a nothing-more identity


He never organized a Bible study, sought out a mission trip, or served in a leadership position at the local synagogue.  

Jesus’ ministry was strategically organic.  Unceasingly intentional. But not always planned.  It was about the God-is-here opportunities, like teachable moments.  In a way it was often surprising, especially for the disciples as ministry happened under their noses and they were trying to wrap their heads around it.  

They go off to get some food and Jesus starts a conversation with a woman no good Jew ever talks to while sitting at a well.  Yet He transforms a village because He took an unorchestrated moment, spoke Truth into it, and offered far more than words. More than the food the disciples brought back.  

He’s talking to people crammed in a house and some friends cut a hole in the roof to get their paralyzed friend through the craziness.  Those friends were convinced this Jesus would heal him. The mission trip came to Him and offered a gift far greater than healing. Forgiveness.  Plus healing — so bonus!

And those 5000+ people who followed Jesus to hillsides without bringing lunch but too absorbed to want to leave.  Psalms about God’s spacious places came alive as He fed them. Not just Scripture in that green sanctuary, but a few loaves and fishes multiplied to become this incredible, living picture of a God whose compassion meets needs.  

The ministry of Jesus was not to “do” but to be available.  He was always, fully awake to the God-present opportunities rather than distracted by the busy agendas and stuff of this world.   Jesus in nearly every gospel story of ministry is simply responding to the deep yet silent longing for something real, the brokenness before Him, and the vastness of humanity’s frailty with the intentionality of moving every life He encounters toward Himself, toward His Father, and toward the gift of coming Home.   

Jesus shifted all this for me several years ago in a life-wrecking moment that literally took me out of all “ministry” for a fairly long season.  One that was finally quiet enough to transform my Christian identity into something far deeper, my understanding of “approved” ministry, which had begun to define my identity, into something more powerful and authentic.  When the dust had settled and I was beginning to be ready for the next leg on the journey, His voice was clear in that re-defining moment: do the thing I place before you to do.  Nothing more. Nothing less.  All the fetters of must-do busyness fell from my shoulders.  The Martha in me could take on the Mary heart to simply sit at His feet because He was there.  That’s the simplicity of life and ministry: be where He is, and love on whoever is in that little circle in ways that let God do the “doing.“

Thanks to a conversation with a friend about a year ago wrestling with the same “accepted,” therefore expected formats of ministry, of Christian identity, I was reminded of that.  Refreshed. For I do again lead Bible studies and serve at the local church and hope to one day again go on a mission trip. There are incredible blessings in all those things. But those things aren’t Life or identity or ministry.  Doing the thing He places before me keeps me listening to Him and looking for God-is-here moments. Those daily choices to love well and to be available in the unexpected encounters and the everyday relationships.  


be the axehead


It sounds ruthless.  But what Jesus showed me about an odd little story as I prayed the other day is so cool!  It began with a prayer for a miracle, but as with the best prayers — the ones given and led by Holy Spirit — it became a Word marking life.  

It’s a somewhat random story not often told, but a pretty radical miracle as Elisha and his band of prophets were just beginning to build a camp by the Jordan, because having a roof over your head is not entirely overrated even while you’re on mission.  It was an ordinary day of getting things done, but also one of those days when life throws a curveball and derails you — just ask the poor prophet chopping away with his axe when the axehead goes flying off into the river.  The Jordan River.  So it’s not exactly shallow or small.  That precious chunk of iron is gone.  But the poor prophet is even more undone because it’s not his axehead.  He borrowed this to accomplish a task.  

Elisha calmly steps in, asks where it landed, cuts a stick, and throws it to the spot.  The iron ridiculously rises from the depths to the stick and the now stunned prophet is able to wade into the rushing depths to retrieve his borrowed tool.  A crazy miracle!  

As I read this, wondering how it applied to my own crazy miracle ask, I saw first the life of the one for whom I was praying, like this axehead, rising from the rushing river of souls, miraculously set apart.  But immediately He expanded the parable vision and showed me more.

For we who are His, God has shaped and crafted and sharpened each of us with weighted purpose, and we are never meant for the riverbed, to be sunk and lost in the depths of the chaotic rushing of humanity.  We are meant to rise.  Yet we rise TO something.  To Someone.  Elisha did not throw in the old axe handle the poor prophet had been using.  That would have been convenient and easy.  No.  A new stick was cut.  This Word suddenly filtered through prophetic promises and gospel truth like a living picture and before me I saw The Branch.*  Jesus.  Cut and thrown into the chaotic rushing of our humanity.  He is the One we rise from the swirling depths and are fitted to.  Yes!  For the purpose of building not a temporary place to lay our heads and camp out, but to be hard after the Kingdom He is building every day.  My whole prayer shifted into something far deeper and amazing….  

May each of us who love Him, believe in Jesus, and therefore are entirely His never be found laying useless at the bottom of the riverbed because we would not rise from the chaotic distracting, racing disrupting, muddied depths of our own pursuits, but every day miraculously rise with the crafted and sharpened weight of glorious purpose, fit to Christ alone, and ready to accomplish His Kingdom building.

I’ll be the first to admit.  Some days this is my all-in heart.  But there are plenty of derailed days when I feel like the poor undone prophet.  Fortunately, Jesus is always already there, joyfully ready to bring me up from the depths and get back to work.  And now I have this crazy cool image in my mind to be the axehead for that extra nudge of encouragement.


*The Branch prophecies:  Jeremiah 23:5, Isaiah 4:2, and Zechariah 6:12-13

strength alongside strength. strength leading strength.


The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.  –Vincent Van Gogh

Last night, gathered round a table steeped in the fellowship of Sisters, one shared with beautiful tears her gratitude for her mother-in-law who had prayed for her long before her husband ever met her, a woman now 20+ years into a treasured marriage, those prayers being answered still.  In my own prayers again this morning, in a season of dedicating many things to the Lord, the Spirit swept in on that, widening the powerful beauty of His Ephesians*  Word.  

Women, love well, desiring to be strength alongside his strength, encouraging him in his call so he can confidently present you radiant, without blemish, pure and holy before the King.  Understand that your submission is a mirror of the Lamb whose own yielded “Yes” to God poured out the greatest measure of love with the deepest strength and grace.  

Men, love well, resolved to be strength leading her strength, receiving from her encouraging heart that longs to cheer on her warrior, her hero, as she rests in your Christ-grounded, covenanting love.    Understand that your confident, passionate vision and call to present her, yourself, your entire marriage,  flawless to the King is the mirror of the Lamb’s relentless pursuit to bring us with great joy into the glorious Presence of His Father*.     

Both of you, remember that Jesus, your Bridegroom, prayed over you to be brought into complete unity, to be one as He and the Father are one.  So His love would more than abide and knit and bind, it would declare to the world the exquisite force of His Love.

So grew my prayers over my children today, and over the man and woman who will one day love them each.   Not praying for two, but for four souls.   Praying wider over so many marriages, and marriages that will be.  Dedicating these to the Lord that all of our lives will paint the world with masterpieces of witness, glorifying and magnifying the One whose Love brings all things together in vibrant unity.   

To all my fellow moms and dads, pray with a fresh wind of the Spirit,  and be encouraged that our in-step prayers will be unceasingly answered.  I have a Sister who would say “Amen!”


*Ephesians 5:22-29 and Jude :24-45 and John 17: 20-26

tangled up


Christ is come, this King whose reign is still just begun.  And in it I often feel like Mary, treasuring and pondering the mystery of the Most High God who would choose to love us so intimately that He would come into our dust and mortality, to share in our humanity, to live for us, to die for us.  Pondering this Glory come down to redeem the fullness of His love that shaped and breathed life into the first Adam and his Eve, masterpieced for fellowship, before a Covenant was ever needed.   The loss of walking in unblemished intimacy broke His heart more than we can imagine.  Finally, His love could bear the separation no longer.  For Him love that simply kept His covenant from the distant heavens, from behind the veil where only a few could enter into His Presence, was not enough.  His love that chose and treasured a people called to Himself but not to every soul He knit together was not enough.  His single-minded love  crossed the impossible divide to bring back His beloved.  Us.

Spurgeon put it this way:  [The Lord Jesus Christ] has become so wedded to us, so truly one flesh with us, that He will not be divided from us in nature.  He sits upon the throne of God, not in His pure Godhead, but as one who has been slain, clothed in a body like our own.  What manner of love is this!

Every time I ponder it, the awe expands, and His love consumes even more of my heart and mind and soul.  And I need this.  We all need to this.  To see, as Mary with wondering awe at the lavishly honoring gifts laid before her little Lamb by wise kings, that God is always going before us  and hemming us in from behind.  Protecting us from the pursuing enemy we do not see.  Providing extravagant gifts for the unmapped journey ahead into desert places, foreign and unfamiliar landscapes that would seek to diminish vibrant joy.  Pondering keeps our perspective, our gaze fixed upon Him.  Yet…

Treasuring goes one better.  It is our own love responding to His.  We tend to get stuck in our own head, feeling whatever we offer is insignificant, and definitely imperfect.  But to Him our smallest response of love is worthy of His best and will open the floodgates.  Treasuring opens our hearts,  vulnerable and soft, to receiving this radical glory colliding with humanity miracle of Immanuel grace upon grace that tangles up our lives in His love, inseparably deeper into wedded oneness with Himself.  So our treasuring invites His Love to do its fullest work that we may not be divided from Him in glorified nature.  

Refining our yielded selves in flaming Holy Love that we may be as the purest gold.  Gathering every prayer rising as fragrant incense before the throne where He intercedes for us unceasingly.  Taking up Calvary weight — ridiculous folly to this dark world — yet the power of God anointing us.  Until we come before the Lamb, our King.  He wants us to be tangled up in this oneness with Him.  It seems crazy and messy to us, but to Him it’s perfectingly beautiful.    

past tense prayers


Still listening to Advent’s voice, whispering the Light of men, of the Christmas story so patiently Authored.  The Word’s purpose perfectly timed.  

How long did Elizabeth pray until the barrenness proved the prayers impossible to answer?   The silence of waiting for the blessing must have been deafening at times.  Distracting.  Yet the beauty of a soul that waits on God Himself, not His gifts, is unmistakable.  The seeming emptiness becomes the crucible in which God refines a life into holy brilliance, filled with His life, hope, wisdom — Himself.  For in those refining fires of waiting, Elizabeth gained the purest gift.   She desired a child.  But she learned to desire God more than the ungiven blessing.

Yet the angel comes saying, “Your prayer has been heard” … as if Elizabeth and Zechariah were still praying for a child.  Wondrous mystery of God’s unfathomable ways, capturing sovereign purpose, that as the prayers remained unanswered, God was always listening.  Always answering.

The seemingly past tense prayer.  It was always a present tense prayer to God.  For God knew all along they were living a life of waiting, that the delay of blessing would more fully reveal His glory.  And because God wastes nothing, all those prayer-stained years He was deepening Elizabeth’s faith and wisdom, preparing her to be the living Amen to Mary’s response that nothing is impossible with God.  

Waiting means God is doing something bigger than we can yet see.

And while we wait, God is after one thing.  

Will we love Him more?  More than the hoped-for child… or spouse.  More than the desired healing.  More than the aching answer for a loved one’s salvation.  Will we love Him with single-hearted devotion?  Willing to let all these things go as Abraham laying his son on the altar, ready to sacrifice the promise.  Will we love more this God who let go His Son to be the sacrifice, His Love unflinching, when no ram lay nearby in the thicket to take His place.

How stained was the parchment of Old Testament promises with Elizabeth’s tears as she learned to love Him this entirely?  “… Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’”  (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Of the soul that waits upon God, He Himself becomes the deepest desire of our heart.  Not the gift.  Nor the dream.  Nor the longing that may or may not be someday fulfilled.  Waiting is refining heat that can in the uncertainty seem too hot to bear, but the Refiner knows precisely how much is needed to burn away the dross until radiance reflects His own love and life and glory.  Souls marked by unceasing prayer now shining with peace, joyfully resting in God Himself.  These have been given so much more than the long-waiting answers, or the answers redeemed differently than we imagined.  Not only God Himself, but a life pattern that opens wide its heart to the One in whom all entrusted things will be somehow perfectly redeemed.  So…

When the ache overwhelms.  Press in.

When doubt darkens the landscape.  Trust His compassion cresting the horizon.

When chaos distracts.  Get still enough to know and be known.

When grief splits the heart.  Lay the heart in His hands.  

I am so thankful for Elizabeth.  For all the quietly courageous “Elizabeths” in my life whose patterned, marked, refined lives pour out encouragements that bear so much more weight for their stories of long-suffering, faithful journeying.  Those hours into days into years grows depths of wisdom weighted by joy.  As The Word Himself declares “He Himself has become our wisdom from God — our righteousness, holiness, and redemption”  (1 Cor. 1:30).  They are to me beautiful Amens! to my still-waiting-upon-God prayers ascending as a fragrant offering before the throne.  And of my own long-steeped, even past-tense prayers powerfully answered, I trust He is making of me a vibrant witness of the beautiful Wisdom, Christ Himself, that is my own Amen! purified, formed and shaped in the waiting.  

From hushed and hidden prayer closets, Advent resounds with this proven nothing-is-impossible-with-God story inscribing Immanuel promises upon each heart that waits upon Him.  The first Christmas story unfinished until the next Christ coming in glory Advent.  Perfectly timed.

manger nomads


Advent lingering is a space of listening, letting the deeper voice of the Christmas story whisper what is told between the lines.  The Word became flesh and made His dwelling with us….  Our souls the place where He delights to dwell.  (John 1:14 and  Ps. 132:13-14, para.)

For many in 2017 who have gone through flood and fire, our terra firma dwellings have proven fragile things.  Stronger  forces swept away their seeming strength, making nomads of entire families once confident in the ordinariness of stability and predictability.  It is never easy, this unplanned thrust out of our comfort into the wandering unknown.  Home gets redefined.  

Even as my mind begins to prepare for moving in the next several months, it struck me how nomadic my own life has been in this world not my Home.  Constant transition, some chosen, planned, with dreams and joy; othertimes the unexpected thrust into a wilderness of uncertainty.  As this next year will be — unattached, with few ties to this corner of the planet as my children move into new seasons, this unpredictable life continually on an Abrahamic journey of faith.  

Yet in all the transition the Word become flesh who made His dwelling with us has wrapped our little family in Love so that the imperishable becomes our Home’s space.  From the fullness of His grace we have received one blessing after another.*  Jesus architecting walls of kindness hemming us in with strength.  Windows of gratitude pour in His light.  Doors of faith welcoming wide to new friends and adventures in each new land and season.  Foundations of love and rooftops of hope binding the whole happy mess together.  And yes, it is so often a crazy, chaotic, piles-in-corners-busting-the-confining-seams mess.  But it is fellowship squished around a tiny table strewn with flour and sprinkles (especially at Christmas!!), traditions sweetening time with memories, warm meals, and laughter-filled stories; teasing playfulness and pranks that keep childlike laughter ringing through the rafters.  His Presence filling encourages truth words given and received that bring us face to face, leaving no space for the enemy to come between.  With every hug we are enfolded in a deep embrace felt all the way through the soul.  All this eternally unbound space fragrant, infused with Immanuel, God with us, binding us into family.  This Christ-crafted-filling home that more easily moves wherever He leads.

The One who stepped out of His own Home to dwell with us, Himself born not in the lovingly crafted dwelling Joseph had been preparing for his bride.  As much a nomad from His first manger embraced moments as we all are.  It thrilled His heart to step away from His Home for just a moment.  To dwell with us, die for us, and become fully God in us.  Messiah who promised:  abide in Me and I will abide in you.*  This Immanuel longs to be the place we choose to settle, to play, to fellowship…. to rest.  Redefining the  fragile bits of timber and stone we call homes, really just tenuous tents of our short journey, until He Himself is equally the place we delight to dwell.

*Promised-Words:  John 1:1-16 (v. 16 quoted) and John 15:4.

Winter Psalm of Joy


What is it about snow that calls out childlike awe?  Such a rare gift in Austin, which adds exponentially to our delight.  Stepping out of the ordinary routine of the day’s work end into the first falling flakes.  REAL snow.  Suddenly, unexpectedly welcomed into wonder.

Night’s darkness brightened magically.

Everything in the soul stills, savoring the swirling, floating, glad abandon of winter’s softest waltz beneath every streetlamp.

Playful joy that MUST carve smiley faces into snow covered cars on a midnight walk.  And throw snowballs….

Every sense awake.  Feeling the plomp plomp plomping bootsteps beneath.  Breathing in winter’s snowy scent mingled with hearth-warming fires all mingling above.

Quiet exaltation of creation wrapped in wonder.  So we rejoice with the One whose fingers shaped each intricately woven flake.  This hushed amen of heaven.  Yes… Rejoice!