Sunday

11 Unexpected Life Lessons, Part I



Profound doesn’t have to be complex. Oftentimes, the most profound truths are also the simplest. 

After spending time at Edisto Beach recently with Lauren, my favorite two-year-old, I jotted down 11 rules I learned from her that I want to apply to my life. I think you'll find them worth considering, also. 

11 Life Lessons from Lauren 

1. Look closely at the world around you. Lauren examines everything. Seashells, fish, even the lemon-scented soft soap in the bathroom is worth a close-up look. She notices the tiniest crab as he scuttles along the beach, Papa and Gigi’s toothbrushes hanging in the bathroom, and the unfortunate snake that didn’t look both ways before he crossed the road. Because I’m not very observant, Lauren is a great example to me. 

2. Ask for help. There are many things two-year-olds can’t do. They don’t know how to eat a push up pop, build a sand castle, or open boiled peanuts. They don’t know how to get sand out of their bathing suits, catch a hermit crab, or jump over waves. They do, however, know when they need help and aren’t afraid to ask for it. Most of us could take a page from their playbook. Admitting our need or lack of knowledge is both humbling and empowering. 


3. Spend one-on-one time with those you love. Lauren loves snuggling on the porch swing, cuddling for a nap, or talking about whatever comes to mind. Summer vacations are great opportunities to spend time with extended family and friends, but they shouldn’t be the only time we hang out. Even if you don’t live nearby, a visit by phone, Skype, or Face Time can be great for letting friends and family know you love them. 

4. Laugh often. Every day Lauren makes silly jokes and funny faces. Her giggle sounds like joy bubbling out. Her original songs, dramatic gestures, and perceptive insights keep us smiling. She is our family’s comic relief. Even after she goes to bed, we’re still laughing as we compare notes on the hilarious things she did that day. Since laughing boosts our immune system, relieves stress, and lowers our blood pressure, we’d all be wise to follow Lauren’s lead and laugh often and laugh well. 


5. Respect your limitations. Lauren needed a little help with this one. I noticed that her normally sunny disposition would take a nosedive if she felt hungry or tired. Thankfully, she has attentive parents who recognize the signs and intervene. A well-timed snack or nap restores her equilibrium, and she’s good to go again. 

We, too could benefit from understanding and respecting our limitations. If our bodies function best on seven or more hours of sleep, we should do everything we can to allow for this. If we work best in the morning or the evening, in a quiet atmosphere or a busting one, we should try to accommodate these dynamics instead of fighting against them. There will always be times when we have to make do in less than ideal situations, but ignoring the way God created us is always counterproductive. 

6. When you’re there, be all there. There’s something delightful about the abandon of a child. They don’t hold back, hedge their bets, or have one toe in. Since this was Lauren’s first real trip to the ocean, we were curious to see how she’d react. Enthusiastic is an understatement. She chased waves, dug in the sand, and lay on her belly and splashed. She came home every day with sand in her hair, mouth, ears, and, well, other places we won’t mention. Bottom line for us grownups? Wherever we are, be fully engaged. Multitasking shortchanges everyone, including ourselves. 


7. Slow down and savor instead of gallop and gulp. Ever watched a two-year-old eat a peanut butter cracker? First you twist it to separate the top from the bottom. Next you scrape the peanut butter off with your teeth. Then you eat the top. Then, because you notice the seagulls gathering around you, you break off a corner and toss it their way. One piece for Lauren, one piece for the birds. One piece for Lauren, one piece for the birds. It’s not a speedy way to eat, nor is it the most efficient, but it sure is satisfying. I wonder how many simple pleasures we miss because we’re gulping instead of savoring?

". . . and a little child shall lead them" (Isa. 11:6).

In my next blog post, I'll share Part II of Life Lessons from Lauren. If you haven't subscribed to receive twice-weekly blog posts, now is a great time to sign up so you won't miss a single post.




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Wednesday

Maybe God Can Even Use Cowards

Few know that Joe is a secret disciple. A prominent man, he just can’t risk the social fallout that will come if he openly declares his allegiance to Jesus. There’s too much at stake—his reputation, his position, his family. Everyone knows religion and politics don’t mix. 

Besides, if he comes out of the closet about his relationship with Jesus, he’ll lose the chance to be a light in a dark place. At least that’s what he tells himself when the twin rats of shame and cowardice gnaw at the edges of his conscience. But he’s a good man, and he wants to do what’s right. 

Nic struggles too, and he and Joe often talk about it. They compare notes in hushed conversations punctuated by long silences. There is much to think about. They know the prophecies. They’ve heard him preach. They’ve witnessed his miracles. It is undeniable, but they just can’t risk it. They’re too afraid. 

But into every coward’s life there comes a time when fear goes toe to toe with faith. 


Joseph thinks the time has come when the late-night council calls for a vote. He waits, heart pounding, as the moderator calls the role. Surprisingly, a few before him also voice quiet nays. Perhaps they, too, are secret disciples. 

After the moderator calls his name, a string of angry yeses overshadow his soft dissent, and the murderous motion passes. 

I tried, he thinks. What else can I do? Guilt and shame hangs heavy as he looks across the council room at Joe. The slump of his friend’s shoulders mirrors his own. Their eyes meet for a moment of shared misery, then drop again to their hands. No blood stains their fingers, but they take little comfort in that. 

It is the way of quiet cowardice. Don’t take a stand unless you have no other option. Don’t make waves. Don’t take risks. 

But something changes that day on Golgotha. 

Maybe it’s the way the earth shakes and the sky darkens, visible manifestations of the battle that rages as the Creator breathes his last. 

Maybe it’s the words he speaks, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” 

Maybe it’s the gut-wrenching cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” that echoes in their ears long after the wind carries away his words. 

Somehow they know.

Long before he breathes his last. Long before the soldier jabs his sword into his side and blood and water burst forth. Long before the buzzards begin to circle. 

They know they can’t let his body rot in the common criminals’ boneyard. 

A hurried consult at the fringe of the crowd, then they part ways. One to gather the donkey and the spices, the other to beg Pilate for his body. 

It’s a foolish attempt, really, to think that the same governor who sentenced Jesus to death might grant him a decent burial. But raising from where he has prostrated himself before him, Joe looks deep into Pilate’s soul. 

In the instant between his stammered request and Pilate’s surprising consent, he knows what Pilate knows—that he has betrayed an innocent man and perverted the justice he was supposed to uphold. The least he can do is grant him a decent burial. 

He meets Nic on the hill as the sun begins its descent into the valley. Hurriedly, for the day of Preparation is near, they wrap Jesus’ body in linen and tuck spices among the cloth. Only the occasional trickle of sweat from their faces testifies to the emotional and physical struggle raging in their hearts. 

“Lift him gently,” he says as they prepare to move him into the tomb. I’m glad I bought the finest tomb on the hill. I never dreamed . . .” 

Nic grunts under the weight of Jesus’ prone body and ducks into the yawning mouth of the cave. Taking a clean cloth from the bag at his waist, he hesitates. For the first time since they lifted his body from the cross, he looks into his Savior’s face. 

Dried blood plasters his hair to his skull. One cheekbone is swollen, and the other is crushed. Dark bruises make his face almost unrecognizable. The lips that had taught, and laughed, and cried are silent. 

“Forgive me,” he whispers, and places the cloth gently over his face. The words of a long ago conversation settle like snowflakes onto the frozen soil of his heart: 

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. . . . He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed.”* 

“I believe,” he whispers. 

Ducking outside, he joins Joe in pushing the stone down the incline to seal the mouth of the tomb. A silent handshake, a hasty hug, and a mutual parting sends each man home a different way. 

The guilt and shame that had lain like a thick blanket across their shoulders lifts, and a new thought lightens their footsteps. 

Maybe God can even use cowards.



What about you? Are you a secret disciple? Do you struggle to take a stand and share your faith? What part of Joe and Nic’s stories resonates with you? Is there a lesson you can apply to your life?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below or, if you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE to visit Hungry for God online, scroll down, and leave a comment.

* John 3:14, 15, 18

This narrative is based on John 19:38-42.



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Sunday

Hello Summer! The only thing better than summer reads is FREE summer reads



Can you think of anything better than summer reading? What about FREE summer reading . . . ?

To celebrate the first day of summer, my publisher, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas is offering FIVE FREE KINDLE books to everyone who purchases a copy of my devotional book, Hungry for God ... Starving for Time, 5-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. 

And to make the offer sweeter than fresh squeezed lemonade on a summer day, they've even lowered the paperback price from $10.99 to $7.95. The Kindle version is at a ridiculously low price of $1.99. Thank you, Lighthouse!

Summers are supposed to be more relaxed, but most days I'm busier than ever. If this is your story, too, be sure that busyness doesn't squeeze out time spent with God. 


Hungry for God ... Starving for Time, a 31-day collection of 5-minute devotions, is the perfect companion to your busy summer schedule. It's the perfect size to tuck into your swim bag, suitcase, or purse, ready for anywhere you find five minutes for quiet reflection. 

If you already own Hungry for God (and I hope you do), I bet there's a busy woman in your life you can gift a copy to. Ask God to show you who needs an encouraging word from the Lord wrapped in an everyday story every woman can relate to. Then send a copy of HFG her way.

If you do that, here's the best part--you can gift a copy of Hungry for God and still keep the other five books we're giving away FREE! What a great way to bless someone who needs a little spiritual encouragement AND add to your Kindle collection of great books to read this summer.

Want to see which books we're giving away? Here's the collection:







Here's how it works:

1. Purchase a copy (Kindle or Paperback) of Hungry for God ... Starving for Time. Click the image to go straight to Amazon.

2. Email a copy of your receipt to:
  freekindle@lighthousepublishingofthecarolinas.com.

3. Be sure to include your Kindle email address in the email. If you're not sure what your Kindle email address is, see below*.

4. Your five free ebooks will be sent to your Kindle within 48 hours.

Now, to get you in the mood for summer, here are a few scenes from one of my favorite places to read and relax, Edisto Island, South Carolina.










*Here's how you find your Kindle email address: 
  1. Go to Manage Your Content and Devices.
  2. From Settings, scroll down to Personal Document Settings.
  3. Under Send-to-Kindle Email Settings, your Send to Kindle email address will be listed.






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Wednesday

4 Steps When Life Gets Hard

Betrayed, persecuted, grieving, uncertain, confused, abused, and struggling. 

Can you identify with any of these words? Most of us can, sometimes more than others. 

Life is a struggle, and most days we feel the angst of living in a difficult world, with difficult people, under difficult circumstances. I think this is why God includes stories about real people in the Bible. Reading other people’s stories, the good, the bad, and the ugly, gives us perspective and, most important, hope. 

King David was a man who experienced just about everything life can throw at someone. His memoir includes a humble beginning and an exalted ending. He came to faith early, and God used him in mighty ways to lead the nation of Israel. He also disappointed God greatly and lived much of his life with the consequences of his sin. 

The book of Psalms records many of his soul-searching, gut-wrenching conversations with God. Psalm 71 is one of them. Listen to David’s cry: 

“O Lord, I have come to you for protection; don’t let me be disgraced. Save me and rescue me, for you do what is right. . . . in my old age, don’t set me aside. Don’t abandon me when my strength is failing. For my enemies are whispering against me. They are plotting together to kill me. They say, ‘God has abandoned him. Let’s go and get him, for no one will help him now’” (v 1,2, 9-11 NLT). 

His example reminds us that it’s OK to pour out our hearts to God when we are distressed. But Psalm 71 isn’t just a lament and cry for help. It’s a prescription for how to weather difficult circumstances. 

Listen to David’s 4-step plan as outlined in verses 13-17: 

1. Don’t lose hope. David expresses his commitment to trust God: “But I will keep on hoping for your help.” No matter what happens, we must never stop believing that God hears and answers our prayers. 

2. Don’t stop praising God. “I will praise you more and more,” he says. “I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power.” Praising God reminds ourselves and others that God is good, even when our circumstances are not. 

3. Don’t forget what God has done. “I will praise your mighty deeds, O Sovereign Lord.” Reflect on the many ways he has worked in the lives of faithful men, and remember how he has worked in your own life. God’s long history of faithful care for his children strengthens our faith, because we know God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 

4. Don’t stop sharing your faith with others. “I will tell everyone that you alone are just.” Sometimes when difficult circumstances enter our lives, we’re tempted to slander God with our words or our lack of faith. We must resist, choosing instead to take a faith stand and continue to testify of God’s goodness, no matter what. 

If you’re betrayed, persecuted, grieving, uncertain, confused, abused, or struggling, King David’s four-step plan for weathering difficult circumstances is powerful and effective. 

My prayer for you is that you will soon be able to testify, as David did, “You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side” (v 19-21). 

What about you? When you struggle, which examples from Scripture give you hope? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you’re reading via email, click here to visit Hungry for God online, scroll down to the end of the post, and leave a comment.



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Sunday

Three Skirmishes in the War on Pride

I was editing an article a writer had submitted to the magazine I work for. Her topic was pride. “At the risk of tempting your pride,” I wrote, “your article is well-written, thought-provoking, and timely. Well done.” 


The writer responded in a way that made me nod. “No worries. God does a good job of keeping me humble.” 

Isn’t that the truth? I’ve had several skirmishes recently in the war on pride. 

A friend dressed me down. Her words were angry and sharp. My first response was to respond in kind, but something checked the words that threatened to fly from my mouth—I realized there was some truth to what she was saying. I was not guiltless, as my righteous indignation first led me to believe. Instead of defending myself, which I really wanted to do, I apologized for my wrongs. 

I’ve also been in professional situations that have wounded my pride. My flesh wanted to take my marbles and go home, but the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow me to. He reminded me, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” And then he added the coup de grace: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,” (Mark 10:25). 

And finally, I had to choose to love people who’d hurt my heart. I didn’t want to love them; I wanted to punish them. I wanted to withdraw my affection and sulk. I wanted to make them to feel the same sting of neglect I felt. 

Fortunately, my devotional reading for the day, “On the Power of Divine Love,” in Thomas a’ Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ didn’t let me. 

The disciple to his Lord: “Because I am still weak in love and imperfect in virtue, I need to be comforted and strengthened by you. So you often visit me and instruct me with your holy discipline. Deliver me from evil passions, and cleanse my heart from all unholy desires. May I be healed and thoroughly cleansed within so I may be ready to love, strong to suffer, and steadfast to endure.” 

Luke 14:11 reminds us, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." 

I don’t want to exalt myself; I want God to do it. I don’t want God to resist me; I want him to extend grace. I don’t want to be prideful. I want to be humble. More than anything else, I want to be like Jesus. 

Like my writer friend, I suspect God will have many opportunities to keep me humble. The real success will be when I eagerly embrace the process, instead of fighting against it. 

What about you? What challenges make humility especially difficult? What helps you embrace humility and resist pride? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you’re reading by email, click here to visit Hungry for God online, scroll to the bottom of the post, and leave a comment.



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