The Third Watch

Courtesy Flickr - hosullivanIn the scriptures, there are references to the third watch. Most scholars believe this is the time between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning. The time most of us are asleep. That is unless we happen to be wide awake. Sometimes sleep is evasive.

I used to have trouble sleeping. I’d wake in the night and the silence in my usually noisy household would be overwhelming. As I lay there trying to do all the things that are supposed to help sleep ( I never actually resorted to counting sheep) I would become more and more anxious and the quiet would become heavier and heavier. I’d think of all sorts of things that only increased the anxiety.

And if I had one long sleepless night, I would find myself dreading the next night. What if it’s the same? What if I am awake again for hours, all alone? The more I would dread it the more likely it was to happen again.

I tried reading, I tried watching a movie, I tried writing. Those things were all fine activities, that I should have been doing in the daytime, not when the rest of the household was in pleasant slumber while I counted the minutes until sunrise. And none of those things helped me sleep.

Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place. I went to God’s Word. I laid my anxiety before Him and asked him for wisdom and for peace.

Here is what he gave me.

Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.

Proverbs 3:24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Do I still have sleepless nights sometimes? Yes. But now I know that if I am awake, God knows it. He has promised me sweet sleep so eventually I will sleep. In the meantime, I read my Bible and thank the Lord for His promises. I also pray for others who might be awake and anxious as I used to be. Now I believe that if I am awake, I might as well put that time to good use. I use it to pray not only for those who might also have anxious nights but also for anyone God brings to mind. I am not distracted in those moments and I can pray with purpose.

If you are troubled by sleeplessness, spend some time meditating on the verses above. Maybe even commit them to memory. And join me in praying for others who sometimes struggle in the third watch.

What Does it Mean to Really Follow Christ? I was thinking about this question. What does it mean to really  follow Christ? Of course it means that we have made that life-changing decision to ask Him to be Lord of our lives. But when we agree to that, we may not fully understand that it means Lord of everything. Every. Thing.

So really, following Christ isn’t just saying yes to Him. It’s saying no to the world over and over and over.  Every time we say no to something the world offers we are saying yes to Jesus again. We are reaffirming our commitment to follow Him.

It’s a daily, moment by moment, kind of thing.

The decision to follow Christ is really a collection of daily choices made one decision at a time. Forever.

Each One is Unique

The scriptures are full of examples showing us that God was intentional in making each of us a unique creation. Just look at the folks in the Bible stories. They are all very different. Each one was created for a specific purpose that God planned in advance.

Sometimes it’s easy to be caught up in the comparison game where we look at others and wonder why we weren’t made more like them. We are not just tempted to look at the outward appearance; we also compare talents and abilities. We might be tempted to ask God why he didn’t make us smarter, more outgoing, more organized, less sensitive, more confident, slimmer, taller… the list goes on and on.

We’ve heard the verses in Psalm 139 often. We may even have them committed to memory. Verse 16 says “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” God had our future designed for us before we were fully formed. He knew exactly what he created us to do.

Jeremiah 1:5 tells us that God already knew what Jeremiah was going to do before he was even created. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah was designed for a special purpose and God was thinking about that purpose when he was creating Jeremiah. Much like a craftsman knows what his project will be used for even as he’s cutting the wood. He doesn’t just cut all the wood the same way. Each project has specific dimensions that are required depending on the final purpose of the finished project.

Ephesians 2:10 reminds us that we too have a specific purpose. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

I believe Dr. Seuss had an understanding of this truth and put it so simply when he said, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.”

When God was finished making you, He was pleased with what He had done. He sat back and smiled at his creation. He loves who you are!

Facing the Trials

You have probably heard yourself say at some time in your life, “that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Or “that was a very difficult season (experience, situation, conversation, etc.)”

We all have hard times in our lives. Sometimes after we get through a particularly trying time, we can get discouraged about the future. Or maybe we see the changes in our world and know that life is getting more difficult for us and many others. We can begin to dread the future, thinking that the hard times that are coming will be too much for us to handle. Whether it’s something tragic or a strong temptation, we know we will face more trials in the future. We know we aren’t done. We haven’t arrived. We are still on the journey that marks the life of a follower of Christ. Continue reading “Facing the Trials”

Striving for Perfection

When was the last time you felt like you were getting it right? When did you last feel like you were on track, accomplishing what you needed to, making the right decisions, making no mistakes?

It’s could be that it’s been a while. And when you aren’t getting it right the critics are unrelenting.  But I’ll bet your worst critic isn’t your spouse or your best friend or your neighbor or even your mother. I suspect that the person who is hardest on you when you mess up….is you.

God isn’t critical of you. He knows you are going to make mistakes. He knows you are not perfect. So why do you expect it of yourself? He extends grace to us in all circumstances. He doesn’t expect us to earn it. He knows we can do nothing of ourselves to be worthy of His grace.

So why do we keep expecting ourselves to be perfect when there is only One who is perfect? We can strive to become more Christ-like but it’s the greatest of arrogance to imagine that we will ever arrive at perfection this side of Heaven.

So maybe the better goal is to give all we have and be content with the outcome. After all, Christ came to complete us and if we did it all by ourselves we wouldn’t need Him. I don’t know about you , but I need Him desperately. Every day. Every moment.

I don’t have to be perfect. I just have to be willing to be changed. And to rest in His grace in the process.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

A Multigenerational Summer

I’ve had the pleasure of having five of my grandchildren visit for two weeks.  Since all of my grandchildren live eleven hours away, I rarely have little children in my house, so when they come  it’s an adventure. And when they go home, the instant void is almost overwhelming. Suddenly quiet, suddenly empty.

This year, our visit was a little unusual. Right in the middle of their time here, I had to travel to Florida to help my elderly grandfather adjust to the loss of his companion of twenty plus years. While I was gone my son took his family to Minnesota to visit his wife’s relatives. When we all returned about five days later, we picked up where we left off and continued our activities for a few more days. Now they have left for home and I am left to ponder what exactly happened to me in these two short weeks.

What I experienced was an incredible spectrum of events and emotions. I was at my home with my grandchildren, enjoying the  innocence of childhood. We played games, read stories, played at the park, visited the zoo and went for walks. Meals were chaotic but fun to share with so many at the table.

The next thing I knew, I was flying to meet up with my brother and his wife and then driving with them to Florida. We spent the night somewhere in Georgia. We talked for hours about our children and grandchildren, we laughed about the childhood memories we shared, stopped for quick, simple meals and were on the road again. I loved having this rare time with my brother when we could share our lives, both past and present.

After traveling the better part of two days, we arrived at the assisted living facility where our ninety-six year old grandfather lives. We spent the next few days listening to the same stories of his youth, eating rather bland institutional meals, and playing games of Triominoes where we sometimes had to wait for him to wake up after he dozed off in between turns. We visited the doctor’s office, the bank and took him to his favorite restaurants for meals a few times. I spent one entire afternoon with him by myself. The feeling of being his granddaughter and nothing else was such a special time. We talked of the days that only he and I remember and many days that are in his memories alone, since he has outlived nearly all of the people who shared those experiences.

In many ways, he is as childlike as my grandchildren and yet, there is a depth of wisdom that rises to the surface in his more lucid moments. He has seen so much in a life that nearly spans a century. It might be tempting to brush him aside, as it is challenging to listen to him ramble and hard to watch him struggle with everyday tasks. Let someone else care for him. I have more important things to do, caring for my own children and enjoying my own grandchildren. But I could never turn my back on him. He and I were about the same age when we became grandparents. When I think that he saw me the way I see my grandchildren now, it’s hard to imagine that so many years have passed. Wasn’t that just a little while ago, when I was sleeping over at his house on a Friday night?

When my grandchildren left this morning I felt such a sudden void. Did my grandfather feel the same when we left him a few days ago? Suddenly quiet, suddenly empty. And isn’t it strange that I can share this experience with him? To be both a grandmother and a granddaughter at the same time is something I never expected.

It’s all made me consider what lies ahead. One day, will my grandchildren be visiting me like I visit my grandfather? Will they struggle to be patient with my slowness and my confusion? I hope I can model for them what it means to love unconditionally. Not for my sake, but for theirs. To be able to give them the gift of loving family no matter what, is something that means so much to me. Family is worth the investment of time and  the sacrifice of personal agenda. I can see it from both sides of the spectrum and is a beautiful sight to behold.

Do you have a grandparent, parent, sibling or grandchild that you haven’t seen in a while? Spend time with them and love on them. You’ll be so glad you did.

Power Thoughts by Joyce Meyer

I’ve been a fan of Joyce Meyer for many years. I’ve seen her in person and even had the privilege of sharing a meal with her when she was just starting her ministry. Her teachings have encouraged and inspired me through some tough times.

I recently discovered that this book is available in Kindle format on I encourage you to check it out and take a look at her ministry’s web site. Besides writing, she has a television show, teaches throughout the world, and publishes a magazine. Her web site features a lot of resources that will help and encourage you in your spiritual journey.

The Pause that Refreshes

The Pause That Refreshes

In 1929 the Coca-Cola Company developed an ad campaign around the slogan “The Pause That Refreshes.” Of course, they were talking about drinking an ice cold Coke. We look for opportunities to take a few moments to stop and recharge. It’s a healthy habit, to allow your body to recover from the physical and mental stresses of life. Continue reading “The Pause that Refreshes”

A Heart of Stone

I saw something disturbing today.  I took my youngest son to the grocery store with me and when we parked in the parking lot there was a vehicle next to ours that had words written on the hood. I couldn’t read the words clearly but as I got out of my van I saw small hangers with children’s clothing inside the window. There was at least one small child in the back seat. As we walked away from the van my son turned to look at more words written on the rear of the vehicle. He turned to me and said, “Mom, did you see that? That says ‘homeless family. hungry, can you help us'”

My first thought was one of compassion. But I must confess, the next thought was to wonder if it was for real or some kind of an angle.  I am a victim of the culture I live in and I have become suspicious of people who would take advantage of those who are too trusting or gullible.  Obviously the adult who was driving was inside the store. As we entered the store I walked around getting our groceries and wondering which person was the one.

By the time we got back out to our van the vehicle was gone.

All day long I’ve thought about that family. What if they really are homeless? What if I could have helped? Did God want me to help? I didn’t even ask Him. I just went about my own business. I have thanked God several times today for all the ways He provides for us. I’ve thanked Him for giving us a home and food to eat. But it all seems shallow some how. Do I just say “Thank You Lord” while people around me are hungry and have no place to sleep?

How will I ever learn to pay attention to what’s going on around me? How will I know when God wants me to act if I don’t ask?

My prayer is that God would do what he told Ezekiel. That He would take my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. One that would feel  greater compassion for those in need. And that I would see God’s children through His eyes and not my own.