Finding Hope in a Question

I’m usually a little out of sorts when I leave the prison. My head and my heart both seem to be going in crazy directions. When one has a family member tucked away from the world, aspects of life can seen hopeless, helpless and senseless. Last week’s visit was no different.


On the two-hour drive there, I noticed I’d need gas in my car at some point before heading home..

“I’ll get it at the station just outside the prison’s entrance,” I thought to myself.

There’s not a lot around the prison, but the gas prices at this little country store are typically about 10 cents less than the station in town.


Silence… that’s what my son and I shared as we exited the doors and walked toward the car. It’s awkward to feel like you have had a “good” visit with someone when you do your visiting with concrete and glass separating you and your loved one. But it was a good visit. It was better than many we’ve had to have, and we both knew it as we walked across the parking lot. My words were chit-chat, but my heart and my head were a mess.

“I’ll let you drive in a little while when we get on the straight stretches on the other side of town, and I need to get gas at that little station just down the road,” I told my son. It’s all I could really say.


I exited the prison’s driveway, drove down the road and pulled into the gas station at the country store. As I got out of my car to walk around to the pump, an old ’70s Chevy pickup pulled in right behind me. A gray-bearded man in a John Deere ball cap motioned for me to come over to his truck.

“Ma’am,” he said in a southern drawl, “What’s your license plate mean?”

“It’s a Bible verse, Sir. It’s a verse that means a lot to me. It’s Romans 8:28,” I said to him.

“Oh?” he asked inquisitively.

“Yes, Sir. It’s a verse which tells me that no matter what my problems, no matter what my troubles and no matter what my challenges are, God is going to work them for good because I love Him.”

“Is that what it says?” he slowly pressed with more curiosity.

“Not with those exact words, Sir, but that is a sense of what it means,” I shared with him.

He nodded his head at me, and said, “Ma’am, you have a wonderful day. Thank you for telling me that.”

He smiled at me, gave me a wave and pulled his rusty ol’ pickup truck into a parking spot. I moved toward the pump to insert my credit card to pre-pay for the gas, but I saw him get out of his truck, look my way and give me a glance under the brim of his cap.


“What did that guy want?” my son asked from the passenger’s window while I put the nozzle into the tank.

“He wanted to know what my license plate means,” I told him.

With an eye roll, my son said, “And I’m sure you told him.”

“As a matter of fact, I did.” I said to my son. “I didn’t initiate the conversation; he did, but I did take a moment to explain it.”

“I’m sure you did, Mom…”


When I got back into the car, my son just looked at me with an “are you serious?” kind of face. We’re in a phase — and at a point in his life — where faith-based decisions and choices keep coming up. He’s struggling just a bit to submit to them with a cheerful heart, and he rolls his eyes at me quite often when I look at him and want to launch into one of my “there’s a lesson in that…” discussions.


“You know…” I started. “You know… maybe he needed to hear that today. Maybe he’s looking for some of the hope in that verse. Maybe I was supposed to stop here at the same time he was pulling in. We will never know… just maybe, Son.”

“Ok, Mom… whatever you say…”


Was I there to answer an old man’s question and give him some hope? Or was that old man there to ask me a question which would remind me of His hope?

Was I put there in that moment? Or was the old man put there? Or were both of us put there for different reasons and for different conclusions over the same conversation?

Was I in the right place at the right time to show my son how faith boldly intersects in every aspect of our lives? Or was he in that passenger’s seat in that moment to witness how, in fact, it does?

Was I there in that moment to get my thoughts away from my broken heart? Was I there in that moment to hear my own words and to really HEAR His words in the process? Was he an old man in a truck, or was he someone else?

We can never know how all of the incidences in our lives are woven together, but Romans 8:28 serves as a regular reminder to me for the things I do see and do experience.

Life has been a challenge over the last four years, but through it all, my hope is only growing in His ability to work ALL of it for good — my good, my son’s good, my family’s good, the good of others — and ALL of it for His glory. I do struggle in the moments and in the circumstances, but the precious chances where I find myself outside of the moments and circumstances and in the midst of how Romans 8:28 is being made reality are true blessings.


Dear gray-bearded man in the old, red Chevy… thank you for stopping to ask me about my license plate. I didn’t just tell you about Romans 8:28 in that moment, I experienced the beauty, the possibilities, and the reality of one of many ways it is being fulfilled. I found HOPE in your question.


Monday’s Musings — NO Coincidences

The Bridge Builder

There are no coincidences. None.

There just aren’t.

In a life built on faith, there is always a reason. Always.

We don’t often understand the fullness of the incidence or of the reason, but just because we don’t understand, does not mean a reason does not exist.

A friend introduced me to this poem several months ago during a women’s Bible study. We were studying Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts, and on pages 55-73, Ann takes us through a lesson about bridges. Ann cites this poem on page 71 of the Study Guide, but I say that “a friend introduced it to me,” because until my friend Sarah read it out loud, I hadn’t really “read” it while studying it. Sarah is a poet at heart. She’s a writer, but also a poet. She’s been blessed to see, experience and re-tell her own stories through His poetic lens and license, and when she read it to our group, I closed my eyes, and I “got it.”

Today, my son brought this to me to begin working on it as a recitation during his homeschooling speech class. The photo of the poem is from his textbook.

A coincidence? No … a God-incidence.

I had to have seen this poem a few years ago when my daughter went through the same curriculum and speech class. I had to have seen it at that time. Why didn’t I recall it from back then? I’m pretty sure I didn’t recall it, because God hadn’t spoken it into a part of my heart until Sarah read it in our small group time. That’s when it spoke to me.

It spoke then — that day in our small group, but I didn’t do much with it. I oooo-ed and aaaah-ed with the rest of our group about the meaning and the depth, but I’m not sure it really intersected with my heart at all in the days, weeks and months that followed.

In my church yesterday, the pastor gave a message about being “good soil” from Jesus’ parable in Luke 8.

There is a lot in common with bridge building and being good soil.

With a heart filled with gratefulness to Him, I can say  — because of Him — I am good soil. I’m grateful our Lord has given me a heart willing to be good soil, and I’m also grateful for all of those who have uprooted thorns in my life, pulled weeds, tended to my soil, nurtured it, planted the Word in it, and have spoken into my life at some point along the way.

The last few months have found me struggling with the task of perseverance in my life. I’ve been called to persevere through some tough stuff, and it’s been wearing on me. The soil message was one I needed to hear. It reminded me that the tasks to which He has called me have a greater purpose He wishes to bring about. Yes, some of this is about me, some of it is about the others it involves, but the soil He is turning and the bridges He is building have a purpose for which He has not fully revealed to me.

Happenings in our lives are woven together by the Master. Nothing is allowed to occur in our life without first passing through His hand. We’ll never know the reason for much of it, but when we can see glimpses of how He is weaving His story into our lives, it should awe us to no end.

So when I struggle with perseverance, and when I happen to hear a message at church on Saturday night about the storms of life, and then I go to church on Sunday to hear a message about soil, and the storm and soil messages are reinforced on Monday by a bridge message, it is NO coincidence. It’s Him speaking something into my life that He wants me to hear.

I recognize His presence and His weaving in the circumstances of my own life, and I recognize them in His calling on me to persevere through the storms, to maintain good soil and to continue building bridges for His purpose and for His will.


Finding Hope in His Blessings

Numbers 6.24-26.COMPRESSED

My pastor is taking us through the book of Numbers in the Bible. I know…, right…? Numbers…

I thought the same thing when he told us which book would be next after we finished Leviticus—a great book exalting His holiness and communicating His call for us to also be holy. To my pastor’s credit, he jokingly acknowledged that the book of Numbers isn’t typically considered one of the most exciting books of the Bible.

I know I’ve read through the book (ok, skimmed…) at one time or another, but it’s not a book I’ve ever given any time to deep study as a whole. I recently did go through parts of it while doing a study on the tabernacle, and I learned a few amazing things from Numbers in that study which I had never known. With the exception of the pieces I studied, I think my overall impression of Numbers was that it was…, dare I say it? …boring?

I no longer think that way about the book. We’re just a few chapters into it, and, as we wrap up one week’s lesson, I can hardly wait until next week’s lesson gets here.

I want to take you to one section of Numbers and just share a few verses with you. Chances are, it’s a passage you’ve probably heard at one time or another…in a church at the end of a service, at the end of a wedding, perhaps even at a funeral.

Numbers 6:24-26 says,

“The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”

Sound familiar? To me, too!

I grew up in a very small town in central Pennsylvania. My parents attended a Presbyterian church there, so I did, too. Each Sunday at the close of the service, our pastor—clothed in a rustic grayish-white robe tied with a bold cord—would raise his hands, stand before us and recite these words before walking down the steps from the chancel, down the aisle of the church and out to the lobby to greet each church member before they made their way home.

I like familiarity, so when my current pastor read these words, memories of church as a child just flooded back. I could see my childhood pastor with his salt-and-pepper beard wearing that robe saying these words to us. He said them every week, and it became a ritual I expected to hear.

Perhaps, some time in the future, we can dig into the deepest of meanings of this blessing, but, for now, I just want to share a few things with you based upon my initial feelings on the surface of this passage… no study, no word origins, no commentary…just how it speaks to me and quickly captures my thoughts as I read it without studying the depth of it yet…

First, this blessing is FROM GOD and it was given by the LORD to Moses for Moses to share with Aaron and his sons to bless the Israelites throughout the generations to come.

“The LORD bless you and keep you”:  Remember, the LORD spoke these words, so when the words were to be conveyed to His people, the words were spoken through the priests, but they were directly from God. This verse tells me He is saying He is here to walk with me, to kneel beside me to serve me, and to be with me as I walk with Him and serve Him.

“The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;”:  This verse tells me that HE has every intention of illuminating my life with His gracious and blessed presence, walking with me as I walk, and offering me his grace-filled forgiveness.

“The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”:  This verse tells me that not only is He going to do everything he’s already said he’s going to do in the previous two verses, but He’s going to watch me, give me his personal attention and—through whatever I have to go through—He’s going to give me His peace with it.

What awes me about our God, is how He plants seeds in our lives and then
tends to those seeds,
waters those seeds,
nurtures those seeds,
breathes life into those seeds and
grows those seeds.
He then watches those seeds sprout, helps them to bear fruit and takes care of every detail necessary for the seeds to reproduce in abundance for the future.

YOU are that seed! I am that seed!

Despite times of drought, poor soil conditions, hibernation and a failure to produce on our part, He still ALWAYS does His part for those who love Him. He doesn’t let His children go despite our foolish efforts or stubbornness in relation to our obedience to Him. And, when we do mess up or when He does allow us to be tested through trials, He promises us over and over again in His Word that our good and His glory are capable of coming from all of it.

It’s no coincidence I am sitting in a church in the todays studying these words, recalling times from the years-ago yesterdays when the words were planted into me, and walking through a life where His promises and His blessings are carrying me through the tumultuous trials, yet still revealing His amazing grace through it all.

There are no coincidences. I’m seeing another seed sprouting from His Word. Praise be to Him!

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Monday’s Musings — Fast-food Evil?

Fast Food

I went through the drive-thru of a fast-food restaurant the other day. I was on the road and feeling a little hungry, so when I stopped for gas, I also decided to grab a bit to eat at the place next to the gas station.

I ordered a food item and a drink. My total was $6.66.

My first reaction was to remove something from my order. I had only ordered two things, so my next reaction was to add something to my order. As I was pulling up to the pay window, I needed to make a decision. Was I going to order something else so that my total wasn’t THAT number? Or, would I pay for my order, paying THAT number?

The attendant wasn’t at the window when I got there, so it gave me a few extra moments to think.

“No,” I said to myself, “It’s a number. I know it’s associated with Satan and evil, but my God is so much bigger than a number.”

I liked that. “My God is so much bigger than a number.”

The attendant opened the drive-thru window, repeated my total without batting an eyelash, held out her hand for my money, and I paid her $6.76 and waited for my dime. I wondered if she was a Christian; I wondered if she wondered about the number in my order’s total.

As I drove off eating my meal, my mind went through these thoughts again.

There are NO coincidences. (I tell myself that all the time)

Perhaps it was a sign from God that I shouldn’t be eating fast food?

Perhaps it was Satan’s way of telling me that I’m still on his radar, even though he and I have done battle plenty of times over the last few years? (I’m sure he’s still a little miffed about God stepping in to help me)

Or, perhaps this was just a reminder to me to remember that, no matter what, my God IS bigger than anything else I will encounter. Anything.

I stuck with that last one:  My God is bigger than anything else I will encounter. Anything.

He is.