When Praying is like Swimming Upstream

Does anyone else sound like this when they pray?

God, I lift up my friend Tammy to You. She is carrying such a weight right now. Please fill her with Your strength to handle all the details that are coming her way. It’s hard to sell a house, but even harder when you’re still emotionally attached to it. I wonder if I would feel the same way if I sold my house. The evidence of my kids growing up here are everywhere. I really should get that hole in the wall fixed, though. How do I do that? Do I cover it with wide tape, like duct tape, and then paint over it? Hmmm…. the new paint won’t match the rest, so I’ll need to paint the whole wall. Should I keep to the same color or change it to another? I wonder… oh, right, I was praying.

God, sorry for getting distracted. Like I was saying, please strengthen Tammy and give her the wisdom to make the best choices. I also lift up my daughter, Erica. She hasn’t been feeling well lately. Heal her quickly, Lord, and strengthen her to be able to handle her job and family responsibilities. Her husband may understand her lack of energy, but her baby will not. Mikey needs his mother, and when she’s too tired to spend that time with him, he cries. It hurts my heart to think of him crying. Bob is a good father, but not a replacement for mommy. I wonder why some kids gravitate towards one parent over the other. Erica was a momma’s girl when she was little, but ever since he was a baby, Steve preferred Matt. He still prefers his dad over me. That hurts, like I’m being rejected even though I know he loves me. What did Matt feel when Erica clung to me instead of to him? I never thought of looking at it from his perspective…

Oh.

God, I did it again. I’m so sorry. This time I will stay focused. School is starting soon. Please be with the teachers and students as they return to the classroom. Keep them safe as they start another year. There are so many dangers nowadays that I never had to face when I was teaching. It must be stressful to be in a place where the chance of getting the Covid virus is high. Or where a shooter might show up at any time. I wonder what I would have done if a shooter had entered my school when I was teaching. How would I have protected my kindergarten students? The bathroom could hold maybe half of them, if they squeezed in tight enough, but would they be able to stay quiet? Maybe the rest of them could hide inside the cabinets. I’d have to remove the stuff in them first, but they’re big enough for the kids to fit in them. There were 2, 3, 4, 5 cabinets on the back wall. That would work for five students, but then there’d still be…

Oh, Lord.

Please forgive me. I can’t stay focused. I can never stay focused. I don’t know how You put up with this. I would be so annoyed if someone kept doing this to me. Please have mercy on me and help me to do better. I’m good at some things, like giving to the poor and being kind to my neighbor. But praying – why is it so hard? What is wrong with me that I can’t pray like my pastor does? Or the other people in my small group…

And so it goes on until I eventually finish, give up, or run off to do something I just remembered I had to do.

For me, sometimes praying is like swimming upstream. I’m trying to swim towards God, to be in His presence and stay focused on our conversation. But the current of human weakness keeps pushing me back to my own thoughts. Debris, such as memories, worries, reminders of things I need to do constantly distract me. How much easier it is to float downstream with them than to maintain the energy required to push against that current. This causes frequent feelings of failure or inadequacy resulting in many apologies and pleas of forgiveness. I think God is gracious to keep forgiving me. And He is.

And yet, what if God’s response is different? What if instead of disapproval and tolerance, He looks at it in a different way. What if instead of saying, “You keep drifting away,” He says, “You keep coming back.”

For me, that would be game-changer.


For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Suntans, an allegory based on a dream

Anna entered the front door into the living room and watched as people quickly left when they saw her. She knew what it was. Seeming to grow darker every week, her glowing tan made her stand out from the pale skin the other people in this house. These people, like many others in town, avoided the sun at all cost. They treasured their ghostly appearance and looked down on her sun-darkened skin as if it made her of less value than they saw themselves. Anna didn’t like that they treated her differently than they treated each other, but accepted it. Her tan was important to her – more important than the opinions of those who didn’t understand its significance.

Spotting her new friend across the room, she waved and hurried to join her. “Hi, Tammy! How’s it going?”

“Pretty good,” Tammy said. “I just got a new gardening book and am excited to try out some of its ideas.”

“Awesome,” Anna said. “Let me know if you want any help. I love gardening.”

“I sure will. Right now, though, I’m starving. Want to see what’s in the kitchen?”

“Mmm… that sounds wonderful.” Anna motioned towards the hallway. “After you.”

Tammy led Anna down the hallway and into the large, well-lit kitchen. Several people were gathered around the island counter helping themselves to chips and salsa. One man was stirring a pot on the stove, while an older lady was filling a cup with ice from the refrigerator’s ice dispenser. Two children were arguing over the last cupcake on a plate near the sink. Across the room half a dozen people sat at a large table topped with the remains of an assortment of finger foods. From the sound of their animated voices, they were in the middle of a serious debate.

As soon as Anna and Tammy stepped into the room, all conversation stopped. People either glared at the girls or stared at their plates. Some mumbled to each other. A few took sips from their cups. The man at the stove continued stirring, but the lady with the cup of ice motioned to the kids and ushered them out of the room.

Anna tried to ignore the animosity she felt being directed at her. She smiled at Tammy. “The chips and salsa look good.”

Before Tammy could respond, a woman at the island said, “Sorry, there isn’t enough left for you.”

“But the bowl is full…” Tammy said.

“I said there’s not enough.” The lady frowned at Tammy.

“But – ”

Anna interrupted her. “It’s okay, Tammy. She says there’s not enough. I have a better idea. Let’s go get some ice cream. My treat.”

Tammy frowned but agreed.

Once outside, Tammy said, “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that. Why do they hate us so much?”

“It’s our tans. It sets us apart, makes us different. And they don’t like that.” Anna unlocked her car doors and climbed in the driver’s seat. “By the way, your new tan is looking good.”

 “But they are all different.” Tammy continued as soon as she had settled in the passenger seat. “Different sizes, different hair color, different ages, even different clothing styles. Why don’t they accept our difference like they accept each other’s?”

Anna started the engine and back down the driveway. “I don’t know. It seems unfair that they celebrate all differences, except for one.”

Tammy crossed her arms. “I wish we could make them see how hypocritical they are.”

“That would do no good. They can’t see. Besides, we were warned that spending time in the sun would give us tans, and that the tans would not be welcomed by other people.”

“Yeah, you’re right. So, what are we supposed to do about it?” Tammy sighed as she looked out of the side window. “Just ignore it?”

Anna shot Tammy a half-smile. “You got it. It’s not easy. It’s even harder trying to be nice to them when they aren’t nice to us, but that’s what we’re told to do. How else will they see that tans are not bad? How else will they be curious enough to spend time in the sun themselves?”

“If only they would. Then they would find out what we’ve discovered. Nothing is as life-giving as the sun. I love my tan.” Tammy looked over at Anna. “Hey, what about after the ice cream, we go to the park and spend some time soaking up some more sun?”

“I would love to.” Anna smiled back. “A perfect way for two friends to spend the afternoon.”


In him was life, and the life was the light of men. John 1:4

But whoever does what is true comes into the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:21

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Matthew 5:14

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. John 15:20

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12

“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, Luke 6:27

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. John 3:20

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

If God is Our Father… A Parable

Tessy took one final look at her smiling reflection in the mirror before heading to the front door. The purple highlights in her blonde hair matched the low-cut crop top she wore over a black mini-skirt. Even though her seventeen-year-old body didn’t look like the girls on TV, she hoped her outfit would be enough to keep her new boyfriend’s eyes from wandering tonight. Steven was nineteen and could have any girl he wanted. Tonight, she wanted him to want her.

“Tessy?”

The deep voice of her father stopped her just steps from the front door. Sighing, she turned to face him. “What?”

“You’re not going out wearing – “

Tessy put her hand up. “I know what you’re going to say.”

“What was I going to say?”

“That you don’t like my what I’m wearing, that Steven is no good for me, and that I should spend tonight with you than to go to this party.”

Her father tilted his head. “If you know I disapprove, why are you doing it?”

“Because I like Steven. He’s not as bad as you think. And all the girls wear stuff like this. I wouldn’t fit in if I didn’t”

“I’m your father, not their’s. Fitting in is not what I’ve taught you. Dressing that way is not only indecent, but dangerous. You don’t know – “

Again, Tessy cut him off. “I’ll be fine. I appreciate your warning, but I don’t think it relevant. Maybe if I was younger or went to a bar or dressed like a hooker, but I’m just going to a party. There’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing.”

Without giving her father an opportunity to say anything else, she opened the door and slipped out.

Steven was just pulling up in the driveway. Waving to him, she hurried towards the car. Steven got out without looking at her and walked behind his car. He opened the trunk and reached inside.

 Disappointed that he hadn’t greeted her but curious about what he was doing, she joined him at his trunk. Steven was pulling something out of a crate. She gasped as soon as she recognized the long, wiggling mass.

“Look what my friend gave me.” Steven looked over at her. “Don’t worry. It’s friendly. You want to hold it?”

Tessy backed away, shaking her head. “That’s okay.”

“Come on, don’t be a chicken.” Steven smiled as he held out the snake. “You’re going to love how sleek if feels.”

“Don’t touch it,” came a soft voice next to her.

Startled, Tessy turned to her father. “I didn’t know you have followed me.”

“I –“

Steven’s loud voice drowned out whatever her father was going to say. “Come on, Baby, we don’t have all night.”

“Don’t touch it,” her father repeated.

But Tessy ignored him as she reached to touch the snake. Steven smiled as he handed it to her. Tessy returned his smile as she watched the snake coil and uncoil itself around her arm. It was colder than she expected, but just as smooth as Steven had promised.

Suddenly the snake writhed sharply. Startled, she dropped it, but not before its fangs grazed her arm. “Ow!”

“Hey!” Steven shouted. He lunged for the snake, grabbing its tail as it tried to disappear under the car. Pulling it out, he shoved it back in the crate. Then he turned on Tessy, “How could you drop it like that? It almost got away.”

“It bit me.” She held out her arm to him, but he turned away and slammed the trunk.  Without looking at her, he headed back to the driver’s seat. “You coming or what?”

Turning to her father, Tessy said, “This is your fault. You were supposed to protect me.”

“I tried but you wouldn’t listen to me. You chose Steven’s word over mine.”

His words gripped her heart. “You’re right. I’m sorry. Will you take care of this for me? It really hurts.”

Putting his arm around her, he said, “Come back to the house with me.”

The car roared to life, making Tessy jump. She pulled away from her father. “I can’t right now, but just as soon as I get home, okay?” Without waiting for a response, she hurried to the passenger side and jumped in.

“Be back by ten,” her father called as he stepped out of the way.

Steven backed out and took off down the road, his tired screeching almost as loud as his engine. A few minutes later, they got to the highway and he turned to her. “Ten o’clock? Did he mean that?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Tessy answered. “But don’t worry about it. Whatever time I get home will be okay. I’ll just apologize and he’ll forgive me. He always does.”

Steven put his free hand on her leg. “This is going to be a great night.”

Tessy covered his hand with her own. Relaxing back in her seat, she agreed. “It sure will.”


Malachi 1:6a

A son honors his father and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts…

God was speaking to the priests about offering blemished animals in their sacrifices to Him. But as I look around at Christians today, I wonder if He wouldn’t say the same thing to us? Do those of us who know Him and claim to follow Jesus really respect Him? Or do we take God for granted, relying on His love and mercy to cover our self-centered decisions? Do we fear Him as Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul did? Or are we arrogant because of our status as His children?

Let’s be courageous enough to pray like David did in Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

And to do like Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see if whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!


Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;

they have not known my ways.’

As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Take care my brothers, lets there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called, “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Hebrews 3:7-14

A Story of Running From God

Christian loved God and professed to follow Jesus. He enjoyed his life and lived according to Biblical principles. One day, God interrupted his life. He said, “Hey, Christian! See those people in high places? Those people who live in the spotlight, surrounded by many admirers? Politicians, athletes, famous people, and other people of great influence? Go to them and call them out for their sins because I’ve had enough of their evil.” But Christian didn’t want to hear that word. He was afraid he’d end up looking like a fool if they heeded his warning and God relented on the disaster He planned for them. So, he ran from God thinking if he blended in with other people, God wouldn’t see him. He found a group that would serve his need. Compromising his values and adopting their values was a steep price which he willingly paid if it got him away from God’s presence.

But God saw and sent a great wind upon the land and there were mighty storms – earthquakes, wind storms, fires, droughts, pestilence – so that the people’s lives were in danger of being destroyed. The people cried out to all kinds of things seeking a savior. New age practices, pagan gods, crystals, social activism, political actions, religious observances, and fortune tellers were called on night and day. The people even gave up basic necessities and rights in their effort to survive. Nothing worked.

Meanwhile, Christian ignored everything. Focused on his own needs and desires, he was no longer awake to the voice of the Lord and was unaware that the storm was anything out of the ordinary. When the people brought his attention to it, he recognized what was going on but remained silent until the people figured out that the storms had something to do with him. At that point he admitted he was running from God. The people, seizing on this ray of hope that they would be able to stop the storms, grilled Christian until they finally asked point blank, “What do we need to do to stop it?” Christian, knowing he had to directly confront the consequence of his action, told them that he would have to die to himself. Maybe then, God would relent.

But that made no sense to the people and they refused to accept Christian’s way; instead, they continued to seek their own way to end the storm. Eventually, when it was clear their efforts were in vain, they did as Christian said. They freed him to go do what he needed to do. Instantly the winds were stilled. The people were amazed at the power of God and turned to Him with fear and trembling. However, it wasn’t over for Christian. He had to spend time alone with God until his stubborn pride was broken and his attitude was realigned with His. Humble and sorry for having run, he returned to his life.

God again spoke to him, “Hey, Christian! See those people of great influence? Go to them and call them out for their sins because I’ve had enough of their evil.” This time Christian obeyed. He spoke to everyone he could, warning them if they didn’t change their ways, God was going to bring disaster upon them. He was later dismayed that everyone believed him. As the result, the leaders and celebrities believed the Word, humbled themselves, and repented. And sure enough, God relented and no disaster fell on them.

Sound crazy? Like a fairy tale? Not to Jonah (see the book of Jonah in the Old Testament).

The Bible says, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4). What if one of the reasons the story of Jonah was written was to give us insight into a side of God we don’t hear preached about very often today? What if by compromising with the world, blending in instead of standing out, we Christians have brought down the storms that blow around us? Maybe not entirely, but certainly our rebellious disobedience to Biblical teaching has a far-reaching consequence. And maybe, if we who call ourselves Christians humbled ourselves, repented from our compromises and rebellion, and obeyed His command even at the cost of our lives, would God intervene and calm the storms that rage across the world today? Would that result in the leaders and celebrities believing the Word and calling for the repentance of everyone in their circles of influence?

It’s an interesting thought.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20

Take Off Your Shoes (an analogy)

Photo by KOREAN JH on Pexels.com

She entered His house, excited to see her Father. She hadn’t gotten far when she heard a soft yet firm voice. “Take off your shoes.”

“What?” My shoes?” She looked down at her feet. Picking up one foot, she admired the tan sandal from different angles. A wide brushed-leather strap securely covered her heel and wrapped around her ankle and was held closed by a shiny silver buckle. Narrower straps crisscrossed over the top of her foot like a hug. She sighed. She loved these sandals, and she wanted to show them off to her Father.

But now she was being told to take them off. Why? They looked clean enough. She hadn’t stepped in anything. She could understand if the room had been carpeted – rugs are easy to get dirty and hard to clean – but she wasn’t standing on that. This floor was hard and smooth like giant flat rock.

“But they look so good on me,” she protested. “They are so comfortable. And they even look like me, don’t You think?”

“Take them off,” the voice repeated.

Sighing, she bent to obey. As she tugged off first one sandal and then the other, she noticed the dust that coated them. Hmm… she hadn’t seen that when she had looked at them just minutes before. Looking even more closely, she saw that the sandals were actually covered with imperfections. There were small scratches in various places, one seam was beginning to unravel, tiny stones were trapped in the tread, and there was a crack in one of soft soles.

Funny how from a distance they had appeared perfect, and it wasn’t until upon closer examination that she could see their real condition.

“And the socks,” came the voice.

“Oh, I thought you wouldn’t notice them since they blend in with my skin.” Reluctantly, she pulled them off, dropped them near her sandals, and approached the huge chair where her Father was sitting.

Feeling naked and vulnerable, even though it was just her feet that were bare, she stood before Him with her head bowed. “I’m sorry about the sandals. I didn’t realize they were so dirty. It seems the more I try to make You proud of me, the more I mess up. I love You. You are more important to me than anything else.”

“Daughter, it’s not just about the dirt. When I look at you, I want to see you. Leave at the door everything that doesn’t belong in here – from the false sense of identity you put on and the comfort you wrap yourself in to the dirt that clings as you walk in the world.  They do nothing but get between us.”

She thought she understand. It wasn’t what she had that made Him love her. It wasn’t what she did or didn’t do. It was her that He loved and wanted to be with.

Looking up, she saw the incredibly warm smile on His face, the love in His eyes, and the invitation in His outstretched arms. Without a second thought, she leaped up into His embrace, and sighed with contentment as He pulled her close. There was no better place than this – and worth way more than a pair of soft leather sandals.


1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Isaiah 59:2a But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God…

Psalm 27:4 One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

And It’s Not by Boat (an allegory loosely based on a dream)

Emily stood on the shore with her eyes searching the sea. Somewhere on the other side, a place she had heard about but never seen, existed. In between her and that new land was a vast sea.

Her heart felt drawn to that land. There was something special there. Something that would fill her with peace and joy like nothing she had ever experienced on this side. She had read that there was no evil there, no pain, no tears, no torment, no depression, no loneliness, no fear… it went on and on. And this place, too wonderous to describe fully, would last forever.

Even more important, there was a someone there. A king. She had read about him, too, and longed to be with him. In her heart, against all common sense, she knew he loved her and invited her to be his wife. She didn’t know how she knew, but she did as firmly as she believed the land existed. And she wanted that with all her heart.

But between him and her was the sea.

There was no way she could swim across its vastness. She had tried. The gentle rolling waves hadn’t been a problem, but they didn’t stay that way. Sometimes storms had exploded around her, enclosing her in the turmoil of crashing waves before casting her back on shore. Each time as she lay in the wet sand gasping for air, she had vowed she wouldn’t try again. But then would come that sweet call.

Even if the storms hadn’t been there, she’d have had to face the life-threatening dangers that lurked beneath the surface. And without a doubt, she wouldn’t have had the stamina to make it all the way. She thought of herself as a good swimmer, but no one could swim across an ocean.

No, she needed another method to cross the barrier between her and her betrothed.

She noticed other people on the shore looking in the same direction. And moving through this crowd were people handing out differently colored brochures. Curious, she reached for a blue one when it got close enough.

Want to cross the sea? We can help. We have the largest boat with the longest history of success. Come join us. We can get you there. Contact RCC at RCC.org.

Hope rose in her. A boat! And a big one at that, which meant many people believed this boat could do what it promised. Joining her faith with theirs, she took out her phone. But before she could open her browser, someone handed her a pink flyer.

Come check out our newly updated speedboat. Built for travel, this baby can get you all the way across the sea before the other boats leave shore. Smaller means more personal attention as you travel to your dream destination. Call 1-800-WOF-GMYM to reserve your spot today.

Oooo, that sounded even better. A fast trip would mean facing less storms. She began dialing the number but stopped when she was handed yet another piece of paper, this one yellow.

Forget the rest, sail with the best! Why chance fuel shortage or motor problems on your way to your future? We have the biggest, sturdiest sails ever made. Let us help you get where you want to go. Send a message to us at TT@OTR.com for more information.

Beginning to get confused, she looked at the three papers in her hand. Were they all right? Could they all get her there and it was just a matter of which made her feel the most comfortable? She almost didn’t want to take the green one being offered to her now.

Solar powered is the way to go! No chance of running out of fuel when you travel by the power of the sun. We have state of the art panels in sufficient number to make us the fastest, more reliable way to take you wherever you want to go. Contact us at mibto.com.

Which to choose? After considering the pros and cons of each, she decided to go with the speed boat. The faster she got there, the longer she would have to enjoy the presence of the one she longed for. She made the call.

A week after setting out, she was beginning to wonder if she had made the right choice. With no covering, everyone was sunburned and wet. The wind blew forcibly, drenching them with the spray created by the front of the boat as it cut through waves. And the worst thing was – no matter how fast they went, they never seem to put distance between themselves and the other boats she could see scattered across the sea. Could she change boats?

Shading her eyes from both sun and spray, she scanned the sea for a likely candidate. She immediately spotted the large one that had been featured on the blue paper. The more she thought about it, the more she wanted to get on that boat. It had a large passenger section below deck. No sunburn. No wet clothes. It might be slower, but it would be more comfortable.

“Captain, is it possible to change boats?”

“Sure, which one do you want to get one?”

“The big one over there,” she pointed.

“Are you sure? It’s big and clumsy and moves very slowly.”

“It seems to be going as fast as you. I’m sure.”

The captain wasn’t thrilled, but motored up next to the big boat. A plank was lowered to help her cross and within minutes she was waving goodbye to the speedboat.

The relief of the shade was delicious. She sat on one of the benches, closed her eyes, and savored the dark coolness. Yes, this was much better.

But a month later, she decided it wasn’t. She didn’t like being kept in the dark, and whenever she surfaced to ask the sailors about their expected arrival time, they always answered the same way. “We don’t know, but we’re moving so we should get there eventually.” She could see the same boats each time she looked out across the sea, and the horizon never seemed to be getting any closer. At this rate, she would never get there. Time to jump ships again.

As time went on, she continued to jump from ship to ship, but no matter which one she was on, even though it appeared to be moving, never seemed to get her closer to her destination. She did notice that some of the other boats seemed to be going in circles before disappearing behind her. Other boats zipped and zapped from one direction to another as they avoided the larger waves. And still others were stranded as their power failed them. At least one ship had overturned. Good thing she had left that one before it sunk.

Discouraged that she would never get there, she sat with her head down, careful to keep lower than the sail when it swung by her. As bad as it was sitting out in the sun again, getting knocked overboard would be worse. Suddenly she heard a sound coming from the sky. Looking up, she spotted a helicopter heading for a distant boat. She watched as it lowered itself for a few minutes, and then headed for another boat. No one she asked knew what it was doing, and most didn’t care.

She continued watching the helicopter as it flew ever closer to her boat. Finally, it hovered over her boat as it had done with the others.

“Anyone want to go to the land across the sea?” a friendly man’s voice boomed over the splash of the waves. “If so, come on up.”

“We’re already heading there,” one person said.

“So you think,” the man’s voice answered. “But you won’t get there by boat. You need me.”

“Why?” another person asked. “What’s so special about your way?”

“It’s the only way to cross the chasm between the sea and the land.”

Everyone looked at each other, Chasm? It didn’t make sense. There was no chasm between the sea and where they had come from. How could there be one between the sea and where they were going? The people began to discuss the idea.

“I don’t believe it,”

“I’m fine where I am.”

“But what if he’s right?”

“There’s no proof that he’s telling the truth.”

“This boat has gotten us this far; it will get us the rest of the way.”

“He’s up there while we’re down here. We can’t see what he can.”

“That doesn’t mean anything. He just wants all the attention.”

“Well, anyone taking me up on my invitation?” the man in the helicopter called, breaking up the discussion.

Most people shook their heads, but a few stood up. “I want to,” they said. “What do I have to do?”

“Reach up,” the man answered. “I’ll take it from there.”

Emily didn’t know who to believe. The people who seemed so sure of themselves, or the man she had heard but not seen? She looked at the ones with their arms raised, standing firmly in their decision in spite of the laughter and ridicule being directed at them. She felt the urge to raise her arms, too. Should she give in to it or ignore it?

While trying to decide she watched as the helicopter lowered even more, and a strong arm reached down and grasped the uplifted hands. She watched as people were pulled up and into the helicopter.

“Anyone else?” said the man. “You may not get another chance.”

Not being able to make a decision, Emily did nothing. She was surprised at the regret she felt as she watched the helicopter rise and turn towards the elusive land. On its back was written two words: The Way.

One day not long after the helicopter had left, she heard the captain yell, “We made it!”

Emily stood up and looked in the direction he was pointing. A golden glow rose in the horizon, promising the fulfillment of their efforts. Relieved, she sat back down. It had been a long journey, but they had been right. They had made it on their own.

Suddenly the captain cried out, “What in the world is that?”

Jumping up, she stared where he was pointing. Instead of seeing endless hills of waves, the sea had flattened out. It was as if the waves had just ended. And between the flatness and the golden glow was a wide line of darkness, as if there was nothing there. No water, no shore. Just emptiness.

With a sinking heart, Emily knew by not making a decision, she had made the wrong one. She along with everyone else now faced the consequence of rejecting the only way to the shore that they each desperately wanted. It was too late.

Or was it? What if the helicopter came back one more time? Maybe if she waved her arms and called out, the helicopter man would notice and come back to rescue her.

It was worth a try.


What do you think? Was she rescued – or was it too late? Is it ever too late to be saved? Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:11-12

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

Halos in the Night Are Not Good

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Anxiety filled me as the road ahead disappeared in the glare of approaching lights. It was bad enough that halos danced on the top of light posts, each one merging with the lights of nearby restaurant signs, but to lose sight of everything each time a car approached kept my hands clenched on the steering wheel. It wasn’t that my presence on the road was a danger to others. Driving on high alert made sure of that. But I kept thinking I should have waited until morning to make this trip. My vision is better in the light of day and I usually did most of my driving during those hours. Tonight, however, the anticipation of starting a new journal made the thought of waiting worse than the stressful drive.

Finally, the turn lane to Walmart came into sight. Sighing with relief, I exited the highway and drove across the parking lot, inched into a space, and cut the motor. A few deep breaths relaxed my muscles enough to loosen my grip on the steering wheel. I got out and headed inside for the notebook, pens, and colored pencils I needed to start my inspired journal. I couldn’t fully relax yet, though. I still had to drive back home.

 “What can I do about it?” I asked my family and friends over the next few weeks. “It’s bad enough the street signs are too blurry to read, but the halos are downright scary.”

“Squint,” said one.

“Don’t drive at night,” suggested another.

“Nothing,” warned a third. “Astigmatism can’t be cured.”

I knew deep down that I probably needed to see my eye doctor, but to avoid the inconvenience I kept asking people, and the advice kept coming.

“Keep your eyes away from the lights.”

“Wear sunglasses.”

“Get your eyes checked.”

Following these suggestions helped a little and I was able to manage the short, familiar roads on the few nights I needed to shop. But then came my son’s wedding announcement. Driving across seven states in three days meant not only night driving but also navigating unfamiliar roads. I knew it was time to go see the doctor.

After examining my eyes, my eye doctor told me I had only slight astigmatism and adjusted my contact lens prescription. “Try these,” he told me, handing me a sample set of contacts. If you like them, you can order them. There might even be some in stock.”

As I walked out of the office, I stared with amazement at the details I could see from a distance. Now I would be able to read road signs before I got to them which would definitely help me find the right way. But I had to wait a few hours to find out how they would work at night.

When the sun went down, I took a quick five-mile drive. Things weren’t crystal clear, but I could read most signs without problems. And best of all, there were no halos!

                                                                      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As we travel through life, we may begin to rely more on the familiarity of our steps than on the clarity of our vision. We get used to doing the same things and no longer notice, or care, that our vision isn’t what it was. If we do, we brush off the loss of clarity. We don’t need it.

Until we do.

When life takes a turn and we find ourselves in unchartered territory, we discover that we actually, and often desperately, need clear vision. The glaring lights that overshadow the need to see the road become more than a nuisance. They become dangerous. That’s when we find ourselves sitting in a chair while an ophthalmologist shines a light into our eyes.

Our spiritual walk is much like our physical one. We can find ourselves doing the same things, singing the same songs, going to the same church week after week, year after year. This can result in a familiarity that prevents us from recognizing the decline in our spiritual vision. We lose our ability focus, relying on what we’re accustomed to do rather than on following God’s signs as He calls us to new places. Without clear sight, we are vulnerable to transitory bright lights that overshadow and distract us from the more important things. We can miss what God has for us or get lost on the way.

We usually know deep down that we need to go to God, but find it much easier to get advice from other people. We ask for prayers, listen to sermons, and read books. What we hear ranges from good to bad, effective to worthless. And many times, one person’s advice conflicts with another’s, leaving us confused. However, even with good advice, no matter how helpful, none of it competes with what we’ll get from the only One who can truly correct our vision and provide the clarity we need to get us through challenging times or to new places. That person is Jesus. His Word – the Bible – helps us see clearly. It helps correct any shortcomings in our faith and realign our beliefs. It helps us recognize and see through the halos that blind us. Knowing what we need, Jesus prescribes the perfect scriptures for us to wear. With His Word, we can stay on His path with confidence no matter which way it might turn.

We shouldn’t wait until we find ourselves in the midst of a new adventure before seeking help from Jesus. Even in our routine, everyday lives, sometimes we miss what God wants us to see because it’s been too long since we’ve taken the time to let the light of the Word shine into us.

So, sit down, open your eyes, and let Jesus examine – and correct – your spiritual eyes. You’ll love your new contacts.

How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping watch [on himself] according to Your word [conforming his life to Your precepts]. Ps 119:9 AMP

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

“What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.  Luke 18:41-43

Don’t Judge a Plant by Its Leaves (An Allegory Based on a Dream, March 4, 2022)

She watched through the passenger window as the trees and bushes rushed past. Everything was so brown. She felt herself grieving for what she had left behind. Her home, her garden, her pets. “It’s only temporary,” she reminded herself. “I will be going back there later today.” But that didn’t change her feelings. What she saw at the moment completely dominated her thoughts, overriding the hope of what she’d see in the future.

When they arrived at the church, everyone got out of the car and went inside. Her eyes, however, were distracted by the brown bushes at the edge of the parking lot. There was something different about these bushes than the ones she had seen on the side of the road.

She walked over to it for a closer look. The bushes were actually individual plants growing in clumps. The leaves of each plant grew from the base and were tightly compacted around the center. All she could see were the tips of the inner leaves surrounded by the long narrow outer leaves. They were all brown.

Thinking it was dead, she grabbed one stalk near its base and with a quick stroke of the small machete she carried, she severed it from its roots. Still holding it at its base, she absentmindedly began chopping off the tight brown leaves near the top. As she meandered across the parking lot, she looked at the trees in the distance. Their leaves were also brown. The amount of deadness that seemed to surround her contributed to her feelings of melancholy.

She thought about her garden at home. Some of the leaves on her evergreen trees and bushes had also become brown from the cold winter. She would have to trim those when she got home.

She glanced back at the plant in her hand as she continued to cut off the tops of the outer leaves and was startled to sees a tiny bit of green peeking out from the center. With slower, more precise chops, she cut off more of the brown, being careful not to touch the green. Soon she had cleared enough of the dead, brown leaves to reveal the tender green of new leaves growing in the center. This plant was not dead.

“I’ve got to get it back in the ground so it can continue to grow” she thought as she walked briskly back to where she had found it. “But how? I have no shovel with me.”

But then she saw that the place where she had cut the plant. Instead of the leftover root base, she found a fresh hole as if she had pulled the plant up by its roots instead of chopping it at its base. Quickly she set the plant into the hole and spread the loose dirt around it, patting it down firmly.

Feeling encouraged, and leaving the plant alone as she should have done from the beginning, she went into the church.


So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Cor 4”16-18

… The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b

These Bible verses talk about the hearts of individual people. But I think we can also apply them to our country. When all we can see around us is “brown” – crime, inflation, deception, greed, etc. – we can quickly grow depressed. How much better to focus on what we can’t see – God’s involvement in our lives as well as the lives of others around us and on our future with Him in heaven – than on the temporary conditions of our present world. Learning to see as God sees can make a huge difference in our lives, both in how we feel and in how we act.

Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:10-12

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:30-32

The Drive (An Allegory)

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She woke up, not knowing she had been asleep. Watching the trees flying past her window, she heard the soft regular clicks of the turn signal and felt a slight pull to the right as the car changed lanes. Not shifting her gaze, she asked quietly, “You doing okay”?

“I’m fine,” her husband answered.

Reassured, she settled back on the soft, spongy pillow wedged between her seat back and the door frame, lulled back to a dreamy state by the hum of the car tires on the road. It seemed they had been traveling forever on this highway, passing and being passed by impersonal vehicles of all kinds, each rushing to get somewhere. Everyone was alert to the presence of the other vehicles, but no one sought to look past the outside metal structures – to see those who inhabited the inside. She and her husband were no different.

The blank, silver side of a large truck slowly filled her vision as her husband leisurely passed it. Without anything more interesting to watch, she closed her eyes and waited for her window to clear.

Once again, she awoke, surprised that she had fallen asleep so easily. Slowly she opened her eyes. As she watched the scenery march past, confusion slowly replaced her comfortable drowsiness. Something was different. She couldn’t tell what it was, but something had definitely changed.

And then she knew. The landscape was different. Instead of the lush evergreen-filled woods, some of the branches of these trees were bare. There were still some pine trees interspersed between the skeletal trees, but not quite enough to create the deep forests that had surrounded them at the beginning of their journey.

“Where are we?” she asked her husband. “Where did the evergreens go? I don’t think it’s supposed to be like this.”

“Oh, we’ve traveled quite a way since you fell asleep. This is what the landscape looks like now. Don’t worry about it. You might even come to like it.”

“I doubt it. Are you sure we’re going the right way?”

“Sure. This is still the same road the GPS said to take. Until it tells me differently, this is the way I’m going to keep driving. Relax. We’re fine.”

She wasn’t so sure, but took his word for it and went back to staring out the window. She watched as the evergreen trees became even sparser until the entire forest looked dead. And then even the forests thinned out revealing large barren fields of brown grass. This couldn’t be the right way. The directions they had been given had promised to lead them to life, not take them away from it.

Looking back at her husband, she noticed his dreamy expression and languid movements, as if he was daydreaming his way along the highway. Concern spurred her to sit up and cry, “Hey, wake up!”

“I am awake,” he mumbled in response. “Calm down.”

“You don’t look awake. And this definitely doesn’t look like the right way. Where’s your phone? I want to check the navigation system.”

“Oh, I shut it off a long time ago. This road is easy enough to follow. We don’t need it.”

Her heart froze. “Don’t need it? Of course we need it! How do you know that you’re still going in the right direction?”

He shrugged. “I haven’t seen any other roads. Besides, with so many others going this way, it has to be right. I’m just following them.”

She reached for her phone. “I’m going to check anyway.” Quickly she opened the Maps program and entered their destination. She watched as the map zoomed in and out until it settled on the quickest road. She hit ‘Start’ and listened for the directions, but stopped when she heard the word ‘U-turn’. “I knew it! We’re heading in the wrong direction!”

“How could that be?” He drew up his shoulders and let out a noisy breath as he squinted through the windshield. “I’m following the road like I was told to do.”

She held up the phone. “But you quit listening for directions. You missed the narrow side road that we were supposed to take!”

She watched as understanding slowly dawned in his eyes. “Um, maybe I should have stayed more alert.”

She knew he wasn’t the only one to blame. Softly touching her husband’s shoulder, she said, “And I shouldn’t have fallen asleep. We need to turn around. But this time, let’s stay connected to the navigation system.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Moral of the story: Don’t sleep your way through life, following the crowd heading where you don’t want to go. Stay alert and connected to the Navigator who alone will show you the right way to go.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

“But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:14

“You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.” Acts 2:28

“This is why it is said: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Eph 5:14-17

There’s a New God in Town.

There’s a new god in town.

Many people quickly began to bow down to this god. At first they did so out of hope that it could save them from consequences of their actions. They grasped at the promise of its prophets that if they obeyed completely, they would be saved.

As time went on, things seemed to get worse instead of better. So they turned to their new god for answers. But instead of explanations, they received more, and sometimes, conflicting commands. Believing the god was smarter than they were, they continued to obey. They were sure this god knew better than they did how to get them out of the mess they were in. They repeated the god’s words daily, reinforcing each other’s belief, and inviting those who not yet believed to join them in following this god.

But things still didn’t improve. The new god’s prophets announced the problem lay in the numbers. Not enough people obeyed, which negated the efforts of those who did.

“What else can we do?” the people cried out. “We’ve already shared what you said and invited everyone to join us.”

“Force them,” the prophets answered. “It’s for their own good as well as the good of the whole town.”

So, to the fear and guilt they were already using, they added ridicule and condemnation. And it worked. More people joined their worship of this god, which emboldened them to use even stronger tactics. Even though they were now in the great majority, it wasn’t enough. Each one of the remaining minority was seen as a personal threat so when someone suggested punishing those who still wouldn’t join them, everyone jumped at the idea. Of course. There really was only one option, one god. It would be for their own benefit to lay down their own ignorant beliefs for the benefit of the majority, even if they did so under duress. According to the prophets, if everyone became obedient to the new god, there would be no more problems. This was a classic case where the end justified the means.  Their god was on their side, at least that’s what the prophets said, and the people constantly pointed that out to each other as justification for their choices.

And yet, even that didn’t work. The faithful minority held to their own beliefs regardless of what the majority did or said, giving a variety of reasons for their resistance.

“Your god is not what you make it out to be.”

“If your god was really a god, things would be a lot better by now regardless of what I do.”

“There are too many contradictions and hypocritical commands coming from your god’s prophets.”

“My god disagrees with your god.”

“People should be able to choose who they want to obey.”

Their continual rejection of the new god enraged the majority. How dare they not obey, and thus jeopardize the whole town? How could they hear the words of the new god and dismiss them, holding on to their erroneous belief? Didn’t they know that the majority is always right?

Anger overcame reason, and soon they became a mob with a common purpose: either convert the stubborn minority, or get rid of them. Either option was appropriate because it would be done in the name of this new god and for the common good.

And the name of this new god?

Science.


Daniel 3:4-6 And the left-leaning media proclaimed aloud,” You are commanded, O liberals, conservatives, men, women, and children, that when you hear the sound of government leaders, the CDC, Fauci, Big Pharma, and every carefully selected expert speaking for science, you are to fall down and accept the golden syringes that President Biden has set up. And whoever does not fall down and take the shots shall immediately be cast out of society.

Oh wait.. that’s not actually in the Bible. Here is what the Scripture says:

And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” Daniel 3:4-6

And the devil took him up and sowed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.'” Luke 4:5-8