In a Ditch?


When my niece was out on her own and my sister hadn’t heard from her in a while, she would call and ask her daughter if she was in a ditch. I can just hear her saying it! Thankfully we can laugh about it now because my niece was always found to be safe and well.

I’ve posed that same question to my students in the classroom many times over the years since. It seems each concept builds on the one before it. By missing class or not asking questions when they don’t understand, my students put themselves at risk of falling behind or getting lost. When that happens, they find themselves in a proverbial ditch! The more time that passes before they get the help they need, the deeper the ditch becomes. Without help, they find they can’t claw their way out. And so it is with life.

God has good plans for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11). If we stay close, He’ll show us the way. (I can just hear Pastor Dave saying “it’s simple, but it ain’t easy!” after writing that sentence.) God has no trouble keeping His end of the bargain. The problem is on my end. Perhaps you can relate.  Life is full of distractions and temptations that take my focus off Him. When I look down, I veer off the path. Without intervention, it isn’t long before I find myself in a ditch. The longer my focus is on the things of this world, the further I sink.

Are you in a ditch? I have good news to share from the Apostle PaulI am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NLT)

I have this picture etched in my mind—I look up from the ditch and have to shield my eyes from the light radiating from Jesus. He’s standing at the edge of the ditch with an outstretched, loving hand, just longing to pull me out and put me back on the path to the hope and future that He has planned for me (Jeremiah 29:11). I just need to look up, fix my gaze on Him and reach for His hand. Can you see it too? He wants to do the same for you! If you, like me, are struggling to stay on the path, just look up. And then reach for Him.  NOTHING can separate us from His love.

May you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. (Ephesians 3:18 NLT)




In this world you will have trouble…                                                 (John 16:33 NIRV)

You may not remember being a toddler yourself, but have you ever witnessed one expressing his newfound independence with the words, “I can do it myself!”? That thought generally continues far beyond the age of 2. In fact, I’m still struggling with it 50 years later. Oh, how the enemy loves that attitude! It feeds right into his plans to separate us from God.

As parents, we want our children to be able to stand on their own two feet and become independent adults. That’s a great goal, but perhaps we should be more specific and limit the object of that independence to people. No matter our age, trying to “do it ourselves” leads to pride and drives a wedge between us and our Creator.

When trouble strikes and the burdens are mounting, we quickly find that we can’t do it ourselves. Well, okay, maybe not quickly. I will admit, I often try to fix it myself first. Perhaps you do too. That’s not the way God drew it up though. He wants us to live in dependence on Him, not independent of Him. God doesn’t want us depending on anyone else. Humans will fail us; He won’t. While the enemy wants nothing more than for us to think we alone can handle whatever trouble finds us, Jesus says,

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”           -Matthew 11:28-30 NLT

Are you tired of trying to go it alone? Weary from hauling around your burdens? This promise is for you. Jesus wants to lighten your load and give you rest. He simply asks that you come to Him. That’s a pretty good deal, don’t you think?

But wait, it gets better! I never completed my opening verse. Yes, we WILL have trouble here on earth. Jesus then says,

“But cheer up! I have won the battle over the world.”                        (John 16:33 NIRV)

Or, in the words of a dear friend, “I read the end of the book. We win!”

Thank you, Jesus, for going to the cross and dying for my sins so that I may have life and have it in abundance. Help me to fully understand that you are all I need. If I stay focused and seek you above all else, you will meet my needs. Help me do my part and, by faith, trust you to do yours. Amen. 

Divided Attention

FOCUSThose of you who know me well, know how much I love my sports. We are currently in the thick of March Madness, the nickname given to the season-ending college basketball tournament. Last night I found myself trying to watch three different basketball games and a hockey game all while watching a movie. I generally don’t touch the remote at my house, but my thumbs sure got a workout last night. I did happen to catch two goals in the hockey game. But I missed four. I saw a game-winning last second shot in one of the basketball games. But I missed a historic comeback in the last minute of another. Though I got the gist of it, it’s hard to tell how much of the movie I missed while trying to keep track of the games. My lack of focus on any one thing was somewhat comical at the time, but then God pointed out the painful truth of the matter this morning during my quiet time.

The truth is that my attention is divided in much more important matters than what’s showing on TV. Jesus promises that we WILL have trouble in this world. Some of us currently have more than others, but none of us are immune to it. As Pastor Chris often reminds us, “Everybody’s dealing with something.” If you’re like me and your attention frequently gets diverted to your trouble, you’ll soon find yourself drowning. That’s what happened to Peter when Jesus invited him to walk on water…

“Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.”           Matthew 14:29-30 NLT

The key to staying afloat in this troublesome world is to fix your eyes on Jesus, giving Him your undivided attention. His power is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”                                   Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

During this Holy Week, Christians generally have a heightened awareness of just how much Jesus suffered on our behalf. He made the ultimate sacrifice when He gave His very life for ours. If He can do that, then surely we can endure whatever obstacles await us in our own races. Whatever troubles you are facing, I pray you will just keep putting one foot in front of the other. By not giving up, you’ll reach the finish line and taste victory at just the right time. And it’ll be sweeter than the candy in the Easter basket! Victory is ours because Jesus defeated death. That’s cause for celebration—


(When the movie ended last night, they announced that there would be an encore presentation of the movie airing on its sister channel next week. After all that…ugh!)


Advent: The Candle of Peace

peaceAdvent season is coming to a close and Christmas is upon us! How are those preparations coming along? I find it somewhat ironic that it’s the candle of peace that we lit last, just before Christmas. With time running out to git’r done, the stress levels tend to run high and the peace meter reads low. Whether your stress is Christmas-related or not is irrelevant. No matter the source, the bottom line is that stress and peace have an inverse relationship. So how do we combat stress and enjoy peace instead? I believe the answer is to keep our focus where it belongs. And just where is that? Right where I’ve been attempting to point all along—Jesus, the One whose birth we celebrate on Christmas.

“For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” ‭‭               Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Out of love, God gave us His Son, Jesus. Did you catch all those names for that Boy who brought joy? That’s one impressive resumé, perfect even. We’d be crazy NOT to seek His help. We do that through prayer.

The Prince of Peace entered our world to save us. Take to Him the concerns that are weighing heavily on your heart. Replace those worries with prayers, remembering His faithfulness in the past, and trust Him with the results.

‬‬“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”              Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The byproduct of prayer is peace. A peace that cannot be explained.

No matter the magnitude and quantity of your concerns right now, my prayer is that you would know Him as the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God. May the Prince of Peace reign in your heart, now and always.

(Coincidentally, or perhaps not, “Unto Us” started playing in the background as I put the finishing touches on this post)