The Sunset and the Dirt

Rachel Watkins Sunset

My son is blessed to have married into a godly family. I’d like to share a bit of that blessing with you today. Here are the words of his sister-in-law, Rachel, a young woman just into her second year of teaching.


I came home from work yesterday feeling more weary than usual. I normally listen to a podcast on the way home from work, often sitting in the car for a few minutes to finish it up before I head into the house. Today was different. After the podcast ended, I couldn’t seem to find the energy or motivation to get out of the car and go inside.

I knew what was on the other side of that door: a pile of dishes accumulated throughout the week, stacks of laundry yet to be put away, homework to grade, and lessons that needed to be planned. I wasn’t ready to deal with it all. I started to make a to do list in my head, which normally brings panic rather than organization and productivity. Finally, I just closed my eyes and took a deep breath. When I opened them, I noticed the breathtaking sunset in front of me. Like any other contemporary woman, I picked up my phone to snap a photo.

I tried to get my camera lens to focus on the brilliance and grace of the setting sun, the bright orange rays streaming out from all sides. Sadly, though, my windshield was too dirty. My camera lens could only focus on the specs of bird poop and squished bugs that had accumulated during my daily commute. (Sorry, Dad!) I started to become frustrated, but then I realized….I was acting like my camera lens. I couldn’t figure out how to focus on the beauty of what was right in front of me because I was so focused on all the little specs of dirt in my life. The worst part? I was allowing those specs to block the wonder of the gift God had created for me!

  • How many times do we do the same thing throughout our everyday life?
  • How many times do we let a disagreement keep us from seeing the blessing of a relationship?
  • How many times do we let stinky socks, dirty dishes, and unmade beds distract us from the beautiful lives that create the mess?

Whatever is distracting you from the gift of God’s goodness today, I encourage you: Take a deep breath, step out of the car, and capture the moment—because sunsets don’t last forever!

The Moment Before

Have you experienced the moment before? I’m sure you have. Here’s what I mean:

  • You get an email saying your lab results are now available on line.
  • Your SAT scores (or GMAT, or final grades) show up in the mail.
  • Your kid (or parent, or best friend) sits down next to you and says, “I have something to tell you…”

This list could go on forever. We all have those moments when we know the information we are about to receive will be very, very important and could be truly wonderful or nearly devastating. If you’re like me, your breath and heartrate change, and time seems to stand still.

What do you do in that moment before? I won’t discourage you by telling you what I used to do, or what our enemy wants us to do. Instead, let me tell you what I’ve finally learned to do, what I’m hoping you will learn to do as well.

  • Remember that the One who is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving is in charge of this moment and all the moments to come.
  • In heart and and mind say, really say, “I trust you in whatever this moment is about to bring.” (If some part of me doesn’t actually mean that yet, I’ll ask the Lord to intervene with added trust as well.)
  • As much as possible, release and relax every bit of that now-tensed-for-bad-news body.

And then, open the email, read the letter, listen to the loved one—all the while letting an undercurrent of silent prayer pervade as you accept the bad news or celebrate the good. Afterward, be still sometime soon. Ponder, pray, and worship the One in charge. My pastor says, “The only way you can learn how to pray is to pray.” The more we do it, the more it becomes the second nature prayer is meant to be! And the more we pray, coming into the throne room of God and seeing that it’s our loving Dad sitting on that throne, the more we can face those “moments before” with peace.

Photo by ErikaWittlieb via


The Prickly Problems of James Chapter 4

Here’s a challenge (based on a recent sermon by Ky Faciane).

Read these verses from the fourth chapter of James.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?…You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures…Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God…Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to youBrothers and sisters, do not slander one another…Who are you to judge your neighbor?…What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes…As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.”

It might be easy to read those verses and think, “Well, that’s not talking about me!” Take a second look, though. See if you’ve ever found yourself doing any of these things:          

  • Saying (only to yourself, of course) “I have to make my name well-known.”
  • Criticizing a Christian church you’ve never even attended.
  • Hoping people will find out it was you that accomplished some uncredited task.
  • Praying for the very things that you’re inclined to turn into idols.
  • Claiming deep devotion to God while courting popularity or influence (or pleasure, or ease or…)

Now, having looked into a different sort of mirror, are there changes you might make? Yes, me too. And that’s enough for this week!

*Photo by Alex Furgiuele @furgi via,







wedding Beatriz Perez Moya via

Today marks the 54th anniversary of a couple dear to me. In their honor, I’m writing about marriage today. But if you’re single, think of it as tips for a deep and dear friendship.

Our pastor, Ky, said this about marriage: “The essence of marriage is for 2 people to live out gospel grace with each other.”

What does that look like in a practical sense?

  • I think it involves spending time together. For Steve and me that includes syncing our schedules as much as possible, and being very careful about our use of “screens.” Taking regular walks together enhances our communication, as does just sitting down to the table for a meal or a game.
  • It includes making prayer a priority—together and out loud—even if it’s only for a couple of minutes a day.
  • And it means each putting the other first.

This excerpt from an earlier blog based on the writings of Sheldon Van Auken covers a great deal of marital grace. His lesson is two-pronged:

  • Love others far beyond yourself.
  • Do your best to trust the people you love.

Sheldon and his wife, Davy, made this pledge to one another: “Whatever one of us asked the other to do – it was assumed the asker would weigh all the consequences – the other would do. Thus one might wake the other in the night and ask for a cup of water; and the other would peacefully (and sleepily) fetch it. We, in fact, defined courtesy as ‘a cup of water in the night’. And we considered it a very great courtesy to ask for the cup as well as to fetch it.”

Imagine what would happen if all requests between spouses (and, for that matter, friends) were handled in this manner! Were love and trust to prevail, there would be little room for discord. I try to ask of Steve only that which I have already weighed and considered best for him to do. And while I sometimes fail, it is my intention never to question his requests of me. In a perfect world, where the “cup of water in the night” principle reigns, each request one of us makes of the other is granted if at all possible. Isn’t it what our Lord would do and would have us to do?

Grace. It’s a tricky thing. May we give and receive more and more of it as the years go by! (If you have a tip to share regarding grace in marriage, please send it on!)

And for a bit more of Sheldon Van Auken’s wisdom, here’s another archived blog:

I Need Internet!!!

She looked to be about six years old, sitting there in the Sacramento airport (which, as airport terminals go, is really rather nice.) I don’t know her name, but for the sake of this story, let’s call her Emma. She was with her family, had a carryon next to her that looked a bit like a pink and gray elephant, and was holding an ipad. A few moments earlier, I’d heard her say, “There’s no internet!!!” I must admit I chuckled a little at her juvenile frustration. But when I heard that second line—“I need internet!!”—that’s when I began to think about how far we’ve come. 

“I need….”

What do you need that you don’t already have? What do I need? For most of us, the honest answer is, “Not much.” Little Emma was comfortably dressed, spending her time in climate controlled comfort, and surrounded by access to plenty of food, clean water and sanitation. I can say the same of myself today. Chances are, so can you.

Yet still we clamor.

Our basic needs satisfied, we come up with new ones, false ones that keep us from contentment. Worse yet, those trumped up “needs” keep us from thanking our Heavenly Father for his generous provision, time and time again. What a shame!

And here’s another twist to my story. The Sacramento airport provides free high speed internet all over its two terminals. All Emma needed to do was apply a little patience, and maybe ask her dad for help, before her rather unnecessary want would be fulfilled.

Analogy alert! How often does our Lord even desire to fulfill our wants—those in line with his wise will—if we’ll only ask him and then apply a little patience to the situation?

Here are the verses that come to mind as I type:

  • “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
  • “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8).
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6).

I’m asking you (and myself as well) to take action in three ways this week:

  • Assess your needs and notice how well the Lord has met them.
  • Tell the Lord your wants as well, then be patient as you wait for him to fulfill the ones that are best for you.
  • And give hearty thanks for all that you’ve been given!


Olivia Montgomery is going to marry my daughter-in-law’s brother! In some sort of delightful but hard-to-define way, we are about to be related. And, of course, we are Facebook friends. That’s how I found the wonderful post I’m sharing below. She is young, but wise for her years. I hope you’ll soak up a bit of her wisdom today!


I have a confession. I am not very good at being still. Before I got into nursing school I was anxious about the nursing entrance exam, and when I got through that I was anxious about getting through the first semester, and after barely getting through that… I didn’t even celebrate, because I was so anxious about preparing for what the next one would bring. The list goes on… and on…

No, being still is not something that I am very good at. However, being still is something God has laid on my heart, and in this season of stillness, here is what He is teaching me.

This season that I am in, the season that I have been in, and the season that I am one day going to be in… these all come from a God who is all-knowing, and these all come from a God who is GOOD. To quote Lysa TerKeurst, “God is good all of the time, and God is good at being God.”

  • Certainly, we can put our hope and trust in a God who knows the stars by name.
  • Certainly, we can put our faith and uncertainties in a God who spoke everything into existence with a single word.
  • And, certainly we can put our insecurities, doubts, and worries into a God who took dust and from it breathed all of human anatomy and physiology—a heart that pumps blood, a brain that sends thousands of chemical signals throughout the body firing at every second, lungs that breathe fresh air in and out, and skin that regenerates itself in approximately every 27 days.

We don’t need to worry about tomorrow, because we know who HOLDS tomorrow, and He has not only big plans for us, but GOOD plans for us.

Want to ready more of Olivia’s thoughts? Just check out her blog at this link:…/f…/