When Miracles Don’t Happen

It has been a difficult decade. There have been many sleepless nights. There have been many tears. I have prayed believing. I have prayed even though I didn’t believe. I have prayed when i didn’t feel like praying. My prayers have been whispered, spoken and shouted. They have been written down on my laptop, leather journals and scraps of paper. Often my prayers have been wordless. Having said all I could think of to say I left the words to the Holy Spirit who promises to “intercede for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26)

We are instructed to pray, and yet what is our response when we don’t see an answer? We want to hear about the miracles and the happy endings. We don’t want to hear about the financial struggles, the sexual abuse, people dying of cancer, prodigal children or broken families. The church speaks loudly in its silence. Like Job’s silent friends who sat and watched. (Job 2:11-15) When they finally did speak it was to blame Job for the trouble he was in. (Job 4 etc.)

We delight to look at Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. It is full of miracles. God doing great things through ordinary people because of their faith. The words “by faith” are used 19 times in that chapter. But there are others mentioned in verses 35-38 that we tend to ignore. They were tortured, stoned, sawn in two, put to death etc. They were not living the miracle life. Their situation was more of a nightmare variety, but in verse 39 it says “all these, having gained approval through their faith…”

I was startled when I read Genesis 15 the other day. It records a conversation Abraham had with God. God was again repeating his covenant promises to Abraham. Then comes verse 13. God wanted Abraham to know something…to know for certain…

Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.”

That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing anyone would want to know for certain. Yet, I believe that we need to know for certain that life will be hard. Things won’t always go as we planned. Sin will continue to corrupt this world and our lives. We need to prepare for the ugly in our life so we don’t loose our hope. Someday it will be different. Someday the trouble we have gone through will be over. The trouble is not an indication of our lack of faith. The trouble is not an indication that God is mad at us.

The good news is we have a God who promises to always be with us in the midst of that trouble (Matthew 28:20; John 16:33) As we learn to cling to Him we understand His worth. He is a God that walks through the darkest of nights with us. I believe that those dark nights reveal more to us about who He is than the perfect ordered life, we long for, ever could.

So the next time you hear people talking about the miracles in their life remember that God often does the most amazing miracles in the dark. Some of us will have to wait until we get to heaven to see the miracles revealed, that we so longed for on earth.

(Originally posted January 5, 2015 at Lytroo Retreat.)

Because I’m Worth It

That phrase is 41 years old. It was part of an ad campaign for L’Oreal. I still remember the first time my family saw the commercial on our small black and white TV. My parents looked at each other and burst out laughing. I never imagined that the phrase would still be with us and become so much a part of our culture all these years later. it’s one thing for a secular company to use it as an ad campaign, but when Christians start using it as an excuse to indulge and pamper ourselves I just feel sad.

We have become a generation of “me first!” We are full of self-esteem, self-centeredness and self-indulgence. On more than one occasion I have heard individuals preach the gospel of “Loving Ourselves”. They use Ephesians 5:29 “after all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body.” They fail to see the verses directly preceding it which are an exhortation for husbands to love their wives (as their own body).

Scripture is plain that we already love ourselves. We don’t need encouragement to do it. It comes naturally. That’s why God’s word is full of verses that emphasize loving your neighbor as yourself. In other words, show the same love for others that you have for yourself. Scripture even goes farther.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, give preference to one another in honor” (Romans 12:10). Philippians 2:3-4 states “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” The passage goes on to give Christ as our example (Philippians 2:5-8) Rather than demanding His rightful place He became a servant and took our punishment on the cross.

Hebrews 11 is full of examples of people who followed hard after God. Some experienced wonderful miracles. Some endured relentless trouble and death.

Hebrews 12:1-3 gives us our marching orders. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

My father belonged to a whole generation of men who went to war not for love of self, but for love of family and country…to stand with God against evil.

  • Are we so busy pampering ourselves that a righteous cause is no longer worthy of our time?
  • Are we so busy teaching our children to love themselves that they won’t know how to fight for something besides themselves when trouble comes?
  • Are we so blind to the redemption God brought to us at such horrific cost that instead of following His example we think our salvation was for our benefit alone?

We forget we were meant to be part of a larger story. A story that is more glorious than our small little life and our stunted perspective.

As you look back at your life what is most memorable? What are you most satisfied with? Is it how well you loved yourself? Or is it the times you were able, with God’s strength, to do the hard things, to love the hard people. To stay up all night with a sick child. To hold the hand of a parent who is dying. To sit with a friend in a courtroom as her son is being charged with a crime. To whisper I’m sorry to someone who has just lost a loved one. To give the money you were saving for a new dress to a family who is out of work. To put aside what seemed pleasant and good so that a greater purpose could be served.

Do you repeat the phrase “Because I’m Worth it” or do you unwaveringly proclaim “Because God is worthy I lay aside my wants and longings for his wants and longings.” His is a much grander story than you could ever imagine. Delight to be part of it.

(This is an edited version of a post from September 23, 2013 – Lytroo Retreat website )



I will be re-posting some of the posts from my Lytroo site over the next few weeks. Hope you enjoy them.

Lytroo Retreat

I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but their voices carried quite clearly in the small space.  “You’ve had your trials and now the Lord is going to bless you.”  They were almost giddy.  That is all I heard of the conversation.  I moved farther away and concentrated on my own purposes.  As I got into my car to head home the theology of the statement bothered me.  They were so sure.  It was as if God owed them because of what had gone before.

Here are my questions.  Is that what we live for?  Do we live for God to bless us?  Is life only worth living because of what we can get from God?  Is life really all about us?  Unfortunately the typical American Christian functions that way.  We are self-centered and self-sufficient.  We don’t need God, but if things aren’t going well it is His fault.  We expect Him…

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Happy Birthday to a Grandchild


Good night, my dear little six year old,

Who will never be six again.

For tomorrow you’re seven and my heart is aching

For a childhood that will not move slow.


Grandkids grow faster than children.

I know, for I’ve had some of both.

As I look to the sky, at days that flew by,

When I purposed to make them go slow.


Tomorrow is bright, there is no end in sight,

Of the great adventures we’ll have.

Winter is here, and your voice beckons clear,

To come out and play in the snow.


Yet one day you’ll grow up and walk out our door

To the grand adventures of life.

I pray that you’ll come back to see us,

For we’ll miss you more than you know.


So sleep little darling, your grandma is here.

Praying to keep you from harm.

The stories I’ve told you, the songs that we sang,

Remember them when you are low.

(For Arianna 1-11-2016)

I Hear My Savior

I posted this a few months ago and promised you the music. You can find the recording just below. Hope you enjoy it.

Lytroo Retreat


I Hear My Savior – Karen Pickering

I hear my Savior walking; His steps so close to mine.

Though I wander from His presence, He seeks my soul to find.

None other is so faithful as He who bore my shame.

Yet here I strive without Him and fail to speak His name.

I hear my Savior calling, His breath so close to mine.

“Come rest beneath my shadow. You should no longer pine”.

He woos and I still slight His voice for others hold more sway.

This mighty God so tender, He will not slip away.

I hear my Savior pleading, His voice so soft and low.

“I paid the awful ransom. How can you from me go?”

“Your life is lost without me. I only want to give.

This new life everlasting, so come to me and live.”

I turn to face Him fully this one who loves…

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The God Who Forgives

Here it is the start of another year. There is hope for a fresh start, a new beginning. To do better at life than I did last year. But there are old doubts. Can I really begin again?  Can God possibly love and forgive me after what I’ve done?

The simple truth is…”If God doesn’t speak to me in my darkest sin, He doesn’t speak to me at all.” Either he is a God who loves even the most vile sinner and longs for them to turn to him or he doesn’t care for any sinner and will condemn us all to hell.

His love is way beyond anything we can imagine and so we imagine his love is like ours. “Fragile, weak and conditional.”

We love those who are kind to us. God loves those who hate him.

We love those who are worthy of our love. None of us are worthy of God’s love.

We love those who we have the energy to love. God loves with a passion that takes our breath away. It is an unending wellspring of love for the people he has created for one purpose only…to love and serve Him.

And yet we put limits on the limitless God.  We say, “I have gone too far. He can’t possibly forgive this offense. I have sinned too often. He will not forgive me yet again.”

But we forget that he is the good shepherd who leaves the 99 righteous persons to seek and save the lost one. (Luke 15:4-7)

We forget that he loved people like David who were guilty of sexual immorality, betrayal and murder.

We forget he loved the extremely wicked city of Ninevah enough to send a reluctant prophet to preach them the gospel. Jonah tried to get out of the assignment, but God insisted, and the entire city from least to greatest had the nerve to repent. (Jonah 3:1-10)

Such a heart of forgiveness this God has. So at the beginning of this year I bring my past failures to him. I seek His power in changing who I am. I determine to set my eyes on my only hope. The grace and forgiveness of a God who loves me in spite of who I am.