Dip or Drip

My heart was heavy as I made my way to the fourth pew. Pre-service banter of sitting on the other side of the isle brought some levity, but the safety of my spot seemed appropriate. A pre-printed order of confession was little more than ink on a page, and pre-packaged, overused absolution carried little impact.

I wasn’t carrying any extra weight of things I’ve done or not done, just the burdensome feeling I was not quite right.

The gospel reading was about forgiving seven times, or seventy-seven times, or in some translations, seventy times seven. Scholars tell us this “seven” is more than the number between six and eight. It represents fullness or completeness as in God created everything in six days and rested on the seventh, completion. Historically, seven represented an entirety so seventy times seven is more than 490, it’s uncountable.

As the children’s message offered an amusing illustration of forgiving seven times, the pastor asked, “How many times we have hurt God’s feelings”? That child said, “way too many.” And how many times does God forgive? “Always.” The interchange sparked a replay of all my low-lights, taking me to a very dark place, invoking doubts of everything I believe.

Preparing for communion, we sang: Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us, grant us peace. Approaching the altar, the pianist played Amazing Grace. I had no voice, I was broken.

On this particular Sunday, the body and blood of Christ was received by intinction, meaning to dip the bread into the wine. Our tradition of small cups of wine warm your soul as it goes down. Today, it would be but a taste, still much more than I deserve. Yet, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Matthew 15:27

As I consumed the precious morsel, I felt a coolness run down my chest. Not immune to drips on my shirt, I knew that feeling, but this was different. God knows me well and knew I needed a little more.

… Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.” John 13:8-9

Yes Lord, my hands, my head, all that I am.

Amen …


If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear. If you would like to read more, follow the link above or email me at John@LiftedKeys.com and we can find a way.

The Ring I Wore

A long-awaited return to my alma mater nearly forty years since I walked its campus. Returning is a rite of passage, to proudly wear your college ring among those whose rings still gleam devoid of dents or scratches. My ring is tarnished, showing the signs of age, as are we all. Sliding it on, it just wouldn’t fit. I could squeeze into it but it may become a permanent fixture. It would miss its triumphant return today.

The preparations for the visit took me aback: finding a hotel, securing parking passes, deciphering shuttle schedules, packing a suitcase and counting out meds for an overnight trip. When I used to wear the ring, I’d grab my cleanest dirty shirt, a couple of bucks and I was in my way. A good mile or two walk was an everyday occurrence, but today, it was not even considered.

Nearing our destination, the campus greeted us much sooner than it used to. My school, which was huge back then, had doubled in size, both physically and in student count. Searching for some semblance of direction, the buildings I knew so well had been engulfed by multistory conglomerations of classrooms. Pathways I’d traverse had been replaced by imposing towers of glass and stone. Trees I sat under were either surrounded by asphalt or had vanished completely. It was clear much more than my ring didn’t fit.

When I used to wear it, thousands of people scurrying by was a normal day between classes. Today, it was overwhelming (granted it was more like 100 thousand). When I used to wear it, sunburn was a small price to pay for a good football game. Today it was sunscreen, hats, fans, and bottled water. I used to attend the games to see what the girls were and were not wearing. Today, the kindergarten kids masquerading as college students needed a little less “daisy” and a little more “duke”.

I observed students being polite to us “older” folk and I hope I had been just as considerate. There were too many who had little or no regard. Young couples introduced sweethearts to parents, chatting about rings and future plans. Gazing at the 50-yard line, memories emerged of a time with my “forever?” sweetheart looking at the stars and dreaming dreams. Oh, what dreams have been achieved, only in a different place, with a different spouse.

So many things did not fit, much more than just a ring. It took a long, exhausting trip (and a thrilling football game) to remind me of who I was and who I’ve become since. And it was good.

I guess sometimes you have to be a little lost in order to find your way. If you ever wonder how far you’ve come, take a moment to look back and count your footsteps.


If you’ve felt the same, email me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story.
If you would like to read more, follow the link above or email me and we can find a way.

Face the Wind

Why is it the bolder you face the wind, the harder it blows? Evil comes at you only when you become a threat, when you’re getting closer to the truth. Not much comfort in the battle, but at least you know you are doing something right.

We rise, we fall, God lifts us, yet we fall again. Jesus sent the disciples across the lake on a dark and stormy night. A strong wind was against them, the waters were rough, and they strained against the oars. About three or four miles out, they saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. They thought it was a ghost until Jesus said, “It is I, don’t be afraid.” As Jesus stepped into the boat, the winds died down. In John’s telling, they immediately reached where they were going.

Jesus saw they were struggling, and though He could have calmed the storm, He chose to join them in it. They were pulled out of peril, into calmer seas, and onto the shore. Consider Peter, who stepped out on the water, only to be consumed by fear and begin to drown. In desperation he cried, “Lord save me!” Jesus reached out and pulled him from the waves.

Jesus walking on water always gets top billing in this story and rightfully so, but there was more going on beneath the surface. The disciples were battling the waves and afraid of going down. Jesus met them where they were and saved them. Between Peter stepping out of the boat and Jesus pulling him back up, Peter refocused on Jesus. He had turned away yet humbled himself in failure and returned to Jesus.

Winds of life blow hardest in our weakness and fear takes over. Be encouraged in this:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor 12:9-10

Face the wind, for you do not face it alone.


If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear.
If you would like to read more, follow the link above or email me at John@LiftedKeys.com and we can find a way.

Belief, Blessing, and Breakfast

Approaching the entrance, an elderly man in a wheelchair slowly made his way across the parking lot. At the ramp, I asked if he needed a boost and helped him inside. He ordered just coffee as he only had $1.15 on his card. I asked if he was having breakfast or just coffee. “I don’t have enough.”
“Well today you do; breakfast is on me.”
“Then I’ll just have a bean and cheese taco.”
“Is that all you want? You can order anything.”
“No, this is enough, thank you.”

I settled in at a table and was watching to see if he would join me. Then I saw him roll out the door. I have to say, my tea tasted a little sweeter, but then regret for a moment of pride set in. A coach once said, “Don’t cheer when you make a layup, you’re supposed to make layups.” Besides, it was just a taco, a couple of bucks. On the way out, the man sat under a tree. He thanked me again and said he was expecting a check in a few days. I reached into my pocket to make sure he had lunch money. Could I have done more?

Another friend was facing her own uphill climb and all we could do was pray and believe. Leaping over the molehill, she was showered with blessings (and grand-blessings). I felt like doing a jig, like I had anything to do with it (there may have been a skip, but nothing you could call a jig). When the pride monster growled, I replied, “All we did was believe. God did the rest.” But we did believe.

If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22

And it was so, but we had to believe to see the unbelievable. Jesus fed 5,000 with some bread and a few fish. The people saw the unbelievable and believed, or maybe were just happy to have a meal.

This restaurant had not been in my plans, yet traffic detoured me there all so I could arrive in time to help the man and buy him breakfast. His story was a mystery before and after our encounter, but today, he had a meal. My “bread and fish” may not feed thousands, but perhaps a solitary soul. I am grateful for the opportunity with a side order of a little wisdom.

To see the unbelievable, we first must believe.


If you would like to read more, follow the links above. If you do not do socials, email me at John@LiftedKeys.com and we can find a way.

Lifted Team Signup

If you would like to be notified when new stories pop up, subscribe. We won't sell or spam you, hopefully just bless you.

Please wait...

Thanks for Subscribing. Be Lifted and be Blessed.

Bump in the Road

In a quiet parking lot, we stood together as one of our number told of the biopsy, she underwent late last week. It’s been a rough year with both spouses being in and out of surgery and the journey back to normalcy. Now this. The results won’t be in until later and the waiting is hard. Through tears she said, “if this is the path God has led me to then I will walk it.” He is perfect as are His plans, but there is fear in the unknown. When the tests turn up negative (as we pray for), this will be a passing memory. Should they be more ominous, we will stand arm in arm and battle together.

As a group with different faith traditions gathered to lift our friend, I thanked God for the healing He has already begun in her. True faith is thanking God in advance of His blessings, then waiting to see what they will be. Not always easy but when it has come, we look back with no doubt it was the Hand of God. It takes really big prayers for a really big God to bestow really big answers.

As each offered a hug and words of encouragement, all that came to mind was, “This is just a bump in the road.” On reflection, it seem a bit insensitive as a bump is the very thing biopsied. Yet, as often the case with God whispers, there is more to it than merely words.

When she looks back on this chapter, it will be but a few pages of a story of a life well lived, and a heart well loved. This slight pause will not end her journey for she is way too strong for that. God purposely wove strength into her being and she knows it (as do we all). And if a greater battle looms on the horizon, she will not fight alone. Her fellow warriors stand beside her and behind her (with hands raised of course), led by He who defeated death.

Lord, may You be glorified in her healing. Grant her strength and hold her closely as You carry her over this bump in the road.

Amen …


If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear.

Unlike Other Tuesdays

Tuesday. Just like any other Tuesday. I climbed into my chariot for a Tuesday commute. Just like any other Tuesday. At a stop light wondering what Tuesday would hold, a truck was getting larger in my rearview mirror until I was pounded through the intersection. I had apparently steered myself onto the shoulder avoiding cross traffic. I checked to see if extremities were intact and I was still breathing, so I grabbed my glasses from the floor and stepped out. Only by the Grace of God did I and the driver behind me walk away that day, even if a bit crinkled. A few months of physical therapy and the doctor putting things back where they came from, and I put it behind me. All that remained besides a crumpled mess at a body shop, were lessons of taking more time, watching the mirrors more closely and breaking bad habits, like eating on the go and talking on the phone. It turns out all those “important” calls can wait.

It was another Tuesday. I gave my old truck a once over before they took it to wherever broken pieces go. I walked to the back of the lot and saw the truck bed had been removed, laying bare the extent of the damage. This was not any other Tuesday. The mechanic said the fact I was walking today was a miracle. It rattled me to my bones again, just like that Tuesday unlike other Tuesdays.

There was little of value left in the cab, only remnants of years past. Climbing into the new truck, the contrast in clutter cleared my eyes like fast food napkins into a trash bag. As I left the old truck and emerged in the new, life continued to flow, business persisted, and the world kept turning. There will always be another deal to make or fire to put out, but time is not renewable.

That Tuesday unlike other Tuesdays revealed the failings of a workaholic. Extra hours put food on the table, but at what cost? Family time? Prayer time? Reading, writing, creating? That Tuesday reset my focus on what truly matters.

That Tuesday unlike other Tuesdays could have been my last. I will not waste God’s gift of more Tuesdays.


If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear.
Subscribe to my Substack and be notified when new stories are posted.

Thousand Questions

We sat at a card table, exchanging silliness, working on a puzzle. Though my mother’s faith, sense of humor and sharp wit never faded, her short-term memory had, leading to frustration when she knew there were things she had forgotten. Names and faces she should have known had faded into unclear spaces of a brilliant mind. If you have lived this experience, my heart is with you, my prayers are for you. With passing moments being like a new day, she was the happiest person I knew, all the bad was forgotten. I should strive to be more like that. Conversations were consumed with repeated questions, some with no easy answers. Yet I found we spoke more of things that mattered and repeated answers seemed to get better each time I said them.

Thumbing through my prayer journal at the time, I noticed quite a variation of requests; some fairly broad, others more specific. Hindsight has proven certain “non-answers” were exactly the answers I needed. Penciled circles around prayers began to tighten as true needs were discovered just as my answers improved with repetition.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7

Yet if our requests are not aligned with God’s will, we may receive them in a different way, a better way. God is good like that. But who are we mortals that we could understand the will of God?

 … We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26

Good thing because my prayers are clumsy at best and often selfish. In repetition of asking, seeking and long walks with God, talking as old friends do, the inconsequential fades into the truly important.

I cherish each memory and would answer a thousand more questions for just another hour at the card table fitting pieces together. Grateful that God will do the same with us.


Thanks for spending a little time with me.
If you prefer turning real pages, pick up my book Echoes Intertwined

For exclusive content and to receive notification when the next story drops, subscribe to my substack below:

Fields of My Heart

Jesus told a story of a farmer who cast seeds. Some fell on the path and were eaten by birds. Some on rocky ground, springing up fast with shallow roots but withering in the sun. Some fell upon thorny ground where the soil was deep, but weeds choked the wheat. The last was fertile ground where seeds produced 30, 60, 100 times of what was sown. We would all hope to be the latter of the four, but in myself, I see them all.

The field of my heart is surrounded by a path, well worn by years of hard travel. Precious Words of God like “Trust in the Lord with all your heart”, “For I know the plans I have for you”, and “My Grace is sufficient”, though all true, lose their luster when they seem to be the answer to every question. Pain and fatigue make my soul unwilling to hear, and the seed is whisked away.

The rocky area grows wildly when the Holy Spirit blows over, but mountain top experiences fade when there is no root. New growth withers in the heat of battle when it’s time to live what I say I believe.

In thorny patches, the soil is deep, but unattended weeds of sin and doubt yield thistles of “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth” which “choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22 This is the “back forty” I spend way too much time plowing.

In the corner nearest the stream, life giving water feeds fertile soul. I have spent time digging straighter furrows and hoeing out weeds (though not as much as I should have). Seeds sprout, even those dormant for many years, and produce good fruit, thirty, sixty or a hundred times as much.

In all of this, three-fourths of the seed appears to be wasted and God knows this about me, yet He continues to sow. Seed scattered on the path may nourish another and that which grows wildly then fades produces seed of its own, cast to the wind for another time and place. These words are certainly fruit of seed planted in the fields of my youth. The task is to till more fields for Him to plant so our efforts may be fruitful, growing strong and bountiful, in the time, place and size of His choosing.

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8


If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear. Reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.

Broken Yoke

Stepped into an empty church long before Sunday would stir. Morning sun through stained glass illuminated an old piano. Lack of practice warranted more warmup. One run through the day’s selections and my heart flowed into praise. Fingers seemed to be moving well and voice was awakening. A fresh lyric may have found its melody. When pews began to fill, a musician grew in confidence. And church began. Hymns were well received and full of voices. The sermon was about oxen being yoked and it resonated deeply.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:28-29

“Learn from me.” When a young bull is added to a team, he is yoked with a more seasoned ox to show the way, to draw back in line and to shoulder the burden. As of late, I have pulled too much plow on my own, or so I thought. But today, the music was good, so I pressed on into a solo.

My heart’s bleeding from retreating
And I don’t know what to do
I fall on my knees
My blinded eyes can see
How Your mercy covers me
When I Praise You.

And I’m broken … with half a song left to sing. The same truths left my pen 15 years ago, yet I do not recall being this shattered. “Breathe, remember to breathe. Cry. Use what voice you have left. Keep breathing!”

My heart’s beating by Your leading
And I know just what to do
I fall on my knees
My blinded eyes can see
How Your mercy covers me
When I Praise You.

Your Mercy covers me.

No one admitted to hearing me break, but they are always kind and appreciative of the effort. Perhaps my weakness echoed beyond their ears, or only behind the piano. Either way, I felt somewhat drawn back into line, yoked with Jesus who shoulders the oxen’s share of the load.

When it’s raining in my soul
I’ve lost all my control
Still, I feel I’m almost home
When I Praise You

And I feel I’m almost home …

If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear. Reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.

Today I Will Trust

The rooster crowed interrupting what little sleep I could find. It has been a difficult season with each moment seemingly filled with repetitive prayer and falling to my knees only to crumble under the weight on my own shoulders. Prying myself to the edge of the bed, I approached the Lord, “it’s me again.”

I wonder if He ever looks down and says, “What now?” I know it is not His way, just a reflection of one of my faults and God doesn’t have any. But by the time I get through my list of “needs,” I’ve got nothing left to pray, let alone praise. So today, instead of asking and asking, I will simply trust and be thankful, for what I’m not quite sure.

Amidst the sounds of endless traffic, a voice echoed clearly, “I hear you. I always hear you. I know you are tired. I know you’re hurting. Watch what I will do.”

Looking up from miles of taillights, through teary eyes I saw the sun peeking through the gray. Brilliant cascades of pinks and yellows illuminate the sly. And then they were gone. But today, I will trust.

Stopping in for a quick bite, paper straws scattered across the table, and I said, “oh well, it’s Friday.” The girl behind the counter flashed a sweet smile and said, “Yes, it is!” Another ray of sunshine. So today I will trust.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

All circumstances, the good and bad. The good I understand, and I do not do it enough, but the bad? But how can you be grateful for the bad? The bad represents sin, separating us from God and that is something I do not like. It’s hard to be grateful in every situation. However, I am thankful that even in bad situations, there is still God and there is still good.

The struggles of the moment are what we see, and they hurt the most. But I was given another day to talk to God, to love those I love, to reach out to those I do not, yet, and to help even in the smallest way (if only a prayer). I am grateful.

It will not be easy, but today I will rejoice, pray, and give thanks despite my circumstances “for this is God’s will for me in Christ Jesus.”

Today I will trust.


If these words have been a blessing, pass them along to another who needs to hear. Reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.