My Big Hike

Normally, my friend and I meet at Radnor Lake State Park and choose one of the trails to hike while discussing all sorts of random topics (and of course throwing in bad puns wherever appropriate).

Today, I went solo for the day. I challenged myself that I could hike both the Granier Ridge Trail and the South Cove Trail (the two difficult hiking trails at Radnor).

Halfway through Granier, I thought I’d made a serious mistake. I was wheezing like a 90-year old and it was all I could do to keep putting one sandaled foot in front of the other.

Still, I persevered. An persisted. And I didn’t give up.

At some point, my strength revived. I got that proverbial second wind. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as hikers’ high (similar to runners’ high), but I think I might have experienced that at some point.

The key to it all was that I never quit. I did take a short break on the second trail.

At the end of the day, I tallied over 22,000 steps, according to the app on my Apple Watch. That’s a lot of steps.

The old adage remains true. Every journey of 10,000 (or 22,000) steps begins with a single step. And each and every step counts, no matter how hesitant or small or feeble.

Every journey of change also starts with the smallest of steps. All God needs is the most hesitant of agreements and He can still bring about the most amazing transformations. All He’s looking for from you and I is the “I believe. Help my unbelief,”  as a good place to start.

Jesus looks at you right now right where you are and asks, “Do you really want to be healed? Do you really want the brand new world of uncertainty that comes with change and transformation?”

Oh, and yes, my feet hurt. I suppose that’s a given.


A Song of Hope for Those Who Wait with Heartache

“Walking around these walls
I thought by now they’d fall
But You have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle’s won
For You have never failed me yet

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet

I know the night won’t last
Your Word will come to pass
My heart will sing Your praise again
Jesus You’re still enough
Keep me within Your love
My heart will sing Your praise again

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

I’ll see You do it again

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

And You never failed me yet
I never will forget
You never failed me yet
I never will forget” (Do It Again, Elevation Worship).

Very rarely does a worship song bowl me over anymore, but this one just about did. I’ve never resonated with a praise song’s lyrics like I did this one.
Granted, I’m not there now, but there have been times in the past when I would have seriously questioned whether the writer of this song had been reading my private journal. And I don’t even have one.
My prayer is that the words to this song wash over you and that God speaks though this song as powerfully to you as He did to me earlier today.

Open-Ended Hope: A Guest Blog Post by Henri Nouwen

“We lived in a world where people don’t know much about hope. We know about wishes. The whole Christmas period is full of wishes. I wish this, or I want that. It’s very concrete: I want a toy or a car or a new job. These are all very specific requests. But hope is precisely to say, ‘I don’t know how God is going to fulfil His promises, but I know that He will, and therefore I can live in the presence with the knowledge that He is with me.’ I can then know and trust that the deepest desires of my being will be fulfilled. This way keeps the future very open.

Hope has nothing to do with optimism. Many people think that hope is optimism, looking at the positive side of life. But Jesus doesn’t speak like that at all. When Jesus talks about the future or the end of the world, He describes wars, people in anguish, nation rising against nation, and earthquakes. There’s no place where Jesus says, ‘One day it will all be wonderful.’ He talks about enormous agony, but He says, ‘You, you (my beloved ones) pray unceasingly that you will keep your heart focused on Me. Stand with your head erect in the presence of the Son of Man. Don’t get distracted by it all. Remain focused.’ Don’t think that things will clean up, and finally there won’t be any more pain. Jesus is saying that the world is dark, and will remain dark.

     If you live with hope, you can live very much in the present because you can nurture the footprints of God in your heart and life. You already have a sense of what is to come. And the whole of the spiritual life is saying that God is right with us, right now, so that we can wait for His coming, and this waiting is a waiting in hope. But because we wait with hope we know that what we are waiting for is already here. We have to nurture that. Here and now matters because God is a God of the present. And God is God of the present because He is God of Eternity.

     Hope is to open yourself up to let God do His work in you in ways that transcend your imagination. As Jesus said, ‘When you are young you put your own belt on and went where you wanted to go. But when you grow spiritually old, then your stretch out your hands and let others and God lead you where you rather wouldn’t go.’ That’s hope, to let yourself be led to new places” (Henri Nouwen).

Keep hoping, not because everything will work out exactly like you want it to, but because God is working it all out for His ultimate glory and your good.

Life Lessons from Round 1 of the NHL Playoffs

I confess. I had little to no faith in my Nashville Predators to be able to beat those mighty Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

I boldly predicted that Chicago would take the series in five games (and I thought I was being generous to Nashville by giving them that one game). The regular season series between these two teams hadn’t gone well for the Preds. They managed to win that first game, but after that it got ugly.

I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong.

My Nashville Predators not only won the series but they swept those mighty Blackhawks. For the record, no 1 seed has ever been swept out of the first round in the 100-year history of the NHL. Nada.

I wonder how many of us have given up on a dream because we’ve already decided before we begin that it’s a lost cause. We’ve convinced ourselves not to even bother trying because it can only end in abject failure.

With God all things are possible.

Do you really believe that?

Do you believe it not as an abstract generality but as a specific reality meant for you?

I know that God’s not a celestial genie giving me whatever I want whenever I want it. Some of God’s best answers to prayer are no because that means a bigger and better yes is following, something I would never have dared to dream.

I also know that God is able. I’ve said it before (and credit again goes to Pete Wilson for this one) that what seems impossible to us isn’t even remotely difficult for God.

I’m hoping my Preds keep winning. It’d be awesome to see Nashville bring home the Stanley Cup (although that’s still a long shot). That kind of hope is along the lines of I hope I win the lottery.

I’m hoping God will keep His promises toward me and always do what’s best for me. That kind of hope is certain and secure, as sure as Jesus who made them is alive and sitting at the right hand of the Father.

Next time I might have a little more faith in the home team.



“Hope is one of my favorite emotions because of its humility.
It’s not like gladness or joy, which stick around just for the good stuff.
Hope is my heart’s missionary. It humbly seeks fear and shame and hurt and befriends them.
Hope enters the very dustiest parts of my heart, cleans out the cobwebs,
and whispers of the promise of eternal perfection . . .” (Maggie Lindley)

“Do not forget to rejoice, for hope is always just around the corner. Hold up through the hard times that are coming, and devote yourselves to prayer” (Romans 12:12, The Voice).

Don’t lose hope. God is at work. The best is yet to come.

The Church as a Refuge

I’ve been thinking lately about the whole refugee crisis. I’ve also been putting some thought into what my pastor said about the church being a refuge. Who better than to show hope to refugees than people whom the Bible calls aliens and strangers in this world who await a coming Kingdom?

The body of believers should be a place where people can go to escape from the fallout from the lies that society tells people about finding inner peace and fulfillment through outward change.

It should be where people go to find God and find the hope of salvation offered in the person of Jesus Christ, not more condemnation for lifestyle choices. It should be where spiritual transformation happens and not mere behavior modification.

I noticed today that when Jesus talked to the woman at the well, He didn’t force her to change her lifestyle before He offered the living water to her. He didn’t make her go end her relationship with the man she was living with who was not her husband.

He simply offered her a gift that would change her life forever if she took it. After all, it’s the Gospel that changes people. It’s what changes peoples’ hearts, which in turn leads to changed lives.

The Church has been guilty of putting up barriers between people and the Gospel almost from the very beginning. The people who need Jesus and the Gospel most are often the ones who feel the least welcome inside our doors.

The Gospel is for everyone. Thus, the Church is for everyone.


Hope Is a Revolutionary Patience

“I heard a preacher say recently that hope is a revolutionary patience; let me add that so is being a writer. Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up” (Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life).

Whatever it is that you’re waiting for, never lose hope. Don’t quit now.

Remember that in hope, what matter isn’t just what you get at the end, but what you become in the process of waiting. Sometimes, the enduring is what makes you ready to receive what it is that you’ve been hoping and waiting for.

So my word to you is this: keep waiting and hoping.

God will either grant you what you desire or give you something much bigger and better than your mind can yet conceive or comprehend.

I’ve learned in all my years of waiting that the best outcome is that you find that God Himself is enough, with or without whatever you hope to get in the waiting process. God is enough.

So don’t give up. Let God have His way in you and let hope flourish in you during the waiting. It will be worth it in the end.

“Jesus leads us into a place of radical grace where we are able to celebrate the hope of experiencing God’s glory. And that’s not all. We also celebrate in seasons of suffering because we know that when we suffer we develop endurance, which shapes our characters. When our characters are refined, we learn what it means to hope and anticipate God’s goodnessAnd hope will never fail to satisfy our deepest need because the Holy Spirit that was given to us has flooded our hearts with God’s love” (Romans 5:2-5, The Voice).

Thoughts on the Book of Jeremiah

In my quest to read through the Bible in a year (again), I’ve made it to Jeremiah. I confess that the prophetic section of the Old Testament can be hard to read at times — I see time and time again where God’s patience runs out as the Israelites have abandoned Him and chased after other gods for so long.

I also see hope. I love the parts where God speaks of restoring His children to their land and to their former glory. Even though they deserve annihilation because of all their philandering and idolatry, God has promised after a time to bring them back to their home.

That gives me great hope. It means that the worst part of your story is never the last part. The part where the darkness seems never-ending and where hope seems so far away is not the last chapter. The ending is so much better.

Elisabeth Elliot once said that God’s story never ends with ashes. It never ends in exile and despait. Death and destruction do not have the last word. Neither does evil.

The terrorists do not win in the end. Fear and violence will one day be forever past tense. Love and mercy will be the currency of the new world order.

I truly believe in my heart of hearts that one day Jesus will come back and set everything right again. What got derailed in Eden will finally be fully and forever realized.

There’s a beautiful verse that speaks about how overjoyed the people will be when they see Jerusalem restored. It will be like dreaming with your eyes wide open, too good to be true yet still very much true.

The best part (to me) will be that all the pain and suffering that seems now like it will never end will one day seem light and momentary compared to the glory and joy that’s coming. It won’t even begin to compare.

All that from one little book in the Bible.



The Craziness Continues

There are always a few surprises in the NCAA basketball tournament. This year was definitely no exception. There were more than a few double-digit seeded teams knocking off their much-higher seeded counterparts. That happens every year. There will always be a few upsets to rattle everyone’s brackets a bit.

The biggest of all has to be #15 seed Middle Tennessee State University knocking off the #2 seed (and one of the favorites to win it all) in Michigan State University.

In my less-than-expert opinion, that has to go down as one of the greatest– if not THE greatest– upsets in the first round of any NCAA tournament.

No, I didn’t pick MTSU. Yes, I picked Michigan State to go far in most (if not all) of my brackets. Am I upset that my brackets are now busted? Meh. I didn’t have much hope going in of getting every pick right.

I am super excited for MTSU and Murfreesboro. I’m psyched that a team from close to where I live did what almost no one thought they could do– they brought down the Goliath of college basketball. I’m sure that people will be talking about this one for a long, long time.

From here on out, I’m just hoping for lots more upsets and stunners in the tournament. I figured at the very least I can print out those brackets of mine and make some very fine paper airplanes.

I’m thankful that nothing catches my God off guard. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Nothing that’s done to me or nothing I do to anyone will cause God to do a double-take.    Best of all, nothing can cause God to stop loving His children. Nothing.

God still works all things together for good. His good. My good. Your good.

That hasn’t changed. That will never change. No matter what happens or how bleak the future forecast looks.

That’s my hope that’s sending me off to sleep tonight.

Judges: A Book Review

So here I am, reading through the Bible again. I just finished the book of Judges. In my opinion, that has to be the most depressing book in the Bible.

In the first few verses of the book, it tells us that after the generation that claimed the Promised Land died out, the very next generation that came after didn’t know the Lord or what He had done for His people.

That didn’t take long.

There is a familiar pattern in judges, repeated ad nauseum. The people run after the next available god, fall into sin, get into trouble, and call on God. God sends a deliverer who bails them out and there is peace in the land — until another cheap idol shows up.

I read the Bible and I see the people of God by and large acting like anything but the people of God. It can be very frustrating.

Then I remember that I am one of those people of God. I find myself falling into familiar patterns of sin over and over, despite the guilt that remains from the last time. I find myself renewing the old promise of “never again,” which lasts until the next opportunity presents itself.

So I can relate.

I’m not excusing my (or anyone else’s sin). I’m just saying that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. It doesn’t have to be the familiar refrain.

I’m thankful for a grace that goes deeper and longer than any sin. I’m also thankful for a God who refuses to let me wallow in my self-destructive sin, but will provide me a way out. He won’t rest or quit with me until I am 100% sin-free.

I know that my story is your story. It’s the story of every child of God. But I also know that story doesn’t end with sin. It ends with grace.