Monday, October 28, 2013


God in His mercy has not told us when our lives will end. It may end in a mere whisper of a day, a year, or perhaps longer. Instead, He’s given us hope to carry on, to live our lives to the fullest. May we all live for Him as if each day may be our last—joyfully, expectantly, fully, rather in an elusive vapor.


Vanity, breath and vapor

“Look at me,” the majestic, bull elk seemed to shout as he stood on a small mountain in the Dakota badlands. With chest out, head high, and antlers gleaming in the sunlight, he got my attention. He reminded me of a half-clad Adonis, posing with his sculpted biceps for all the world to admire.

In such cases, the word vanity comes to mind. But the word has two definitions. The one most familiar is: “Too much pride in your own appearance or achievements.” The Hebrew meaning, however, means: “vapor” or “breath.” In other words, in the Biblical context, the word means “the quality of being pointless or futile.” The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes used the word often.

Evidence points to King Solomon as the author of this often-misunderstood book. I avoided reading Ecclesiastes until I learned the original meaning of the Hebrew word and understood Solomon’s true meaning.

 Solomon had the reputation for being the wisest man on earth. Noted for his great wealth, he entertained leaders of many countries and had great understanding of the natural world. He was highly regarded by all for his wisdom, his wealth, and his care for everything and everyone.

Yet, his downfall came from marrying foreign women whose worship of gods other than the God of Israel enticed him into idolatry. Perhaps he repented of his sin and then wrote his book of wisdom as a way to alert future generations about the dangers of futility.

Actually, Solomon’s book does speak of futility but only as such thoughts exist without God. Life apart from God, he writes, is “utter emptiness.” Much of what he writes, in fact, is edifying and beneficial, with the underlying mood of joy. The Hebrew words for “gladness” appear numerous times. Those who fear and worship God should experience the joy that comes in receiving His gifts.

  The Hebrew word vanity speaks of life as “quickly passing” rather than as “meaningless.” Ecclesiastes ends with words we should all heed. “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Eccl. 12:13)

Lord, thank You for wise Solomon’s reminder that our life is like a vapor to live with joy and meaning. Help us to experience Your joy as we look beyond the fleeting days ahead to a time of blessed eternity with You . In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Such is God’s love. We can’t begin to fathom the dimensions of His love. We can, however, embrace His love through His Son, Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for our sake. Hallelujah!


The dimensions of God’s love

We live in a multi-dimensional world. My experience crossing a rickety bridge in British Columbia proved that fact to me.

On a typical mountain hike, complete with heavy backpacks, my husband, Don, and I confronted a washed-out bridge. Recent rains had flooded the river beneath, washing away the complete upstream side of the railing and tilting the bridge at a dangerous angle. And we had to cross it. Yikes!

Fearful, I looked down at the swirling torrent, up at the empty and unhelpful sky, and over at the remaining railing that showed gaps and jagged pieces of wood. I didn’t like the dimensions. I wanted a sturdy, level floor to walk on with double railings to hang onto for support. I did cross the bridge—on my hands and knees while my husband carried my backpack across.

The river bridge is but a small example of the dimensions we see and experience every day. God has given us a vast variety of natural wonders to enjoy and use. Oceans and stars, fields and plains, forests and deserts. Elephants and ants, eagles and sparrows, whales and tadpoles. Some high, some low, some wide, some long.

The multi-dimensional wonders of nature are but a part of God’s gifts. His extravagance is also evident in His personality. His mercy and grace, for instance, show in His great love for us. The gift of salvation and healing came by the supreme, extreme sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ. Only through His Spirit can we truly comprehend and embrace such a gift.

The Message version of the Bible expresses St. Paul’s words well in Ephesians 3:14-18. “My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask Him to strengthen you by His Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite Him in. and I ask Him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

Such is God’s invitation to us. We can depend on the safety of His love, like that of the sturdy railing and floor of a bridge over dangerous water.

Lord, we thank You for Your extravagant, multi-dimensional gifts. Help us see beyond the dimensions of physical reality into Your realm of love and mercy. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


The area around Homer, Alaska, where my son resides, has been pounded by rains recently, causing rivers to rise and flood the land. Winds have been demonizing southern Alaska, too. In fact, strong winds in the area of Katmai have been blowing ash from the infamous, 1912 volcano across Cook Inlet into Homer. Imagine! Nature from 100 years past brings havoc today.


Noisy storms

Nature can be noisy. During a heavy rain and windstorm, we have to shout to be heard. In the 1920s when grasshoppers invaded the prairies, the noise of their wings and chirping made it impossible to hear anyone speak. A tornado’s fury is also noisy, often sounding like a freight train.

Other outwardly quiet things can be noisy, too, to our internal ear. We all face life-changing storms: death of a loved one, divorce, disease, job suspension, or other losses. During those times, we don’t hear much of what goes on around us but only the roar of the storms.

The Old Testament man, Job, faced the same situation when God allowed Satan to take everything away from him: his extensive property and means of support, his servants, and his children. Though this righteous man never cursed God, his voice became filled with complaint, doubt, and anguish.

“Oh, that I knew where I might find Him,” Job said. “I go forward but He is not there, and backward, but I cannot perceive Him … But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” (Job 23: 3, 8-10 in part)

Unsure yet still trusting, Job hung onto his weakened faith. If we were in the same situation, would we cling to our faith? Or would we question God? How can You do this to me, Lord? I’m a good person. Aren’t You a God of love? Why does bad stuff happen to good people? Am I such a sinner that You’re shutting me out from Your blessings? Where are You, Lord? I can’t hear You anymore. Where’s the justice?

Job’s story shows him as a person just like us, with emotions and questions that we struggle with every day. The book teaches us that there’s nothing wrong in asking God questions.

            Like Job’s, our questions and complaints in the midst of trials may become such a roar in our internal ears that we can’t hear God’s voice, either. How shall we unstop our ears from the noisy din of suffering and anguish?

One way is to consciously choose to submit to God as sovereign and almighty— accepting by faith, however weak, that He has a good plan for us. His plans are always good, though during life’s storms we can’t see them completed. We can only trust.

Lord, keep our internal ears free from the noise of our complaints, doubts, and anguish that come from life’s storms. We want, and need, to hear Your clear voice through Your Word and Spirit. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Monday, October 7, 2013


The winds of adversity sometimes blow hard enough to rock our foundations. But it’s during the hard times that God works in our lives to bring spiritual maturity and strength. The first chapter of James says we can count it joy whenever we face trials of many kinds. When we remain joyful in the Lord through our problems, God teaches us patience and perseverance—important parts of our Christian character. Be joyful! 


Threads of unity

Spider webs are one of nature’s wonders. The common orb spiders, for instance, begin building their webs with long strands attached to an object. The first strand is crucial in strengthening the ones that follow. They become the web’s foundation, upon which they weave many short, concentric strands from the center outward. The closer to the center, the tighter the strands become. Often, a spider web ends up being perfectly symmetrical, beautiful to behold.

Spider webs are vulnerable to wind and weather as well as to the accidental damage inflicted by bigger creatures, humans included. Spiders regularly spend time repairing their webs, strengthening them in the process.

We could compare our lives to that of a spider’s web. We build upon a foundation, weaving strands of life from one “post” to another. Our posts may vary. They might include family, job, health, hobbies, and God.

For some of us, God comes first, family second, and job last. Others mix that order to suit their situation or time of life. “My health comes first,” some say, adding, “I have to take care of myself.” While some put their spouses above everyone else, others say, “My children come first in my life.” Still others put job ahead of everything, perhaps without realizing it.

In many homes, the God-strand stands alone, like an add-on part of the package. In such cases, we may consider church attendance, perhaps a two-minute, morning devotional, and maybe even a monthly Bible study, as enough to help us through life’s problems.

How can we think of God as an add-on when we consider His great and sacrificial love for us? Imagine how strong our web of life would be if He were the very foundation and all our other life-strands dependent on Him. Our constant thanks and praise alone bring blessings to our families, jobs, and spouses.

Scientists have learned that spider web silk (called glue) rivals steel in its strength. We could call God’s Word and Spirit the glue that not only holds our spiritual life together, but gives us the strength we need daily to live according to His plan, which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37)

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” Jesus tells us. (Matthew 6:33)

Lord, cause Your Word to be the foundation that strengthens our walk with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.