I remember the realities of Psalm 103:3-5

  • He forgives iniquity.
  • He heals all my diseases; Jesus took my spiritual leprosy, saving me from the all consuming nature of sin.
  • He redeemed me from the pit.
  • He removed my blindness and made my ears to hear.
  • He took away my paralysis.
  • He lifted the weight of sin that crushed me.
  • He raised me from death to life.
  • He crowns me with steadfast love and mercy.
  • He satisfies me with good.

If God has done all this, then surely He is working through the waiting.

And God says, “I’m doing much more than you understand.”

kiss the wave

This post appeared first at aNew Season Ministries

Anticipating Tomorrow. Looking toward 2015

The countdown began. The ball descended slowly, inching to its destination. 3-2-1! Happy New Year! The room filled with streamers, noise makers, and lingering kisses. He wrapped me in a giant hug, eyes dancing, grinning broadly. When he smiled, his whole face smiled. And of course, he kissed me with gusto. Goodbye, 2012. Hello, 2013!

The trip to the emergency room several days earlier already seemed a fading dream. I stole a tender glance at my husband. Thoroughly alive, passionate, vivacious, charismatic, and definitely goofy; these embodied him. Sure, there’d be valve replacement surgery in the near future, but medication would manage the problem till then. Jon would recover, and we’d go on living, dreaming, and pursuing Christ, worshiping Him together. We expected the trial, but we were ready. God had always taken care of us. He’d see us through this one as well.

But our hearts were light, hopeful, looking toward the new year with anticipation. We’d recently moved to a new home. Jon had started a new job. And we hoped this year God would bring a child.

New Year’s Day I awoke thinking about fresh starts and new beginnings.

“Lord, You’ve brought us so far this year! 2o12 was a year of abundance. I’m so thankful.  Father, in the coming year, consume our hearts with You. More than anything we want You to be magnified. Would You use us for the sake of Your kingdom, Your gospel? We’re hopeful, Lord. We’re excited.”

Fresh Starts. New Beginnings. Hope.

In the middle of the night, less than a month after we greeted the new year with gladness, I lay in a tight ball, clutching my husband’s wedding ring. How does one describe that first horrific night? Shock. Numbness. Nausea. I think there are no adequate words. A single thought repeated endlessly, “Jon died. My husband is dead.” My brain could not process reality.

Hope? Excitement for the future? What future? It died with him.

Or so it seemed.

Almost two years later, at the dawn of 2015, again I look toward the coming year with hope and anticipation.

“But how could that possibly be? You were utterly crushed, your dreams wrenched away, ripped apart like a doll house in a hurricane.”

Yes, that’s true. But remember what I prayed that New Year’s Day. “Consume our hearts with You. More than anything we want You to be magnified.” He has done it. Through tragedy, God was there, meeting me with grace upon grace. Gradually I remembered that I had not also died, and I recalled the One who promises a “future and a hope.”(Jeremiah 29:11)

It was the death of my beloved that caused me to be captivated with Christ. I’m mesmerized by Him, utterly fascinated with Him, and long for eternity with Him. And in this place, there is profound, penetrating, soul satisfaction that this world cannot hope to provide.

It’s an anticipation of things to come, the not yet. I’m looking toward a day when the church will be perfectly united, glorified in heart and mind, rejoicing forevermore, face to face with the One who redeemed it! I wouldn’t have chosen God’s answer, but He faithfully heard the cry of my heart. “Teach us to know You. Lord, be magnified through us.”

With the apostle Paul I’m learning to say, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:8 ESV).

Yet I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the second prayer. “Would You use us for the sake of Your kingdom?” If you had known my husband, you’d know this prayer was his heartbeat, even more so than mine. And, oh, how God has granted that desire, multiplying the fruit! Confidently I see God using Jon’s life and death to strengthen marriages, to call a man to preach, to save the life of another heart patient—literally, to push me to things I never would have tried. Through writing, I get to proclaim to thousands that Jesus is hope, that He is life, and that He alone makes reconciliation between God and man!

These are merely glimpses. I know there’s exponentially more than I understand. So, I kneel in awe and humility. For God does not need me or my husband. I cannot add to His sufficiency. When I ask that God be magnified, it’s a prayer that men would ascribe the honor to Him that He already has. T

hrough Christ there are always fresh starts and new beginnings. And He satisfies. How then, could I not face tomorrow with gladness?

This post appeared first at aNew Season Ministries

Where else will I go?

eternal lifeA sad, sad day is about to happen in the town where I live. A tragic day is imminent. Over and over I’ve heard, “Where will I go now? What will I do?”

Sitting peacefully in a certain bookstore’s cafe, sipping my latte, writing in my favorite cozy spot, I so relate to the dismay expressed in voice after voice.

“You’re closing? Oh no!”

Alas, tis true. There will be no more new-book smell. No more comfy chairs, in which one is encouraged to read for hours. No more leather bound journals, of which I admit to be somewhat of a snob. I always ruin cheaper journals long before I’m finished filling the pages, but I digress.

Perhaps it’s the beginning of the end of the great American bookstore. Well, at least in my town it is. Where will I go to write? Starbucks is generally too noisy– my home, generally too quiet.

How will I ever know the new releases? Where will I get to indulge my love of children’s literature, sitting blissfully on a tiny bench entranced by a clever tale?

There is no lasting security to be found here. Yes, a sad sad day indeed. I feel the void already.

Where else will I go?

Even as I mull this thought, I’m reminded of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples and of the eternal ramifications of such a question.

“After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66-69

Merely hours earlier Jesus had fed a multitude with only a handful of bread and fish. But He went on to name Himself the Bread of Life. He was the bread that would cause mankind to never hunger again. He said He was the bread that would forever nourish the soul. He was the One who satisfies the hunger to know God.

Many did not understand his message that day, and so left him, their minds preoccupied by bellies full of bread and fish. Less than a dozen truly understood.

Physical bread wouldn’t last. To have a full belly was a momentary thing, nourishment that constantly needed to be replaced. Likewise, my peaceful spot at my favorite bookstore is clearly fleeting, temporal. Indeed it will not last. The millions of words in thousands of books will one day fade away. But Jesus gives the words of eternal life. He gives deep, perfect, soul-satisfying nourishment.

Unwittingly, the customers pose an eternal question, “Where else will I go?”

It’s a question so much bigger than cozy reading spots and leather bound journals. It’s a question much bigger than bread and fish.

The disciples knew there was no where else. There was no one else. They heard, believed, and knew that Jesus was the Holy One of God. They knew He alone could satisfy a void much bigger than that left by an empty bookstore.

My friends, perhaps you wrestle with this eternal question also. There is but one answer- Jesus, the One true Savior. He holds the words of eternal life.

When all else is transitory, He gives what is permanent. Life. Eternal life.

Lord, teach us that you satisfy. You alone can meet our deepest needs. You alone fill the hungry soul. Help us know this experientially. Remind us that you alone are unchanging when all else is fleeting. Where else could we go Lord? No where. For you alone have the words of eternal life.

This post by Ami, appeared first at A New Season Ministries

He met destruction so I wouldn’t have to.

I sat on the edge of the pool, carefully heeding the instructions, “Do not get in the water without your teacher.”

Without warning, I tumbled headfirst into the deep end. Unable to swim, I flailed, completely immersed, panicking with no ability to bring myself to the top. I could feel water searching for a way into my lungs.

In an instant, strong arms encircled me and drew me up to safety. Coughing, sputtering, and crying, I clung to the one that held me. I was afraid, but I was safe. I was five, and I vividly recall wanting no further part in swimming lessons that day. I also clearly recollect the boy who pushed me in, but I’ll not throw his name under the bus.

Lifeguards are magnificent people.

It’s realistic that I could have drowned that day were it not for someone who was my help and my deliverer. But of course, I tell you this story to point to a greater Help, a perfect Deliverer.

Psalm 40 begins “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

In the moment where I thought I was drowning physically, I can emphatically tell you that I was not waiting patiently.

Yet here the psalmist describes a time when he cried out to God, waiting patiently for Him. In his spiritual distress, he was given grace to wait. He waited, and he cried out–so simple, yet so difficult sometimes.

But God in response did so much more.

He inclined to me
He heard my cry
He drew me up from the pit of destruction.
He set my feet upon a rock.
He made my steps secure
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise.

God was the one who could save. He was the deliverer. He was the one who acted. In the immediate context, David reminds us that God hears our prayers and responds.

His response may not be in our timing, nor in the way we think he will act, but he does hear. He does draw our fearful, anxious hearts from the miry bog.

As a result, “Many will see and hear and put their trust in the Lord.” When I recall how I’ve received mercy, when others see God’s strong arms, together we praise Him! We sing, we shout to the God of our salvation!

These are lovely, comforting thoughts. But there are far more radical implications to be gleaned. First, Jesus drew me up from the pit of destruction. He set me on a ROCK, which is himself. Through his death, burial and resurrection he made my steps secure.

“You have multiplied O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you!” (Psalm 40:5) How my soul magnifies the ROCK of my salvation!

Praise God for salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

But secondly, we can view this psalm as if Jesus was the one who prayed it! Take a moment and let that sink in.

I know this is true because Hebrews 10:5-7 quotes Psalm 40:6-7 as the words of Christ. “Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. Then I said, “Behold, I have come.”

Jesus came as the humble, obedient servant. God became the sacrifice.

jesus destroyedThink of it this way, Jesus knew destruction. The cross was the miry bog. He faced death to save those his Father loved. Furthermore, verses 12-17 foreshadow the garden of Gethsemane. “For evils have encompassed me beyond number… Be pleased O Lord to deliver me! O Lord make haste to help me!”

But there in the garden, Jesus said perhaps some of the most extravagant words ever spoken. “Nevertheless, not my will but yours.”

The priest became the sacrifice. The perfect one was cursed, so we could be blessed. He took destruction so we could be whole. He went down in the miry bog of death, but he was raised again to life! Now from his place on the rock Jesus reigns as risen King!

And that my friends, is the wonder and majesty here. It is not “Wait patiently like David.”

Rather, the immense beauty of Psalm 40 is that we have a Savior who prayed it perfectly. We have a Savior who lived it perfectly. Therefore, we have grace when we are weak.

So my soul sings, “Great is the Lord!”

Father, thank you that Jesus faced destruction in my place. He bore the wrath that I deserved. Thank you for Jesus, the true Savior, the rock who made my soul secure. Thank you for Jesus who also rescues me when daily struggles threaten to drown me. When I think of all Christ has done, I can’t help but praise you! I can’t help but want to serve you always!

This post by Ami appeared first at anewseason.net


It’s heaven because Jesus is there.

love for ChristThe other day I came across a sentence written in the margin of my Bible.

“Behold the glory of Jesus!”

It was dated January 27, 2013.

I stopped in my tracks, stunned. I had no recollection that I wrote it, but there it was in my handwriting.

The date was merely two days after the death of my husband. No wonder I don’t remember the words! But the day itself is extremely vivid.

It was the first worship gathering after Jon died. Though I was still in shock, I was compelled to be with the church. Grief crushed me like a freight train, but I had to go. God’s  grace was tangible. The Holy Spirit’s presence was so powerful, almost physical.

I was surrounded by so many who loved me. That day I knew my church was family. Every person wanted to bear the weight of sorrow with me. Tears flowed freely. No one seemed to want to leave. My husband was also deeply loved.

I scanned down the page of my Bible, trying to recall the sermon. I don’t remember it, but somehow, “behold the glory of Jesus” broke through the fog.

As I read the passage my pastor must have preached, I landed on some tough stuff.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)

And then I remembered. When I heard those words two days after my greatest fear became reality, I thought “Yes, my heart is heaven. My treasure is there because that’s where Jon is.”

Somehow I think “behold the glory of Jesus” was the response I wanted to have.

But at two days, my most cognizant thoughts were “I just want him back, or God, you could just take me there too? Please.” I longed for heaven because Jon was there.

Over time, I’ve pondered “treasure” often. To treasure something is to value it highly. An ultimate treasure is what we value most highly, that which takes precedence over all. It’s the thing that captures our attention and holds sway over our emotions.

I’ve reached some difficult conclusions. Jon cannot be my ultimate treasure, but Jesus must be. 

I’m reminded of another passage.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73: 25-26)

What? Does your jaw drop to the floor like mine did? I’ve read this verse so many times, but now it carries radically new significance.

I do have someone in heaven. The man with whom I wanted to grow old, the man I adored is there.

And you’re telling me that the psalmist said he had only God?


Well surely Asaph, the Psalm singer, must have experienced the death of a loved one?

Probably, but he made a definitive point that God was the satisfier of his soul. No one else he loved could compare.

God was the captor of his primary affection, his ultimate treasure. Like the Psalmist, I am learning that Jesus is the best thing.

It’s tempting to remember my husband through only rose-colored memories. He was wonderful, but he was also fallible. He loved me, but he also failed me, as I did him. Yet Jesus never fails.

Now let me clarify, to treasure Christ above all does not mean I love Jon any less. But it does mean I want my love for God to be so exponential, that love for Jon seems paltry in comparison.

That’s hard thing to hear. I know. It’s a hard thing to write.

A song I love called “Bare White Walls,” beautifully expresses truth.

“Whom have I in heaven but you? There is nobody. There is nobody. If heaven’s just a room with bare white walls and you and me, that’s all I’ll ever need.

My kids, my wife (insert husband here), my job, my car, my friends, my health, my heart, they fail me. But you don’t fail me. Whom have I in heaven but you? There is nobody.

When I compare your glory with these present pleasantries, they don’t matter. And when I compare your glory with these present sufferings, they don’t matter.”

I’ve found that the more I know God, the more I treasure Him. The more I dwell on the realities of the death and resurrection of Christ, the more I am mesmerized by Him. I have learned what it is to long for Jesus.

When I was crushed by a freight train, when I longed to go where Jon was, even then my soul grasped for truth. My emotions screamed the opposite, but the Holy Spirit broke through the fog.

“Behold the glory of Jesus!”

Heaven isn’t heaven because Jon is there. It’s heaven because Jesus is there.

This post by Ami appeared first at aNew Season Ministries.
“Bare White Walls”, copyright Temples from the album Against the Grain

Reclaiming #Blessed

HgZuGu3gSD6db21T3lxm_San-ZenoneBlessed. It’s a word that often makes my skin crawl.

“I’m so blessed.” I cringe at the statement, hoping no one else can see the involuntary shudder.

Blessed is a perfectly biblical word, so what’s the big deal? Aren’t you being cynical? Surely, you’re just bitter because others have what you want.

Yes, sometimes it’s hard to rejoice, but there’s no cynicism here.

I cringe because “blessed” seems to be merely a trend, a cliche, another word hijacked of its rich meaning.


“We just closed on our new house. #blessed”
“What a beautiful baby! #blessed”
“Praise God! My husband got a big promotion. #blessed”
“My awesome hubby just gave me the most gorgeous just because flowers. #blessed.”

Yes, blessed indeed.

“I just got diagnosed with cancer. #blessed”
“I’m so lonely I could scream. #blessed”
“We lost it all in an instant. #blessed”
“My husband died. #blessed”

Blessed? In these circumstances? I can see your mind reeling…

You’ll want to read the rest. Check out the full post at Intentional By Grace

Join me. #ReclaimBlessed

God gives bread, not stones.

change definitionShe stood in worship overcome with emotion, seeing her dreams played out in the lives of others. Not just any dreams, they were the ones closest to her heart–the dreams. But the joy she had for her friends was real. Her excitement wasn’t false.

Still it hurt. Sometimes joy and sorrow mingled in a dance between emotion and choice. Sometimes it was hard to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” Sometimes the woman wondered when people would rejoice with her instead of weep.

“Why does it feel like I’m the only one with unfulfilled dreams? Why does everyone else receive good gifts?” The thought came unbidden. She’d placed her dreams at Jesus’ feet over and over, and knew it was the best place for them.

“Lord take my plans. They’re yours. Do with them what you will. I want you more than these. Your dreams for me are better.”

She meant it. The surrender was real. But it wasn’t a one-time, magical act, for so quickly did her grubby, little hand reach down and take them back. She wrestled with her emotions, and remembered that sometimes, one must choose to rejoice.

A song played softly in the background.

“All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.

All to Jesus I surrender; humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken; take me, Jesus, take me now.”

Did anyone else recognize the gravity of those words? Did she even believe them? Did she know that Jesus was enough when someone else received the gift she longed for?

Tenderly, she responded. “Yes Lord, this is true. You are enough. Again, I open my hands to you. Again I place my dreams before you.”

Later she weighed the thought she’d had, “Why does it feel like I’m the only one with unfulfilled dreams?”

“Open your eyes. Look up. Lift up your head and observe.”

Another month came and went. Another month a friend faced the disappointment of childlessness. 

Someone’s father battled cancer. 

Others longed for the intimacy of marriage. 

Another lost a job. 

A pastor and his wife bled for their church.

A woman wept quietly, grieving the child she wouldn’t get to hold. Miscarriages are often lonely things.

A marriage crumbled; a husband unfaithful.

And so the woman understood that longing and unfulfilled dreams were all around her. Her thinking was faulty, her perspective distorted. She wasn’t the only one who thought bread was really stone.

“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread will he give a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7)

When a son needs eggs and fish, will his father give him serpents and scorpions? (Luke 11)

No good father would do such a thing.

She chose to plant her mind firmly in truth. She took an active stance, and talked to herself rather than merely listened. And this is what she said.

God is good and does good. He does not give stones to His children.

She said it again. He does not give stones to His children!

Therefore, unfulfilled dreams and unmet expectations are bread. As a refiner’s fire creates purified, costly silver, so do unfulfilled dreams accomplish God’s purpose– that His children be conformed to the image of His Son. (Romans 8)

She needed Jesus to change her definition of what is good, of what is bread.

If God went so far to give the Bread of Life, His own Son, will He not always give bread to those He loves and calls His own? If earthly fathers give good gifts to their children, how much more does a perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise Father give good gifts?

So, she rejoiced with those who rejoice. She thanked Her Father for good gifts. She thanked Him for unmet expectations and unfulfilled dreams. She thanked Him for bread that makes her more like Christ..