Living Out Great Expectations



You have done amazing things we did not expect. You came down, and the mountains trembled before you. (Isaiah 64:3)

Many times, the difference between expectations and reality causes disappointment, but it can also cause surprise and celebration. Throughout the Bible, God showed up in amazing ways that people didn’t expect. Follow God’s lead.

Be understandable. If people don’t understand what you’re saying, they won’t follow, learn, and grow. They’re not going to understand everything you say – just as you sometimes won’t understand their perspective – but strive to find common ground and start there.

Be passionate. You’re not going to be excited about everything you’re doing all the time, but keep your passion level in check. People around you can sense if you’re going through the motions or if you’re seeking, learning, and growing. Passion is contagious.

Be protective. Avoid being overly protective or developing co-dependent relationships, but pay attention so that people aren’t getting left behind, lost, or hurt. Set healthy boundaries. Invite accountability. Learn lessons of responsibility and consequence.

Be attentive. Get to know the people around you – their interests, quirks, experiences, and dreams. As you get to know and care about people, they’ll trust you more. Listening might seem like it’s a small thing, but it’s one of the most inexpensive, sacrificial, generous gifts you can give.

The Bigness

“I think it’s the emptiness. Or the straight line between the sea and the sky. Or the size of it all. I don’t know, but it does put things in perspective.” (Anita Diamont)



There’s no way to capture the “bigness” of the view with a photo. Standing on the beach, looking at the stretching shoreline, water as far as the eye can see across the horizon, and a sky dome that you can only imagine wrapping around the earth gives a glimpse of the bigness of the world. But it’s only a glimpse. How much water is there? Where do all the clouds go? How long has each grain of sand existed and where has it been every step of its journey?

We can try to answer each question scientifically, but that’s not the reason we ask the questions. We try to grasp the reality of the bigness. We think if we can explain it, we must understand it. If we understand it, we can manage or control it, at least in our own minds.

Being on the beach, looking at the bigness of the water and sky, seeing the two meet, always reminds me of perspective. The world is big. God is bigger. The potential for understanding and learning is big. God is bigger.

Acknowledging the bigness of God, admitting His authority, isn’t a weakness. Not understanding or being able to explain everything about Him isn’t a weakness. Trusting Him even when we can’t explain exactly how or why isn’t a weakness. It’s perspective.

It’s faith.

We can know a lot about God, and that familiarity grows when we seek and trust Him, but we can’t know it all. And that’s okay. There’s a lot we don’t know about the world, and we’re usually okay with it. Sometimes what we think we know isn’t as close to the truth as we want to believe. Faith is the same. We have to be willing to let God continue to teach us, continue to reveal Himself to us.

When we do, we begin to understand just how little we know and just how much more about Him we can know…and want to know.

Excursions to Explore



I love the beach. Give me a week on the beach, and as long as I have a stack of books to read (or a loaded Kindle), I’m content. Perhaps it’s because I live in central Illinois, nowhere close to a beach, nowhere close to a balmy body of water. Whatever it is, being at the beach is a treat I savor.

But, staying on the beach for a week has its costs. I miss out on anything…well…non-beach. To some, that might not seem like a big deal, especially compared to life in the midwest, particularly winter. But I recently left the resort for two full days to venture inland, and I was so thankful.

I would have missed so much. People. Mountains. Homes. Small villages. Waterfalls. Rivers. Roadside stands. The lushness of the land nourished me, as much as the waves and sand refreshes me. As I soaked up as much as I could, I realized I was still missing some things. I couldn’t take it all in. But I could take in what was in front of me.

When I don’t go where I’m supposed to go, I miss out on what I’m supposed to see and experience. I miss out on new people, changed perspectives, and renewed attitudes and passion. I can only be at one place at a time, but I can be fully present in that place and time. Otherwise, I not only miss out on where I’m not, but I also miss out on where I am.

Today, take a look around. Perhaps the routine of it all seems too familiar to notice anything new. Perhaps the newness is so overwhelming you can’t imagine taking it all in. Either way, there’s something for you to see, to do, and to become. Don’t miss out. Follow God well.

He leads well.

What Is “Enough”?

gold_coins-6908The people on the van were from a variety of resorts. Each of us had signed up for a day-long trip, and the van drove from one resort to another, picking us up for the day. Spending time together as we traveled was a great way to meet people. As the day neared its end and the people dwindled as we made drop-offs at different resorts, the conversation turned to comparing the resorts, our experiences of them, and sharing insights of other resorts we had visited.

My husband and I have found these type of conversations helpful, because we like to try different areas and different resorts. We know people have varying priorities, so just because one person recommends a place doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for us. But we like to hear the pros and cons of many options.

However, as I listened to this particular conversation, my stomach turned. I listened to the talk about the amount of lobster, quality of steak, promptness of staff, amenities, best deals, and so on, and I thought of all that I had seen throughout the day. I remembered our guide telling us the average annual income for people on the island was $6000, the same cost some people on the bus were quoting as their one-week resort rate. I looked through the darkness at the outline of our guide and van driver and was embarrassed to have them overhear the conversation.

We are so rich in so many ways, yet we easily slip into comparisons and discontentment. We want more because we don’t think we have enough. The probably isn’t need; the problem is want, the desire for more, the distorted value of “enough.” I wondered how much richer our guide and van driver were than any of us on the van that night. Perhaps they had a better perspective than we did. Perhaps they were more content. I don’t know for sure, but I wonder if they believed what they had–whatever it was–was enough.

I think it’s a good think to want more, but only of the right things. Too often, we turn God’s economy upside down. We have too much want for what we don’t need and don’t have enough want for what we most need.

Perhaps it’s a good question to ask yourself today. What is “enough”?


Hope of Life, Even in Death

The past couple days, I’ve written on experiences at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. It’s not an easy place to visit, but I wouldn’t take a trip to Israel without spending time there. I may not want to look, listen, or touch the experiences, but the Holocaust happened. People lived it. I need to know. The least I can do is respect people’s lives and honor their memories.

I read a letter by Abramek Krzepicki: “Tomorrow we will be heading toward the Great Unknown in full awareness and at peace. If we are meant to live, all the better; and if not…” I stood beside a railway car and read about how the last car of trains was often left empty. People would die along the way, so the last car could be filled with bodies.

The letter contained hope despite the threat of death.

The train snuffed out hope with expected death.

People faced the unknown with different perspectives. We do the same. We have hope in life. Our hope often focuses on (what we determine as) positive outcomes. Our hope is in the things we want most. When life involves something else, do we lose hope?

We don’t have to lose hope in life or death, because death can include life. Death is part of life. It’s inevitable. Life conquers death.

Where is your hope? With whom do you trust your life? How does it impact your death? How is it impacting your life, today?

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3)


Share Your Perspective

The Church of Annunciation had beautiful stained glass windows that emphasized a lesson for me.



It was actually this particular set that made me pause.



I know they don’t look spectacular compared to the top photo. They didn’t fill an entire wall, floor to ceiling, and these were nearly too tall for me to capture in a photo. But the blues were so vibrant. The light filtered through them and sparkled across the floor. They seemed to invite the light into the room.

Then I stepped outside. I glanced at the outside of the windows.




Same stained glass windows. Same colors. Different light.

Our light source matters. God is God no matter where we are. God is God no matter what our perspective. However, what we see can drastically differ based on where we position ourselves in relation to Him.

Life with Him might look pretty drab from the outside. You might wonder what people who follow God see in Him. They talk about how great He is and how beautiful life with Him is, but it all looks “regular” to you. Nothing spectacular, so you move on.

If you’re on the “inside,” you might be so busy soaking up God’s light that you forget there are people outside who might not see it the same way you do. You might be hesitant to leave the beauty to strike up a conversation with someone outside, which might lead to them walking with you inside to get a different perspective.

God doesn’t want you to stand and enjoy the light. He wants you to be the light to those around you. Going where there is no light is going to be drab, but the more we’re willing the share, the more we’ll see it around us and others.

The Seesaw of Unity and Harmony

11.11.14 Jericho fruit stand owner and friend


Unity is being in agreement or becoming one. Harmony is living at peace with others. The two seem very similar, and sometimes, they are. Other times, they differ. They’re like a seesaw, where one sometimes becomes heavier than the other, but they’re connected, united through that one crossbar that holds them together.

What do you think of when you hear the words unity and harmony in the same context as Israel? Most likely, you don’t see much connection, but there is. There are many people living in harmony with each other. Sometimes, they’re united and sometimes they’re not. Some people living in harmony with each other are doing so, most likely, because they’re very similar to one another. But that’s not always the case. There are also many people living in harmony who are definitely not united. They’re not similar to each other. If they met each other on a battle field, they would face each other from different sides, but in daily life, they don’t face each other. They work and live alongside each other. They help each other.

We often draw a line between what we see as opposing groups of people. Does the opposition exist? Absolutely. Does it exist among every person in those groups? Absolutely not.

It’s not just about Israel. I’m sure you can think of several lines of opposition right around you. Or, watch the news, and you’ll recognize even more. (On second thought, don’t watch the news. You’ll likely just end up firming up the lines of opposition you already believe, perpetuating the allusion that unity and harmony don’t exist and aren’t possible.)

Sometimes we find unity without harmony. We agree on something, but we can’t seem to live at peace with each other because of the things we disagree on. Sometimes we have harmony without unity. Despite being different, we agree to respect each other. There are times we have neither unity or harmony and, rarely, we have both at the same time.

Back and forth, up and down, the seesaw goes.

Sadly, what often happens is…we reach for the ground and try to keep our end of the seesaw down, making others squirm in discomfort as they try to use their leverage to reach the ground and make us squirm instead. We struggle for control and power. If we’re in control, we can keep others in whatever position we want, or walk away and let them fall to the ground. Then blame it on them for not being prepared.

That’s not unity or harmony. And it’s not respect. It’s not compassion or love. It’s not mercy, forgiveness, or grace.

But that makes sense, doesn’t it? All those things are of and from God, and when we try to take control, we’re not doing things His way. Whether or not we think we’re in control, we’re not.

If we check God’s perspective, we will realize He doesn’t expect us to always live in unity or harmony in this world. Should we strive for it? Absolutely. It honors Him when we do. But peace doesn’t come without struggle. Unity doesn’t come without acknowledging our differences and, therefore, the need for unity. Harmony doesn’t come from ignoring issues.

Look around. Take an inventory of your assumptions and prejudices. Work through them. Get to know people. Will it make you vulnerable? Probably. Will you get hurt? Perhaps. But as you reach out in God’s leading and timing, you’ll set aside your need to be right, to be in control, and in the process, you’ll hurt less people, including yourself. Let’s face it: Hurt isn’t always physical. What kind of damage are you doing to others and yourself?

Unity and harmony are difficult, but they’re worth the sacrifice, humility, and effort.