Taking No for an Answer

model-planes-1566822__480I believe in the power of prayer. I believe in a God who heals. However, I also believe in a God who sometimes allows us to walk a difficult path for reasons we may never understand. Even Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, while asking for an easier road, proclaimed, “Not my will, but yours be done.” I am fully convinced that when God says, “No,” he is still a good God, he still loves us, and he is still in control. I asked God decades ago to let me keep all my body parts and specifically included my reproductive organs in that list. As I write, I am recovering from a hysterectomy. I also prayed fervently that I could have that surgery done quickly, sparing me a long period of wait and see. That was not to be. God did not give me everything I asked. He gave me many blessings and miraculous moments. It’s my great pleasure to describe them here, but please don’t misunderstand. Even if he had said no to every request I made, he would still be worthy of my trust.

I’ll start with an almost whimsical blessing. The second half of 2016 was packed with plans: A wedding in Florida, a wedding in Wyoming, a reunion in North Carolina, and a writers’ conference in California. My diagnosis changed all that in an instant. Despite my plan-ahead nature, and somewhat to my husband’s surprise, I’d never booked flights to Wyoming or California. All I had to cancel were a couple of hotel reservations. We could still go to Florida, but needed to return several days ahead of schedule so that I could begin the many doctor visits needed before surgery. We were almost finished with the expensive process of changing our return when I remembered that our American Express card offered a credit that would cover a portion of the fees. When I asked if we could switch to that card to complete the process, the agent on the phone said, “I’ve already run the other card. I don’t think I can make the change, but I’ll check with my supervisor.” After a long wait, she came back on the line and said, “I’m sorry ma’am. I’m not able to change credit cards. The only thing I will be able to do is refund the full $400 in change fees.” Can I explain that? No, but I can tell you that call, which I made just ten hours after my doctor had called, became a reminder that God was going to carry me through this nightmare, no matter where it led. But wait, there’s more…

Our trip to North Carolina needed to be cancelled completely, and we hadn’t purchased flight insurance. I called the airline and explained my situation, expecting that this time I’d surely incur those heavy fees. I asked if there was anything we could do. The agent, clearly helping me from a call center on the other side of the world, did indeed show me where to apply for a refund (which was later granted.) But, get this, he quoted scripture (James 1:5, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”) and sang to me, “God will make a way…” Here I was, disappointed and in need of encouragement. Not only did I get my money back, but the Christian agent on the other side of the world preached to me. Weird, but wonderful.

Next Week: And Then We Danced

The Rubber Met the Road


On Wednesday, July 27th, the rubber met the road. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I read, write, and study the topic of trust.

  • Don’t worry, be happy.
  • Trust and obey.

Those lines are pretty easily said and done when life is rocking along. But what about when life is simply rocked? Stephen Covey is famous for saying, “Begin with the end in mind.” So here’s the end of my story: God is faithful. Everything I’ve read and written about trusting him in the dark times is true. Here, though, is the rest of my story.

First of all (pardon the nitty  gritty of this) I want you to know my symptoms. No, make that symptom—singular, and subtle. I had bit of spotting so faint I almost could have missed it, and certainly could have talked myself out of paying any attention to it. No pain. No abnormal pap smears. Just a bit of a blush when there should have been none. Steve and I were cleaning out bookshelves, and I “happened to” scan one that didn’t make the cut, just one final look before I threw it away. Here’s what the book said. Please make a mental note of this and tell every woman that you know: A woman with any abnormal bleeding should see a doctor. And so I did. (And I promise, that’s the last descriptive medical detailing you will read here.)

I started that Wednesday in in solitude, drinking Earl Grey with honey and randomly chose to read Psalms 116-118. I hope you’ll take time to read those chapters today. The passage I read included these verses:

  • “Truly I am your servant, Lord. I serve you just as my mother did, you have freed me from my chains” (Psalm 116:17).
  • “I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done” (Psalm 118:17).

I’d never noticed that “mom” part before. In fact, it struck me as a little odd. I didn’t realize God was preparing me for the hours to come. Here’s what you should know about my mom. About 30 years ago, she had the same surgery I ended up having. A teacher, a speaker, and a writer, she is nearly 80 now and continues to be an ace at proclaiming what the Lord has done. Two hours after my Bible reading, the phone rang. Endometrial cancer, stage unknown. I’d need to have a hysterectomy before further treatment could be determined. I scribbled notes, trying not to pass out, hoping to get all the information straight. Then came one of the hardest moments of this journey.

I had to tell Steve that my biopsy showed cancer, but here’s another of what became a stream of blessings. He was home when that call came through. No waiting. No deciding whether or not to tell him the news over the phone. He was, my journal of that day says, “just as I needed him to be.” He held me, prayed with me, and helped me rewrite my scattered call notes so that I’d be able to keep all the doctor’s information straight. It “just so happened” (are you seeing a pattern here?) that all four of our kids would be visiting within a couple of hours. We were thankful for the opportunity to talk to them in person, even though it was hard to see those red-rimmed eyes.

Now you’ve heard the beginning and gotten a glimpse of the end. For the next four blogs, I want to talk about the middle, to “proclaim what the Lord has done,” to describe the creative ways God took care of me, encouraged me, and showed himself faithful. It will be far more uplifting than this introduction has been. I hope you will stick with me for the next several weeks, and that you’ll share my story with as many people as possible, because it’s always good to brag on the goodness of God.

The Barnabas Bunch

ewm-coverToday I’ll be sharing an essay by my mom about a famous encourager. But first, let me encourage you to check out Every Wednesday Morning by Beth Smith. If you want a copy for yourself, or want to give a few copies as Christmas gifts, you can find Every Wednesday Morning here on Etsy. It’s a collection of 65 weekly devotionals that will encourage you, challenge you, and make you laugh all at the same time. If you grab a copy, be sure to let me know what you think!

Now, back to The Barnabas Bunch by Beth Smith.

Acts 4:36 tells of a man named Joseph who encouraged the early church so much that they nicknamed him Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement. Barnabas lived up to his name. He encouraged the apostles to accept Paul, and he encouraged the new believers in Antioch to stay true to their faith.

We can be great encouragers as well. I’d like to invite you to join my new club, the Barnabus Bunch. But like any club, we have a few by-laws.

  1. We promise not to give prideful encouragement by building ourselves up, or by saying, “If you’d do what I did …” with a superior attitude. 1 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV) says, “Knowledge puffs up while love builds up.” (So no puffin’ allowed.)
  2. We promise not to build up and tear down at the same time, sort of like the old southern cliché of saying something rotten but ending the sentence with “bless her heart.” We will concentrate on words that really do build others up.
  3. We promise to consider these questions before giving encouragement:

Will it help develop faith and hope?

Does it promote peace?

Is it spoken in love?

Will it bless the person receiving it?

Paul describes the perfect attitude of an encourager in Romans 15, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up” (Romans 15:1-2 NIV). You can bear with my doubts and fears and weaknesses and use the strengths you have in those areas to encourage me. In turn, I use my strengths where you may be weak to build you up. We do this, not to please ourselves, but to show our love for each other. And it’s God who gives us the ability to be encouragers, even as he encourages us.

If you agree to the three rules listed, then welcome to the Barnabus Bunch! Here’s the club motto. (I hope you’ll memorize it and say it often.)

“Therefore, encourage one another and build up each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV).

Activate your new membership by encouraging someone today. You’ll find you are encouraged yourself as you help someone else. May God make each of us sensitive to the needs of others, and may he use us to express his love.

Other Good Words


I keep a little red moleskin journal in my purse. It helps me remember the names of new friends, the list of calls I need to make or items I need to buy. Best of all, it becomes a depository for inspiring quotes. I’d like to share some of those today, credited where possible.[i] (Next week begins a five week description of an unexpected journey.)

“Don’t make obedience exhausting. You need the help of heaven to understand the things of heaven. Ask God to help you.”

“Be careful. What was miraculous can become mundane.”

“As to forgiveness, St. Stephen did not pick up the stones and hurl them back at his executioners.”

“Do we squander our forgiveness?”

“Letting your sinful nature control you mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace” (Romans 8: 6 NLT).

“Pray the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.) throughout the day, and keep Christ at the center of your existence.”

“The pains of this world are temporary.”

“This is the prayer that never fails, ‘Thy will be done.’” (Father Tim in Jan Karon’s Mitford Series)


And how about you. Do you have a favorite quote scribbled somewhere? I’d love for you to share it here.

[i] If you can identify the source of an uncredited quote, please let me know!


I have been writing a series of blogs all week, and spent today carefully posting them in the order in which they are meant to be read. However, when I was editing the fourth entry, I clicked “Publish” instead of “Preview.” If you have received “Careless” in your inbox, or caught it on Facebook before I deleted it, you may be a bit confused. My apologies. You are reading end of the story before the beginning. Eventually, as the rest of the series is posted on schedule, it will all make sense.

No More Excuses by Beth Smith

tankI once heard a preacher say, “An excuse is a reason wrapped up in a lie.” Are you as good at finding excuses for your actions, or lack of action, as I am? We are not alone. Let me give you a few examples from the Bible. Even though these people went on to obey, their first reactions were excuses.

In Chapter 6 of Judges, the Israelites were in deep trouble (again). They were being starved to death by the Midianites. God called Gideon to the rescue, addressing him as a mighty man of fearless courage. Gideon answered with an excuse, “Lord, I can’t rescue Israel. I come from the weakest tribe…” We do that, don’t we? We tell God we can’t because we’re just nobodies. We don’t come from a very good background. We’re not well educated. We’re the poorest of the poor. In other words, we tell God he’s not able to use us.

God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the Israelites, saying to him, “Before you were ever born, I planned on making you my spokesman.” Wow, that would inspire and convince anyone, right? Nope. Jeremiah’s first response was an excuse. “I can’t speak for you. I’m too young.” Does that excuse sound familiar? Sometimes we think we’re too young and inexperienced or (as in my case) too old and worn out. That’s just a flimsy excuse, if we’ve been called by God to do something.

In the book of Exodus, God even spoke from a burning bush, assigning Moses the task of going to Pharaoh and leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses immediately offered two excuses: They won’t believe me, and I’m not a good speaker. Do we dare to tell God that we don’t have the talents or skills to do what he wants us to do? In the light of God’s power and God’s grace, we stand without excuse for our disobedience.

How do we break our habit of making excuses? Try starting here. Do the last thing you remember thinking God wanted you to do, but that you didn’t do. Perhaps it’s something that offers a great challenge. Maybe it’s something as simple as writing a letter or making a phone call. We may think we can’t go through with whatever those things are, but God’s Word tells us that:

  • He knows us.
  • He has empowered us with his Holy Spirit.
  • He never leaves us or forsakes us.
  • We can do anything he asks us to do, because he will make us able.

I heard a story about a group of Marines who were using war games for training. Instead of using weapons, the men were told to use verbal cues. For example, when they “fired” their unloaded rifles, they were to say “Bang! Bang!” They said “Boom” when lobbing an imaginary grenade.

A young soldier spotted a member of the enemy team, but all of his shouts of “Bang!” and “Boom!” did nothing. The other soldier simply held his ground. When asked for an explanation, the unmovable Marine simply said, “Rumble, Rumble! I’m a tank!”[1]

With Christ we’re tanks. Next time we’re about to offer excuses for avoiding what we know we should do, we could say to ourselves, “Rumble! Rumble!” Then move forward and do it. Write “Rumble! Rumble!” someplace where you can see it this week. Let those words remind you that we can do anything God wants us to do through Christ who gives us strength.









[1] Inspired by a skit found at http://www.scoutorama.com/skit/sk_display.cfm?sk_id=104 accessed 5/14/15.