He Lifted Them Up and Carried Them

    Balloon USAAnd he became their Savior.

In all their suffering he also suffered,

    and he personally rescued them.

In his love and mercy he redeemed them.

    He lifted them up and carried them

    through all the years.

-- Isaiah 63:8-9

I love America. I can’t sit through the American Adventure show at Disney’s Epcot without my heart swelling in pride and overflowing into copious tears (click here to check it out). It takes me back to my childhood, when every year my Dad and I would pack up and head to the Towson Independence Day Parade. Banners waived, local politicians shook our hands, bands played Sousa marches and sirens blared. That patriotic feeling of pride in our freedoms was planted deep within my heart. And even learning about her flaws and blemishes in college only soured me temporarily because for all her mistakes and flaws, she’s still the best and freest country in the world, in my opinion.

The hubby and I read a lot of books on various episodes in American History. And the more we read, the more we are astonished at the obvious ways God blessed this country and intervened to direct our path. Like the stubborn Israelites, we have at times rejected God, turned our backs on His mission and even denied His Lordship.  But despite our revisionist history, I think it is fair to say that we are a Christian nation. It was the love of Christ and desire to serve Him freely that brought the pilgrims to our shores. It was the belief that all people have inherent value and rights bestowed by God that underpinned our Declaration of Independence and later Constitution. It was our belief that God created us for good works that led us to grow our country with hard work and enterprise. It was our conviction that enslavement of other humans was repugnant that led to the election of Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. It was our faith that evil can only be conquered by Good that led us to go to war for freedom around the world. Oh yes, I know that many of these ideals were corrupted by greed, lust for power and other ulterior motives. Just read the Bible and any history book to see that it has always been that way. Nevertheless, this county was founded and built to a great extent by people of faith seeking to serve God and serve others as freely as possible.

God has lifted us up and carried us through all the years. You may say that things look a little bleak right now. You may question whether God has lifted his loving hand of protection from us. You may feel that our beloved ideals are being twisted and trampled and the very freedoms that led the Pilgrims to venture to these shores in the first place are the ones most under attack. That may well be. Let’s face it, Jesus promised us troubles and persecution in this world. But He overcame the world, and we must too! This isn’t a time for hand-wringing, this is a time for sleeve rolling, and bootstrap pulling – and knees bending in prayer! Never has America needed the salt and light of Christians more. Never has our culture strayed so far from Biblical principles of morality and holiness. Never have more Americans been ignorant of the Bible, and unaware of who Jesus is and what He has done for them. The ‘news’ programs argue over solutions this country’s problems, but we who know the power of Christ, know what the only lasting solution can be: being born again into the family of God through faith in Jesus.

As we celebrate our freedom and the many blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity, let us also resolve to be brave in our faith. Our country desperately needs our Good News of love, forgiveness and redemption. Take up the flag, but also take up the cross and confidently declare: ‘Imitate me as I imitate Christ!” 1 Corinthians 11:1.

Wishing you freedom and bravery,

Jen Jahromi

I'm Just A Girl Who Can't Say No

Bunny PoutThe word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. Jonah 1:1-3

Nope. No thanks. No can do. I’ve heard other people use these words, but I, myself, find it very hard to utter them. Even telemarketers and those hucksters at the mall and superstores fill me with trepidation at the thought of having to politely say ‘no’ half a dozen times before they leave me be. I avoid them at all costs.

Several times lately someone has said to me, “You’re too busy! Just tell them ‘no!’” I nodded, but I’ve thought a lot about that since then and have come to a conclusion.

I made a commitment long ago to alter my life and free up my schedule to make room for working for the Lord. This was something I definitely felt called to do. In the beginning that involved a lot of child rearing activities, but now, not so much. So, when an occasion arises and someone calls on me, I generally look at it through the filter of a ‘God’ opportunity. Is God arranging this so I can learn something, be challenged by something, advance His Kingdom work somehow, witness to someone, or just get to know someone better? Or, am I the best person for this? Is God preparing me for something by this? It’s usually only later that I actually check my schedule. I’ve rarely regretted saying yes.

I would like to put in a good word about making yourself available. When I think to myself about why some people have awesome opportunities to serve the Lord and experience success after success, while others of us seem stuck around the starting gate, I ask if we’ve ‘been faithful in the little things.’ The Lord rewards those who do a small job well with greater responsibility. We all need to be honest with ourselves about whether or not we truly WANT greater responsibility.  I know I have not. But God loves us too much to leave us stuck in our fear, or apathy, or whatever it is that keeps us from wanting God’s best for us no matter what it takes. I think of Him like a parent who knows that making us take out the trash will ultimately build character, obedience and perseverance.

Often, like with Jonah, we say ‘no, thanks’ to God, and He says, ‘but this will be a growth experience for you, to prepare you for what comes next in life.’ We reply, ‘growth means discomfort, and I haven’t got time for the pain.’ And then God sends a storm and a giant fish to reorder our priorities. As it says in Isaiah 55:10-11, the Lord will accomplish His purposes.

As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

And speaking of ‘bread for the eater,’ on this subject of being available to help out, I often think of the Little Red Hen. There are always plenty of reasons to say ‘no:’ "I'm sorry, but I'm too busy wallowing in the mud to help you," "I would love to help, but I'm busy swimming in the pond," "I'm sorry, but I have to take care of myself and groom my fur,” "I have other things to attend to, like guarding the house and keeping watch," etc. But I’m more afraid of missing out on something that the Lord has for me, some lesson, or gift or insight. When we fail to make ourselves available to the Lord, we don’t just miss out on fresh, hot, homemade bread, we miss out on the Bread of Heaven.



**To all those I have ever successfully said ‘no’ to, please know that I really did think it over first and just couldn’t.

Pass It On

Instruct the Wise bestTeach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many

(Deuteronomy 11:19-21)

Like so many things, faith is better ‘caught than taught’ they say. Meaning that rather than just preaching goodness, kindness, prayer and Bible study, it’s more important to model these behaviors. The other saying is, ‘your actions are speaking so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying,’ suggesting that the old, ‘do as I say, not as I do’ just doesn’t cut it, especially with kids.

Over the years I’ve heard so many people tell me they can’t teach. But everyone is a teacher in their own way. Actually, with no disrespect to schoolteachers, I submit that family is the first and best teacher, and it’s the place God established for passing on His Word to successive generations. School is a wonderful thing and a terrific opportunity, but it’s at home at the table where lessons are reinforced, love of learning is instilled, values are passed on and stories are shared. Not to mention all the teaching that happens at the craft table, in the garden, in the workshop, at the chicken coop, in the kitchen or on walks in the woods. There’s always something to be taught and so much to be learned!

Every moment we’re sitting at home, walking together, or driving around town is time that we can be sharing, teaching, passing on knowledge and learning. And not just with kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews. We all have so much wisdom and experience to share. The Bible encourages older women to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Men are encouraged to mentor younger men. At all the ages and stages of life, it is so valuable to learn about the Christian walk from others who have trod that same path.

And of course, we teach others around us with our words and actions in everyday life. We have a responsibility to carry Christ with us into all of that. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)

Never think that your faith and your knowledge are not worth passing on. Never think that you are too inexperienced, or too shy, or whatever your objection might be. Jesus chose ordinary men as His students. He lived with them, spoke with them and then sent them out two by two to spread His Good News. It changed the whole world. It isn’t us, and it wasn’t those disciples that impacted people forever, it was and is God’s Holy Spirit working through us. We’re all cracked jars, imperfect and fragile, but containing the most glorious knowledge of all: Jesus lives! His salvation is for all! That is really something to pass on.


(from Kurt Kaiser, “Pass it On”)

It only takes a spark to get a fire going,

And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing;

That's how it is with God's Love,

Once you've experienced it,

You spread the love to everyone You want to pass it on.

Lord, create opportunities for me today and each day to pass on your love: at home, at work, everywhere to everyone.




Bountiful Backpacks of Blessings

Bus Angel gamma15 BEST“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Isaiah 43:1-3

I have very fond memories of my school days. I remember looking forward to learning, feeling safe and valued and enjoying the challenges of the work. Sure, there were a few teachers or students who I didn’t get along with so well, perhaps a bully or two who said some mean things that have stuck with me, and a few project assignments that didn’t go as planned. But it really wasn’t until I had kids of my own in school facing challenges that the memories of the negative stuff resurfaced, and I got a more comprehensive view of the school experience.

My kids had a few terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. These issues and episodes reminded me of times in my own life I had forgotten, and they also highlighted to me how little control I had as a parent to protect my kids from these kinds of things. Which is one of the reasons we must surrender our kids to God and trust that He will protect them or use any suffering and sadness for their growth and ultimate benefit.

Many kids have a much harsher school experience. Severe learning or behavioral disabilities, gun violence, an unstable home life, language challenges and communication issues make school beyond difficult. And thanks to social media, teasing and torment doesn’t stop at the schoolyard gate, it follows kids home on their phones and computers. Add to that the stressful, fear-based daily news and the pressure to succeed and we shouldn’t wonder why so many young people today are suffering from anxiety and depression.

The world is not going to change, at least not right away. Therefore, it is up to us, as prayerful people, to intentionally pray for our schools, our children, our teachers, staff, bus drivers, crossing guards, and daycare workers, etc. We can daily pray for a hedge of protection to be placed around them, and for God’s will to be done in their lives and their schools. We can look for ways to support our local schools and teachers. We can be the first ones called when they need supplies, books, or a fundraiser for equipment. We can volunteer our time to assist teachers, do admin work, or help out on the playground or in the cafeteria. We can’t go to the schools and preach Jesus, but we can preach His message silently by being salt and light as His hands and feet and by showing His compassion and care.

It's a different time now, and school is not as safe and nurturing as it once was. Complaining, worrying and crying won’t accomplish much. Instead drop down to your knees (in spirit if necessary) and start and keep praying. Prayer changes things. Prayer accomplishes God’s will. Prayer puts God’s power into action. Pray without ceasing.


Dear Lord, I pray for the students as they head off into a new school year. I pray as well for the teachers, professors, administrators, staff, custodians, bus drivers, safety personnel, aftercare workers and volunteers in our schools. May they all be sustained by your blessing. May You keep each one surrounded by Your hedge of protection and lead them in Your will. And remind me to support their call to teaching and learning and surround them with constant prayer, love and care as well. Amen.



Apple of Your Eye

Apple of Your EyeFor the Lord’s portion is his people,
    Jacob his allotted inheritance.

In a desert land he found him,
    in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
    he guarded him as the apple of his eye,

-- Deuteronomy 32:9-10

Apple of your eye. The phrase comes from a Hebrew expression that literally means 'little man of the eye.’ It refers to the tiny reflection of yourself that you can see in other people's pupils. To be the apple of someone's eye clearly means that you are being focused on and watched closely by that person. Your very image is central in the eyes of that person!

It is astounding and comforting to know that in a world of 8 billion people, you and I are the Apple of God’s eye, shielded, cared for and guarded by the Most High. In a world of ‘bad apples,’ the ever-present Lord of the Universe has adopted us as His precious children and given us an inheritance in His Heavenly Kingdom. At a time when the world’s ways seem ‘rotten to the core,’ we are apples dipped in honey, representing the sweetness of this life. And although it often feels like ‘mixing apples and oranges,’ we are called to love both the believers and unbelievers, friends and enemies, even those who mean us harm. Love them and pray for them.

And just as ‘the apple never falls far from the tree,’ we should never be found far from our source, our roots, our True Vine, Jesus. Because ‘an apple a day might keep the doctor away,’ but Jesus is the only One who can keep that worm, Satan away. The devil is always on the prowl trying to ‘upset the applecart.’ He’s ‘one bad apple trying to spoil the whole bunch.’ That’s why it’s so important to always be ready to share the Good News with everyone we encounter because we may not get ‘a second bite of that apple.’

I don’t think it would be ‘polishing the apple’ to say that we owe absolutely everything – all that we have, all that we are and all that we ever will be – to Jesus, the one who daily hears our prayers, shows us the wonders of His great love, and gives us refuge in the shadow of His wings. Because ‘as sure as God made little green apples,’ we will reap the reward for our steadfast trust, obedience and worship. There is a place in the Heavenly orchard prepared just for us! ‘How do you like them apples?’

PRAYER: I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer. Show me the wonders of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who are out to destroy me, from my mortal enemies who surround me. (Psalm 17:6-9)

Bushels of Blessings,


United in Love

BrothersTherefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2

We were listening to the car radio discussing the upcoming election the other day when my hubby observed that nothing brings people together like hate. A common enemy unites. I added that, conversely, love – who we allow in our innermost circle – tends to be very sectarian. We see this in our sports enthusiasm: ‘we can’t be friends if you support the Steelers,’ our choice of neighborhoods for living and shopping: ‘I don’t want to be anywhere near those people,’ and of course in our politics: ‘how can you support that guy/gal, they’re the devil!’ Birds of a feather flock together. We prefer to be around ‘people like us’ who look, speak, think and believe like us. It’s comfortable. And that’s okay. But that can’t be the end of it.

Jesus, in His wisdom, knew that His twelve apostles had to be Jewish men. No Gentiles, no women just yet. It was going to be hard enough for His people to accept His message, which seemed to turn everything upside down, without the additional stumbling block of Gentile or female apostles. But within that group of twelve, He chose a Zealot or two who despised Rome’s occupation and a Tax Collector who was working FOR Rome, extorting taxes from his fellow Jews. He chose fishermen and other regular guys from various towns in Galilee. Their personalities were quite different: one a brash leader who often put his foot in his mouth, one a doubter, one honest to a fault, one a thief and betrayer, a couple of brothers who spent a lot of time arguing amongst themselves. Although a few of them were already friends, many of them would not have come together but for Jesus.

Jesus stretched them by asking them to follow Him around the countryside. It couldn’t have been easy living that way. He took them to Jewish villages and big cities, Roman towns and even the dreaded Samaria. He stretched them further with the variety of disciples who joined them: women, people from all over Israel and other countries, former slaves, Pharisees, a wife in the king’s court, former prostitutes, former lepers and all kinds of social outcasts. Despite their common love of Jehovah and Jesus, the social and cultural tension must have been hard to put behind them.

This is a picture of our friendship groups, coworkers, neighbors, club members, and Church! A bunch of very different people drawn together by a common mission, interest or faith. We are called to love, accept, pray for and interact with all kinds of people. We don’t have to like what they like, believe what they believe or live like they live. But we must always be kind, compassionate, gentle, patient and loving towards them. We must be united in the goodness of love, not the power of hate.

With fellow believers, the command is even stronger: we must be like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. The same Holy Spirit is living in each of us, and He should lead us to unity working towards His will, not the divisiveness of demanding our own way.

I was searching Amazon recently for an adult version of a WWJD bracelet. I was surprised to find that that perennial question, ‘What would Jesus do?’ has been answered with another acronym: HWLF ‘He would love first.’ Indeed. Lead with love, value unity, avoid discord, ‘keep no record of wrongs. Do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. Always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere.’ (1 Corinthians 13:5-7) When you start thinking about putting these into action in daily life, with family disagreements, with difficult co-workers, with people on the news, with people on our social media feeds, with our leaders and politicians, it gets much more challenging. But I know you’re up for the challenge! You might want to get one of those WWJD bracelets for yourself as a reminder. (Seriously, they have so many for men and women in all kinds of styles.)

PRAYER: Lord, I accept the challenge of leading with love and valuing unity and harmony. I know this means that you will likely test me on this immediately with some person or situation, but I’m ready. I want to do what Jesus would do. And even if it takes a while, I know you’ll keep working on me. Mold me and shape me! Amen.

Blessings of unity,


Grow Old Along with Me

Our DreamMy beloved is mine and I am his;
    he browses among the lilies.
 Until the day breaks
    and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved,
    and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag
    on the rugged hills.

(Song of Songs 2:16-17)

If you’ve ever been to a wedding, or seen one in movies, you’ve probably been struck by a couple of things. See that ceremony in your mind’s eye.  The bride looks radiant. Far beyond her physical beauty on the day, the radiance exudes from her overflow of love, joy, pride and all the other overwhelming emotions that make her positively glow. Now look at the groom. In his eyes you can see the love. You can see how much he cherishes her. You can see his devotion to her. It’s as if there were no one else in the room, or even the world, at that moment he first beholds her.

Now here is a truth that is often hard for me to grasp: God loves YOU in exactly that way.

God’s people are often described as brides:

for the Lord delights in you
    and will claim you as his bride.
Your children will commit themselves to you, O Jerusalem,
    just as a young man commits himself to his bride.
en God will rejoice over you

as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

(Isaiah 62:4-5)

And later in the New Testament, God’s people are the brides of Christ, the Lamb:

One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.  (Revelation 21:9-10)

Reading any of the Books of the Prophets you will immediately find that an angry Almighty God compares the idolatry of His people to adultery. His Covenant with us is like the covenant of marriage. He expects loyalty and faithfulness in return for the unconditional love and sacrifice He gives us.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

Regarding our relationship with the Lord as a marriage, we need to approach it with the same level of fidelity and lifelong commitment as we would our earthly marriage – more, in fact.

“…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.”

I remember something about “to honor and obey” as well, and of course, death will not part us from our Heavenly groom. But through all of the joys and sorrows of life, the Lord loves us with an everlasting love. He draws us to himself and holds us unfailingly. So much so, that He promises that nothing will ever be able separate us: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:28)

The “Song of Solomon (or Songs),” found right after Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, is a dialogue between a Groom and His bride. I find it very easy to read as an expression of human love. Well, maybe not ‘easy’ because parts make me blush. But that is the challenge! My challenge to you and to myself is to read it as a dialogue between you and Jesus, describing the very intimate, ecstatic, joyful relationship and union He wants us to experience with us. This is not the awe and splendor of a King on a throne, or the respect and praise due to a Father with authority and judgment. Those give us a little distance. But Christ is that Bridegroom at the altar, looking down the aisle at you, meeting your eyes, loving every bit of you, seeing only the best, most beautiful and authentic aspects of you. He’s the new spouse who sees every single part of you, every single habit, manner and idiosycrazy and is still filled with love for you and total devotion to you. He’s the spouse who’s been with you for 40, 60, 80 years, who can finish your sentence or sit in perfect silence beside you, knowing your thoughts, your needs, and what will bring a smile to your face.

It's a dizzying thought, that the Almighty God who holds galaxies in orbit not only cares for human beings, but for you - personally and specifically - listening to every prayer, collecting every tear, numbering every hair on your head and cherishing every moment together.

Your In-Law in Christ,


Who Has Control?

Who HasThe heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.

(Psalm 19:1-4)

My dad was a tinkerer. From his earliest days, he wanted to know how things went together and what made them work. As a child of the Great Depression and WWII, his family didn’t have much, so the world was his teacher.

In Physics, which was dad’s lifelong passion, you can get pretty far just studying the natural world. Just look at the ancient Persians who invented air conditioning, or the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans who managed quite well with levers, pullies and inclined planes. They studied the stars, the weather, the rocks and the animals and by observation figured out calendars, astronomy, metallurgy, agriculture, geometry and more.

Dad borrowed books on physics, chemistry, mechanics and more from the library. In those heady days of unregulated sales of chemicals, he was able to save up his pennies and buy ingredients for experiments at the local pharmacy. He blew up and set fire to many things, including himself, more than once. In high school he started a Rocket Club and dazzled his friends from the neighborhood with dizzying launches skyward. It could truly be said he had his head in the clouds and his eyes turned skyward.

When I arrived on the scene, I became his number one disciple. We gazed through the telescope, we squinted through the microscope, we examined rocks, we traveled to the natural wonders of America and felt awe: powerful waterfalls, tremendous canyons, snow-capped mountains, mystifying rock formations, dinosaur bones half buried in rock, thundering waves, steaming geysers and more.

Dad could launch into dissertations on the hows, whys and how longs of it all. I listened patiently, but where dad saw science, I saw wonder. Where he saw equations, I saw majesty. As a mechanical engineer, he strove to understand and harness the power of nature. I was happy just to experience it. Somehow, those magnificent wonders touched my soul and made me feel very small and yet part of something huge, much bigger than myself.

That acceptance of wonder and majesty was my first step towards faith. I didn’t feel compelled to know the hows, whys or how longs. I accepted that there were mysteries in the world and in life. But my dad could not accept that. I’m sure he was awed by the beauty and magnificence of the universe. But clutching his slide rule tightly, he was also sure that science had or would have an answer for everything.

Sadly, the man who launched rockets towards the heavens, who conquered the wind with his homemade kites, and redirected the flow of water in sandcastle moats and tiered vegetable gardens, could not admit that there was room for an Almighty Creator God in his universe. I guess the math just didn’t compute. His world didn’t have room for mystery and miracles. In the end, for him, love was a chemical reaction, life was 98 cents worth of chemicals and heaven was a light generated as neurons in the brain were deprived of oxygen.

Like the ancient folks who built the Tower of Babel, or the ancient Romans who created an orderly, though brutal civilization, we live in a time of prideful reliance on our ability to control the world and our destiny. God and faith have been worked out of the equation, replaced by charts, graphs, pundits and the Internet. But increasing our knowledge of the universe should never be confused with controlling it. God is in control, and His will WILL be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

If you have unbelievers in your family or circle of friends, be patient with them. Taking that leap of faith means giving up their illusion of control. It means acknowledging that what they have believed about the world may not be correct. Pride is difficult to overcome. Gently acknowledging your steadfast faith in a loving God for whom ALL things are possible, creates a safe place for them to take that first step of faith. Keep praying for them, the rest is up to God.  And, Let us keep looking to Jesus. Our faith comes from Him and He is the One Who makes it perfect.” (Hebrews 12:2)

Wishing you joy in the mysteries and miracles,


The Narrow Path

Right PathBut small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

In my quest for a healthier lifestyle, I’ve been doing a lot of walking lately. In the Hereford Zone we are blessed to have some really great trails nearby with water views, wildflowers, wildlife and history. I walk on the NCR Trail daily, but on the weekends, I like to venture further for longer hikes. I think I’ve established in previous posts what a fan I am of mountains and mountain views. Those are my preferred destinations.

Watching a documentary recently, I was once again reminded that for most of human history mountains have been obstacles rather than destinations. Here in Cumberland, Maryland, The National Road, built between 1811 and 1834, crossed the Appalachian mountains to unify our young country and was the first federally funded road in U.S. history. That was truly a gateway to the west. I often imagine farmers and city folk packing up their belongings in Conestoga wagons and weaving their way over dangerous mountain passes. If they found the eastern mountains challenging, they could not begin to imagine the Rockies or the Sierra-Nevadas.

This was even more true in Biblical times when travelers faced steep, rocky paths always on the lookout for water and wild animals. For them, I imagine the promise in Isaiah 40:4 really sounded like a wonderful miracle: Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.

I can move along the relatively level NCR trail quickly and easily. It’s paved with gravel in most places and it’s wide enough to walk side by side and still let bicycles pass. But those trails up to the high places are another story. Usually narrow, often filled with rocks, boulders and roots, you have to slow down and watch your step. I think slowing down and watching your step is exactly what Jesus was alluding to when He spoke of the Narrow Gate and the Narrow Road. We want our Christian Walk to be like a garden path, but more often it’s like a hike up a mountain – challenging, sometimes exhausting, sometimes dangerous, always full of obstacles, and easy to lose your way or trip you up if you don’t stay alert. And like a mountain hike, there are usually some great moments of exhilaration along the way when you catch a glimpse of the view and see how far you’ve come.

I recently learned that some brave souls go ‘trail running.’ Throwing caution to the wind, they leap, hop and race up and down mountain trails. Watching them reminded me of nature shows about Big Horn Sheep or Ibexes who have feet especially made for leaping around on the tiniest crags in the steepest mountains. If our feet were like that, even the Alps and the Himalayas would be no obstacle for us at all. We could leap and skip over obstacles that used to seem daunting as easily as we now drive and fly over mountain ranges that used to separate peoples and nations for centuries.

So, consider the truths in Psalm 18:30-33:

As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.

 For who is God besides the Lord?
    And who is the Rock except our God?

 It is God who arms me with strength
    and keeps my way secure.

 He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
    he causes me to stand on the heights.

Yes, with Christ we walk a Narrow Path filled with challenges and obstacles, but we do not walk alone. God is our Rock and He arms us with strength and the security of knowing our final destination. But more than that, he trains and disciplines us until our feet are like the feet of deer and we begin to leap and hop higher and higher upward, easily surmounting obstacles and dangers that used to cause us to stumble or stop.

Remember, too, that the Narrow Path, like a mountain trail, is often winding with some switchbacks and descents. You may feel you’ve lost your way or that you are merely wandering. As J.R.R. Tolkien wisely said, ‘Not all those who wander are lost.” Interestingly, Wander is the German word for hiking. So, as long as you stay on the Path, regularly consulting the map of God’s will and the trail blazes in God’s Word, with your deer's feet, you will reach the summit.

Happy Hiking,



SonglassesFor this people’s heart has become calloused;

    they hardly hear with their ears,

    and they have closed their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

    hear with their ears,

    understand with their hearts

and turn, and I would heal them.’

Matthew 13:15

Our senses are a funny thing. It is very possible to hear sound, but not understand what it is or what it means. It’s also possible to be looking at something and still not see it (just ask my kids!) It’s also easy to fool our senses. Think of the coconut shells they use to mimic the sound of horses galloping in movies, mirages in the heat or the optical illusion illustration that asks if you’re looking at a beautiful young woman or an old lady. So, perhaps it’s natural that God would use these everyday experiences to communicate to us about Spiritual things. It’s really a two-step process of seeing AND perceiving, hearing AND understanding.

When I was a senior in High School, I attended a youth group at a local church. I was not a believer, but I was trying hard to comprehend what being a believer truly meant. I knew it was a serious decision and I didn’t want to commit to something that I couldn’t follow through on. During that time, I remember picking up my grandmother’s Bible and trying to read the Book of John. I was smart and literary, but it completely confounded me. I remember thinking that it sounded like the kind of thing Gurus would say and everyone around them would respond: ah, yes, yes.

Many years later, at a low point when I was completely stressed and had reached a place where I knew I had failed as boss of my life, all the messages I had heard about Jesus over the years came back to me. In desperation I cried out to Him and signed on as a disciple figuring that whatever it required HAD to be better than the mess I had made for myself. In that moment, something happened. The world seemed to shift somehow, and I felt that, like Paul, something like scales fell from my eyes. The world had not changed, and I had not changed, but the way I saw the world completely changed. Suddenly, I was perceiving, not just seeing. Commercials I had seen many times before suddenly bothered me with their overly sexualized messages – I couldn’t bear to watch them. And this time when I picked up the Bible, it enlightened my understanding immediately. It so thoroughly captivated me that I couldn’t put it down.

It was THE most transformative moment of my life, but it has been very difficult to explain to other Atheists and unbelievers. I can see in their eyes that I might as well be talking about crystals or ghosts or alien abduction. Like the blind man healed by Jesus, or John Newton the former slave trader, I’m left with “all I can tell you is I once was blind but now I see.” Or as Mary Magdalen on The Chosen said, “I was one way, and now I am completely different, and the thing that happened in between was Jesus.”

When we put on SONglasses, we see the world differently. We start seeing what God sees, to the extent that’s possible. We see the sin that is rotting this world. We see that the heart of the problem is a problem of the heart. We begin to notice the people we used to walk past without a thought. But we also see the light of the world, the small good deeds, the quiet servants, the beauty of creation, the everyday, ordinary miracles, the movement of God in schools, churches, countries, regions. We see how powerful prayer is. We recognize the limits of evil. And when we look in the mirror, we begin to see Jesus.

With our SONglasses on we can stop worrying and relax. We can rest in the secure knowledge that Jesus has conquered sin and death. That we, too, are overcomers, victors, conquerors! That nothing is impossible with God. That “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4) If God is for us, who can ever be against us? … nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31, 38-39)

So put on your Songlasses and relax!

Blessings of Summer,


Nailing Jesus to the Cross

Once and For AllBut he was pierced for our transgressions,

    he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was on him,

    and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,

    each of us has turned to our own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

    the iniquity of us all.

-- Isaiah 53:5-6

This is going to sound like an Easter message, but sometimes it’s good to hear things when you don’t expect to. At VBS this year, this was our Gospel presentation. It’s always hard to talk to kids about trials, capital punishment and death, but this particular lesson really brought it down to kid-level. And I’ll admit, it made me look at this story and my part in it a little differently. I hope it will have an impact on you too.

We started by reminding the kids that Jesus lights the way with love and caring. Even in His final hours he cared for us enough to endure a lot of hurts.


Jesus knew He would be betrayed by a friend, but He let it happen. Have you ever betrayed someone? Turned your back on them or told their secret? I have. It hurts when a friend betrays us. Jesus was willing to be betrayed because He loves us.


The soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden and Jesus reminded everyone there that He could call to His Father and have legions of Angels protect Him. But He allowed himself to be arrested and then deserted by His friends. Have you ever deserted someone? Turned away when they needed help? I know I have. It hurts to be deserted. Jesus was willing to be deserted because He loves us.


After Jesus was arrested, the soldiers spit in His face and beat Him with their fists. Have you ever physically hurt someone? I know I have. It’s ugly and mean, but Jesus was willing to be hurt and beaten because of His great love for us.


The soldiers made a crown of thorns and jammed it on His head and then pretended to bow down and worship Him, mocking and making fun of Him. Have you ever made fun of someone? I have. It hurts to be mocked and made fun of, but Jesus was willing to go through it because He loves and cares for us.


Jesus had never sinned, but He was willing to take the punishment of death for my sins. And for your sins. It was our sins that nailed Jesus to that cross.

When we betray or desert a friend, we nail Jesus to the cross.

When we hit or hurt someone, we nail Jesus to the cross.

When we mock or make fun of someone, we nail Jesus to the cross.


But Jesus’ love for us is more powerful than sin and death. Jesus was willing to die on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. And when He came back to life three days later, He defeated death! When we believe in Jesus, all of the wrong things we do are forgiven and we can be with Him forever in Heaven! I’m so thankful for Jesus and the way that He loves and cares for us!

That was a powerful day at VBS. And having to say that I did all those things, which of course I have, really made it very personal, especially when it came to admitting that those same sins nailed Jesus to the cross. It‘s easy to think of Jesus dying for ‘my sins’ or ‘all our sins,’ which generalizes it out into an abstraction. But bringing it smaller and more personally to ‘Jesus died for my lie on my Income Tax,’ or ‘Jesus died for my mean gossip,’ or ‘Jesus died for the swear word I used driving down the highway,’ well, then there’s the pinch of guilt and regret that leads to true repentance.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross so our sins can be forgiven. Thank you for defeating death by coming back to life. Thank you for making a way for us to live with you in Heaven. Thank you for loving and caring for us so much. In Your name we pray. Amen.