What have the recent crises in your life, your country, and your world, demonstrated about your love for other believers?

I was giving birth to our first son.  Labor was going into the 2nd day and I had enough.  At that time, Bill was working fulltime, going to college and also leading a ministry.  He normally was wiped out.  I remember screaming at him when he had the nerve around hour #20 of my labor to begin nodding off in exhaustion.  After all, it was all about me and not him.  Right?


Then we come to John 19:17-27, the passage about Jesus’ last hours.  It should have been all about Him, not anyone else.  Right? Jesus is arrested, deserted, tortured, betrayed, listens to religious hypocrites lie through their teeth. Furthermore, he’s forced to drag through the streets the cross on which he will be murdered. He is hanging there with nails through His wrists and feet, the crowds jeering at Him, and the soldiers are deciding who will get His clothes. What does Jesus do? He takes care of Mom.  I think I would be thinking about everything that has just happened to me and the further agonies to come, yet, He takes care of Mom. It’s not all about His own pain.


Does he entrust this task with his biological half-brothers? No, He totally entrusts this with His friend, John.  In Luke 8:19-21, Jesus makes clear that there is a bond deeper than genetics.  My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it. If there is anyone who will faithfully take care of His believing mom, it would be the disciple who showed up at the cross and did not look away – the Apostle John.


Why is this an important distinction? John Piper writes: “Those who hear and do the Word of God have an even greater claim on Jesus’ care than she (Mary). If he took care of her, will he not much more provide for all your needs? If Jesus could provide for the needs of his own in a moment of his deepest weakness and humiliation, how much more can he provide for your need in his present power and exaltation!”


This is both a huge responsibility and benefit for those who are part of the Body of Christ, the church. Our needs are met when we have left everything to follow Jesus. Paul said in Acts 20:28, Christ purchased the church of God with his own blood. Piper continues: “Therefore, one of the gifts Jesus gave to us from the cross was the church: a loving, caring, sustaining, encouraging family beyond family. And it is a great encouragement to our faith that he illustrates the meaning of the church the way he did in the relationship between John and Mary.”


A ground breaking prayer that Jesus prayed for both His disciples and believers in the future is recorded in John 17:20-23. He prays for complete unity among His followers, something that would shake the world.  Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. The product from such unity is the same type of care which Jesus on the cross entrusted John with regarding Mary.  This is what the church is supposed to do better than any other agency on earth – to care for their own.


So, the question is, if you profess to be a believer, how are you caring for other believers? Bishop Wescott wrote, “Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards, they simply unveil them to the eyes of men. Silently and imperceptibly, as we wake or sleep, we grow strong or we grow weak, and at last some crisis shows us what we have become.” What have the recent crises in your life, your country, and your world, demonstrated about your love for other believers? Is it sacrificial love, the kind that will run to the very end? It is not all about you. It is about Christ.


There is hope, even if you don’t feel like hope is a part of your experience anymore

Do you remember that those first holidays during COVID?  High hopes that COVID would be over by Thanksgiving and Christmas that year. But no, the holidays came and went. Isolation.  I vividly recall the shots of the vehicles outside the hospital in NYC.  Bodies were being stored there because there just wasn’t enough time or resources for funerals.  Merry Christmas.


Then came daily news briefings by our State’s Governor (just in case no one had noticed the State of Emergency).  News was never good.  Along with millions of others I was depressed. It wasn’t the first time I ever went through depression and it certainly has not been the last, but this was memorable. Many peoples’ mental and emotional states of health accompanied me down the rabbit hole. 


Depression is not an occasional down day, a minor bump in the road.  Rather, depression is a visitor that overstays its welcome.  Eviction notices are necessary. There are many symptoms, but one may lose interest in doing what was formerly enjoyable, energy goes down the drain, a general sense of hopelessness pervades the atmosphere and life stinks. 


It is a dark and lonely place, especially for a believer in Jesus Christ.  The hole is so dark that all hope of rescue evaporates. This condition is especially a rude awakening if one has never previously experienced it. It may seem to come out of nowhere. One feels locked in. What does a person do if they feel like there are blindly trying to find their way out of a sealed room?


Depression has been an unwanted houseguest in my life since childhood.  Yes, COVID amplified it, but I was abundantly acquainted with depression way before any virus entered the picture.  Beloved friend, please walk with me these coming weeks as we explore possibilities in finding better healthier ways of coping with depression. We will be exploring possibilities for discovering hope in the next few weeks in the blogs I publish on Thursdays.


I want you to know that there is hope, even if you don’t feel like hope is a part of your experience anymore. My goal is that you would gradually discover your way toward the abundant life you had envisioned. Have to tell you that what God may define as abundant life and what you had planned as abundant life may be totally different scenarios, but I know from my own experience that God’s plans are extraordinarily good.

Assignment #1

Read “Martin Luther’s Shelter Amid the Flood of Depression”.  You may appreciate by beginning the paragraph headed “Plague, Sickness, Depression”. It spoke to me. Break out your songbook for this one. You are not alone in this.  Depression has haunted the ages but let’s begin to kick its butt.

Please write to me more questions, comments, and stories. We are in this together.


What merits being burned at the stake for simply translating the Bible into English?

And what merits being burned at the stake for simply translating the Bible into English? For William Tyndale’s “sin”, in 1535 he was convicted of heresy and executed by strangulation, after which his body was burnt at the stake. The Catholic Church had found him a dangerous threat to their existence.


In practice, the Catholic Church refused to allow the Scriptures to be available in any language other than Latin. Everyday parishioners could not question the priests’ teachings. Few people other than priests could read Latin. The Church could not get away with selling indulgences (the forgiveness of sins) or selling the release of loved ones from purgatory if people were able to read the Bible in their own tongue. Without these sources of income, the church’s power would crumble.


Furthermore, understanding the contradictions between what God’s Word said, and what the priests taught, would set people free from the grip of fear held by the institutional church. Salvation through faith, not works or donations, would be understood. For this “heresy”, Tyndale was martyred. He gave his life to help produce the English Bible, a version of what may be gathering dust on your bookshelf.


Obedience to God always carries a price. Each time I read the tortuous account in John 19:1-16, I hear the agony which paid for my salvation.  Every tear, scream, and mockery of justice, propelled Jesus Christ toward the cross. Jesus chose to travel through a week of hell. The events in this passage are horrifying to read. Under Pilate’s authority, the soldiers are permitted to use Jesus for a punching bag, scream obscenities into His face and grind a crown of thorns on His head. All of this took place in the lower room of the home of the Chief Priest, the head of the “religious” Jews. They were out for blood.

Pilate, the head of the local Roman government, seems to be scratching his head when he responds to the demands of the Jewish officials, I find no reason to crucify Him. A paraphrase of his following response to them could be, “Do it on your own time. I can’t do it legally.”

Jesus of course, is of no help to Pilate in coming to His own defense. Jesus reminds Pilate, You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. 


The Jews threatened Pilate. If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar. Pilate knows that kind of talk can lead to his personal demise.  He is only there by the appointment of the Roman government and if word gets to Rome that Pilate has allowed an insurrection in Israel, Pilate is toast. Pilate gives in to the pressure, sets up court, and ends up handing Jesus over to be crucified.  Understand that the Jewish religious leaders hated being under the rulership of Rome, except they made an exception when it was convenient to their own agenda, which was to murder Jesus.

Pilate again asks, Shall I crucify your king?

The chief priests answer, We have no king but Caesar. So, we have torture, lies, betrayals, a death sentence and a Messiah Who doesn’t call down fire from heaven. How does one process that?


That week was a lesson in total obedience that led to the payment for our sins on the cross and Jesus’ resurrection.  Obedience is the unique mark of true followers of Christ through the centuries. Are you willing to pay the price? To sacrifice your comfort zones and let God plan the agenda? Tyndale paid the price for people to have the Bible in their own language. Jesus gave up His life willingly in the midst of chaos so we can be made new creatures in Christ. Take the challenge: begin to discover what real obedience is by carefully reading that Bible and learning the truth. Afterall, this is the book which so many gave up their lives for you to read.

For further information, strongly suggest listening to “Introduction to the Marian Martyrs” from the podcast, Men Who Rocked the World, by Steven J Lawson


He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and mire.

Image of woman waiting

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.

Image of person in mudpit

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire.

Image of Jesus walking alongside

He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 

Image of music

He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.

Image of many worshipping

Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:1-3)


Strength is scarce. I don’t know what to do with this weakness I feel.

Having lost my beloved job and all that went with it, my life – and I – fell apart. I experienced a four-year dark night of the soul.  My persona, the identity that I’d built to compensate for the inner sense of brokenness, crumbled. I began to look more deeply, mostly because there was no other option. I had to face the pain of my difficult and sometimes traumatic childhood. Whilst often desperate for some relief or solution, it became clear that this was a process of unbecoming, of unravelling.”  (shared by Fiona Robertson)


Have you ever felt that you are also becoming unraveled?  Maybe you knew that an upheaval process might eventually prove for the good, but in the back of your heart have you doubted? Change is painful. Maybe the worst type of change is when the rug is pulled out from under you and you didn’t even realize the rug was loose. In the process, we may actually need to be unraveled; to be taken apart at the seams.


I wondered why I become unusually upset during seasons of change. I came up with a term which seems to fit: “fear of scarcity”. When something is scarce, there is a shortage, a famine, a drought. In my life there are times when I have asked for help, resources, or even love from believers and the supplies offered (or not offered) have been scarce. I adapt to such a life by trying hard not to ask for “too much”.  This fear of scarcity in asking help from people can color how I also view God.  I believe that God loves the world, but hey, couldn’t He be just too busy or short-staffed to personally have time for me? 


Then begins my unravelling.  With the tumult of circumstances, I come to the end of my own resources.  Maybe because of age, maybe because of yet another major change, I lose my resilience.  Strength is scarce. I don’t know what to do with this weakness I feel. I’m on the path to nowhere. I need God to unravel the knots I am in. Have I presumed that my God is too small?


Despite my fears of scarcity, God breathes truth into my soul. His perfect Word states: He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. (Psalm 147:3-5) Regardless what my heart may feel, God sticks around for the hard work of reworking my life. He truly loves the unlovable and redeems the unredeemable. No matter what I think or how I feel, there is no scarcity with God. He has the strength, the love and the resources to unravel the largest knots which clutter my life.


Do you also need to be unraveled? Are you tangled up in knots of fear? Please know that God has plans and knits together the most beautiful creations. You need not fear scarcity from the Father. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. Call on Him; His resources are endless. Allow Him to unravel at will – He can be trusted. Fear no more.


The rubber was about to meet the road, so to speak. No more “weekend warriors”, as the National Guard were often referred to. This was the real thing. We were advised to get our financial and legal matters in order.

Iraq invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990. I was seven months pregnant with my first child. My husband was serving in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard at the time, so news such as that was more than just a front-page headline; it was cause to take notice. As the crisis unfolded, it became apparent that the question was not if my husband Mike would be activated to serve, but rather, when.


The last months of my pregnancy were overshadowed by the uncertainty looming over us. The rubber was about to meet the road, so to speak. No more “weekend warriors”, as the National Guard were often referred to. This was the real thing. We were advised to get our financial and legal matters in order. I was barely holding it together. Praying that the situation would get resolved quickly; knowing that it was not as simple as that. I turned to God, knowing that I could not do this on my own. I did not have enough strength to get through it.


This was a turning point in my life, and in my faith in God and His provision. I leaned into God like never before, asking Him to give me the strength that I needed. With a great deal of hope and more than a little anxiety, I tried to keep my focus on managing one day at a time. As I did, I began to see God work.


In the early months of the crisis, they called other military units. Mike’s unit didn’t receive the call. Home for the birth of our son in October, Mike was called to service late November. His preparation for deployment took place at Ft. Indiantown Gap, so he came home on the weekends leading up to his departure. We were blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas together. Shortly after New Year’s Day, Mike left for the Middle East. I prayed with confidence God would take care of him and all involved.


I knew that God had it all under control. God carried us through this, even though I couldn’t see the future. In ways I never experienced before, I saw God’s faithfulness and care for me. I developed a strength I didn’t believe was possible. God gifted me with visits, phone calls and offers of help from family, friends and neighbors. Admitted to the hospital for gall bladder surgery in April, God worked out everything for me and our newborn. My mom moved in and took care of the two of us. Through the times of loneliness and fear, I felt deeply loved and cared for.


In the book of 2 Samuel, we read David’s story. Thought greatly blessed by God, David fell into grievous sin. Confessing those sins, David didn’t take God’s forgiveness lightly. Even as he experienced the consequences of his sin, David never lost his belief in God’s love and faithfulness. 2 Samuel 22, David writes, The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior…. And in Psalm 91:4, He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.


God is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is working on your behalf in every situation you face. You never have to deal with anything in this life alone. God will be with you, always. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)


“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there,  Will you forgive me?”

How does one forgive a betrayer? In 1947, just two years after her liberation from a concentration camp, Corrie Ten Boom recounts that she came from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives. “When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.” And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward through the crowd. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp where my sister and I were sent.


Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!” And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women? “You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there. But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Will you forgive me?”


I stood there with coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. “Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. As I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”


How does one love betrayer(s)? In John 13 we have more than the infamous and unrepentant betrayer (Judas). It is easy to forget the disciples who skedaddled off the Mount of Olives when the soldiers arrest Jesus. Then there is out-spoken Peter, who uses his oratorical skills this time to announce to everyone in earshot that he was not one of Jesus’ followers. All betrayers.


Jesus knew what was to come in the next few hours before the betrayals. After Judas leaves the room, Jesus gives His remaining disciples one of the most difficult laws in all Christianity: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.


This is family talk, a command from the Heavenly Father to His beloved children on how they are to relate to other believers.  How does one forgive their betrayer? Corrie recounted, “I forgive you, brother! With all my heart!” This type of love is the mark of the true believer that shouts louder to the world than any bumper stickers, t-shirts or emojis.


How do we love one another? Ray Stedman writes: “In this passage, the Greek, literally, says, ‘As I have loved you in order that you might love one another.’ One is the cause and the other is the effect. As in many places in Scripture, the word ‘as’ here can better be translated ‘since’: ‘Since I have loved you in order that you might love one another.’ Here our Lord is saying that his love for us will stimulate and awaken within us the ability to love other people.”


This love was the cause and the identifying mark of Corrie Ten Boom’s love for Christ. Only through Christ could she stretch out her hand to her former enemy. Has Christ’s love stimulated and awakened within you the ability to love other believers, even your betrayer(s)?


They had worked hard for years and deserved the fruits of their labors. What next delightful adventure could they check off?

It was the Saturday for me to attend a promo for a Christian travel agency. The room was packed with well-dressed people; there was standing room only. Cookies and coffee free for the taking were stacked on the long table in the back of the room. Oohs and aahs were heard from the audience as they viewed the promotional videos on the wide screens facing them.  Marianne gave a yelp of delight when she noticed a picture of herself on her trip to Montreal. Tom smiled as he appeared in the group posing on a glacier. 

Many had traveled together before, comfortable that they were making their journeys in a Christian environment. Excitement buzzed through the crowd.  All those new possibilities the crowd could add to their “bucket lists”.  Afterall, they had worked hard for years and deserved the fruits of their labors. What next delightful adventure could they check off?


Unlike my Saturday experience, the Bible notes in John 13:1-7 an event in which no promotional videos are playing on the walls. Only Jesus and 12 men occupy the room.  Unbeknownst to the disciples, it is only hours before the betrayal, trial and execution of Christ.  Quite a few of the guys engage in a dispute over which of them is Jesus’ greatest follower. They want to be the GOAT (“Greatest Of All Time”). Judas remains off to the side, burning with disappointment in the rabbi Who had no plans to free the country of Roman oppression.


In the midst of the noise is Jesus. He knows what is to come, yet decides to show the disciples His personal “bucket list”: to demonstrate the full extent of His love. No exotic vacation for Jesus. No sitting by the pool. Just torture, blood and agony. He has worked three long hard years for this moment.


The day of the supper with Jesus was long, exhausting and dirty. When the group piled through the door of the meeting room, none of the disciples volunteered to help their friends clean up from their travels. Halfway through the meal, the Master stuns them. He stands and quietly fills a basin with water, removes his outer garment, ties a towel around His waist, and kneels in front of the first disciple.  Jesus smiles at the ones He loves dearly and begins to wash their feet, one by one. This is the Savior’s bucket list, to show them the full extent of His love. His love is the definition of complete humility: living the role of a servant and acceptance of execution as a criminal.


As He washes their feet, His words whisper in the disciples’ minds: By this all men (and women) will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. What does such showing the full extent of His love mean? Craig Groeschel comments: “We have to be willing to do what may seem insignificant, what isn’t often visible to others. What you do may feel like it’s behind the scenes, but getting promoted in the kingdom of God is never by self-promotion, it’s always by serving. It’s not about what we do; it’s about who we are.” Another great observation by Dr. Keith Wagner: “You can wash the feet of anyone, but when you fail to love them, you might as well have walked with them through a car wash.”


All those people packed into the room with me on that Saturday afternoon had one thing in common, death eventually enters the picture. The question is, am I packing in my bucket list what matches up to Christ’s plans for me, regardless of how many days I have left on earth? Having loved His own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”  How am I, and how are you, living out the full extent of His love? What’s on your bucket list?


Children of those murdered, were able to tell the shooter, “I forgive you; I condemn what you’ve done, but I forgive you.”

On July 17, 2015, a young man entered Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston South Carolina and joined a Bible Study group. The ten people in the room welcomed the young man, even though his presence was unusual. They offered him a Bible and proceeded with their study. At the end they sang a hymn and then had a closing prayer. At that point the man pulled out a gun and shot nine of the ten parishioners in the room, leaving one alive to tell the world what he had done.


Out of that horrific act, there was a glimpse of the presence of Jesus in the courtroom. At the arraignment, several of the children of those murdered, were able to tell the shooter, “I forgive you; I condemn what you’ve done, but I forgive you.” Some other family members, neighbors, and certainly the media, were bewildered by what was happening. How could anybody show that much compassion for an individual that murdered your mother, your grandmother, or your friend? The answer comes from the One who gives mercy to an undeserving people. His name is Jesus!


In Matthew 15:29-39 we see Jesus healing many of the people who followed him. He extended His mercy and made them well. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking, and the blind seeing.  Once again, Jesus extended His mercy to individuals who probably had no love for him, beyond being glad He healed their broken bodies.  


As illustrated by Jesus, showing mercy is part of God’s character. We cannot show mercy to people begrudgingly or with ulterior motives if we are Christ followers. God displayed mercy to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. In the same manner, Jesus says in Luke 6:36, Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.


Having enough compassion in your heart to reach out to the sick is one thing, but to forgive a killer, someone who has taken away a part of your family, is that possible? Paul says in I Timothy 1:15-16, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst, but for that very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.


God’s mercy is something which we must live out in our own lives to show what God is like. Are you merciful to just the nice people? The people who deserve it? Or do you show mercy to others, just as God has shown mercy to you? God’s mercy is a cup of cold water in our dry and desperate times. The character of Christ was demonstrated by those individuals in the courtroom towards the man who had pulled out a gun and shot nine of the ten parishioners in that Bible Study Group. That type of mercy displayed to the world Who Jesus Christ is. How is God asking you to display this kind of mercy in your own life to others? Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.


God stuck around for the hard work, of loving the unlovable and redeeming the unredeemable.

Age sixteen, a passenger on a train to nowhere. I immersed myself studying the philosophy of existentialism; concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. Quickly, I arrived at an end of myself.  It was all meaningless. Despite having been a believer for about 3 years, I knew few genuine Christians.  Our family’s church was Presbyterian: “God’s Frozen People”.  A popular song of the day was entitled, “Is That All There Is?” Caught in the throes of teenage angst, I pondered those lyrics.


God stepped in.  A pastor invited me to go to a Missions Conference in western PA.  I don’t know why he extended the invitation.  Possibly out of the crowd of disinterested teens in our congregation, he saw in me a glimmer of hope.  For whatever reason, I packed my bags to travel to an event where I knew absolutely no one.


Among a crowd of strangers, I do not remember any of the week’s speakers, musicians, or activities, except for one afternoon.  That message carried an arrow which shattered my cold heart. For years, I had been positive no one loved me; there was no purpose to my existence.  God spoke in the midst of my brokenness.  The first time in my life, I finally understood that with all my failings, God loved me desperately just as I was.  I already understood that Jesus died for my sins, but I had never comprehended the depth of my salvation. 


Christ didn’t save me and then go on His merry way, wishing me a cheery, “Good luck!” over His shoulder. Jesus redeemed me “to bestow on me a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” (Isaiah 61:3)


God stuck around for the hard work, of loving the unlovable and redeeming the unredeemable. I was His beloved daughter who would always be loved by her Heavenly Father. Of no consequence was my job performance and talents (or lack thereof).


Tears ran down my face. Pure joy and wonder now entered the equation. “When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place, what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?”  (Psalm 8:3-6) I knelt in awe, having realized I was not alone and life was not meaningless. My life finally had a destination as I discovered true eternity with Jesus Christ.