A Little Glimpse

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, 

and I will give you rest.”    Matthew 11:28

Is this a bit of what it’s like for You, God?   We’re Your children, Your busy babies.  So very busy exploring, touching, tasting, rarely pausing for a bigger picture than what is immediately at hand.

But soon something happens that gets in our way, blocks or stops us from what we were after.  We get frustrated . . . mad. 

We start to cry.  Then wail.   All we can feel is our frustration at not getting what we wanted.

But, loving Father that You are, You pick us up, wrapping Your Arms around us, and hold us close.  We feel immobilized. . . blocked.  Stuck.   

In reality, we’re being held in Your Arms.   Arms of love.  Near to Your Heart.  Snatched away from what we’d set our eyes on.  Away from what we wanted.  It takes a while to begin to stop fighting.  We only see restraint.  A barrier.  Watching what we wanted going out of our sight…out of our reach.   We try to pull free.  Sometimes with a lot of crying.  

But You see an over-tired child of Yours.  A child You love, and know that a nap is needed.  We struggle against Your strong arms of love wrapped around us.  You are unrelenting.  And we complain . . . and cry.   

After a while, Your child’s complaints begin to quiet.  The struggle to be freed weakens, and we begin to relax in Your strong Arms.  The weary little head begins to rest on Your chest.  Near to Your heart.  

Peace comes.

And at last, sweet rest.  Sleep.   

And you smile.

Thank You, Father, for loving us enough to make us rest.

Removing the Stone

“Deeply moved again, Jesus went to the tomb.

It was a cave with a stone covering the entrance.

Jesus said, 

‘Take the stone away.’”

There was a dead person behind that stone…a dear friend.  Jesus cared deeply…He wept.  But He also saw life for the dead one lying behind that stone.  And He was the One who could bring life again.

I think we’ve all probably experienced a major stone in life.  We’ve gone through something that caused  a part of our heart to die.  We couldn’t fix it.  We couldn’t heal it ourselves.  So we sealed it up and pushed a big old stone in its way, so that we wouldn’t have to see it, or feel the pain again.  We had to move on with life, somehow.

But there is One who knew not only of the “death” we experienced, but grieved with us.  Although He could have stepped in and prevented it, or “fixed it” before it was too late, He didn’t.

He allowed it to play out in our lives.  And He grieved with us.

But, as in this story of the death of His friend Lazarus, it wasn’t the end of the story.  Although it seemed to be the end, seemed to be too late…it wasn’t.  He came.  He grieved along with those who had suffered such a great loss.  He spoke words of love, kindness, and understanding.  And He wept.

But then, He gave a directive to “move the stone” that stood between those who were grieving the death, and the death itself.  It couldn’t have been easy.  Those big old tomb stones weren’t meant to be moved.  They were meant to be a permanent seal to prevent anyone from passing into the place of death.  The idea of the dead one ever coming out was not even a thought.

We all have experienced “death” . . . whether of a loved one or of places in our own hearts that were too painful to bear.  In our attempts to protect ourselves from the loss, the pain, and the finality, we have sealed up that big old open wound with a stone that will be quite impossible for us to move on our own.  

There is only One who can command the stone to be moved.  Only One has the Love and Power to bring Life out of the decaying remains of Death.  Only One has Heaven’s Authority to regenerate a dead heart . . . and to create a new heart in the human life.  Only One can give a dead soul, new Life.  Hope.  Peace. And even Joy.  He experienced the sadness that makes us weep.  He experienced death itself.

Whatever “stone” has come to your heart is not too much for Him.  He may pull in others to help with moving that stone.  But He is right there, and is the One Who can bring new life that awaits on the other side of that stone.

That Shining Moment

“Mary said,

‘My soul praises the Lord’s greatness!

My spirit finds its joy in God, 

my Savior!’ ”

Luke 1:46-48

When you look at the spectrum of your own life, what would you say was your “shining moment?”  What was that moment in time when you had a sense that what you were experiencing was extraordinary . . . unexpected, meaningful . . . probably life-altering in some way?  You sensed that this was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.  Perhaps it was a literal moment, or a season in your life.  

Mary’s words erupted from her deepest place when she realized that the Messiah was coming, and that she would be the one to literally bring Him into this world.  Her words were an echo of another ancient mother, Hannah, who had also experienced a miraculous pregnancy and birth, that of the great prophet, Samuel.  

Mary and Hannah had been written into God’s Story as it has unfolded on this earth.  Their “shining moments” were specific to physically bringing two Divinely-appointed babies into the world.  Both sons’ lives  would impact their world and history itself.  

But what comes after the “shining moment” in life?  Do we try to hold on to it?  Make it last?

Mary’s life continued, with all of the realities of raising, caring for, teaching, and nurturing her son.  She was often there, but not in the spotlight.  Her quiet presence was noted many times.  Many significant moments she still shared with her Son, including His death, but those times were only an echo of her role of giving birth to Him.  From what we read of those events, she was a gentle presence.

How do you handle the after of your “Moment?”  Do you try to keep it alive?  Do you focus on what was?  Do you try to re-create it, or perhaps attempt to orchestrate a new Moment?

Or, can you let your “soul praise the Lord’s greatness,” not looking for personal recognition of how He has used your life?. . .  Can you let your “spirit find its joy in God, your Savior.”   Can His work and pleasure be enough reason to praise Him for what He’s done in and through you?  Or do you long for on-going praises from people?  Whatever He did through you was a way of showing Himself to others.  That kind of Revelation is what will stick with people, and hopefully inspire them to cooperate with God in however He chooses to use them.  Treasure your shining Moment…or Moments…but move forward praising Him, knowing His Ways are perfect, and He welcomes imperfect people to join Him along the way.

Better Than Laughter

“Sorrow is better than laughter,

Because a sad face is good for the heart.”

Ecclesiastes 7:3

This is NOT my favorite verse!   I’d much prefer beginning my day with a happy verse that can set me on my way to a happy day of sunshine and little happy birds flitting and twittering in my garden.  It’s January, very cold (-10 F), and I will have to go out there soon.  Not only that, but the new COVID strain is at its height where I live.  

So, here is the verse with which I begin this day.  It is part of a long list of verses that have a similar message.  Honestly, I’d prefer to crawl back into my warm, comfy bed and sleep until April.

BUT, I know these words are absolutely true, whether I like them or not.  Sorrow has become a part of my life, especially in the past five years.  Its entrance was part of drastic changes to every aspect of the life I’d been living.  And it’s made me have to hold to God more tightly, see Him more clearly, and know Him more deeply.

Picture a garden that has produced a lot of vegetables over the years.  It’s been happy, and fruitful.  At a certain time, the gardener decides it is necessary to plow up all the ground, exposing the rich earth below the surface.  The surface ground needs to rest and mix with the rich, deeper soil for a season.  A plow with sharp blades begins cutting into the garden’s soil, churning up the richer soil below.  It’s turned upside-down, now exposed to the sunshine and rain (and snow!) that will become part of its new season.  

Does the churned-up soil freak out?   Try to get back to where it’s been?  Get mad at the gardener?   Run from the big blade?  

No.  Sorrow is the tool that moves the ground in a way that the seeds that are planted will grow stronger, richer, and more healthy to provide the nourishment for those who will be fed from its fruits.  The intentions and purposes behind the process of the Gardener are all good.  The sorrow and the pain of this part of the process will bring about all good things in their season.  

So wait . . . because good things are to come.

“Waiting”   

Simeon’s Moment

“Then Simeon took the Child in his arms and praised God by saying,

 ‘Now, Lord, You are allowing Your servant to leave in peace as You promised. 

My eyes have seen Your salvation, 

which You have prepared for all people to see. 

He is a light that will reveal salvation to the nations 

and bring glory to Your people Israel.’ ”

Luke 2:28-32

One of the most treasured pieces of art on my wall is a picture of old Simeon, the priest in the Temple who held the tiny newborn named Jesus in his arms as he spoke the ancient words of dedication to God of God’s own Son.  It was the first picture on the wall of my little cottage home, and has the place of honor.

Why does it speak to my soul so deeply?   

Maybe it’s seeing the aged, weathered old man holding the tiny little baby boy, tears of unspeakable joy flowing down his cheeks as he recognizes Who this Baby is;


Maybe it’s the tiny, black-haired infant snuggled against the heart beating inside this old Man of God’s chest . . . he had been waiting his entire life with the impossible Hope of seeing his Messiah with his own eyes.  He could never have imagined holding Him in his arms;

Maybe it’s the subtle outline of the continents of the world woven within the fabric of the old priest’s robe…as the whole world continues to wait, largely without the awareness of what . . . WHO . . . they are waiting for;

Maybe it’s the deep awareness that this Baby Boy had come in the most fragile human state . . . for the sake of the whole world, for all of Time;

Or is it the gratitude that wells up in this old heart of mine for drawing my heart to His when I was just a small girl. 

With the deepest gratitude, I know the One for Whom I wait.  Now it’s just a matter of when I will see His Face, and run into His Arms.

United Nations Fourth Committee*

The Question of Western Sahara

October 2021

Petitioner:  Janet Lenz

Honorary Saharawi Citizen

I was introduced to the Saharawi people in the refugee camps near Tindouf, Algeria in 1999.  To say that they have changed my life is an understatement.  What I have experienced firsthand with the people in the camps has made it impossible to move through my days without the echo of their lives and words being ever present.

As we sit here today, in a clean, comfortable room, discussing their future, the Saharawi are likely in their tents, appreciating the cool, evening air.  Or perhaps circled around a small fire under the stars, quietly sharing news or stories of the day over their sweet, hot tea.. 

As we sit here in comfortable chairs with climate-controlled air, they are likely in their tents, on the ground, hopefully finding a reprieve from the day’s heat.  It’s the “month of the flies” now…adding to the scene.

We sit here today discussing their future with clean, bottled water to sip. The Saharawi are quenching their thirst with water collected from a neighborhood container from which all the neighbors had dipped their buckets to carry back to their tents.  

We made our individual journeys to this building, riding in vehicles that were clean and comfortable…streets paved and well-marked.  In the camps, walking through the sands with worn, open sandals or old boots is tough.  If a vehicle is available, it is likely old, and coated with sandy dust inside and out, its passengers jolting along because the shock-absorbers wore out long ago.  

As we sit here today discussing the present and future of the Saharawi people, there is

an array of delicious food outside the doors of this room.  Each of us has the freedom to choose whatever we like.  There will be plenty available.  We have the money in our pockets to buy and eat.  For most of us, it’s a part of life that we rarely have to think about.  But in the camps, couscous, rice and beans are the usual.  It’s cheap and can make the long desert journey in trucks to the refugee camps. 

We sit here wearing clothes and shoes of our choice. . .able to change our outfits easily.   In the camps,  clothes are shared, and often come in containers from far away places where they’d already been worn.

We came here today of our own free will, from states, cities, and nations where we chose to live.  The Saharawi dream of and desperately long for their rightful, beloved homeland, where their memories were created for generations.  It’s where the stories of their parents, grandparents, and their own memories originated.  It’s where their history was written.  

But it’s been taken from them.

As we sit here today, discussing the future of the Saharawi people….the Saharawi nation, they long for a seemingly impossible dream:  The ability to live freely in their own homeland, where their history took place…the land from which their family stories were passed down;  their homeland by the sea, the memories, traditions, and their history.  The older generation remembers the smell of the sea, the same ocean waters that touch the shoreline of this city.

We sit in this room today discussing “The Question of Western Sahara.”  For every Saharawi on this planet, in their heart of hearts, there is no “Question”  about it.  

                                    ASK THEM!  Give them the promised Referendum.

The Gate

Jesus emphasized, 

“I can guarantee this truth: 

I am the gate for the sheep.”   

John 10:7, 9-10

When you have sheep, you KNOW that you’d better have a good gate.  And a good fence.   And a really good pair of running boots.  

When my son and daughter-in-law decided that they wanted to raise a flock of sheep, I was thrilled.  I’d always been fascinated with all the references to sheep in the Bible, and had studied the passages about sheep / shepherds  more than any other single topic.  I read books about it, taught Bible Studies on the subject, and felt a strong connection to the stories of both sheep and shepherds throughout my life.  

But I had never lived with sheep.   That fact has changed.

We chose the breed of sheep we wanted . . . “Baby-Doll” . . . and went to check out a local flock, hoping to buy 2 or 3.   A deal was struck, and a delivery date set.  As the date drew near, the seller decided to include the rest of her small flock . . . 4 ewes.  The day before the delivery, we learned from the seller that her one ram had apparently been visiting the ladies each weekend while the owner went to church. . . they were all now expecting lambs.   And it wasn’t long until those little lambs began appearing.

What alerted us to the arrivals in the middle of the night, was a phone call from our neighbor, who had awakened to the sound of coyotes howling in our field.   A lamb had been born, and rejected by it’s mother.  The cry of the little lamb had drawn almost 20 coyotes in the night, encircling the small pen in our field.  Their eyes glowing, they began howling and closing in on the tiny, bleating cry of the rejected lamb.  My son hurried out in the dark to the small shelter where the tiny, rejected lamb was crying.  Looking at the glowing eyes of the hungry coyotes closing in on the shelter was chilling.  A rifle in one arm and the tiny lamb in the other, he brought the fragile little black lamb to our house, where she stayed for several weeks until she could join the ever-growing flock of now 17 sheep.

We had not been prepared for the almost daily additions of tiny lambs.  The glowing eyes and chilling howls of the predators would have been the doom of the lambs if it weren’t for the “Gate” of my son’s presence with our small flock out in the field that night.   Not only did the sheep need that Gate to secure them safely inside the shelter, but the predators encircling the little flock had to be kept out.  The defenseless ewes and lambs would have surely been devoured.

Our Good Shepherd, Jesus, stands between us and the Enemy of our Souls who  prowls about us in the shadows of night. Jesus stands as the Gate of our souls. The fact of the matter is that our only true defense is our Good Shepherd, no matter how hard we work to create our own sense of safety.   That is His promise to us, His sheep.   

“I  Lub You”

My little 3-year-old Thaddeus often comes for a “‘nuggle” with these words.  He can’t say his “v’s” yet. Nor “S’s”.  We ‘big people’ would tend to want him to practice his “v’s” and “s’s”,  but I honestly wouldn’t want him to change a thing right now.  It’s his unique way of expressing his heart to me…for me.

Does our Father in Heaven have similar thoughts about our flawed but sincere expressions of our love for Him?  Does He require  well-enunciated, dignified words when we address Him as His child?

I think not.

OVERFLOW

“You received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live as Christ’s people. 

Sink your roots in him and build on him. 

Be strengthened by the faith that you were taught, 

and overflow with thanksgiving.”      Col. 2:6-7

Can you remember an experience where something (or someone) ‘overflowed’ on you?  Maybe it was a good overflow . . . maybe it was a bad overflow.  Maybe you have overflowed at times.  Maybe you were able to enjoy the overflow.  Maybe you had to scramble to stop an overflow from creating damage (like when your upstairs overflowing tub starts creating a new design on your kitchen ceiling, only to find out that your kids thought it would be fun to cover up the overflow valve on the tub so they could scuba dive.)

Choosing to open our hearts to Christ Jesus begins a process that is meant to involve “overflow.” 

  • It begins with the personal choice to receive Him into my life. 
  • Then come the choices to live as His Own…as His person;
  • Sinking my “roots” into Him…going deeper by intention leads to
  • Building stronger . . . making Him your life’s solid Foundation;
  • He, with others along the way, teaches us things we did not know,
  • By which our faith is strengthened.
  • Then from that new Life growing within us comes a deep sense of gratitude…thanksgiving …. 
  • …To the One Who has Loved first.

I was 3 years old when I began to learn that Jesus loved me, and I opened my heart to Him.  That’s when it began for me, this life journey that has been filled with both the very good and the very bad.  I am so grateful that I had a foundational knowledge of the One Who loved me and has been with me throughout my whole life.  The words of this verse describe a life-long journey, with an outcome desperately needed by this world.

My hope and prayer is that those streams that have overflowed out of my life have left behind a touch of Jesus’ Presence. 

Just Because

“Give thanks to the Lord because he is good, 

because his mercy endures forever.”   

Psalm 136:1,26

“I lub you, Omi.”   Those words come daily from my 4-year-old grandson.  There isn’t any particular action that precedes his statement . . . it’s one of those “just because” reasons.  It always warms my heart to hear it.  It never gets “old.”  

I am quite sure that our Lord loves to hear those words coming from the hearts of His children.  No particular reason necessary, although the list is miles long.  

The Thanksgiving season is a good heart-primer for the coming Christmas holidays, when we will again focus on the Greatest Gift of all . . . Jesus coming to us.

In the midst of the chaos and challenges we face, may we often – spontaneously –  speak the simple words that mean so much to any parent’s heart:   “I love You.  Thank You.”