It’s only a matter of time

But Jesus’s perspective is different

Mark 1:34, 41; 2:11 Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases … Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and healed the leper. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” … Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home.”

2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away [a tormenting “thorn” in Paul’s body]. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

How can a loving father with power to heal, NOT heal his beloved daughter?

Karis took this vexing question to the Lord again and again during her life. At age 11, she chose 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 as her life verses. She referred to them often in journals when she details her intimate conversations with God. Another frequent phrase is, “Don’t ask why. Ask what for.” Her high view of God’s sovereignty, combined with her absolute trust in his love for her, led her to look constantly for what he was doing through her difficult circumstances. I came to expect this question when we were once again in crisis and on the way to the hospital: “I wonder who’s there this time who needs to see God’s love?”

I mentioned on the last blog that the conversation between Jesus and Little James in the second episode of Season 3 of The Chosen could have been lifted from Karis’s journals. Here’s my transcript. It’s not complete but most of the conversation is there, in case you want to refer back to it later.

Jesus has just instructed the twelve disciples to go out two by two in different directions, giving them the authority to heal, as they have seen him heal many people. Lame Little James asks Jesus for a conversation afterwards.

James: How can I heal others when you haven’t healed me?

Jesus: Do you want to be healed?

James: Yes. Why haven’t you?

Jesus: Because I trust you.

James: What?

Jesus: Precious Little James, listen carefully. Within the Father’s will, I could heal you right now, and you would have a good story to tell.

James: That you do miracles.

Jesus: Yes. That’s a good story to tell. But there are already dozens who can tell that story, and there will be hundreds more, even thousands. But think of the story that you have if I don’t heal you. That you still praise God in spite of this [disability]. That you know how to focus on all that matters so much more than the body. That you show people you can be patient with your suffering her on earth, because you know you can spend eternity with no suffering. Not everyone can understand that. How many people do you think the Father and I trust this with? Not many.

James: But the other disciples—they’re so much more …

Jesus: Are you fast, impressive when you walk? Maybe not. But these are things the Father doesn’t care about. You are going to do more for me than most people ever dream. So many people need healing in order to believe in me … That doesn’t apply to you. And many are healed or not healed because the Father has a plan for them which may be a mystery. And we remember what Job says, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”

James joins Jesus saying: “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Jesus: When you pass from this earth and you meet your Father in heaven, Isaiah promises you will leap like a deer. Your reward will be great. So hold on a little longer. And when you discover yourself finding true strength because of your weakness, and when you do great things in my name in spite of this [your lameness], the impact will last for generations. Do you understand?

James, with tears: Yes. Thank you, Master.

Jesus: A man like you healing others. Oh, what a sight! I can’t wait to hear your stories.

Jesus starts to walk away after they bless each other but turns back.

Jesus: And James, you will be healed. It’s only a matter of time.

Karis’s famous smile … on a Christmas day in the hospital

Ten lords a-leaping?

But God hears our cries for help

Psalm 145:19-20 The Lord grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. The Lord protects all those who love him.

Matthew 28:20 [Jesus said] “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Luke 6:46-48 “Why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say? I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm.”

1 Peter 1:6 There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while.

The image that comes to mind is comical. I picture a game of leapfrog, with the ten lords in all their finery becoming ever more disheveled and wet as they fall in the grass sodden and muddy from all the rain we’ve been having.

Shutterstock: Wallenrock

And that reminds me of my then three-year-old grandson slipping and falling in mud. When I heard his cries and went to rescue him, I slipped too, and we were both lying there covered in mud and with no apparent way to clean ourselves up enough to get in the car and go home from the park.

On this tenth day of Christmas, the last thing I feel I need is ten lords a-leaping. I need only one Lord who hears my cries for help and rescues me. For my heart is shattered with a loss I can’t describe to you. Maybe that’s OK, because your heartache is different from mine, and I want you to hear this word of comfort from Psalm 145 through the lens of your own grief or need.

Wait a minute! you may be thinking. I don’t see the Lord granting my desires or rescuing and protecting me. I feel like God has forgotten me, or maybe, with the world in such a mess, he doesn’t care about my concerns. I’m like that crying three-year-old lying cold in the mud.

I hear you. Sometimes nothing makes sense, even words of comfort like these words from Psalm 145. Sometimes the Lord rescues us in ways we don’t understand until much later.

I’ve gone through a lot of trouble and anguish in my life, and what I want to tell you, even in my own grieving today, is that the Lord does hear, and he does care. Sometimes I wish he didn’t so much respect our free will and would swoop in and prevent us feeling the effects of our own and others’ poor choices and wounded hearts and wrong thinking and acting. I wish I could go back to being like three-month-old Juliana whose every need my daughter attends to.

But God wants me to grow up, painful and messy as that process can be. And while this “vale of tears” can be very dark at times, light and hope come to us through the promise of final defeat of wrong and evil. This isn’t “pie in the sky by and by.” Our solid rock, the anchor for our souls, our unwavering confidence is that Jesus is with us now, today, walking through it all right beside us, caring for us in big ways and small.

Please open my eyes; let me see you with me, Lord.


It’s not fair!

But God promises justice and fairness

2 Peter 1:1, 4-5; 3:9-10 I [Peter] am writing to you who share the same precious faith we have. This faith was given to you because of the justice and fairness of Jesus Christ, our God and Savior. … He has given us great and precious promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. … The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. … But the day of the Lord will come.

“It’s not fair!”

Six-year-old Karis banged the front door and stomped into the kitchen. “It’s not fair that the English language is so hard to spell! It’s okay for me because I already know how to read. But it’s ridiculously hard for the kids who are just learning. Who decided the f sound should be written with a gh?!”

Sent to me by Karis when she was in college.

Ten-year-old Karis wept into her pillow. “It’s not fair that so much money is being spent on me, just to keep me alive! What about the children who starve not because they can’t eat, like me, but because they don’t have food? Can’t we ask the insurance company to buy food for them instead of paying my hospital bill?”

Twelve-year-old Karis, once she was stabilized from her immediate crisis, greeted me from her hospital bed with tears running down her cheeks. “It’s not fair that you canceled our family vacation! Take the other kids and go! I’ll be fine here. I can’t bear causing them disappointment AGAIN!”

Sixteen-year-old Karis, after passing out at school from dehydration, glared at me defiantly. “I refuse to return to Hospital Einstein. It’s not fair to pay for a five-star hospital when my Brazilian friends have to go to Hospital Grajaú! Take me to Hospital Grajaú!” (This story is in Karis: All I See Is Grace.)

It’s not fair … true. The world is not fair. We have a zillion blessings others don’t have. But our Lord Jesus will return and set everything right. It’s a promise as dependable as God’s immutable integrity. It’s the solid hope we have as we mourn the corruption around us. (Whoa, Peter—are you sure you didn’t visit 2022 when you wrote chapter two?)

As I read Peter’s brief second letter, I keep remembering that these are his last recorded words. I sense his urgency, after years and years of walking with Jesus, to communicate with us, warn us, encourage us, remind us what really matters. Jesus could come back any moment! How do you want to be found when he does?

We are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness. So, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight (2 Peter 3:13-14).

All praise

But God names us his heirs

1 Peter 1:3-5 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. By his great mercy we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

Psalm 16:5 Lord, you alone are my inheritance.

Sometimes I catch myself so looking forward to seeing Karis again and meeting our son Michael in Heaven that I have to ask myself, “Am I more excited about seeing Karis and Michael than you, Lord?”

He responds, “Don’t worry. It’s not either/or. It’s both/and! Forever!” I’m quite sure the glory of the Lord will be so overwhelming there will be no chance of lesser loves usurping his place.

Indeed, all praise belongs to him. Look at all Peter includes in these few lines as reasons for our praise. Great three-point sermon, Peter!

We have been born again. The Greek word is anagennao. It means a change from one state of being to another. It’s the word Jesus used in his conversation with Nicodemus in John 3 to describe spiritual rebirth. Peter uses it again twenty verses later: For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word (logos) of God (see John 1:1-5).

Because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Bodily resurrection to life after having been dead (anastasis) is God’s promise to us as well. Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back (1 Corinthians 15:23).

Bloom #6 of Dan and April’s wedding orchid’s rebirth delighted us on Karis’s birthday yesterday.

We live with great expectation. Indeed! Elpis means hope, looking forward to something with confident expectation. As each day speeds by and I see old age on the horizon (still very distant, of course), this is huge reason for praise. Our spiritual salvation—what we experience now—will one day express itself in new bodies that neither sicken nor sorrow nor age nor die.

We have a priceless inheritance. Here on earth, our bodies “keep the score” of the abuses and traumas we suffer. In Heaven, our new bodies will register the delight of unspoiled LIFE, beyond the reach of change and decay. Won’t it be fun to see the people who have gone before us as their true selves, healed from what they suffered—and inflicted on others—here on earth?!

It’s (almost) enough to be happy about growing older, if that’s what it takes to receive our inheritance.

All praise to God!

As I’ve written this post, a dear friend sits with a close friend of hers in the sacred transition space between earth and Heaven. I thought I would post again on Monday, but to honor this moment, I’ll go ahead to post it today.

And the first bloom on the other stem popped open today. I’ll dedicate this one to my friend who stands on holy ground this morning.

Walk through this week with Jesus

But Jesus says, “You did it for me” by Ed Fox, from San Andrés Sajcabajá, Guatemala

Matthew 25:34-40 Then the King will say, “Come … For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me. … I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!

As we walk with Jesus through Holy Week, we can experience once again the way he identifies with us in our own much smaller suffering. As so many people are pouring out resources to care for victims of the war in Ukraine and in other places of deep need, Jesus says they are doing it for him. But first, he poured out his life for us.

Ed Fox, a childhood friend from Guatemala, responded to the last post, “Turn toward not away,” illustrating this. Thank you for sharing with us, Eddie.

Antigua, Guatemala (home of my brother Steve and Elaine) Holy Week sawdust carpets GettyImages-505656257

“This story and lesson from Karis’s and your experiences has touched me to the core. So many of the thoughts she expressed to you and in her journals are similar to my own.

My own dad experienced terrible physical and emotional suffering and anguish. He turned towards Jesus and not away. Until the day he died, I asked God to put at least some of Dad’s suffering on me, in part so he might finish the tasks God had given him as a Bible translator. He and Mom did indeed finish shortly before he passed away, and I think of your dear parents, as well, and Mary and myself, as we stumble to the finish line.

About six months following Dad’s departure to Heaven, my own chronic sufferings began and have never ended. Many friends in Guatemala consider my physical (and perhaps emotional) suffering to be a result of my own sin and shortcomings. The “health and wealth” gospel is the main thing going in many of the new Guatemalan congregations, both Evangelical and Catholic. On top of that is the reticence in Mayan culture to make public any illness or trouble in one’s own life. That has fed the idea that it is shameful or an embarrassment when one must ask for prayer. Most troubles in this life are considered to be brought on by one’s own failings and shortcomings.

My suffering, though, has drawn me much closer to Jesus. I believe Jesus has chosen me to walk with Him in His and other people’s sufferings. In turn, I have chosen, as Dad and Karis did, to walk with Jesus and do my best to encourage others along the way.

We have a choice. We can choose to suffer and walk with Jesus, or we can choose to suffer and be bitter and angry. As you say, we choose to turn towards, not away. Although God has provided me with many small encouragements and victories along the way, He has chosen not to heal me completely. I’m usually okay with that after 22 years, but not always! Mary hears my complaints nearly every day of our lives, and so does God!

I want to leave you with a song that encourages me in my pain. Thy will be done on earth as in Heaven.

Where do you go for refuge?

But God cannot lie  March 17, 2022

Hebrews 6:18-19 It is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.

Jeremiah 17:7 Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.

I love what this image communicates to me about resilience. I took it Monday beside our front steps.

The world is full of misinformation, and no one is smart enough or wise enough to figure it all out. So, I love this word from Hebrews. There is a place where we can relax and rest, a place to anchor our souls with confidence: God’s strong and loving heart. A place to anchor our resilience in the face of all the challenges we each face.

I want to share with you today the “But God” story of Lawrence Chewning. I don’t know him, but he’s made his story public through youtube.

And I think you’ll be encouraged with me by singing “We have an anchor” along with Loretta Adjetey from Ghana (“Lor” is her stage name). Priscilla Jane Owens, 1829-1907, wrote this song. I’ve been to Accra and have worshiped with and been blessed by the generous hospitality of Ghanaian people. Listening to Lor took me right back there. If you know any of their history, you’ll appreciate even more the beauty of this song in their context. It’s an amazing story of resilience.

A strong and comforting word

But God says to the Son, “You remain forever” March 6, 2022

Hebrews 1:10-12 God also says to the Son, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. They will perish, but you remain forever. They will wear out like old clothing. You will fold them up like a cloak and discard them like old clothing. But you are always the same; you will live forever.”

This is a strong and comforting word for these days of chaos and fear and violence and tragedy and death in Ukraine and other places around planet Earth. No matter what happens, Jesus is the same. Everything else may change, but he does not. He still yearns over us with love. He still longs for us to experience abundant life. He still sustains our world by the mighty power of his command (v. 3). He still cleanses us from our sins and intercedes for us at the Father’s right hand (v. 3). He will still return to set everything right and rule with a scepter of justice (v. 8). He still hates evil (v. 9). He still pours out the oil of joy to the extent we can receive it.

A few days ago, a friend’s parents’ house burned. One day they woke up in peace and the next they woke up in a neighbor’s home, trying to make sense of what had happened to their world. Each of you can immediately think of examples in your own sphere of the fragility and unpredictability of life.

But God says, Jesus will remain forever, and he is always the same. We can anchor our souls to him.

Eternal God, unchanging, mysterious and unknown.
Your boundless love unfailing, in grace and mercy shown…

FYI: Our church is calling for a different type of fast each week of Lent. This week we are fasting from social media. So I’ll start catching up a week or so from now.

But the Holy Spirit’s power gives us confidence

Romans 15:1-5, 13 We must not just please ourselves. We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord. For even Christ didn’t live to please himself … May God help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. … I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When I was eleven and in the U.S. on furlough from Guatemala, our family visited my grandmother in Liberal, western Kansas. My sister Marsha and I slept on the floor of Grammy’s office. We noticed a row of boxes on the bottom shelf of her bookcase, the kind paper came in back then. Curious, we peeked inside one of them, and then the others. Each contained a neatly typed book manuscript. Every night after we were sent to bed, Marsha and I muffled our gasps and giggles over Grammy’s romantic novels, carefully keeping the pages and boxes in order. We loved her stories, even though we never ‘fessed up about our nocturnal invasion of her privacy.

Shutterstock: mpaniti

I have no idea what became of those works after Grammy died. No relatives I asked knew anything about them. I suspect whoever cleaned out her house simply through her delightful work away. How sad.

My proposal for Book One of the Cally and Charlie series, Horse Thief 1898 (see has been turned down by forty literary agents. Why? Because I don’t have an adequate platform. What does that mean? It means, for starters, I don’t have at least ten thousand followers on at least two social media platforms and on my blogs. It means I can’t guarantee selling ten thousand books myself, through speaking, writing, and book signing events, thus recouping the costs to a publisher of taking a chance on my books in a very crowded market.

Not confidence-producing, right? So, what do I do with my conviction that God wants me to write these books? Turns out, most writers I know believe that’s true for them as well. So it doesn’t mean much in the publishing industry, but it still means a lot to us.

I’ve cycled through many different ways to think and feel about this situation. About the countless hours I’ve invested in research and writing about Cally and Charlie. Oddly enough, since I’ve given up my quest for a literary agent, and plunged back into Book Two, Treasure Hunt 1904, I feel energized and hopeful again. I feel like I’m doing what God has gifted and directed me to do. I’m trusting God to show me a step at a time how to walk forward into self-publishing Horse Thief 1898 and subsequently Treasure Hunt and Facing the Faeries. We have so many more options available now than Grammy had in the 1950s and 60s.

The number of books being published these days is overwhelming. Even so, we writers keep on writing more. Like Eric Liddell, we can each say, “When I write, I feel God’s pleasure.” Though her work wasn’t known outside her small office, I suspect my Grammy felt the same way.

So I’m curious. In what ways does the Holy Spirit give you confidence and hope in the work he’s called you to do?

But God gives hope of freedom from death and decay

Romans 8:20-23 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.

In São Paulo, we lived a few blocks uphill from one of the city reservoirs, Represa Guarapiranga, a sizeable lake surrounded by grass and trees and flowers and birds. A flock of herons occupied an inlet; exotic pheasant-like birds whose name I don’t remember nested on the shore. Cows, horses and stray dogs wandered there (watch your step!). Neighborhood men and boys fished and played soccer, flew kites and maneuvered battery-powered miniature airplanes.

Hungry for green space in our industrial city of 22 million (our house had no yard), our family celebrated Easters with sunrise breakfasts at the represa and on clear nights sometimes glimpsed a few stars. We jogged there and picnicked, enjoying the gracious accent of sailboats and other craft.

Our neighbors were less sanguine about using the represa shoreline. Drugs were sold and smoked. Assaults and murders, kidnappings and rapes were too-often reported. Vagrants bathed and slept there. Soccer fields flooded during rainy season, while mosquitos thrived.

From our upstairs windows, the represa offered a soothing touch of nature amid the concrete and traffic. Such a lovely image—from a distance. Up close—hmm, not so much:

Sadly, I can’t find the photo I took of the Guarapiranga shoreline, but this gives you the idea. Shutterstock: Wipas Rojjanakard

My friend Loide, an architect who worked for the city, long nurtured a vision for our neighborhood shoreline. On a visit several years after Karis and I left São Paulo for Pittsburgh, I discovered Loide’s plans had been embraced and funded! Cultivated flora framed walking/jogging paths, exercise equipment, benches, and concrete tables with painted-on gameboards. The half-mile park hugging the shoreline of “our” represa was fenced, protected and maintained by a staff of guards and gardeners. Hundreds of people, from infants to elderly, now safely enjoyed the reclaimed space.

For me, Loide’s park, infusing hope in a setting of violence and violations, is an image of restoration—what Paul calls “a foretaste of future glory.”

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace.

But God said “Go”

Acts 9:1-5, 10-17 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers … As he approached Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting … The Lord spoke to Ananias in a vision … “Go over to Straight Street … ask for a man named Saul. He is praying to me right now. “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers! … But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument … So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus … has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

I bet if I were to ask Saul (later called Paul) to tell me his God story, he would first tell me this one—in fact, Scripture records him doing so many times, to various audiences. So, what’s your God story?We delight God when we tell what he does for us. Your stories, like mine, might not be as dramatic as Saul’s, but that doesn’t matter. All stories are good ones when t tohey honor God.

So here’s my story: I grew up in a missionary family, but it wasn’t until I was six that I understood Jesus had died for me and prayed the prayer, inviting Jesus into my life. My sister Marsha told me to write the date in the front of my Bible, so I would always remember this important event.

That’s it! Not dramatic at all. But of course, that was only the beginning. Remember when I mentioned that I started talking to God all the time? That began on February 26, 1961. Young as I was, from then on, I knew God was with me. I believe the Holy Spirit communicated that to me. I believe he preserved my life the first time I seriously considered ending it at age eight and several times after. Life wasn’t easy for me or for my siblings. Our mother was mentally ill, and our father didn’t know how to deal with that and protect us kids. I despaired many times, wounded as all of us were. But God, the Source of life, defended us—not from the wounding, but from ultimate despair. I am so grateful for his care for all eight of us.

The Lord says “Go!” to each of us in different ways. Right now, he’s saying to me, “Go love your precious grandkids.” So I’m off!

At Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park last weekend