As Pure Gold

25 November 2013

refiner's fireIt’s a story I’ve used over and over again – especially when speaking on holiness. It’s a familiar story told by Amy Carmichael about her visit to a goldsmith as he was refining gold. The story gives such a clear picture of God’s work of refining in our own lives, but I especially love the end when Amy asks the goldsmith how he knows when the gold is pure. His answer is such a powerful reminder of God’s goal for us. “When I can see my face in it then it is pure.”

And yet, as often as I’ve shared this story – as often as I’ve let it speak to my own heart – I found a wonderful new truth in it as I was re-reading it recently. It was actually a side comment in parentheses, but still such a wonderful reminder. Amy Carmichael shared that the goldsmith never leaves the crucible once it’s in the fire. When he begins the refining process, the gold is never left unattended.

I love that reminder.  When we are “in the fire” (never a comfortable place to be), our Refiner will never leave us.  He has a purpose for the flames and will stay right there to see that they work for our good. Gold in an unattended crucible can be ruined.

This isn’t just a nice thought from Amy Carmichael’s story. This truth is solidly backed by Scripture. Psalm 34:18 assures us that “the Lord is close to the brokenhearted…” He never leaves the crucible once it’s in the fire. Both the flames and the gold are under His loving and watchful eye.  I find such encouragement in these words. God will never leave us unattended in the flame, but will lovingly accomplish His purposes. And as Job declared, “when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold.” And so will we!


(This one’s for you, April.)

Boxes Again!

20 September 2013

View from our house

View from our house

We’re in the middle of boxes – again. It wasn’t too long ago (actually less than a year), that I wrote a blog about being done with boxes. Last October we made the move from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and I was ready to be done with boxes. But God had other plans, and we have just made the move back to Pennsylvania, and are, once again, surrounded by boxes.

Our new home is a wonderful old farmhouse located among the hills and cornfields of central PA. The location is wonderful, but the house has its challenges – small bedrooms with no closets, for example. However, we are slowly finding just the right place for pieces of furniture (sometimes after my patient husband has moved them a couple of times), and are beginning to add touches that transform it from a house into our home.

As is often the case, God has used my present circumstances (boxes included) to teach me a spiritual lesson. I recently read these words from Hebrews in my quiet time: “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are His house.” (Hebrews 3:6) I am God’s house, and it’s God’s plan for His Son to move in and make it His home. It may mean moving some things (like my priorities) around until they’re in just the right place. It will definitely include His decorating touch – filling it with the things that bring Him pleasure like humility, peace, love, and patience. He may need to get rid of some of my things to make room for His things. And He definitely still has boxes to unpack – things that still need to be added to make it a place where He can be completely at home.

I’d like to be done with boxes, but I’m so thankful that God isn’t – that He continues to unpack the things that I need to make my heart His home.

A New Name

3 August 2013

I never really liked my name. Esther certainly wasn’t one of the popular names when I was younger – it still isn’t now that I’m older. It didn’t have a neat nickname, or a catchy shortened version. But it’s a name that my father loved, and so I’m Esther by his choice

I don’t know what name I would have chosen if I had been in on the decision-making, but I found a name in Scripture that I would love to have. It’s not a name that I would actually want to be called, but it is a name that I would love to be my Heavenly Father’s choice for me.

In Isaiah 62 God promises that the day will come when His people will have a new name. They will no longer be known by some of the negative names that have been associated with them, but will now be called “Hephzibah.” As with most Biblical names, Hephzibah was chosen because of its meaning -“My delight is in her.” God was conveying a wonderful message to Israel through His choice of this name. It was to be more than just a change of name, but a new identity – an acknowledgement that God’s favor was again on His people, and that He truly delighted in them.

Zephaniah 3:17 also gives Israel this same hope: “He (the Lord) will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Imagine that! God’s delight in Israel will be so great that it will cause Him to burst into singing.

I want to delight the Lord. I want to live in a way that brings Him joy; that pleases Him. I want to make Him so happy that He bursts into song. I want to be Hephzibah.

For now, I’m still called Esther, and I’ve gotten used to that name. But I can’t imagine any greater joy in life (or eternity) than to have my Heavenly Father look at me and say, “I’m giving you a new name. Hephzibah!”

View from My Sparrow’s Nest

18 June 2013
The view from our "Sparrow's Nest"

The view from our “Sparrow’s Nest”

I’m at the Sparrow’s Nest. Not the one mentioned in Psalm 84 tucked among the poles that supported the tabernacle, but the one located at Delta Lake Bible Conference Center in Rome, NY. Not the sparrow’s nest that is the basis for this blog and my radio blog, but the Sparrow’s Nest that is now our summer home. One is made of twig and straw, the other of boards, but they have one thing in common. They both offer a wonderful view of the things of God.

In Psalm 84, that sparrow looked down on the holy things of God. From her vantage point, she could watch the comings and goings of the priests as they went about their activities in preparation for worship. All about her were reminders of the holiness of Yahweh – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

From my “Sparrow’s Nest,” I also have a wonderful view of the things of God. We sit tucked among trees with a beautiful view of the lake from our windows. I also watch the comings and goings of “priests” – people who have dedicated themselves to the ministry of this place. They don’t light candles, or butcher sacrifices, but they do mow the grass, paint the buildings, and clean up our “tabernacle” in preparation for the many activities of the summer.

The sparrow in Psalm 84 had found her home – a nest tucked among the things of God in a place set apart for God’s honor and glory. I too have found my home (at least for the summer months), and it too is tucked in among the things of God in a place set apart for God’s honor and glory.

I don’t know if a real sparrow is capable of having a thankful heart, but this “sparrow” has a heart overflowing with thankfulness to God for blessing her with her “nest” at Delta Lake Camp.

One of our first days in the cottage we had a baby sparrow come and visit.

One of our first days in the cottage we had a baby sparrow come and visit.


And the Winner Is…

17 May 2013

DSC01769I saw an amazing display of creativity recently.  My granddaughter Catherine entered a cake contest at a local school. Since we were visiting, we got to be in on the event. There were all kinds of cakes. There were pool cakes and mountain cakes, cakes with snow scenes and volcanoes. But it wasn’t in the display of cakes where we saw the real creativity. This was a “everybody-wins and no-one-loses” kind of contest – equality at its finest.  So each of the over 100 cakes there won a ribbon – and each of the over 100 cakes there won a ribbon for a different category! I was in awe of the creative ability of the judges to come up with that many different award categories. It did make for a very lengthy award ceremony, however, as each person’s category was announced and they were presented with a ribbon. Everyone was a winner!

What a convenient plan, but it does raise some questions. Why bother to do your best? Why enter in the first place? And how meaningful is a ribbon that is given to everyone – regardless of their cake? There were some cakes there that were not ribbon-worthy! Others were an impressive display of skill and creativity. (Catie’s was the best, of course, but who’s going to believe a grandmother.)

Some people believe our lives are like that cake contest?  Everyone’s a winner – you just have to “enter” to get a blue ribbon at the end. However, Scripture makes it clear that there will be a day of judgment – a day when we will be accountable for our lives. The wonderful news is that God has given us the perfect recipe to receive an eternal blue ribbon.  It won’t say, “Purest Life,” or “Most Good Deeds.” There won’t be a ribbon for the “Most Righteous,” or “Perfect Attendance at Church.” Your ribbon will be dipped in blood and declare you to be “A Child of God.”  What an amazing award ceremony that will be. Even though none of us has lived a ribbon-worthy life, we will be declared an eternal winner and invited to share in the glorious reward planned for us by our Creator.



Catie’s little sister thought the cake was a winner too.

Not My Own!

30 April 2013

Sometimes simple, familiar phrases become new and profound. That happened to me today in my Bible reading as I read Paul’s reminder, “You are not your own.” (I Corinthians 6:19) I understand the theology of this – the atonement that purchased my salvation; that bought me back – but it was the practical reality of those words that struck me. I am not my own. So many things are impacted by that truth.

If I am not my own, then I must agree with the words of Jeremiah when he declares, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23) The One who holds ownership of me has every right to choose my steps. What a blessing to know that He chooses with wisdom and is motivated by love.

If I am not my own, then it makes perfect sense that to offer my body as a living sacrifice really is a “spiritual act of worship.” It is giving over the rights to the rightful owner.  It also means that conformity to the “pattern of this world” can’t be for me. I must instead conform to the principles and standards of an eternal kingdom. (Romans 12:1,2)

If I am not my own, there is only one answer to the question God asks: “Can I not do with you as this potter does?” (Jeremiah 18:5) God has every right to shape me into the vessel of His choosing for His use and glory.

And, if I am not my own, then my heart needs to echo the words of John as he declared, “He must become greater; I must become less.” I must strive to allow everyone around to see the wonder and glory of the One who rightfully owns me.

I must never forget that the hands that reach out to claim me have scars – scars that are evidence of His right to ownership and are proof of the love that makes me so richly blessed to be able to say, “I am not my own!”

Guest blog

5 April 2013

My thanks to Cynthia Vogel for posting “All the Vain Things” (my post from April 19th, 2012) on her blog. As always, my prayer it that God will use these words. Below is the link to her blog. Thank you again, Cynthia, for sharing these words.

Jesus Stepped Forward

25 March 2013

feet-of-jesusThere are two incidents in the gospel of John that so clearly convey the singleness of focus and purpose of Jesus. He was walking directly toward the cross – each step carefully calculated to bring Him there.

The first incident is found in John 6:15. “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew.” He had every right to be king. He had every right to be acknowledged by His own people as their Sovereign and Lord. But Scripture tells us He withdrew; He walked away from all that was rightfully His.  They wanted to crown Him king, but He knew that another crown awaited Him – a crown made up of thorns that would rip into his skull and evoke mocking and ridicule. And yet He withdrew from the easier crown in obedience to His Father’s will.

We find another incident that also begins with much the same words. In John 18:4 we read, “Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out…” This time He didn’t withdraw, He went out, or as the King James Version puts it, He “stepped forward.” Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him – the betrayals, the beatings, the agony of the cross – didn’t withdraw, but stepped forward.

Jesus withdrew from what was rightfully His, and stepped forward to what was rightfully ours. I don’t know how this affects you, but it leaves me overwhelmed with love and worship.

“Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my  life, my all.”

When You Can’t Find God

10 March 2013

maps_compasses_chains_desktop_1024x768_wallpaper-1120629Have you ever felt like you just can’t find God? You’re not alone. Job had that same struggle. Job had a lot of things to complain about, but in Job 23:3 we hear the real anguish of his heart. “If only I knew where to find God…” In the midst of Job’s suffering he wanted to be able to talk to God, to share his heart, and to find God’s answers…but he can’t seem to find Him anywhere.

It’s not that Job didn’t look. We sense his heartache as he shares that he went to the east and God wasn’t there; he couldn’t find him in the west. He looked for Him in the north and tried to catch a glimpse of him in the south, but to no avail.

Many of us can identify with that sense that in the midst of our worst times, we can’t seem to find God – no matter where we look. While our suffering may not compare to Job’s, we share his anguish in not being able to find God when we need Him the most. But Job himself offers us hope when he declares: “But He knows the way that I take.” (Job 23:10) He says in essence, I may not be able to find God, BUT He knows where I am. I can’t see Him, but He still sees me. And we, like Job, can find tremendous comfort in that.

Most of us know how the story ends. God greatly blessed the later years of Job’s life with wealth and cattle and family. But I suspect that Job’s greatest blessing is found in Job 42:5 when he declares, “but now my eyes have seen You.” Job finally found God.

Be encouraged!  When you can’t find God, He still sees you, He is aware of everything that you’re facing, and the day will come when you too, like Job, will be able to say, “But now my eyes have seen You.”

(Adapted from a Radio Blog by the same name)

A Change in Lifestyle

26 February 2013

bible_holy-spritLisa joined our family at the age of 14. Everything was new and different for her, and even though those differences were good, they were still foreign to what she had known before. Somehow we needed to find a way to ease Lisa into our family.

Our lifestyle is even farther removed from God’s than Lisa’s was from ours. In ourselves, we have nothing in common with Him. Just as we “called” Lisa to join in our family, to participate in being one with us, God invites us to share in His own divine nature as He lovingly adopts us into His family.

I Peter 1:15 states: “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” Many see this verse as a command. Personally, I see it as a wonderful invitation—a call to reflect the nature and character of the One who has chosen us to be His own. He has called us to be His child, and now He calls us to live in a way that reflects His family and His lifestyle.

God is holy, and we’re not. It’s that simple. God calls us to a lifestyle that is unfamiliar to us – one that can only be learned in His presence. We never would have expected Lisa to learn the rules and standards of our home apart from living with us. We didn’t say, “This is how we live, and when you get it right, then we’ll claim you as ours.” However, the longer Lisa lived with us, the more she became like us. The more she identified with our family, the more she reflected our standards. But most importantly, the more she understood our love for her, the greater desire she had to please us and become one with us.

The parallels are obvious. We are called to be holy and the more time we spend in God’s presence, the more we’ll learn to be like Him and to reflect His standard of holiness. This call to holiness echoes throughout the pages of Scripture. It was His call to Abraham. It was His call to the nation of Israel. It was His call to the fledgling church. And it is His call to us today. May our prayer be that of the songwriter:  “I long, oh, I long to be holy. Conformed to His will and His word. I want to be gentle and Christlike. I want to be just like my Lord.”


(From the hymn, I Want To Be Holy, by Dr. A. B. Simpson)

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