On the Hunt

She poured the contents of the brownie mix into the bowl. As she stirred the ingredients, she could imagine the joy she would feel as she ate her favorite dessert. Oh. It looked so good. And the scent wafting from the oven was heavenly. She dreamt of that first bite. Her teeth would sink into the soft brownie and her taste buds would erupt with satisfaction. She had made sure to use a smaller pan so the brownies would be thick. It didn’t matter that a smaller pan made fewer brownies. What mattered was the satisfaction they brought when savoring each bite. So for the moment, thin brownies in a larger pan were no longer in vogue in her kitchen. And she was hoping the rest of the household would turn their backs on this batch of brownies. If only. Her name was written all over them.

So she ate the brownies. Oh. She’s never one to cut a dessert into small pieces. Big pieces are magical. In her mind. Small pieces require more to be eaten. And if she could say she only had two brownies, who cares if that really meant she ate the entire row. Who’s counting anyway? And does it really matter? If she’s happy, then life is good. At least, that’s what she tells herself.

Once the plate of brownies has been eaten, then what’s next? Another batch? Will happiness remain if she continues to eat brownie after brownie? Is that what brings true fulfillment? Is that what life is all about? Brownie happiness? Or is it really gluttony?

Perhaps for you it isn’t an endless supply of brownies that satisfies. It could be swiping the credit card for new purchases. Whether the item is needed or not, just the zip of the card brings a flutter of happiness in that moment in time. Perhaps it’s the scratching of the penny on the lottery ticket. Scratch after scratch. How many lottery tickets are enough? Or it could be the downing of that drink each night. Glass after glass of the intoxicating liquid soothes the worries of the day. But does it? Tomorrow will come fresh with a splitting headache. Then where is the happiness from last night? Oh. It could be the viewing of those pornographic movies or erotic photos that stir some deep longing within. But is it truly satisfying? When does lust ever end for you?

It seems that the search for happiness is never quite fulfilled. Just one more brownie. One more drink. One more lottery ticket. One more exotic vacation. One more pair of shoes. But happiness is so fleeting. One day we’re happy. The next day we’re searching again. Does it ever end?

Sometimes too much of a good thing is just that. Too much. And too much of a bad thing is just that. It’s bad.

This past Thursday, we stuffed ourselves with a turkey feast and called ourselves thankful. Now we rush onto our Christmas shopping in order to make others happy. No longer do we differentiate between need and want. We just want our loved ones to be happy. So we buy their happiness in the name of Christ’s birth. Somehow it doesn’t translate. We’ve gotten our priorities so misplaced that we don’t know how to search for the true meaning of life. Yet we call ourselves blessed.

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11

God has planted eternity in each of our hearts, and we’re all searching for it. Oh. The Thanksgiving feast was a momentary pleasure. The Christmas indulgence will soon be forgotten. We’re searching for something far more eternal than what money can buy. We just don’t recognize it. We’re looking in all the wrong places. We’re wasting our time and we won’t admit it. We become quickly dissatisfied with the things we thought would make us happy. But we find out that those things, too, are meaningless.

And yet. God has made everything beautiful for its own time. There is a time for beauty. And joy. And fulfillment. There is a time where our deepest longings will be satisfied.

We don’t realize that what we’re really looking for has always been right in front of us. Oh. Sometimes it’s veiled. At times, it’s misrepresented. And at other times, it’s simply ignored. In our searching for fulfillment, we must search deep within. We must realize that our longings don’t come about because of boredom or abuse. They come because we’re made for fellowship with our heavenly Father. And those longings can be so deeply satisfied if we allow ourselves to fall in love with our Creator. The Maker of our souls.

These longings that will never be satisfied this side of heaven can lead us down a dreadful path. We search in all the wrong places. And leave less fulfilled than when we started. It sometimes seems a never ending search. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can find fulfillment in God alone. But we must be willing to pay the price of giving up first place in our lives to everything else. Only then will we be content.

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

C.S. Lewis


Our property is a sloping wooded lot. The house is built into the hillside, which drops off sharply a few feet from the deck. And boy. Does it ever slope. We added a homemade wooden staircase to help us walk a ways down the hillside. Over the years it has slid further down the hill, so there’s nothing to hold onto as you slowly and carefully make your way down the slope. It’s treacherous, to say the least.

I recently bought a couple of trees for our property. The redbud has been planted near the deck to provide a bit of shade and beauty in the spring. But the other tree has been planted at the edge of the woods. I chose this tree for a couple of reasons. It doesn’t need a lot of sunlight in order to thrive. It won’t get extremely tall. And it will attract swallowtail butterflies. It’s great for the environment. It’s called a hop tree.

The owner of the small nursery where I bought the trees was giving me instructions on how and where to plant this hop tree. She said it would do very well if planted on the slope of the woods. So that’s what I set out to do. Plant this small helpless looking tree on the steep slope. After scoping out the exact location, I gingerly made my way to the spot where the tree would be planted. As I began digging the hole, I realized I could be in trouble if I didn’t have a sure footing underneath. My foot slipped and I reached out to grab hold of a small but firmly planted tree. It swayed, but it could hold my swaying. For a short while, at least.

I began to dig and realized there were many roots and rocks in this dirt. So I worked even harder to dig the hole as deep and twice as wide as the container holding the tree. As I slung the dirt aside with each shovelful, I hoped I would be able to reach it to cover the hole once the tree was securely in place. I was afraid to move from my position, because the terrain was so steep. This was hard work for a physically unfit person. But I kept at it. I had a plan and a purpose for this new tree.

As I was digging the hole, I felt that I needed to stand facing the woods at all times. Just moments before, I had seen a large buck with a full rack of antlers watching me. I know that in mating season deer can attack humans, so I wanted to be careful. So, not only was I digging a hole in a sloping terrain, I was on full alert for any sign of the deer.

This hop tree won’t grow too tall or too big. It’s not the type to do so. And that’s ok. It’s a tree that will grow and thrive under all the canopy trees in the woods. This tree will support the native ecosystem in its surroundings. It has a job to do, and the size of the tree doesn’t really matter. It will still do the work it is meant to do.

This hop tree is called an understory tree. Understory trees or brush grow under the crown of the huge trees in the forest. Some would say these trees don’t reach their full potential. Apparently, they don’t have to in order to survive. But they can still do much good for the forest. They have a job to do whether or not they are stunted in growth. Understory trees can grow and thrive in shady areas. They don’t need full sun in order to survive. Some birds will only nest in understory trees. They aren’t attracted to the taller, canopy trees. Each tree or shrub in the forest will help the forest to thrive. They all have a purpose.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Colossians 3:23

Understory trees tell the story of the forest that’s not typically told. They’re wispy. They bend and move easily with the strong winds. They don’t grow to their full potential, but they live a full life regardless. They bounce back when pushed. They go with the flow. Their leaves turn colors in the fall just as the leaves of the canopy trees. They live under the canopy trees but above the forest floor. They’re a productive and essential part of the life of the forest.

The canopy trees are elegant and standoffish. They get everyone’s attention with their height. Their crown of leaves is beautiful. And the width of their trunks make them seem extra sturdy. But there’s no bend to them. They can snap and break under the pressure of heavy winds. They have massive strength, but they can easily topple when a huge gust blows in. They have no flexibility.

Sure. The forest needs the over achievers. The canopy trees show strength and endurance. They’ve lived many years and have reached their full potential. They provide all the shade and spectacle. It wouldn’t be a forest without the trees. But each tree has its own story to tell. 

Later in the evening after the tree was planted, as we sat on the deck we heard a commotion in the woods. I stood to watch two bucks fighting. They were pushing and shoving each other, each trying to win dominance. We could hear their antlers clacking against each other. One buck was standing up for his territory, while the interloper was trying to claim it. It was very interesting to witness this natural act of wildlife. Eventually, they both ran off. Later, only one buck returned. The territory was his.

I’ve never been the brightest. I’ve never been the smartest. Or the fastest. But I’m consistent. I’m resilient. I’m aware of my surroundings. I’m self aware. I’m an introvert. I’m never the life of the party. But I live a good life. Compared to extroverts or geniuses, one might think I’m a failure in life. I don’t seek attention. I’m quiet. I keep to myself. I don’t want to manage people in a workplace. I don’t need to be the shining star. But I want to do my work well. I want to be thought of as a considerate, kind person. So I must act like one.

Have I reached my full potential? How does someone even calculate that?

Many people aren’t looking to be the life of the party. Or the spokesperson of the group. Some are content being the understory who makes sure the work runs smoothly. They see to it that there’s flexibility when things change suddenly. They make sure all the bases are covered. And they know what bases must be covered. Yet, they’re not necessarily the ones on stage receiving the applause or the trophy. But their job is needed, nonetheless. Never discount those who are quiet or dependable. They don’t cause a scene, but the scene would be so undone without them. Everyone has a part to play in this life. Not just those with a swagger or a loud voice.

Life has a way of placing us in unexpected and even unwanted situations. We can still work hard and thrive wherever we’re placed. As believers, our work is always for the Lord regardless of our title or duties. Whether the work seems menial or glorious, it’s necessary work. Someone must do it. And when placed in that situation, then it’s our work. Let’s do it with joy and thanksgiving. Everything lasts for a season.

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. Ecclesiastes 5:18

The Weary World Rejoices

How does a weary world rejoice?

I know people who are weary. I think of the one caring for elderly family members in their own small home. I think of the one going through chemo. I think of the one who has a family member dying of cancer. I think of the one who lost their job earlier this year. They’ve moved on, but change is difficult. I think of the one who was unemployed for a few months and is afraid it might happen again.

I know people who are fearful to be with others. I think of the one who recovered from COVID. I think of families who have lost loved ones to the virus. I think of the frontline workers surrounded by this virus every single day. They’re weary. When will life be normal again?

I see the news. As disturbing and twisted as it is. Who do we believe? We hear elected officials giving orders to do one thing, yet they do the thing they say we shouldn’t. Who can we trust? Both presidential candidates say they won the election. We hear of voter fraud. Will we ever know the truth? We’re weary of all the back and forth of pointing fingers and placing blame.

Some believe that the police should be defunded. Others are holding tight to that blue line. Some fear for safety. Others want revenge. They’re weary of not being heard. They’re weary of being fearful in their own neighborhoods.

Where is our hope? How can we feel joyful at a time like this?

 I must say. This year has been much easier on me than it has on most others. The only change I saw was my commute to work. I’m now working from home indefinitely. But I am weary for the ones who are weary. I am weary of the world’s lament. I am weary from the loss of joy in what is a good life. I am weary thinking of an uncertain future.

Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock. Isaiah 26:4

But then I remember the reason for the season. The weary world has a reason to rejoice.

I think of Mary, the unwed pregnant girl. She was given news that would make most women joyful. But in her day, that was unwelcome news. I’ve never been with a man. She told the angel standing before her. How can it be? But behold. The God who created the universe planted the seed who became the physical Son of God. The young Mary was to give birth to this God child.

Imagine Joseph. When he heard the news of his betrothed’s pregnancy, he didn’t take it well. He knew the child wasn’t his. How could he trust her? He would have to set aside the dream of marrying this girl bride. He was weary thinking of how to tell his family and friends. The village was small. News would travel. Fast. How could he put her away quietly?

But the angel in his dream shared God’s truth that this child was the Son of God. And Joseph chose to believe. He chose to believe. Oh. He would marry Mary and raise the child as his own. But he knew the truth and believed the angel’s message.

Oh. It was a huge belief. The people had waited for so long for the promised Messiah. And now he would be born in the worst of times. There was a census. Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem to be counted. Mary, huge with child, rode a long bumpy ride. Knowing she carried the Son of God, she endured. She was weary. They were weary when they arrived in Bethlehem. No room. They were told. Hugely pregnant and no room for comfort. Instead, they found space with the animals. And in the lowliest of places, the Son of God was born.

It was a starry night. The shepherds in the field saw the star and knew something amazing had occurred. The angel shared the message. Find the babe in the manager. And they did. The shepherds weary from a long day’s work found the baby just as they were told. And yet. They rejoiced. They knew they were in the presence of God wrapped in newborn skin. They worshipped.

So we can rejoice among our weariness. We can choose to believe the truth of God’s love and His gift of salvation. We can set aside the lies the world tells us. The lies that cause our hearts to be weary. We can rejoice. We can choose joy. We can worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Oh. Come let us adore Him. Christ the Lord.

Uncharted Waters

John was sent to live in exile on the island of Patmos as a result of anti-Christian persecution. His crime: he preached the word of God and he lived his life as a testimony for Jesus. He lived and survived alone on that island. All alone.

But he wasn’t alone.

During John’s exile, God was close to him. God was all he had. God spoke to him through a vision. John wrote down everything he saw in the vision. The name of his book is Revelation. It is the last book of the Bible. It’s a unique book full of visions and prophecies. God spoken words in a time of aloneness but never alone.

What does a man do all alone on an island? How does he spend his time? How does he survive? What goes through his mind? Will he be bored with only God to talk to? Does he have God’s word stored in his heart? Can he can dig through the reservoir of his mind and find strength and comfort from his knowledge of Scripture? When all has been lost, is his faith in God alone enough?

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12

We may feel like we’re living in exile at this moment in history. But we’re not. Some of us are living with family. Some are alone, but they keep in touch with family and friends. If you know someone who is truly alone, reach out. Check on them.

This time in history is a first for everyone. Uncharted waters for even the best of us. Now is the time to gather your family close. Those who live with you. Those you can be with. Keep in touch with family and friends. The contact means so much.

Oh. Things have changed. We can no longer shop in stores. visit a salon. eat in a restaurant. go to a movie. Sure. These closings are temporary, but they’re new to us. We’ve never experienced anything like this. This change will continue without an ending in sight. Who knew?

Private funerals. Private weddings. Even close family members can’t attend. Hospital patients alone without family or visitors. Everyone needs to stay in place.

Oh. It’s easy to be frustrated. My hair appointment was only 5 days away when it was canceled. My grocery store was out of potatoes. The bakery that makes my dogs favorite treats has been out of them for weeks. I’ve had to start working from home. Petty inconveniences.

Lean in. They say. Hold your loved ones a little closer. Look across the room at the one who stole your heart. Think back to the reason they won your heart. And pause. Remember the moments of first love. And recall the reasons you chose to say “I do”. Make the most of this time with your loved ones.

Watch your children as they do homework. Oh. You may have never planned to home school, but now you are. Make the most of it. Be patient. Extend grace. Show mercy. Have fun. Let these days be the good times your kids look back on when they are older.

Allow yourself to become bored. This could spur you on to learn a new hobby. A hobby that could be life changing. Or not. But who knows what change can do for you. Be willing to explore. Read a book. Take a walk. Try a new recipe. Let your hair grow. You have no choice in the matter. Embrace it.

Pay it forward to the grocery worker. Pharmacy staff. Delivery drivers. Bankers. Healthcare workers. First responders. City, county, state and national employees. Everyone needs a break every now and then. Don’t judge a person’s politics. Embrace differences. But keep your convictions.

Lasting self confidence is built in pure faith in God. Trusting and obeying God in the hard times of life builds a strong reliance on him that produces an unmatched strength of character. 

In Christ alone I place my trust. 

This period of isolation may be the time in your life where you reap the greatest blessings from God. This may be the season where you find life’s true meaning. Trust the master of the uncharted waters to lead you to new depths in your walk with him. 

Read a book. Study the Bible. Memorize Scripture. Live out the Beatitudes. Honor those in authority. Pray. Really pray.

That money you would typically spend at a restaurant or sports event or concert. That money you would use to pay for a haircut or a massage or a pedicure. All that discretionary money you aren’t spending right now. Put it into savings. Or give to a needy nonprofit organization. Send an extra check to your church. Give to others in need. After all, how many new clothes or shoes do you need if you’re staying home all day? How much food or toilet paper do you need to hoard when others can’t pay their rent? How do you expect charities to help when they don’t have the funds coming in? How is a church supposed to help in times of crisis if believers aren’t faithful in giving their tithes and offerings?

Be generous. Be the giver. Be the gift. Chart new waters.