A Wonderful Visit

I just returned from a wonderful visit with my mother and my sister Peggy and her family in the little village in New York State where I grew up. The town is nestled in the Shawangunk Mountains, and seeing the mountains again is like seeing old friends. I always forget how much I’ve missed them while living in the flat Midwest. Peggy and I had a chance to go on several hikes while I was home, taking her new rescue dog, Franny, with us.
We hiked around a mountaintop lake.
And admired the vistas of the valley, below.
We let Franny swim in this creek and she “shared” the cool water with us as she shook herself dry.
We hiked across the Hudson River on a former railroad trestle that has been converted into a rails-to-trails pathway called “Walkway Over the Hudson.”
Hiking in the woods and enjoying nature always restores me. When I take time to look at creation, I’m reminded of what a glorious God we serve. Seeing His infinite creativity renews my own urge to create. And being with my family—the people who know me the best and love me the most—helps me remember who I am and where I’ve come from.
It puts my lifelong journey into perspective and helps me see how God has shaped me along the way. I returned to my home in Michigan refreshed and ready to dig into the work that God has given me to do. My prayer is the same one that Moses prayed:
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God. . . .Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. . . . Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. . . . establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.” (Psalm 90)

Catching the Wind

Every spring the youth group at our church holds a banquet where they auction off an assortment of great prizes to fund their summer mission trips. I bought a ticket for a chance to win a sailboat excursion on Lake Michigan. I’ve never sailed before, but I love to sit on our beach and watch the sailboats gliding gracefully across the lake, their white sails billowing. It looks like such a calm, peaceful way to travel. I never imagined I would win—but I did! Last weekend, my husband, our son Benjamin, and I claimed my prize.

Lake Michigan was wonderfully calm, perfect for a first-timer like me. We set off in the afternoon with our host Bob Carlson on his sailboat named “Joy.” After a quick lesson, Benjamin served as his crew member as we navigated the channel at Port Sheldon, Michigan and sailed out into the big lake. The voyage was every bit as serene and lovely as I had imagined it would be as we headed north on a gentle wind. I began to dream of buying my own boat and learning how to sail it.

Eventually, the time came to turn around and sail home. Except that the wind had died down close to shore where we were sailing, and we came to a halt. We drifted for several minutes, unable to catch a good breeze, going nowhere. In order to get home, Bob said we needed to steer the boat farther out into the lake where the wind was stronger. I liked staying within sight of land where it seemed safe, but I also wanted to return home before nightfall. So we fired up the motor for a minute and steered out into deeper water. Sure enough, within a few minutes, our sails filled once again and we began moving swiftly toward home.

I was amazed by how a skilled sailor like Bob could “feel the wind,” as he put it, and use its power to go in whatever direction he chose. I recalled how Jesus compared the wind to the Holy Spirit, and I wondered if there were some lessons here on Lake Michigan for me. I know from experience that when I labor on my own, without the Spirit’s power, I get nowhere—just like our drifting sailboat. I also know the feeling of soaring with the Spirit’s help and accomplishing so much more than I could ever do on my own.

So why don’t I learn to “feel the wind” of the Spirt and harness its power more often? I suspect that sometimes it’s because I want to stay safe near the shore instead of venturing out into deeper, more dangerous waters. I feel more in control that way. What might God ask me to do if I surrendered control to Him? Yet with the wind’s power, we got to our destination much faster than we ever could have by rowing. And oh, what a glorious feeling it was when the wind filled our sails and we began to move! I imagine it was how Peter and the other disciples felt on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirt blew on them like a mighty, rushing wind.

The same power that changed the world is available to me. All I have to do is let it fill my sails.

Time to Pull Weeds

I know there are people who love to garden. They enjoy nurturing seeds, planting bulbs, and planning perennial beds so that gorgeous flowers flourish in every season. My neighbor is one of them. I walk past her home (in the photos above and below) and sigh with envy at her creativity and diligence.

I am not one of those people. While I do love the end result when my garden looks pristine and welcoming, I don’t enjoy doing the work to make it so. Nevertheless, I was forced to become the family gardener when my husband pulled a muscle in his shoulder. The weeds had no pity on his injury and quickly staged a take-over. Can anyone explain to me why weeds are so hearty and fast-growing while their beautiful, cultivated cousins need pampering? Or why the deer and the rabbits ignore the weeds and munch on my plants as if they’re a salad bar?

As I tackled our overgrown garden last week, it occurred to me that the process has some similarities to the way I write. My first drafts are usually an overgrown tangle of words. My strategy is to conquer the blank page and get something down, no matter how bad, and then go back and fix it later. It takes away some of the anxiety if I don’t stop to critique my work as I write. But the day eventually comes when I have to weed out the overgrown mess. Finding weeds in the garden is usually simple: if the roots seem to go down to China, it’s probably a weed. If it pulls out easily—oops! That was probably something expensive. And when I make my first editing pass on my manuscript, it’s easy to find the weeds, especially if I remind myself of the rules of good writing.

I ended up with a large recycling bin full of weeds by the time I finished pulling them, but the garden still looked overgrown. I needed to go back with my shears and trim away some of the good bushes and plants, too. I hate doing that because I’m always afraid I’m going to cut too much and kill the plant. It’s the same with my manuscript. Even after the weeds of poor grammar have been pulled, my beautiful prose sometimes needs to be trimmed. If I’m in an especially critical mood, I can come dangerously close to chopping away too much and ruining it. But it has to be done.

The photos above and below show the results of my gardening efforts. And while I hated to sacrifice writing time for the task, when I finally sat down to write again I was able to tackle some much-needed editing with renewed fervor.

Now what about weeding my spiritual garden? Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches” and “my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” That sounds a lot like gardening and editing, doesn’t it? God is looking for fruit like love, joy, and patience—and not weeds like anger, gossip, and bitterness. If I hope to look like my neighbor’s garden in Jesus’ eyes, I think I have some work to do.

When Plans Change

My husband and I planned our summer vacation months ago. All spring, we’ve looked forward to exploring the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with our friends, seeing Tahquamenon Falls, the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the historic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, and taking a boat tour through the Soo Locks. But then a family medical emergency cancelled our plans. We’re thankful that God answered our prayers and the emergency ended well, but our trip will have to be postponed until next summer.

Our change in plans has started me thinking about some of the summer vacations we took with our children when they were small. One of the most memorable was a trip from our home in Winnipeg, Canada to Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, towing a borrowed pop-up trailer. We awoke after our first night of camping to find that all four of the trailer’s tires had gone flat. After a trip into town to buy four new ones, we were on our way again. Once we arrived in the Rockies, we discovered that the trailer had a broken heater, so after a few very cold nights, we changed our plans and headed south to the Grand Canyon and warmer weather.

Somewhere around Durango, Colorado, several warning lights on our car’s dashboard began flashing. We made a detour to a repair shop and learned that the pop-up trailer had a faulty electrical system, which was draining our car’s battery. After more repairs and a new battery, we were on our way again.

We showed up at the canyon at sunset, which is a beautiful time to arrive unless you need a campsite. All of the campgrounds were full. Signs throughout the park threatened enormous fines for camping anywhere except in designated sites. And it was a long, hot drive back to the nearest town.

Weary and desperate, we pulled into a parking lot behind a restaurant for the night. We didn’t dare to “pop up” the pop-up and risk a costly fine, so we decided to sleep in our car. All five of us. In our Toyota station wagon. Our sons Joshua and Benjamin slept in the two front seats, reclining them back as far as they would go. Ken and I emptied the luggage from the back of the car, folded down the rear seat, and slept there with our daughter, Maya. I use the term “slept” very loosely. “Dozed” is more like it as Ken and I folded ourselves around the wheel wells and tried to avoid Maya’s flailing arms and legs.

All night long, I expected to hear a dreaded knock on my window, and to face an angry park ranger ticketing us for not camping in a designated area. I planned to reply, “Does this look like we’re camping? If we were camping I would be asleep in the trailer behind us, not folded like a pretzel in our Toyota!” The long night ended without any fines. In fact by morning, the entire parking lot was filled with cars and trailers and rumpled families just like ours. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know how hard it would be to find a campsite at the Grand Canyon.

We saw a lot of beautiful sites on that trip and had a lot of fun. For Ken and me, it was memorable because of the costly tires, the new battery, the electrical work, and the sleepless night. But when we asked the kids what they enjoyed most about that trip, guess what they said. “Sleeping in the car!” One of them asked if we could do it again.

I dislike change, especially when it collides with my well-laid plans. But it seems as though the unplanned, unexpected changes that come our way leave a deeper imprint in our memories than when everything goes according to schedule. I will get to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula another year. But in the aftermath of our medical emergency, I saw how beautifully our family pulls together and shows our deep love for one another. Our faith has been strengthened after sensing God’s presence throughout the crisis and knowing that He hears and answers our prayers. In the end, that’s worth much more to me than a pile of vacation photos.

Where have you seen God at work when your plans were changed?

The Sabbath Table

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One of my favorite weekend pastimes is celebrating the Sabbath with our Jewish family and friends. In the hours before I arrive, they will have been hard at work baking bread and preparing enough food to last for the next 24 hours. The table is beautifully set, and the aromas that waft from the kitchen make my stomach rumble. I sit down to enjoy the long, leisurely meal with a huge sigh of relief, knowing that a full day of rest lies ahead of me, one in which I don’t have to race around multi-tasking or accomplishing everything my to-do lists. All of the preparations have been completed.
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The host begins the meal by saying a blessing over the bread. There are always two loaves as a reminder that when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness with Moses, God provided twice as much manna on the eve of the Sabbath so the people could enjoy a day of rest. Our host breaks the bread into pieces and passes it around to everyone at the table. Next he says the blessing over the wine, which is also passed around. The rituals of bread and wine remind me of communion and Christ’s command to “Do this in remembrance of me.” I can easily picture Jesus’ disciples remembering His words and His sacrifice every Sabbath as they repeated this tradition.

One of the Ten Commandments says to “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” meaning it should be different and set apart from ordinary days. The Sabbath food is special and often costly. We dress in our nicest clothes. There is singing and laughter and joy as we take our time eating and enjoying our family members and friends. Or to use an old-fashioned word, “communing” with them. I usually don’t want the Sabbath meal to end.
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Last Sunday we celebrated Communion at our church. I arrived frazzled and overwhelmed after a terrible week. I felt wounded and defeated. Then our pastor repeated Christ’s words over the bread and wine, and invited the congregation to come to “Christ’s table.” This traditional invitation struck me in a brand new way. I heard Christ inviting me to His table—a Sabbath table. He had completed all the work. The bread and wine had been bought with a great price. Now He invited me to come and to enjoy a time of close fellowship with Him. I heard His words as an invitation to rest, and more importantly, to rest in Him. I could stop struggling and striving. I was His beloved. I didn’t have to do any work to earn His favor except to believe and accept His invitation.
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My picture of the Sabbath table merged with the Communion table. I now think I understand Christ’s invitation in Matthew 11:28 a little better: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” It’s an invitation well worth accepting.

Apple Pie and Other Treasures

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It was supposed to be a fun excursion to do research for my next book, but icy rain poured from the winter sky as our friends, Paul and Jacki, drove my husband and me through the Michigan countryside.  Paul is a lifelong resident of Western Michigan and knows just about every back road and fun, out-of-the-way place on the map—and a few places that aren’t on the map. “I want to show you something,” he said, as we pulled into a little town I’d never heard of. “Do you like pies?”

Of course! Who doesn’t? We drove past humble houses, down streets without traffic lights or sidewalks, and pulled into the driveway of a small, unassuming, brick home. The garage door stood open but there weren’t any cars in it, only a nice-looking riding lawn mower and the usual clutter found in most garages, hanging from hooks and heaped around the perimeter. “Who lives here?” I asked.

Paul shrugged. “I don’t know.”

We piled out of the car and dashed through the rain into the open garage. I like to think of myself as adventurous but walking into a stranger’s untended garage, uninvited, seemed odd. I expected the door leading into the house to open at any moment and for the owner to ask us what we were doing.

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Two huge, ancient-looking chest freezers stood along the rear wall of the garage. Paul opened the lid of one and asked, “What kind of pie do you like? There’s apple, cherry, blueberry, pecan . . . Ooo, and homemade apple dumplings!” A hand-lettered sign listed the prices. A battered cardboard box collected the money on the honor system. “We’ve had these pies before,” Paul said. “You just take them home and bake them. They’re delicious.”

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He explained that this was a fund-raising effort on behalf of a local church. The women gathered together every so often like an old-fashioned quilting bee and spent the day baking in the church kitchen. The finished pies were sold out of this garage. I glanced around but didn’t see any security cameras. The entire endeavor operated on trust, and had become well-known in the community and surrounding area. Everyone for miles around knew where the small, brick house was, and that the garage door would always be open. The freezers would always be filled with pies. The cardboard moneybox would be waiting.

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I felt like I’d stepped back through time into a kinder, gentler era. “I don’t believe it!” I said. “Who does this kind of thing?” Until two years ago, I lived in the Chicago area along with six million other people. This pie-selling setup would never work there. No one would ever agree to leave their garage door open all day, and their lawnmower and other household goods unguarded, with only a flimsy door leading into their home—not to mention leaving several hundred dollars-worth of pies in unlocked freezers. And with soaring energy costs, no one would ever volunteer to pay the electric bill for two huge, non-energy-efficient freezers.

So, what sort of people would ever be this generous, this trusting?

People who had faith in God and wanted to support their church. People who put serving Him ahead of their material possessions. People who trusted that even if the worst happened and thieves broke in their home, God would somehow use the situation for His glory. People who believed that their “neighbors” included strangers they’d never met who might be in need of a pie.

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I’m guessing these trusting, pie-selling homeowners will have a whole pile of treasure waiting for them in heaven.

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We chose a plumb an apple pie and put a $10 dollar bill in the money box. It turned out, Paul was right—the pie was delicious!

Dad and Charlie

Charlie is in the middle with his arm around Ken in the Cub Scout uniform

My husband Ken had a best friend growing up named Charlie. In a time when kids rode bicycles all over town, explored down by the creek, and played outside until the stars came out, Ken and Charlie did it all together. They were in the same Cub Scout Troop, attended the same elementary school, built model cars together. When Ken’s dad took him fishing and on overnight camping trips in the woods, Charlie came, too. Those trips became even more meaningful after Charlie’s dad died at a young age.

The best friends lost touch after they graduated from high school and went to different colleges. But when Ken attended his high school reunion this year—his first ever—there was Charlie, also attending his first reunion. It’s amazing how much these two men still have in common, and how they’ve bonded again as if the years had never passed. Then Charlie told us a story that touched my heart.

When he was fourteen, Charlie gave his life to Christ. His youth leader told him to think of a special person who didn’t know the Lord, and make a commitment to pray for him every single day. Charlie chose Ken’s dad.

Dad with our son Joshua

Dad was a kind, gentle man who worked as a master woodcarver for an upscale furniture company most of his life. His parents divorced when he was young, and being poor, he didn’t fit in or feel welcome among church-going people. He left school after the eighth grade and went to work to help support his mother and sister. Even after he married and had six children of his own—my husband being the youngest—Dad never did feel comfortable enough or “good” enough to attend church. He was a wonderful, loving father in every way, which is why his family, and “adopted” family members like Charlie, loved him so much. But he never said a word about faith in God.

It’s so hard to find a way to talk to our closest family members about our faith and our need for Christ. We get together every year at holidays like Christmas, and we want so badly to lead our loved ones to Jesus—and we just can’t seem to find a way or the words to do it. And so the years pass, and we always hope there will be a better time, an easier way to say what’s on our heart. And much too often, the end comes before we ever have a chance.

Charlie faithfully prayed for Dad every single day—all through his college years, all through the years that he and his wife were raising their family. He moved to a different city, and he and Ken weren’t in touch any more, but he continued to pray, wondering if his prayers had ever been answered.

Before he died at age 82, Dad went into the hospital for the last time. Charlie’s mother happened to work in the same hospital and, remembering him from their days as neighbors, went up to his room to see him. She asked how he was doing, and Dad said, “I’m at peace. I’ve given my life to Jesus, and I’m at peace.” Charlie’s prayers had been answered at last.

This Christmas season, Charlie’s story challenges me to do two things. First, to never, ever, stop praying for family members to give their lives to Christ, no matter how long it takes. I’m praying that I’ll find the right opportunity this Christmas, and the right words to say in a loving way. And second, I’m challenged to make a commitment, like Charlie did, to faithfully pray for someone who has touched my life, even if I may never know if or when those prayers are answered.

But I do know that we’ll see Dad in heaven, someday. And for that assurance, I say, “Thank you, Jesus.” And thank you Charlie.

A Boxful of Love

img_0361This year, our church was one of the drop-off points for “Operation Christmas Child,” which is run by the international relief organization, Samaritan’s Purse. Every year at this time, volunteers from all over the United States pack special shoe boxes with simple children’s gifts, which will then be used around the world as powerful evangelism tools with children and their families. Sometimes one of these shoe boxes, packed with love, is the first gift a child ever receives.

img_0362My job, along with my husband and our friends Paul and Jacki Kleinheksel, was to man the drop-off center for a few hours as people from our community brought in their filled boxes. We recorded the donations, wrapped rubber bands around the boxes to secure them, and packed them into shipping containers.

One kind gentleman from the community brought in 52 boxes. For the past year, every time he and his wife did their weekly grocery shopping, he faithfully purchased items to fill one box. By budgeting a small weekly amount, he filled enough shoe boxes to bless 52 children.

img_0363Another delivery was from a student representative at nearby Hope College. Her car was stuffed with 128 boxes that the college students had filled. “There are more boxes coming,” she said, “but this is all I could fit in my car.” It amazed me that busy college students, many of whom probably live on a tight budget, had donated their time and resources to help bring Christ’s love to needy children around the world.

But the highlight of my evening was a young family with three small children, who delivered five boxes, one from each of them. The children beamed with excitement as they told us how they had gone shopping with their mom and picked out the items for their box all by themselves, choosing things they knew a child their age would enjoy. What a beautiful way for these parents to teach their children the joy of giving to others, especially at a time of year when children might be thinking only of themselves.

img_0364One of our jobs was to pray with the people who dropped off their boxes, asking God to bless the children who would receive them. I had tears in my eyes as the young mom and dad and their three little ones bowed their heads and prayed with us for “their” children, whose lives may be forever changed. And then, when I thought the moment couldn’t possibly get any sweeter, the littlest boy looked up at us and said, “Know what? I gave my life to Jesus this week!” The angels in heaven were surely having a party!

It truly is more blessed to give than to receive. On the night before He was crucified, Jesus took off his robe and knelt down to wash His disciples’ feet. He told them, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” He wants us to serve each other. He finished by saying, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

img_0365Jesus was right. I was richly blessed that night!

Is there a special way you and your family will share the love of Christ this Christmas season? I would love to hear your ideas!

If you would like to help Samaritan’s Purse deliver Christmas boxes all over the world, click here to donate. Or visit them at www.samaritanspurse.org

Waves of Mercy

Have you ever prayed about a decision but when you followed through on where God was leading, everything went wrong? You probably asked, “Did I really hear from God? How could He allow this to happen?”waves-of-mercy-cover-1

immigrantsMy newest novel, “Waves of Mercy,” (which releases on October 4) tells the true story of the Dutch immigrants who settled the town of Holland, Michigan in 1846. These faithful Christian men and women, who suffered religious persecution in the Netherlands, prayed about what to do and felt God leading them to America, where religious freedom was guaranteed. So they left beautiful, centuries-old cities to move to the virgin wilderness of Michigan and live in crude log cabins. The first summer, malaria struck the community killing many settlers. A year later, a ship called the Phoenix, carrying 225 passengers, including 175 Dutch immigrants, caught fire and sank in Lake Michigan, five miles from their destination. 180 men, women and children died. As the bewildered immigrants buried their loved ones, they must have asked, “Did we really hear from God? How could He allow these tragedies to happen?”

gods-and-kingsI battled similar questions when writing my first novel, “Gods and Kings.” I had an opportunity to go to Israel on an archeological dig to research my book, and it seemed like an answer from God. To earn money for my trip, I babysat for three small children. My husband encouraged me to go and volunteered to take over while I was away. But a few days before I was supposed to leave, our three children came down with the chicken pox. Then we discovered that my husband had never had them, and he became extremely ill. I called the tour organizers to try to cancel or at least postpone my trip only to learn that it wasn’t refundable, nor could I re-book my flight. I would lose all of the money I had worked so hard to save. In spite of his illness, my husband still encouraged me to go—while someone from church called to say, “I think it’s clear that God wants you to stay home and be a wife and mother, not a writer.” Had I really heard from God about being a writer? Why had my family become sick at the worst possible time? I wrestled with God for answers.

It’s in these times of wrestling that we often find ourselves drawing closer to God. I think of Jacob who returned to the Promised Land with his family at God’s command. Yet before he reached home, he learned that his brother, who had once threatened to kill him, was coming with a large army of men. Jacob wrestled with God all night long, and was changed from Jacob the “deceiver,” to Israel, which means “he struggles with God.”

As I wrestled with God about my trip to Israel, the reading for my morning devotions happened to be Psalm 48: “Walk about Jerusalem, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.” I trusted God to take care of my family, and walked into my calling as a writer. The novel I researched, “Gods and Kings,” has since been translated into nine languages.fullsizerender

And what happened to the Dutch settlers in my novel “Waves of Mercy?” I won’t reveal any “spoilers” in case you’d like to read the book, but if you visit the town of Holland, Michigan today, you’ll find that the immigrants’ faith remains strong and vibrant. The town, with a population of 33,000, has more than 71 churches, including Pillar Church, built by the first settlers in 1856.pillar-church

1co15-58“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Thin Air

IMG_7634My husband and I just returned home from a week’s vacation in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, and what a wonderful time we had! First of all, we were surrounded by God’s beautiful creation everywhere we looked—magnificent mountains, rushing streams, abundant wildlife. It was so easy to praise God every waking moment and remember His awesome majesty and power.

IMG_7683Second, I got to do one of my favorite activities every day—hiking in the woods. The scenery was refreshingly different from the familiar forests and beaches here in Michigan where I walk every day. There were mountains everywhere I looked!

IMG_7660But best of all, we were able to spend time with one of our sons, our daughter, our son-in-law, and our grandbaby on this vacation. We shared a family cabin together and were able to relax and talk and eat and hike every day.

I had been hard at work on my newest book before this vacation, and I admit I was feeling a little stuck. My brain felt like it was filled with molasses, and the words and ideas just weren’t coming. I needed a break and a change of scene. Maybe some new inspiration. Thankfully, I got all of those things—and something more.

IMG_7781On our first day of hiking, I found myself huffing and puffing after about five minutes of walking. I thought I was in pretty good shape—what was wrong with me? The answer, of course, was “thin air.” Our cabin was located at an elevation of 8,000 feet and we hiked even higher than that every day. Someone explained to me that oxygen is 45% less dense at that altitude, which explains why I was gasping! Things that were easy to do back home became a lot harder in such thin air.

IMG_7652As I thought about that fact, I realized why my writing hadn’t been going so well. Scripture sometimes compares the Holy Spirit to air or wind. Jesus promised His disciples that they would receive power from on high when the Spirit came, and indeed, they were transformed when the rushing wind from heaven blew on the Day of Pentecost and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. We all need the Holy Spirit’s power to accomplish the work God gives us to do. But I sometimes forget that, and I try to write on “thin air,” relying on my own experience and knowledge instead of on the Spirit’s inspiration. No wonder I huff and puff!

IMG_7728My prayer, as I return to my desk and my work-in-progress this week is summed up in one of my favorite choruses: “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me . . .”

How’s the air where you’re serving our Creator?