If Only

Then Joshua cried out, “Sovereign Lord, why did you bring us across the Jordan River if you are going to let the Amorites kill us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side! (Joshua 7:7 NLT)

Israel had crossed the Jordan River by God’s power, conquered Jericho by God’s power, and now, in the battle for the little town of Ai, thirty-six Israeli soldiers died in a shocking defeat! We know it was because of Achan’s sin at the conquest of Jericho and we know there are some great life-lessons to be learned from this story. However, Joshua didn’t know all this yet and his immediate reaction was, “If only we had been content to stay in the wilderness!”

When things go badly, I tend to default to the “If only!” mode. I micro-examine everything and get tangled up in thinking, “If only I had..!” or “If only she hadn’t..!” The other thing I’ve especially got to watch out for is “What if!” Looking forward anxiously thinking, “What if that doesn’t work!” or “What if it all goes wrong?”

“If only’s” and “What if’s” will paralyze me. Looking back with hopeless regret and looking forward with fearful anxiety get me stuck. “If only’s” and “What if’s” render me ineffective as a leader or as a follower and keep me from taking steps of obedient faith.

Overcoming “If only’s” may require repentance and recalibration or forgiving and forgetting. Overcoming “What if’s” requires careful attention to what God has told me to do and what he has promised to do.

God is helping me to learn to live in the moment – to think, feel, pray, and act in the present moment where there are no regretful “If only’s” from the past, no anxious “What if’s” from the future. In the present moment I am free to ask “What now, Father?” Then I’m free to respond to his direction as Mary and then Jesus did, with a simple, faithful “Yes Father! May it be to me according to your will and your word!”


Father, Please forgive me for the sins that cause me to look back with regret and think “If only!” Free me from the anxiety that causes me to look forward and think “What if?” Please fill me with your good Spirit and remind me of your good promises so I can push past the “What if’s” and walk in hopeful, joyful, obedient faith. Amen!

Don’t Be Afraid – I’ll Take Care Of You

Lessons I’ve Learned From Buddy the Dog – Part 2 – Trust

But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. (Psalm 56:3 NLT)

Last summer we had dramatic thunderstorms two nights in a row here in Central Oregon.  They were full-on storms of intense lightning, rolling thunder, strong gusty winds, and torrential rains.  It’s good that we were at home during both of those storms, because Buddy the Dog doesn’t do well with the thunder and lightning and the roar of the rain on the roof and the deck.

When there’s a violent, noisy storm Buddy the Dog trembles and pants nervously.  He paces the floor, white-eyed and afraid.  He is torn between wanting to be near me and wanting to find a dark corner to hide in.

When I put my hand on him I can feel that he is actually trembling!  I feel bad for him, because I know that we are safe from this storm and that it will soon pass.  The house is solid and even if the storm takes some shingles off the roof, we’ll be fine.  There may be some cleanup to do in the yard after it’s over, and I may have to wait to put the rubbish bins out for pickup in the morning until the wind dies down.  The power may go out, but the infrastructure in Central Oregon is sound and it will be back soon.

But Buddy the Dog is afraid in the storm.  I speak reassuring words to him, but it doesn’t seem to help him very much.  It frustrates me that I can’t make him know he’s safe and I’ll protect him.  I’m not mad at him, just a little sad that I can’t give him the same peace and confidence I have.

I wonder if Father God ever feels that way about me.  When the storms of life blow strong and loud, when major change comes fast and I can’t control the situation, I get afraid too.  I know God has promised to take care of me, to provide for Jean and me, to protect us, but I still get anxious.  Sometimes I lose sleep, sometimes I complain, sometimes I’m a prayer worrier instead of a prayer warrior!  Sometimes I feel like I want to find a place to hide – just like Buddy the Dog.

I know God will take care of me.  He promised he will.  He has always been faithful.  But, like Buddy the Dog, sometimes I get scared in the storm!

Father, I’m sorry if it frustrates you when I get anxious and worried.  I know that, like me with Buddy the Dog, you’re not mad at me, you just want me to trust you.  I do trust you.  I will learn to trust you more.  You are a faithful God and your unfailing love is everlasting.  Amen.

Jude and the Brick Step

One day when Jude was arriving at Grandma’s house for his after-shopping time with the grandparents, he fell coming up the front steps. He was, as usual, carrying an armload of toys, and he missed a step and fell, hitting his forehead on the edge of the brick step.

Jude screamed, blood poured forth, and the priorities of the day changed in a moment. Mommy deposited Zane and his chair in the living room, Grandma got cold wet cloths, Grandpa looked wisely at the cut and said, “That’s gonna need some stitches all right! Bet that’ll leave a scar!”

Mommy considered the options and wisely phoned the pediatrician’s office instead of heading for the ER. They would see him right away, so Grandpa drove, Mommy comforted, and we got to the doctor’s office. Grandpa bravely entered a world of women and children, where women are the masters and children are the focus. (Sometimes guys feel like we live in that world all the time!)

Soon Mommy and Grandpa were forcibly holding Jude down on a table while the competent, confident doctor lady (about 10 years younger than my youngest child) cleaned the wound and did some magic with “medical grade super glue.” Grandpa felt validated when the doctor lady said, “That’s gonna leave a scar.”

It was pretty cool to see my daughter be Melissa be the competent Mommy and calmly and coolly take charge in a crisis. I thought, “She’s doing what Jean and I did a generation back when she faced crisis at Roosevelt Elementary in Medford, or when she got stranded a city away from us in Jamaica at her school!”

Lesson trusting children learn: Parents can’t always prevent the injury, or make the pain go away, or make it like it never happened. But parents can be there, be with the child, through the entire process from hurt to healing.

When you fall, it hurts. When the wound is being treated, it hurts. When it’s healing, it hurts. And it’s probably going to leave a scar. But Mommy will be with you all the way.

Like Father God and us. He can’t always prevent the wound, or take away the pain, or make it like it never happened. But he will always be with us. In it, through it, beyond it.

Brennan Manning – Ruthless Trust Part 2

The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment. The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee of the future. Why? Because God has signaled the movement and offered it his presence and his promise.

Brennan Manning – Ruthless Trust Part 1

In the arc of my unremarkable life, wherein the victories have been small and personal, the trials fairly pedestrian, and the failures large enough to deeply wound me and those I love, I have repeated endlessly the pattern of falling down and getting up, falling down and getting up. Each time I fall, I am propelled to renew my efforts by a blind trust in the forgiveness of my sins from sheer grace, in the acquittal, vindication, and justification of my ragged journey based not on any good deeds I have done but on an unflagging trust in the love of a gracious and merciful God.

For Joy – Psalm 47:1


Come, everyone, and clap your hands for joy! Shout to God with joyful praise! (Psalm 47:1 NLT)

The word “joy” shows up a lot in the Bible…

  • Shout with joy!
  • Clap your hands for joy!
  • The joy of the Lord is your strength!
  • In God’s presence is fullness of joy.
  • For the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross.

Last time Philip and Stephanie and my grandson Jesse were here for a weekend, I was in the backyard with almost two-years-old Jesse and we were walking up and down the little hill (actually I was walking and Jesse was running).  Jesse was holding my hand really tight (that’s a good feeling!) and with that grip on my hand he was running with abandon.

As we went down the little hill for the second time, I realized that Jesse was saying, “Wheee!”  I didn’t realize anyone actually said “Wheee!”  I thought it was just from cartoons I used to see.  Jesse was, in that moment, filled with pure joy and the most naturally honest thing he could do was shout, “Wheee!”

I asked myself, “How long has it been since simple joy made me shout, “Wheee!”?”

In this season of preparation for the next chapter of my story, God has dug pretty deep through the onion-layers of the stuff of my life.  As we get closer to the core of simple faith and relationship, I am beginning to get glimpses of joy.  When I look straight ahead I feel little bursts of joy inside – dreams rekindling, possibilities popping up.  If I get distracted and look to either side the other stuff rushes in.

I’m going for the joy!  I won’t give up and I won’t give in!  Somewhere not too far around the next bend, or the next, I’m going to be so full of the joy of being who God made me to be and holding his hand so tight, that I’ll shout, “Wheee!”


Father, for the joy you let me taste and the hope you place before me, I will continue.  I will not give up.  I will not give in.  I will, at some soon occasion, shout “Wheee!”