your name is carved on His Hands…

Isaiah 49:16  “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me”.

We have never carved pumpkins – Halloween isn’t a tradition that is followed in Latin America – although there was, in Guatemala, the day of “Burning the Devil” or “Day of the Dead” and streets were lined with pinata type devils to torch in the evening.  The kids wanted to carve pumpkins.

Notice that the pumpkins are just sitting there stupidly, mutely.  They don’t get to even breathe a hint of what they’d like to become.  Lydia is carving a wolf howling at the moon.  Is that what her pumpkin wants?  Maggie, a stormtrooper from Star Wars; Richard: batman.  The poor pumpkins had no chance.   They could resist all they wanted, or attempt to help all they wanted, and really, it made no difference at all.  None.  None.

Rich can’t stand the smell of “pumpkin guts” so finds a creative way to not wimp out in the carving process.  The kids were intent and Tom and I watched as ideas came into shape.

Carving is hard and time consuming.  Somehow He is not only the Carver, as He crafts you into what He has created you to be, but He is also the One that is carved into….taking the punishment of that blade as it cuts into flesh.

He WILL have His way with you, you know.  You WILL turn out to be His Handiwork, and you even will have a new name given you when He is finished.  He is the Author and Perfecter of you, He is the Potter and He Will Have His Way, and You Will Turn Out Perfect.

And who thought of God as the original tattooer?  He can not forget you.  He has not left you to your own devices.  you may be stinky at times but He even knows how to accommodate that.  You, beloved, are continually before Him as He carefully crafts you, using every little thing and every big disaster to carve you into exquisite beauty and purpose.

The pumpkins were done and we waited until dark and lit them and put them on our TV cabinet. (I wanted them OUTSIDE but was voted down – WHO EVER puts carved pumpkins in the house, lit???) Can you see the images on these?  We sat in the dark and looked for other pictures…The Batman (which we laughingly declared was batman with two boots sticking out of his head on either side), the wolf howling, the stormtrooper (which I came up with the creative picture of R2D2 with pigeon toed feet), proud kids at their creation, happy parents that for this one moment all was well with the world…

Take off your “silly ugly fancy dress and find “infinite relief”

what would happen if you tried to enjoy a swim wearing all sorts of clothes?  What is the best way to be able to really enjoy swimming in His grace?  Do clothes help, or hinder?  We are so foolish at times…

“The point is, He wants you to know Him: He wants to give you Himself.  And He and you are two things of such a kind that if you really get into any kind of touch with Him you will, in fact – be humble – delightedly humble, feeling the infinite relief of having for once got rid of all the silly nonsense about your own dignity which has made you restless and unhappy all your life.  He is trying to make you humble in order to make the moment possible: trying to take off a lot of silly, ugly fancy dress in which we have all got ourselves up and are strutting about like the little idiots we are…”

                                                                                         C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Less clothes definitely equals less dignity, doesn’t it?  More risk?  But if we are so busy trying to clothe ourselves, and then keep those clothes on, how can we enjoy the swim?  It is His grace and that alone that has kept us from drowning, I am certain, as we try so hard to not have to part with any of our beloved dressing up…

O God!  We want to know You!  Please give us more of Yourself! Help us see that our dignity dressing is really nothing more than wearing the emperor’s new set of clothes! We fool ourselves but You are never fooled.  Thank you for being gentle in ridding us of all the silly nonsense of our own dignity.  We are beggars and need You and nothing else, to swim in this grace You offer…

His answer to you today…

a small bouquet from Him for you today…

Hosea 14:4  “I will love them freely

“This text is a death blow to all sorts of fitness: “I will love them freely.”  Now, if there were any fitness in us, then He would not love us freely.

We complain, “Lord, my heart is so hard.”    “I will love you freely.”

“But I do not feel my need of Christ as I could wish.”   “I will not love you because you feel your need: I will love you freely.”…

The covenant of grace has no conditionality whatever,

so that


without ANY fitness

may venture on “He that believeth on Him is not condemned.”…

Charles Spurgeon

“Sense disturbs, faith alone beholds…”

“FAITH IS THE SIGHT of the soul, and it is far better that the sight of the senses.  It is more direct.  My eye does not touch what I look at….  But my faith is not only eye, but hand, and not only beholds, but grasps, and comes into contact with that to which it is directed.  It is far more clear.  Sense may deceive; faith built upon his Word cannot deceive.  I have better reason for believing in Jesus Christ that I have for believing in the things that I touch and handle….  the vision of Christ which is granted to the faithful soul is better and not worse, more and not less, other in kind indeed, but loftier in degree too, than that which was granted to the men who saw Him upon earth.  Sense disturbs, faith alone beholds…”

Little Bo Peep, kind of

Poor little one-

Her heart had run

And she didn’t know where to find it.

She left it alone

But it didn’t come home

Wagging its smile behind it.


When one lives by sight

With all of ones might

Illusions fly thick in ones face.

Believe them she did,

So truth deep was hid

And feelings soon conquered first place.


“Momentary” “Light ” troubles?

Oh no! Not at all!

“These troubles will surely not end!”

And deeper she sank

Into spaces so rank

Where bruised reeds will break not just bend.


“Troubles bring glory

Far outweighing all?

Suffering , endurance then hope?”

Well, this is not seen

And surely not felt;

To hold on, one must feel the rope.


“Today’s troubles”, Paul said

“Are not worth comparing”;

Compare them she did and she saw

As she looked round about

O! Such pain shouted out!

And conclusions from this she did draw.


Ignore truth she did

And as a result

Her heart, needing truth, ran away;

For walking by sight

With all of ones might

Means worry, and no time to pray.


And the more that she looked

The less that it took

To convince her God’s way had it’s flaws;

Something close to despair

Seemed to creep up and tear

And grasp her poor beating heart with it’s jaws.


BUT O! The Good Shepherd

Who seeks out and finds

Wand’ring hearts that have lost their way;

Erring hearts, just like sheep

Need the Shepherd to keep

Them on many a cold windy day.


And O! The Good Shepherd

Who never can fail!

He rescued that sad, erring heart,

and cradled it home

To no longer roam

Amongst feelings that lied from the start.


For He IS our Shepherd!

He promises us!

That one day soon faith will be sight –

And then we will see

Yes! Yes! Faithful was He

Those burdens were short-lived and light.


And in His grand plan

Where He –  this God-Man

Will  bring back a wandering heart

And Love wins always

Tho long seemed the days

That sight would keep them apart.











scorpions and chihuahas and yapping thoughts

I guess even if your life looks like Christmas right now, there is a scorpion or two lurking somewhere.  And days when clicking your heels three times and asking to be taken back to Kansas simply doesn’t do much.

Christmas 2009 in Costa Rica.  Scorpions were always a part of daily life, but one would hope you could cheat this at Christmas…not so this  year

Sometimes a scorpion is much easier to deal with than a pack of chihuahuas yapping at your heels.  Scorpions can be crushed and hit over and over and they will be quiet… the kids love to remind me of a time I was hitting a very large scorpion on the wall at least 119 times, each time as I hit it with a shoe yelling “EEEUW!  GROSS GROSS GROSS!” While they yelled, “Mommy!  It’s DEAD already by now!”  Chihuahuas, on the other hand, which were also part of life in Costa Rica, are a different story.  Somehow these little rat like dogs were coveted members of the family for all of our neighbors…and coming from Montana culture of a dog isn’t a dog unless it’s over 80 pounds and furry, this was a hard one to buy.

And…there are simply some days when you find your greatest enemy is not found in your circumstances, nor in those around you, but it is in those thoughts and feelings that are like a pack of little chihuahua dogs, yipping at your heels, and as you leash one and force it to heel, its brothers and sisters surround your other leg, driving you crazy with their clamour and their amazing ability to stay just out of reach so you can’t leash it, or better yet, strangle that little quivering hairless neck with your bare hands.

you try using the Sword of the Spirit to slay it, but it grabs it in its teeth and carries it away and buries it, bone-like.  Singing doesn’t do a thing but add to the din already in your head.  And the sheer pathetic-ness of it all – good grief it is only a pack of feelings and thoughts that have you suddenly despairing of life itself at this point, as they limit your perspective  to the here and now and rob you of the strength to be found in the There and Then.

Of course He doesn’t – really, He doesn’t – leave you completely defenseless, although in all honesty it FEELS like He has…you are so aware of being held hostage by these stupid feelings and thoughts, and are ashamed at how weak they seem to make you as you fruitlessly battle them to no avail.  For me, His defense came through Daily Light, reading it  this early morning before the chihuahuas were awake:

Psalm 13:2 How long, O Lord, must I wrestle with my thoughts?

Have you ever seen that verse?  I certainly haven’t.  Listen in the Amplified: How long must I lay up my cares within me, and have sorrow in my heart day after day?

Can’t you just see those chihuahuas nipping at David’s heels?

To be truthful, although I am thankful this was His word to me today, it didn’t seem to be a very choice word, as it didn’t seem to free me from one single chihuahua, but one must take what is given, for it is true that “the helpless leave themselves to Him.” and that is certainly me when I am in these places, those times where one realizes his true inability to extract himself from…himself.

I stop my morning chores and sit and chew on his words, and I am finding His voice becoming a very tiny bit louder and I can ignore the yappers a bit more, and I notice several things:

1) There were times in David’s life when his most troubling enemies were not external, but were internal.  This is comforting.  If the man after God’s’ own heart deals with this, than I am o.k. as well.

2) In this Psalm David is really self-focused.  In 6 verses David uses “I”, “me”, “my” 18 times.  18!!.  that averages to three times a verse!  And uses “Lord” or “You” only 8.  So as much as we can say, and it usually is very good counsel, “get your eyes off yourself”, there are times when one will feel consumed and trapped by himself.  I think AS LONG as one uses it as the road to DIALOG with Him, where relief is to be found, one is on a path that is not self-destructive or self-pitying.  That truth can quiet the one yapper that is yapping “self-focus! What about all the starving in Haiti! Get your eyes off yourself!”

3) David now finds the attribute that will help him most in this situation:  His mercy. v.5 “But I have trusted, leaned on, and been confident in Your Mercy and Loving-kindness.”

Why do we need to think on His Mercy and Lovingkindness  in those chihuahua times?

– Because our thoughts are often self-condemning, and with all the barking we can’t tell what’s true and what isn’t, BUT His mercy tells us Romans 8:1There is therefore NOW NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus”  I am IN Him.  He says there is NO condemnation.

-Because some of the favorite yapping that assaults me is that I am in this stew due to my own inability to think truth better, to DO something, etc., and that there is really hidden sin in somewhere that is causing my stuckness…BUT His mercy tells me that 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us ALL sin and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.”  so I can do the confession that says “Lord, in all this noise internally I can’t tell which is and isn’t sin in this, so will You just please take it all and cleanse me right now from everything?” and HE WILL.  HE DOES. IMMEDIATELY.  And His Lovingkindness tells us that His Love is Stronger than our Weakness.  This is TRUTH.

-Because our thoughts/feelings are for those who have gotten themselves into such a heinous lifestyle/relationship/pickle that there are truly lifelong serious consequences they will suffer, BUT His  mercy tells us that He is the Good Shepherd who seeks out the lost and the 1, leaving the 99, and when He finds Him He doesn’t berate but CARRIES Him on His shoulders, where He will bind up their wounds and then not only walk through their consequences with them, but Joy, turn them into GOOD.

-Because our thoughts/feelings are for those who seem so vulnerable and what will happen when we aren’t there for them, BUT His lovingkindness reminds us that He is O so tender with the weak and O so merciful to the sparrow…

-Because  our thoughts or feelings that are nipping at us are about tomorrow, and how can we take them to Him when we know we are not to think about tomorrow, BUT His Mercy saysCOME to ME all who are heavy laden and burdened” and because of His loving kindness He doesn’t say “This ONLY applies if you’ve handled things right  up to this  point”.

The  rat-dogs are a bit quieter now, after this.  And I am only through verse 5…Final truths:

TRUTH:  There were times in David’s life where his enemies were this thoughts and feelings.  So something is not necessarily “wrong” with you if this happens to be one of your enemies as well.

TRUTH:   David is unabashedly self-focused, but WALKS that path to relationship, for He is crying out to God.  He is in conversation with Him.  The relationship GROWS even in self-focus because it is conversation not with himself, (independence) but with God (In Dependence).

TRUTH:  When one is being assaulted by ones thoughts, a good thing to be confident on, to rely on and trust in, is His Mercy and Lovingkindness.  One can’t go wrong with Romans 8:1 and 1 John 1:9

TRUTH: This theme of “How Long” is repeated in the Psalms.  Lament is a reality, and asking “how long” is a very familiar part of this favored one of God’s vocabulary.  If David asks “how long” so frequently, it must be that the problem doesn’t go away…

I am sorry to say this, but there won’t be chihuahuas in heaven.  At least not these kind.

Look there, not here…

Children have this amazing ability to draw something like this and not experience any angst in their soul over it.  Raining here, sunny there.  O.k. then!        O Lord,  would You in Your grace and mercy grow us into seeing the big picture as a child can?

Col.  1:5   The hope which is laid up for you  in heaven…

“Our  hope in Christ for the future is the mainspring  and mainstay of our joy here.

It will animate our hearts to think often of heaven,

for all that we can desire is  promised there.

We are  always in the  field of battle; we are so tempted within, and

so molested by foes without,  that we have little or no peace;

BUT  IN  HEAVEN we shall enjoy the victory.

Here sin is a  constant grief to us,

But THERE we  shall be perfectly holy…

Charles Spurgeon

looking for strength in all the wrong places…

I liked singing about it; I remember Twila Paris and gospel sing-alongs at church, “The joy of the Lord is  my strength”, but somehow I was never able to flesh those words out into giving me any strength.  I understood,  I think, that Jesus plus  joy equals strength; the question was, when one has Jesus but is in a season where joy isn’t easily measured, how does one access that joy-strength of Christ’s?

What  IS the joy of the Lord, anyhow?  Where did Jesus find joy on earth? And guess what I found – Hebrews 12:2 spells it out SO clearly: “He, for the joy set before  Him, endured  the cross, despising the shame…

This was  it!  It wasn’t that life on earth filled Jesus with great joy –  no!  God’s word defines Him very differently:   “A  man of sorrows, acquainted with grief...”  He had to endure the cross – He despised the shame.  Where WAS His joy, then?

It was in the joy set before Him…

Costa Rica sky above our home, 2009.  As I LOOK to those clouds, where one day Jesus WILL return, I find joy.  And that joy translates into strength for this moment and this day…

Joy –  not in His present circumstances, but in the future that was the certainty.

If the joy of the Lord was in His future, that’s where MY joy must be as well, if I am to find strength!   And the more I look to heaven and the realization of Joy Then and There, the stronger I can be Here and Now.

Future Joy There, Then, = Guaranteed Strength Here, Now.

“Oh!  Is it not joy, that you are not to be in banishment forever, that you are not to dwell eternally in this wilderness?  Let the future sanctify the present to its highest uses…

The man who has this hope in him goes about his work with vigor, for the joy of the Lord is his strength.

He fights against temptation with ardour, for the hope of the next world repels the fiery darts of the adversary.  He can labour without present reward, for he looks for a reward in the world to come…” (Spurgeon)

Do I need strength? Yes.  And as I look for the joy that my Lord had while on earth (future joy), there will be my strength as well.

I need to stop looking for strength in all the wrong places – mainly in myself, or in my present circumstances…and surprisingly as I think of THERE  (heaven) , I find  I have strength HERE…the more I think on the truths that will be THEN, the more I find strength for NOW.

Stay in Dependence

Lydia in 2005, up Fish  Creek during  family camping trip while on furlough in the States…waiting, waiting, staying in dependence until He provides, waiting contentedly…waiting happy just with the waiting…

Satan’s workis constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.  He insinuates

 “you have no faith;   you do not repent enough;

           you will never be able to continue to  the end;

                      you have not the joy of His children;

                                you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.”

All these thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within.

Remember, therefore,

it is  not thy hold of Christ that saves thee – it is Christ;

it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee – it is Christ;

it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument – it is  Christ’s blood and merits;

Therefore  look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping  Christ, as to  Christ…

We shall never find happiness

by looking at our prayers,

our doings,

or our feelings;

it is what Jesus IS, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul… ”

Charles Spurgeon

this fits so well with the standing on ice –  it is the ICE which keeps us from breaking through, not our works or amount or strength of faith – we just have to stay put  on the ice…