Twinkle Lights

 A one-to-one, just-for-me, smile from a grandchild, the sunrise-welcoming cries of Sandhill cranes answered by an owl …

A while ago I published a blog called Grace Recognized. That is the definition of the Greek word translated “joy” in the New Testament – just recognizing God’s working around us. And many times, just as His voice is not a loud shout, but a still, small voice, His works of grace are found in what C.S. Lewis called “patches of Godlight” or what Brené Brown calls “twinkle lights.” I hope these quotes will bless you and help you recognize your special God-made patches of joy. 

“We – or at least I – shall not be able to adore God on the highest occasions if we have learned no habit of doing so on the lowest. At best, our faith and reason will tell us that He is adorable, but we shall not have found Him so, not have ‘tasted and seen.’ Any patch of sunlight in a wood will show you something about the sun which you could never get from reading books on astronomy. These pure and spontaneous pleasures are ‘patches of Godlight’ in the woods of experience.” – C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, San Diego: Mariner, 2002. 

“Twinkle lights are the perfect metaphor for joy. Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments—often ordinary moments. Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down extraordinary moments. Other times we’re so afraid of the dark that we don’t dare let ourselves enjoy the light. A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy. That would eventually become unbearable. I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, inspiration, and faith.” — Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

My sister wrote the following to me after reading a chapter in The Gifts of Imperfection:

“I just finished this chapter. I absolutely love the word picture of joy as twinkle lights and not the overwhelming burst of light I have always pictured it as. Now I can look for joy everywhere because it is everywhere in the middle of all the darkness. I have missed joy a lot focusing on the darkness around it. Fear of loss keeping me from fully enjoying what is right in front of me.” 

Yes, these little patches of joy are right in from of us. In her daily devotional book Each New Day, Corrie ten Boom wrote of a twinkle-light of joy that God sent to her in one of the darkest dungeons of human experience and suffering, Ravensbrück concentration camp.

“Once, while we were on a roll call, a cruel guard kept us standing for a long, long time. Suddenly, a skylark began to sing in the sky, and all the prisoners looked up to listen to  that bird’s song. As I looked at the bird, I saw the sky and thought of Psalms 103:11. O love of God, how deep and great; far deeper than man’s deepest hate. God sent that skylark daily for three weeks, exactly during roll call, to turn our eyes away from the cruelty of man to the oceans of His love.”

 A one-to-one, just-for-me, smile from a grandchild, the sunrise-welcoming cries of Sandhill cranes answered by an owl, baby breath puffs and “butterfly kisses” on my neck, peachy full moon breaking through obscuring clouds, a special gift from the Lord in the form of a rock on the beach or a book at a thrift shop (and I know it’s from him, as only he could know), startling moments when I am fully in His Presence.

Consider it all joy.

All = all, every, every one, each part, one piece at a time, individual parts, all, always, daily. 

“Lord, make me see thy glory in every place.” — Michelangelo 

Image, free download from

The Spacious Place

That’s where God wants to set my feet. Where I have room to breathe.

You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place. Psalm 31:8 

This morning the Psalm in my daily reading was Psalm 31. It includes a phrase that a dear believer prayed over me when I was first saved – that God would bring me out into a “spacious place.” 

When I read the phrase “spacious place” it always reminds me of her prayer. Today I was also reminded of the Hebrew word yasha used in Psalm 34:18. It means at its root to be open, wide or free, make wide, spacious (i.e. deliver).  

The Lord is near (in place, in time, in personal relationship, in kinship, father, brother, friend)  

to the brokenhearted (the heart, mind, soul that is broken, maimed, crippled, wrecked, crushed, shattered)  

and saves (delivers, liberates, gives victory to, defends, helps, preserves, rescues, keeps safe, brings into the spacious place, open, wide, free)  

the crushed (crushed to dust, destroyed, contrite) in spirit. Psalm 34:18 (ESV) 

All these years – 50 last October – of following the Lord and studying his Word, in the back of my mind has always been that prayer prayed over me and the “spacious place.” I am still not there yet. I have been coming from a place of brokenheartedness for so long, maimed, crippled, wrecked, crushed, shattered, that, until today, I was not even sure what the spacious place is for sure. But then I found this blog by Christopher Page called In a Spacious Place 

 Here are two paragraphs from near the end that especially spoke to me: 

“When we sit in silent prayer we are encountering at a cellular level that our lives are a gift. There is nothing we need to do except receive that gift. The purpose of my life is to breathe. When I start from this place of absolute openness and receptivity, I will act and live with a new consciousness.  

This practice of silent prayer is not an escape from reality. It is not an avoidance of the confused mess of life. Centering Prayer is a constant return to reality. It is a daily reaffirmation of the most fundamental truth about my life. I am a child of God. My identity lies in Christ, not in anything I do, own, or achieve. When I am clear about my identity, the rest of my life and my activities will come from that deep inner place of light and life in which the flow of God’s Spirit is my strength and my guide throughout my life.” (emphasis mine) 

Could coming out into the spacious place be finding my true identity? The place where I am saved delivered, liberated, given victory, defended, rescued, brought out into freedom? Freedom from all the lies about me, seemingly engraved into the granite-hard places of my heart? Freedom from that dark place where I constantly “wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? (Psalm 13:2)” The spacious place of rest where I stop thrashing about trying to figure out how to be wonderful, how to be accepted, what I need to do to gain that unconditional love for which my heart yearns. The place where I just breathe. 

Interestingly, The Message translates Psalm 31:7-8 this way: 

I’m leaping and singing in the circle of your love; 
    you saw my pain, 
    you disarmed my tormentors, 
You didn’t leave me in their clutches 
    but gave me room to breathe. 

That’s where God wants to set my feet. Where I have room to breathe, where there is this free gift waiting. In Job 36:16 it says this: 

He is wooing you from the jaws of distress to a spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food. Job 36:16 

The Spirit is always wooing, saying, Come out into the “spacious place free from restriction, to the comfort of your table laden with choice food (with fatness, abundance, luxuriance, richness, the oil of gladness, healing, consecration, blessing, my Presence).” It is a free gift – packed down, overflowing, more than we can ever ask or think – and nothing of our doing. 

“My salvation rests in him alone and is nothing of my doing.” (cf. Psalm 62:21

“The motivating force behind my life is the Christ Journey in which I live and breathe in the presence of God and allow all life to open from the place of presence and love that is God’s Spirit.” — Christopher Page 

1Paraphrase from Grace Nugget for 2.9.23  

Photo copyright by Jack Bair

We Belong to Each Other

“… each member [of the body of Christ] belongs to all the others. We have different gifts …” Romans 12:5-6 

Have you ever thought that? That we belong to each other? And, if that is true, that we really don’t have the choice to withhold our different gifts? Paul writes that we belong to each other, and that our gifts therefore belong to each other. What are our gifts? Paul lists prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing to the needs of others, leadership, and showing mercy. There are many more, I’m sure. Later in his letter he writes to be devoted to one another in brotherly love, never lacking in zeal. This is a far cry from doing something once in a while when we think of it and it is convenient.  

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Romans 12:10-13  

Rather than living this way, I find that I am often despairing, crabby and complaining, lazy and selfish. I mostly forget about the poor among us and tend to be introverted, solitary, private, and would rather be secluded or cloistered. 

Paul goes on to say: live in harmony, do not be proud, do not repay evil for evil, live at peace with everyone, do not take revenge, take care of your hungry and thirsty enemy. How on earth does someone like me do all this? The answer is: I don’t. It would be very sad if it was up to me. But rather, it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13) 

In the above verse Romans 12:5, the phrase “we belong to each other” is in the Greek, “each member one.” We are one, or supposed to be. It is the same word that Jesus used here: 

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. John 17:22-23 

“… each member belongs to all the others.” Each member one in complete unity. 

“In a context of humble service, a context that is not only counter-intuitive but also counter-cultural for most of us, Paul tells us to exercise our spiritual gifts in humble service to the Body of Christ. Think about the magnitude of the implication of this … Not only are we to adopt an attitude of true and honest humility, not only are we to consider our positions as members of and belonging to the Body of Christ, but we are to serve the Body of Christ. Yet even more striking than that, we are to rely upon our spiritual gift from God in our service, which is to say that we are not to rely on our own strength, ability or talent, but on God’s grace alone.” — Don Merritt 1 

This is indeed a counter-cultural attitude in this day of independence and a focus on self-awareness, identity and fulfillment. To submerge your “self,” to let the self be crucified, to yield to the will of another, even if that other is God, is viewed as strange and even dangerous. But I pray that the Lord will help us to have the mind of Christ. That He will help us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and work in us what is pleasing to Him. 

I know that the phrase, “God’s gift to the world,” is the butt of jokes, as in “he thinks he is God’s gift to the world.” But in reality, we are, or are supposed to be. If we belong to God, if we are in Christ, then, yes, we have been given gifts to give, but more fundamentally, our lives, we ourselves, are gifts that God desires to give to the church and to the world. It is us, me and you. We are the gift. And God wants to give us away that His glory may be seen in all the earth.

He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 

And now may the God of peace … equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

… each member belongs to all the others … 


Photo, Gift, by Asenat29  

Don’t Stop Looking

Blessings are hard to find sometimes. If you assume they are few and far between, you will not see them even when they are right under your feet.

We just got back from a camping vacation. I chose to bring as a beach-read Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat, a great true story of the rowing crew who won the 1936 gold medal in the Berlin Olympics. In it, there is the story of how Joe Rantz, one of the rowers, used to find and present four-leaf clovers to his fiancée. She was amazed at how he could just squat down, and, after searching for a while, always find one. His reply struck me. “The only time you don’t find a four-leaf clover,” he liked to say, “is when you stop looking for one.” 

Really? I was skeptical. I don’t believe in luck or magic, but finding four-leaf clovers has been a challenge to me since I was a kid. Kind of like winning at Solitaire. Even so, I can count the number I have found on one hand. So, I decided to put his assertion to the test. There happened to be quite a few clovers right around our camper (which I had already searched in passing).  

I squatted down and started really looking, passing my hands through them. And there, almost immediately, I found one! A four-leaf clover – I couldn’t believe it! I ran to show my husband who was shutting down the camper to leave. But then I thought, maybe that was just a coincidence. I squatted down again, and there was another one! “The only time you don’t find a four-leaf clover is when you stop looking for one.” 

You know, finding four-leaf clovers is a lot like looking for blessings. My life has been hard lately. It has been easy to overlook the many blessings around me. Maybe God is saying to me, don’t stop looking until you find one. Maybe your life has been stinky, hard, and seemingly hopeless. Or maybe, it has just been filled with same-old, hum-drum, three-leaf-clover days. The blessings are hard to find sometimes. But I realized something: if you assume they are few and far between, you will not see them even when they are right under your feet. But if you assume they are there – expect them – and don’t stop looking until you find one, you will begin to see them all around. 

Before we left the campground I walked down to the stinky, gross, but unavoidable outhouse one more time. On the way, I heard a toddler singing at the top of his lungs. I couldn’t understand a word he was singing, but the joy translated perfectly and made me smile. 

Another four-leaf clover. 

The Good Gift

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13 

At the beginning of the eleventh chapter of Luke the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. The first word of prayer that Jesus teaches them is “Father.” And one of the only five things that Jesus teaches them to request from the Father is “give us each day our daily bread.”  

Jesus goes on to tell a story of another father (“my children are with me in bed”) who also has the required and requested bread. This father, when his friend comes knocking and seeking and asking for bread, is reluctant to get up and give it. But he finally does “because of the man’s boldness.” Jesus assures the disciples that if they ask, seek, and knock on the Father’s door it will be opened and they will receive. 

We assume he means bread because he has been talking about bread, and because he then goes on to talk about more food, asking the fathers in his audience, 

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12) 

And then Jesus, after bringing us along skillfully thinking about needed daily sustenance, makes this stunning conclusion: 

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13) 

What? Wait. I thought we were talking about food – actual food – bread, fish, eggs. But then Jesus says, what you are really hungry for, what you are really knocking, seeking, asking for, your Father will give you – Himself. The Good Gift. 

Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. Mark 10:18 

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4 

When Jesus promised, “How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” he dealt the fatal blow to what is called the “prosperity gospel.” 

Once I was in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Chicago on a Saturday afternoon. I was in a doughnut shop and I witnessed an orthodox father come in with his two sons after service. With great delight, he told them they could pick out anything they wanted. I could see this was a weekly tradition and the sons came with great expectation. What struck me was that, as wonderful as the doughnuts were, their real delight was in each other. The father’s delight was in his sons. The sons’ delight was in their father and this wonderful being-together time that they shared each Saturday. They would continue to delight in each other if the doughnut shop closed down, if there were no more doughnuts at all. 

I’m not saying that God doesn’t care for our physical needs. Jesus said not to worry about what we would eat or drink, that, like God fed the birds, he would feed us. And I know he will. But He doesn’t want food and drink to be my “Good Gift.”

After the people saw the sign Jesus performed [feeding bread to the 5,000], they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. John 6:14-15 

Jesus doesn’t want to be the King of Bread, the King of Stomachs, the King of Prosperity. Jesus wants to be the King of our hearts. If our “good gift” is prosperity, bread and fish and eggs, what will happen when the food is gone, when the supply is short and the bread lines long? But if our good gift, our delight, is the Holy Spirit – the Presence of God – then we will always have Him. For He will never leave us nor forsake us.  

He will be with us in the bread line. He will be with us when we lose our job, if we are homeless on the street. He will be with us in the cemetery, standing over the grave. He will be with us when we are mocked and persecuted. He will be with us in prison. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 

In him [Jesus] and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (ESV) 

Photo of doughnuts by Doriguzzi  


I never thought of goofiness as a valuable quality.

“Dear Mom, thank you for your love, commitment, sacrifice, wisdom, and goofiness. You’re really great and I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.” 

I received the above message from my oldest daughter on Mother’s Day morning via social media. It surprised, but somehow delighted me to see that description “goofiness” listed with the more lofty and important qualities.  

I think I inherited the goofiness from my dad, who made silly faces at us kids to make us laugh, and when we were upset, he would point at our bellies and make a huge, dramatic process of warning us that there was a giggle bubbling up – “Watch out! Here is comes!” It never failed. One time he got a guerilla suit from somewhere and galloped all over the house in it, with us squealing and laughing behind him. Another time, when we were on vacation driving along country roads, he honked the horn had us all call out and wave to total strangers sitting on their porches “to give them something to talk about.” His joke telling is legendary.  

But I never thought of goofiness as a valuable quality to be listed in the same sentence as love, commitment, sacrifice and wisdom. 

“You never know what actions on your part are going to have the most significant impact on the people around you. Something you do that seems utterly mundane could be the thing that completely changes another person’s life. More than that, it could be the thing by which you become known.” — Jonathan Wattsi  

Yes, you never know.  

Then we went to church and the pastor gave a wonderful message for Mother’s Day on “momma guilt.”ii All moms think that they are ruining or have ruined their kids’ lives because of perceived failures and lack. But he urged us to let go of that lie. He pointed to 1 Corinthians 12:14-31 to show that none of us is everything, but that each of us has a gift given by God.  

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable … 1 Corinthians 12:18-22 

I don’t think I got everything he was saying because I was hearing God say, “if all were serious and somber, where would the giggles be? The thoughtful and dignified cannot say to the goofy ones ‘I have no need of you.’ But the parts that seem weaker are indispensable.” We need a good laugh. We need silly faces and silly songs.  

And that means my more serious parts can’t say to my goofy part, you are not valuable; you are not significant. I tuned back in just in time to hear the pastor end with this antidote to momma guilt: 

  • You are gifted 
  • Embrace God’s gifts 
  • Thank God for your value 
  • Receive the grace of God 

I laughed and I cried as I thought of goofiness as a gift from God. And that my goofiness gave me value. Because I have had a lot of “momma guilt.” And I have struggled to trust my kids to God, trust that he knows what he is doing. But he has always known.  

So, I am embracing my inner goofiness as a gift from God. A grace. And that this mundane goofiness is valuable, it has impact on people’s lives. I’m not exactly sure what that impact might be (ha ha). But I am trusting God for that also, he who has arranged me this way, and whose gifts are good.  

  i  Morning Musing: Mark 6:56 

ii Goodbye Momma Guilt, Pastor Troy Gentz 

Image, photo of me and two of my granddaughters performing a parody of Baby Face (by Harry Akst, with lyrics by Benny Davis) that we called Poopy Butt.

Missing Him

So much of life is waiting, looking forward, to the thing that we hope will finally satisfy. Finally fill the emptiness.

When I awake, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face to face. Psalm 17:15b (NLT)

To see him face to face! To look into his eyes of pure love, like unending pools of liquid gold. Purer than anything here on earth. How I long for that. The Hebrew word translated satisfied in the above verse is saba or sabea. It means to be satisfied, sated, fulfilled, surfeited. When I awake, open my eyes and look into his, I will be satisfied, sated, fulfilled, surfeited. David wrote:

For He satisfies (saba) the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. Psalms 107:9 (NKJV)

We all have longing souls, whether we know it consciously or not. We long to see him face to face. C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[i] Frederick Buechner also wrote about this longing for, or missing, God.

“Each of us … carries around inside himself, I believe, a certain emptiness—a sense that something is missing, a restlessness, the deep feeling that somehow all is not right inside his skin.  Psychologists sometimes call it anxiety, theologians sometimes call it estrangement, but whatever you call it, I doubt that there are many who do not recognize the experience itself, especially no one of our age … Part of the inner world of everyone is this sense of emptiness, unease, incompleteness, and I believe that this in itself is a word from God, that this is the sound that God’s voice makes in a world that has explained him away.  In such a world, I suspect that maybe God speaks to us most clearly through his silence, his absence, so that we know him best through our missing him.” [ii]

Missing him. Yes, we are all missing him. So much of life is waiting, looking forward, to the thing that we hope will finally satisfy. Finally fill the emptiness. The Christian knows we are waiting for, looking forward to, his return. Missing him. Like the bride we are supposed to be getting ready, preparing for that day. In traditional Jewish wedding customs, the couple was betrothed for one year.[iii] The groom would go back to his home to prepare a place for his bride (John 14:2-3). And they would be apart and missing each other. But he would leave a gift as a pledge of his love (John 14:16, 27). The bride would use the time to prepare for the wedding day, to prepare herself and her wedding garments (Revelation 19:7).

But they missed each other. They were longing for the wedding day when they would see each other again face to face. And so are we longing for his return. And nothing else can fully satisfy. And do you know that the passionate heart of the Bridegroom is missing and longing for you too?

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God (see the Face of God)? Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV)

There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ. — Oswald Chambers, The Discipline Of Disillusionment

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17 (NIV)

[i] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

[ii] Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark

[iii] Read more about Jewish wedding customs here

Image, picture of my daughter in her wedding dress, by Nathan Dillon 2019. All rights reserved.

What She Had She Did

Jesus words here, that sound almost like “Oh, well, she did what she could,” make it seem like no big deal, like anybody could do that. Like I could do it.

She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Mark 14:8 (NIV)

She did what she could. That phrase stopped me in my tracks. Here is a deed that has been viewed over the centuries as this wonderful, saintly, sacrifice. And it was. An action that Jesus said would never be forgotten. And yet Jesus words here, that sound almost like “Oh, well, she did what she could,” make it seem like no big deal, like anybody could do that.

Like I could do it.

She did (poiemo) what she could (echo). The first word is poiemo and means to create, make, work, do. It is the word used of God when He created the universe. Our English word, poem, comes from poiemo. The second word is echo, which means to have, i.e. to hold, to have or hold in the hand, to own or possess.

She hath done what she could (ὅ ἔσχεν ἐποίησεν). Literally, what she had she did.[i]

Jesus in Mark 14:6 called what she did, or created, “a beautiful (kalos) thing” – beautiful, handsome, excellent, eminent, choice, surpassing, precious, useful, suitable, commendable, admirable. That sounds like a creation, doesn’t it? Like a beautiful poem.

What she had she did.

What this woman had was a very expensive jar of perfume. Most of us do not have that kind of thing. We all have something though. Some may have houses and land, gifts and talents, educational degrees and possessions. And that is good. But we all have a hug, a smile, an encouraging word. We all are empty jars that God can fill with his love, healing touch, prayers.

Whatever you have, do it.

Then the LORD asked him [Moses], “What do you have there in your hand?” “A shepherd’s staff,” Moses replied. Exodus. 4:2 (NLT)


(For more about this beautiful deed see The Best Gift)


[i] Vincent’s Word Studies. Marvin R. Vincent.

Image in the Public Domain


It’s as if God is placing sticky-notes in our lives as daily reminders of His presence and provision. They’re everywhere. —  C.J. Mahaney

They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Matthew 20:33


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