Monthly Archives

February 2017

Featured Life Winter's Prey

The God Who Catches Us

February 16, 2017

Marc was quiet. He could hear a note of hurt in his brother’s voice. For a while he fiddled with the edge of the quilt that covered him, shame bringing color to his pale cheeks; but then he raised his eyes to meet his brother’s questions with confidence. “I knew the Lord wouldn’t let us starve. I knew He’d never disappoint us. So I just decided to trust Him. …But I’m afraid my eyes started to stray when the roof was damaged. Just like Peter walkin’ on the water, I saw the waves and the ‘wind boisterous’ and began to sink…now look at me.”

Both men were quiet, both contemplating their conversation. Marc, not for the first time since the accident, was realizing how he’d begun to worry and doubt. Jon was realizing how little he’d ever started to trust.

Winter’s Prey – Page 192

This morning, for the third day in a row, I woke up feeling overwhelmed. My to do list, which never actually made it to paper, is so long and confusing that I’m not sure where the beginning or the ending actually are. As usual, after spending some time in prayer, I picked up my phone to see what time it was. My phone greeted me with a long list of notifications, most of which weren’t really that important, but one caught my attention. It was the emailed version of a devotional that I have used off and on for more than two decades.

Normally, I only use the emails when I am traveling and haven’t brought the book along with me or when I’m working on something on the computer and happen to see the email come in. But this morning, the Lord impressed upon me that I should read it. Three verses at the end of the evening reading caught my attention.

“When thou passest through the water, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.” Isaiah 43:2

This is one of my favorite verses of comfort and promise. It brings back memories of an evening spent in one of the apartments at the orphanage in Russia, and the testimony of a Russian pastor. He started his story with this verse and then went on to tell how God had kept him and his family through days of persecution.

This morning, it also made me think of someone who has recently come across my path who is going through some pretty deep waters right now. What a promise to know that God will not let those waters overflow her. As I was thinking on this, the second verse caught my attention:

“Peter…walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said to him, O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” Matthew 14:29-31

What a beautiful thought that God could not only keep the waters from overflowing my new friend but also could enable her to walk on those waters!

But as I reached the part about the wind, my heart grew sad. Instantly, the above scene from Winter’s Prey played through my mind, and I realized that I was doing exactly what Marc had been doing—looking at the storm rather than at the Savior, looking at the to do list, the enormity of each project on it, the interruptions, the unexpected, and forgetting to remember that the same Savior who has given me a work to do is the same Savior who calms storms.

How glad I am that the verse does not say, “And beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord save me. But Jesus let him sink, watching as he disappeared beneath the waves and said to him, O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?”

Grace is a beautiful thing. I am in desperate need of it every day. I know, as do you, that none of us will measure up all of the time. I am so grateful that when I begin to sink, He stretches out His hand and catches me. Think about that for a moment—We serve the God who catches us! How amazing is that!

“When I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” Psalm 56:3

The last of the three verses is the secret to walking through the storm, to facing the fear of the unknown, to pressing on when we don’t know how we will be able to accomplish everything or how long our energies will last, or where to start and when to finish. The secret to it all is this—keep your eyes, your heart, on Him.

My day didn’t get any less busy by reading these verses. Actually, things were even more hectic than I expected. But I had a good reminder each time I was tempted to get overwhelmed, a reminder that I had hope. I could trust the God who would keep me above the waters.

How about you? Do you have a verse that helps you keep your eyes on the Lord when things get overwhelming? Please share in the comments below.

Featured Life Winter's Prey

The Gain of Contentment

February 16, 2017

“Now nearly thirteen years later, the small chamber was not so comfortable. With all five girls in the room, space was non-existent. The chests of drawers were shared: Jess and Elizabeth using one, Mary and Joy splitting the other. Gretel’s few items resided neatly in a small wooden crate, which Mary had carefully placed beside her dresser and lovingly dubbed “The Annex.” Beside the original straw mattress, two more had sprung up, so that the room was all mattress and no floor. But for the most part the quintet was content. They loved one another and did their best to avoid squabbles, though it wasn’t always possible.”

Winter’s Prey – page 56

When I set out to write Winter’s Prey, it wasn’t intended to be a book about contentment, and yet from start to finish that thread has woven itself throughout the book. From the tight conditions of their small home to the overwhelming conditions of their rugged lives, the characters are constantly faced with that choice either to be happy where they are or to miserable. Some of them choose well, for others it is a great struggle.

The same can be said for us. We live in a world that is constantly offering us more. Even as I type this, an advertisement is flashing in the bottom corner of my browser window. It’s telling me about all the great tools and products I can buy to make my home what it ought to be. Not to mention the awesome office products I can purchase to make my home and business more successful. It’s promising me more. But what about what I already have?

It’s easy for us to look at others and say, “Wow, they’ve got it made. I wish my situation was like theirs.” I’m currently on a 4,000 mile trek across the US sharing about the ministry of Forbid Them Not and speaking in ladies’ conferences. Early on in my trip, someone said to me, “I bet you live in a big, beautiful house.”

I almost laughed out loud, but the Lord helped me keep my demeanor. “No,” I replied, “I live in a mobile home—that leaks.” It wasn’t a complaint. It was just the truth.

“Well,” she said, “but at least you have a mobile home. I have a mobile home too.” And she was right. Even though my house was showing its age in the form of a leaky roof and windows, I have a home. Some do not.

As I have driven across Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Missouri, I have often seen what appear to be ancient homesteads. I can’t help but think of the difficulty of the life their people led. Today people live off the land by preference; the homesteaders and pioneers did it by necessity. I have stood in homes in Africa where the primary building materials are mud, cow dung, straw, cardboard, and newspaper. And yet the people living there are some of the happiest, most content people I have ever met.

Scripture tells us that, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” (I Timothy 6:6) The gain of contentment isn’t something you can buy off a shelf or earn on the stock market. Contentment, while not putting something extra in our hand, is both laying up a treasure in heaven and lifting a weight from our lives. When we walk through life contentedly, the pressure to be or do or have is removed. We can look to Christ and say, “Help me to be who You want me to be and to do as You want me to do. I trust You to supply my needs.”

Contentment isn’t easy. I used to think it was some magical state that eluded my every move. Why couldn’t I just be content? I cannot begin to tell you the joy I experienced the day that I discovered the secret the Apostle Paul makes so clear in Philippians. He said, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”

I have LEARNED! Contentment will never be a sudden or spontaneous achievement. Contentment is a growing process. It is a discipline. It takes practice! It also requires the choice to intentionally be happy with what I have, where I have it.

I’m happy to report that, even though it is raining in Montana as I write, my house is dry. The leaks seem to have been fixed. But even when our house is leaking, or our car is making its age known, or our clothes are wearing thin, we can learn to be content. And one of the best ways to make that process easier is by choosing gratitude.

Are you content where God has put you? What has He given you that you can be thankful for? I’d love to hear what He has taught you about contentment!

Winter's Prey

Joining the Journey of a Grieving Soul

February 1, 2017

“Why, Mama? Why would she do it?” Joy’s demand came as tears welled up in her eyes and slipped down her cheeks.

Marc, who sat nearest to where the girl was standing, held out his arm to her, motioning for her to come close. When she had, he pulled her gently into an embrace.

“Because she’s hurting, Joy, and she’s not sure how to handle it. It’s not a wise decision, but sometimes pain blinds us. Pray for her.” He kissed her temple lightly and held her while she wiped her tears. To his surprise, the redhead wrapped her arms gratefully around his neck and clung to him for a long while.

“I love you,” she whispered at last and then went to the shelves under the loft to find a book.

—Winter’s Prey, Pages 62, 63

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Grief is a strange thing. For a time, and in some cases for the rest of our lives, it changes us. Things that once seemed clear now seem veiled behind some strange new reality: One we never could have imagined before. The hole in our hearts seems so large and raw that it is almost unimaginable that ANYTHING could ever fix it. “Time,” they tell us, “time will make it better.” And it does, in some infinitesimal way. But in those early days of grief, when the world is still spinning and nothing makes sense anymore and we no longer know who we are because who we were has been stripped of one of its greatest foundations—in those days grief blinds.

Last week, some friends and I sat across the table from a woman who had lost nearly every material possession in the wake of her husband’s death. She was in a desperate place, but as I listened and watched I saw a desperation that was deeper than what could be seen even in the destitution of her physical situation. It was the desperation of grief. It was the questions that swarm through the mind, “Who am I without him? What will I do? Where will I go? How will I survive?”

The questions are very normal, but to the onlooker, the responses seem so very strange and illogical. As she threw out her proposed solutions to her situation, my stomach twisted itself in knots. Each one seemed like a plan destined to drive her current situation into further destruction.

“Why would she do that? Why would she make such a desperate move?” I caught myself thinking. But in the next moment, I would see the grief in her eyes, and I would remember. I would remember what it was like to have my world ripped out from under my feet and the sudden unexplainable emotion that came with it. I remembered the urgency to find a solution that would keep our heads above water. I remembered the fog that clouded the thought processes and numbed all senses but one—the sense of pain and loss.

The grieving soul can be repulsive to the whole, vibrant, secure soul. Their actions may seem irrational or foolish, when really they are simply grasping for hope, for a means to survive. We do not see that our counsel, though perhaps far better than their own, is frightening to them. They have never walked this road before, never slogged through the mire of emotion that inhibits their every step. We do not see that they need our patience every bit as much as they need our clarity of mind. We easily become frustrated or impatient or hurt by their blundering. We see our discomfort, but cannot truly imagine that theirs is a hundred, thousand times greater.

There was but one thing we could offer that woman that night as we sat at the table. The one thing, which so often held me above the churning waters of grief—Christ. Sure, we could counsel her as to what steps to take next. We could find organizations to help her. But Christ, and Christ alone, could give her the hope, the peace, for which she was searching.

The fog of her grief made it very hard from our point of view to see whether she had truly reached out and taken hold of that Hope. Only God knows the answer to that question. Our job was simply to tell her of that Hope and to love her, comfort her, and to meet the needs we could meet.

As the story in Winter’s Prey moves along the Bennetts find that grief is not a problem to be solved but rather a journey to be taken. At times it is a long, slow, arduous journey. Perhaps that is why God had to command us to weep with those who weep. It isn’t something that comes naturally. The whole soul cries only for a moment, while the grieving soul weeps for a night that seems eternal. Attending a funeral is one thing, slogging through the trench of transition with the mourning is another. It is a journey laden with care and burdens and worry, all of which must be taken to the Lord. And that is where Marc’s solution comes into the picture: Pray.

Are there grieving souls in your life?

Pray for them.

Do you see them making decisions that you don’t understand?

Pray for them.

Do you see them acting in ways they’ve never acted before?

Pray for them.

Do you see them hurting those they love the most?

Pray for them.

And then do something more:

Love them.

God did not give us the fruits of the Spirit to waste on ourselves. He gave them to be shared with those around us. Let Him pour out His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance through you and into their lives. Study out what it means to truly love, to extend charity, and then live it toward the hurting around you. They may not receive it the way you want them to or even would expect them to, but that is not up to you. Your part is simply to love them as God loves you. We don’t always return His love either, but He loves us still.

God makes an amazing promise to the grieving soul. He says, “Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” The Greek word translated “mourn” means “to wail”. This person isn’t just a little bit sorrowful! No, this person feels as though their heart has been ripped from their chest. And yet God says they are happy—because they will be comforted. The Holy Spirit is the great Comforter. But God has also made it clear that He “comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves have been comforted of God.”

Are you a grieving soul? Let the hope of Christ be your strength. Let the Holy Spirit come alongside to strengthen, encourage, and guide you. Are you struggling to know how to respond to a grieving soul? Pray for them. Love them. Walk along side of them and let the Lord comfort them through you, however long it takes. Grow together not apart. The path might not be easy for either of you, but in the end you will find that God’s promise is true—you will find the happiness of His blessing and comfort.