How to Withstand the Storms

We are all transplants in this Kingdom, all ball of roots, shook out and replanted insecure, longing for our heart’s true home.



We are adopted children of the most High who wander through the world with amnesia forgetting to come home, forgetting where our bread (acceptance, security, purpose, Life) comes from.  We turn towards whispers of “little l” life with hope-filled faces and turn away from the arms always offered.


We are basically earth scorched thirsty people searching for living water, quenching our thirst in the most unhealthy/unholy of ways.


Everywhere I go, when I’m turning toward another voice in hope of some piece of the puzzle coming together, I hear an echo of Him, “Daughter, Come back to Me. Don’t go too far. Attach. Dwell. Abide.”


It takes three years for plants to reach down in foreign soil and establish. Three springs that follow three cold winters before they begin to thrive.


The gardeners at the Center where I bought my white hydrangeas said to chop off the big snowball blooms for two full years. The roots’ establishing was more critical than beauty, she lectured, tenderly patting the black plastic base. Let them spread all their energy to the tightening, spreading roots and then, she promised, they’ll bloom strong into the years.


It’s the roots we can’t see, the roots spread firm in Him that create the lasting beauty.


Around that same time wandering through a Christian bookstore, I stared at a black and white Ansel-Adams-like photo. She was a queen of a tree, full of leaves, standing alone, a lace of intricate branches. Underneath the photo was Ephesians 3:17 “Rooted and established in love.”  Paul, midway through his letter was praying for the Ephesians. Now, Paul was hardcore. A missionary of missionaries. I imagine him a bit wild-eyed, like I’d have to look away if I tried to look straight at him. And yet much of his writings come straight back here, straight to the importance of being rooted in God’s love.


The full verses of 17 through 19 go like this, “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” We need to be rooted in love in order to be filled with God.


Chapter 8 in Romans, the chapter I would gladly take to a deserted island (or maybe just a four star hotel) and feast on for weeks, climaxes in this: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


The man was rooted and established in some serious hummus-filled love. You’d have to be in order to endure the whips, the chains, the prison isolation, the shipwrecks. He’d be dashed and wrecked about the rocks of life without that firm anchor of love. And maybe that’s all we’ve known.


We are so often like adopted children wondering where home really is, insecure, fearful when my dear friends, our Abba is firmly here with us. “I will never leave you or forsake you,” (Mt 28:20)

Every moment we:

stop and look into His eyes,

whisper “Jesus” in joy or wonder,

search the Word for his self-revelation,

fill up the lungs, drink deep breaths of His love,

bring our fears to his lap,

take our sins to the cross,

listen, getting used to the sound of His voice,

worship with arms outstretched,

or double back, saying thank you.

All this roots and establishes us a little deeper.

It is the constant abiding John talks about, the branch coming in close, attaching firm to the Vine.



Christianity is less a lifestyle of trying hard and more a constant doubling back, coming in close.  And the most beautiful service, the most powerful wave-walking trust and firm obedience? It comes naturally out of the coming in close.


The beauty will come. One day it fill unfold into bloom. And my friend, I can already see in you the tight nubs whispering of future glory.

Here’s one of my favorite ways to get rooted and established in God’s love, Lectio Divina.

Rest in His Presence. Receive his Word. Respond.  It’s a doorway to prayer.


I wonder what you will hear from today’s scripture? 


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Lectio Divina as a Doorway to Rest


It’s just a couple of lines, not even a whole verse.

These words from Isaiah 30:15, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and trust will be your strength,” keeps being brought to the table, the Spirit’s not-so-subtle-daily manna. Two weeks ago, I was sitting in a lodge in northern Ohio, white dogwood right outside the windows and my professor, Dr. Terry Wardle brings it up again. He was telling a story of heart-break and how these verses invited him to return to rest in God even in the turmoil.

This lectio divina work has been one of those returning places. The tv. remote, Facebook, Instagram? They all promise rest. They’re sirens and I’m a sucker for their song. The more tired I am, the more mindlessly I scroll.

I’m learning that I need to make rest appointments with God, to the One who beckoned with a “Come to Me.” Lectio is one of those appointments. It’s my invitation to SLOW down, to receive.

Lectio divina is sometimes a place of incredible aha moments, but it’s not meant to park there stuck in one person’s ruminating. It’s supposed to be a doorway to dialogue and then to an even more simple but luxurious abiding. It’s a doorway for with-God time, being aware and present to He who is always present to us. And when I’m deep in hustle, I need the door swung wide open often.

What are you hearing in this verse? What word/phrase? What invitation?

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Your Key to Experiencing Scripture Reading Come Alive and SLOW WORD

(SLOW Word at the bottom. Remember, every Monday and Thursday there will be a Lectio Divina right here. Let’s savor the Word together.)

Perhaps you’d like to read in the quiet. I get that. Or perhaps you are like my sister and you want to be read to today:) I get that too. I’ve got you covered. Check out the very bottom of this page.



“You are painting a picture without God in it.” My mother was a month from moving day when those words were spoken to her, lifted up before her like a mirror. Dad’s work had moved eight hours away. So like it or not, there would be a moving truck parked in front of the house they had just built and all their furniture would be hauled up a ramp and she would have to listen to the movers with their heavy, hollow, halting steps tramp up and down with pieces of her life.   No family was waiting on the other side of the truck’s journey with a table long enough to receive them. No friend was waiting inside a screened door with a cup of coffee. She would need to start creating a life from scratch. Again.


She carried the heavy anxiety and brought it into Delores’ office for them both to turn over in their hands. Delores listened to the fear and then quietly spoke, “Beth, you are painting a picture without God in it.”





And we do that, don’t we? We walk into our day with a picture of what that day will hold…and it rarely has God painted into it. Our imagination mocks us with absence, not Presence. We allow fear to reign and forget that Christ the King is walking beside us.  “I will never leave you or forsake you,” we were told in Hebrews 13:5. Jesus Himself gave this one last statement to the disciples to echo down through his disciples’ hearts for the centuries to come: “And surely I AM with you to the very end of the age,” (Matthew 28:30).


The picture of our future is completely different with God inside the frame.  When Jesus is present, the picture of our future sparkles with light, with ungathered joys, and there is always a full table set.


Writer and preacher Gregory Boyd in Seeing is Believing says this, “If Christ IS with us, isn’t picturing Him present actually more true than picturing an existence without Him?”

Christ present is the promise.

Christ reigning is the truth.

Christ WITH us is the essence of His name: IMMANUEL.

And THIS, my Friends, changes everything.






But stay with me through this transition. Christ Present not only transforms our tomorrow, it changes how we do life today. Profoundly.


When we live picturing Christ present, we are saying yes to reality and framing our lives to fit the truth.


And here’s where this truth connects right here with the SLOW Word movement. When we create space to listen to the word, WITH the WORD, the scriptures come alive. Try it. Try offering Jesus a seat at the table across from you and looking into His eyes as you hear Jesus ask Peter before the betrayal: “Will you really lay down your life for me?” (John 13:38). Ouch.


Or try, again looking into His eyes, “If you love me, you will do what I command,” (John 14:15) and see what rises in your soul.


Or perhaps try today’s SLOW Word, “Come to Me and I will give you rest,” (Matthew 11:28-29).


When you are looking into Jesus’ eyes, the Word of God begins to vibrate with intensity and no longer sits still on the page. It BREATHES. It no longer lies flat. You can no longer pass over to the other side unchanged. The Word is now sitting there between the two of you and it becomes a vital part of the ongoing conversation of your life.


This verse from the writer of Hebrews awakens us to the truth: “The Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” (Hebrews 4:12). Looking into His eyes, awake to His Presence in the present, I ask His Spirit to do His SLOW work, renewing my mind, teaching me to place Him in the frame of my reality, and transforming me through His Word.



(Subscribe on the right to receive more practical keys to the WITH God life and more SLOW Words. And if this, dear friend, is a gift for you, share it with someone you know who may need the encouragement. Set the table for someone else.)


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Day 2: Listen

Xavier lookingDay 2: Listen

“Moving? How do I feel about moving? I just hate feeling months of loneliness,” Mom closed her eyes, tears starting to appear. Deb looked up sharply and tapped the eraser of her pencil on the legal pad she had been scratching on and lifted slightly out of her seat, “But, Beth, listen to yourself! You are already painting a picture of a world without God.”

My mother’s counselor had uncovered the fear behind mom’s fictitious nightmare painted over her future: abandonment and loneliness. Would God really be present among the hills of Eastern Pennsylvania? Dad and mom were moving eight hours away to a new town, a new surgical practice, a new wiped slate and unknown life.

But then, enter Jesus.

Jesus has a way of transforming a room…just like He has a way of transforming an empty schedule into a purpose-filled future.

Jesus’ presence transforms any life into a life full of communion…the with-God life.

And the with-God life is true adventure:

Full of resurrection power

Full of enemy-chasing light,

Full of hope whispers to the still-grieving.


Watch what happens in this post-resurrection story:

John 21 

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 

Peter was back on the Sea of Galilee casting for a future without Christ in it.

He was painting a picture with grief.

And so what did he do? He went back on auto-pilot. Push boat into sea. Fling nets. Pull them back in. On repeat. In his desperation, Peter fished with his guys all night long. Can you recognize the godless self-reliance? We’re going to have to provide for these people, these families, these straggling disciples, somehow. No more picnics with baskets overflowing here people. We’re on our own.

But for Peter, when Christ revealed himself, the world exploded in technicolor. “It is the Lord!” John pointed. Christ present? Peter knew that His Presence changes everything. He jumped in to join him.

We can too.


Today, just listen. Listen to the internal brushstrokes you are painting your zipcode with. What images are you using? What negative stereotypes are you reinforcing? Are you hunting for “every common bush a’fire with God” as Elizabeth Barrett Browning encouraged us to see our world with? Can you discern God’s presence there?

Today’s action: Jesus left us with a promise to echo down the centuries: “I am with you always.” Think through your agenda and invite Christ into each room, each building before you get there. Ask God to redeem your imagination and do the work of picturing him in each space. Then, jump in to join him there.


Whew! You, my friend, have just made it through Day 2. Find Day 1 and the description of our journey here: Falling in love with your Zipcode

Don’t miss a day of our 31 day journey. Slip your email in the Connect box and together we’ll learn to thrive where we’ve been planted.

Have friends who have moved within the last year? Send this series along to encourage them as well.


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Welcome Home, A Sabbath Blessing

We have been racing and filling and schlepping heavy loads and now…

it is a deep breath kind of day,

a put up your feet kind of Sabbath,

a stop and watch the water flow kind of day.


Praying for you…praying for me…May we stop spinning, stop producing,

stop pretending perfect long enough

to hear Him say

come on in,

my beloved,

welcome home.

Have you found these lovely lullabies? We sometimes put them on around bedtime snack time…the perfect transition.

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Naming the restlessness: Audrey Assad

You have made us for Yourself, Oh God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.    St. Augustine

I’ve been listening to a lot of Audrey Assad lately. I’m captivated by her articulation of our hunger for God and how it comes out simply in worship. Here is a short of a conversation about the desire for a life of communion with God.

No time to watch Audrey share about her hunger for an underlying life of prayer? Here is her song Restless. For me it’s a search to live in His Presence.

Name your restlessness?  Is it a core longing?

  • A safe and secure environment
  • Constant reinforcement of personal worth
  • Repeated messages that you are valued, unique and special
  • Unconditional love and acceptance
  • Basic care and nurture
  • Encouragement to grow and develop personal gifts and talents
  • A pathway to fellowship with God
  • A sense of belonging
  • Feeling useful and needed

When we experience anxiety, fear or anger, could it be a lack in what Terry Wardle calls a core longing?

When does it arise? Time of day? After a “trigger” event? During a season like Christmas?


Can you give a feeling to your restlessness? Try this chart here. Journal that.


Look for the patterns, and come into the Presence of God without a mask, ready to receive.




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For Your Sabbath Quiet Hours: A Clearing in the Wild lyrics

Dear One, you’ve been spinning, making magic out of straw. You’ve loved with fierceness and lived strong. You’ve struggled tired and flailed.  Now it’s time to rest, breathe deep. Refill. Put a pot of orange slices, cinnamon sticks and cloves on the stove to simmer. Set out cheese and crackers out for dinner, light a fire in the fireplace, open a book that makes you sit still, drink deep.


For you, my friend, I’m praying for a clearing in the wild.


I’m praying for space to reconnect, where you can come into His Presence, curl up and get strong again.


This is our favorite Sunday afternoon music: A Clearing in the Wild. We saw Red Tail Ring by accident at Salt of the Earth, a small local-food restaurant/music venue in Fennville, MI. We walked in on a Saturday afternoon, slid into a booth after a hike in the Allegan State Game area and together consumed a huge homemade s’more. Red Tail Ring, a husband a wife team from Kalamazoo, MI were picking banjos in the next room and we took turn standing with a child in the shadows, transported. Upon arriving home, we immediately downloaded this song from itunes and now it’s the song we play on repeat to mark our entrance to the quiet hours. Check it out here.


Today as the sun begins to set on your year, I pray for quiet hours to allow the blessing to settle in.  I pray for you to “rest heavy, my Love.”


A Clearing in the Wild:


Rest heavy my Love.

Turn it all off.

Slow it all down while the sun’s far away.

Cause we mark the pages of every new day

and I want your first steps to be strong.


Let yourself go,

sigh like the rapids,

breathe down your body

let the dam overflow

and release the day like a thunder of sparrows

and lie in the stillness when everything’s gone.


I love you the fullest

when everything’s stripped

when nothing’ else is with us a clearing in the wild

leave no strings trailing

your sword is still flailing

so no thorns can grab on

as we float til’ the dawn.







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Advent, Day 19: Welcoming Him into Our Ordinary

On that first warmish day of spring, we throw all our weight against creaking sashes until the smell of moist earth fills every corner of the house.  All day long moving from room to room we inhale the mixture of wet pavement, hyacinths, pine.


We open our stale corners wide open to the breeze.


Henri Nouwen says that at the center of every soul is a room with a small table and a candle on it. A door with a handle on the inside stands in the thick walls. I imagine the room looks a bit like a wine cellar at an Italian restaurant, brick archways, dark corners, oak table, heavy carved door.


We can stay inside hidden, Nouwen says, alone with our fear and self-centeredness, our seemingly controlled life, or we can push open the door and the waiting King will enter.


It’s companionship with the King of Kings starting with the antipasta.


OK, I may have embellished that last part.  You might be having Indian food.

“I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me,” (Revelations 3:20).


Friends who went through the Alpha series with my husband were struck by Revelations 3:20 and in one session the wife announced, “Let’s do that.”  “Do what?” Andrew inquired. “Go home and open the door for God.” And they did.  They stood right inside their yellow English cottage of a house, turned the knob, opened the door and welcomed Him in…to their lives, their family, their marriage, their home.


But it’s not just a salvation scripture…although agreed, it’s brilliant as such.


Taking this verse in context, John wrote it down in Revelations as instructions for the church at Smyrna, for the lukewarm, rich, and self-centered.  He wrote it for me, maybe for you.  He knocks to come in, not just on safe days, not just on perfect-hair days, or even for emergencies.  He desires to come in, pull up a chair and eat the crusty bread of common life.


He wants to be formally invited into our relationship with our mother-in-law, our cublicle at our dead-end job, our Christmas morning highs, the ordinary every moment.


Our job is not to hear the knock, pick up the dust cloth, frantically try to set things in order. No, He gladly picks up the rag and the lemon spray, pulls up His sleeves.


Our job is simply to throw open the door and invite Him in.


We invite Him to move right in.


We invite Him who is King to make a kingdom out of us.


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Advent, Day 12: When We Search for Peace

Can we talk about how effortlessly rich Kathleen Battle’s voice is? Hands down my favorite soprano of all time.


“The peace of the Lord be with you.” We greet, shake hands, smile into the eyes of strangers and mumble the words.


But peace, my friends, is something tangible. It is as real as a blanket of snow falling.


When Jesus sent out his disciples two by two he armed them with authority to bring His kingdom life to them. He instructed them with this: “whatever town you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave, As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you,” (Mt 10:11-13).


In our Messiah lectionary we discover the King riding in on a donkey, not a war horse. Handel is pointing to prophecy that was fulfilled with His triumphal entry. Palm Sunday. Here’s how Eugene Peterson translates Zechariah 9:9-12 in the Message:


“Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion!

Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming!

a good king who makes all things right,

a humble king riding a donkey,

a mere colt of a donkey. I’ve had it with war—no more chariots in Ephraim,

no more war horses in Jerusalem,

no more swords and spears, bows and arrows. He will offer peace to the nations,

a peaceful rule worldwide,

from the four winds to the seven seas.”


Those leaning in close to Zechariah’s poetry have been pummeled by war. They have been tossed between Babylon, Persia and various little superpowers, bruised and abused.  Not only are they feeling powerless, they are despairing. They haven’t seen anything that resembles normal Jewish life in generations and the stories of God’s glory are starting to be snuffed by time. What do they need? A Conqueror. But, here comes the Promised One and He shocks them.


He comes riding on a donkey.


They may be begging for someone to shake down the stones of their enemies, but here the Messiah comes riding without a sword to draw.


Donkey riding is for peace-makers, not warriors.  There’s no white steed here. But here’s the real shocking difference, He comes not just for them. He comes spreading peace in His wake around the world.


This peace is not something the Israelites will bottle up, hold close, treasure in their Temple. This peace is a gift spread round the world, across Alps and penetrating the steep valleys of Papua. No corner of life will be untouched.


And this is our hope. “Peace be still,” He declared to the wind and the waves and this Advent I have waves that are white and cresting.


The wind and the waves obey and so will our chaotic hearts. And this, my friends, is worth great rejoicing.


But perhaps it is the rejoicing that will pave a way for the promised One to come. Perhaps the joy spoken out loud opens the door.


We rejoice and His Kingdom will spread like a snapped opened sheet to all corners of the earth. And peace will fall heavy on our laps, on our hearts, penetrate every corner of our streets, our homes.  Because it is a substance. It is not just the absence of something like war or anxiety, it is His Presence come in the front door and taking up residence.


When we search for peace, we find Him.



“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” CS Lewis


We’re on our way to the manger, journeying together. Come on the pilgrimage with us? Slip your email into the CONNECT box on the front page and let’s rejoice in His coming together.


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Advent, Day 6: Emmanuel Changes Everything

Isaiah 7:14 “… Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name lmmanuel: God with us”

Life leapt.

God kicked

and what at first she had held tight within faith’s fist,

now bounced,

small mass of cells

somersaulting against internal walls.


Laughter must have risen up deep from that womb as God’s seed played in motion within her.  Worship had consummated, (My Soul proclaims the glory of the Lord, and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior,) and she was filled, growing large with Joy.


Because what is Joy except God’s Presence in full banquet form?


And she was carrying the Bridegroom of the wedding within her womb.


“God with us” changes everything.



Christ present is the difference between a life limping and a life full.  “God with us” IS abundant life, whether the circumstances are a full bank account, a full brood, a full dance card or the expectant empty. “God with us” turns every moment into a God-full moment. Him present now is the difference between a life bereft and a life empowered.


LeAnne Payne wrote in Healing Prayer of the total exhaustion that had wilted her halfway through a retreat. For four days she had spilled out empty. With one more talk to give, she had no strength with which to give it.


What do we do when we are the empty?  We take hold of Him who takes hold of us.


She stood up, consciously took hold of His hand and walked up to the podium. Then, unable to be anything but silent, she focused on Christ present.  And silent she watched a mass of people begin weeping, falling to their knees, others with arms stretched out.  She prayed a short prayer of thanks, believing the people had received all they needed, closed the session and walked back down to her seat.


Christ had been present beside her, a hand of blessing outstretched.


They had bathed in His presence and watched the Rescuer come.


And dear friends, remember this next time you are shrinking small: When we walk into a room holding onto the hand of the Emmanuel, we usher in the Redeemer, the Healer, the Comforter, the very Salvation of the world.


Like Mary, we become bearers of God.


Another Advent spiritual exercise for the thirsty:

Close your eyes and pray for God to sanctify your imagination (why would He have given us an imagination if not to redeem and use it?) Then ask Him where He is in the room.  Allow Him to form the picture, then spend time in watching what He does next. Rest with Him, receive His love and take time to worship. 

–From Dr. Anne Halle of Ashland Seminary
This “God with us” is one of my life-themes. It’s been six years and He just makes me more hungry for more Emmanuel. Want to read more here?

Sleeping with Bread: How His Presence Changes Everything


We are on Day 6 of our journey to the manger. Don’t miss a day. Subscribe on the front page in the CONNECT square.   I’m praying for you as together we desire more of Him.

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