When our family took a trip to Mexico for vacation, our youngest son unexpectantly became sick. My husband Brent—who’s a pediatrician and famously low key—came and found me where I was napping on the beach and said we needed to take Ezra to the hospital and that he may need surgery. I was completely caught off guard. This was our last day of vacation and we were flying home the next day. Ezra had seemed a little off but I had no idea his condition had reached this level.


We got a taxi to the hospital and after what felt like forever—if you’ve spent time in the waiting room with a sick loved one you know what that’s like—we got to see a doctor. He examined Ezra and said he needed an ultrasound. We went back to the waiting room and the receptionist called Brent to the desk and said there was no radiologist on duty so we’d have to come back another time. By now, Ezra had thrown up everything he’d ever eaten and was completely miserable. The doctor who’d examined Ezra earlier walked by, and Brent asked him about the ultrasound. He said he’d arrange everything and came back to tell us that a driver had been sent to bring the radiologist to the hospital.


Long story short, Ezra was admitted and as I held his face in my hands while they tried unsuccessfully about a dozen times to find a vein to start the IV, he looked up in my eyes through his own tears and said, “Mom, ask the church to pray.” I asked him to tell me who to text (on my phone which was about to die) and he gave me three names. Those women and their families prayed for Ezra. Then they wheeled him into the operating room, still awake.


Brent and I took a taxi back to our hotel to tell our big kids what was going on. Brent was going to shower and go back to the hospital for the night. (They only allowed one parent to stay, and it was decided that the one who went to medical school was the best choice), and I prepared our big kids to fly back without us the next day since they were saying Ezra would need to stay 2-3 nights. Before Brent went back to the hospital, the five of us huddled together to pray. Brent tried to start the prayer but his voice failed. He couldn’t get a word out. Instead, our daughter Ella prayed for our little boy who was scared and worried.


Brent taxied to the airport. And after a mostly sleepless night, the next morning, they told Ezra he could leave after all. Brent and Ezra made it to the airport just in time for our flight.


As we were stopped for a layover, Ezra and I discussed the way we saw God show up during that scary 24-hour period. We retold the story to each other…How the doctor fought for us and the radiologist was available on his day off. How the patient rep who worked at the hospital was Canadian so she could speak English and guide us through what was going on. We talked about the airport employee, appearing out of nowhere with a wheelchair and helping us quickly move through all of the airport hurdles. We talked about Julissa, the woman who worked at our hotel who we had befriended at the beginning of the week who became my contact as I was trying to possibly lengthen our stay if we had had to remain in Mexico, but she turned out to be a fervent prayer warrior and her little church prayed for us. All of God’s provisions laid out like a road map as we named them.


It’s our privilege and obligation to stop and remember God’s deliverance. We need to list these moments and remind each other that God was there all along. The Jews understood this better than just about anyone. God commanded that they have festivals and feasts for this very reason—to remember that God sees the Big Picture but He’s also in the little details. And every time we stop and remember what He’s done, we’re compelled to thank Him and worship Him.

Feed my sheep

If you’ve been inside any stores since Christmas, you know that Valentine’s Day must be just around the corner. Heart-shaped candy boxes and bouquets of red rose fill the aisles, announcing that love is in the air!


But what kind of love are we talking about here? We throw around the word like it’s as valuable as a bent penny. We proclaim that we love Mexican food sometimes as passionately as we love our family. I’m the first to admit my profound appreciation for a delicious taco, but my kids and my husband would most likely appreciate a distinction between my feelings for that taco and my feelings for them.


Scripture give us a nice variety when it comes to the word love, but you have to do a little digging in the original languages. In the Old Testament, we have descriptive Hebrew words like Ahavah and Khesed. They describe types of affection which are deep and lasting and full of action. In the New Testament, we have Greek words to describe the various types of love: Agape (everlasting and sacrificial), Storge (familial love), Phileo(loving your friend as if he were your brother), and Eros (romantic love—the one getting most of the attention this month). Language is so fascinating, and this is one of those times when it must expand to encompass such a complex and grand subject as love.


Jesus acknowledges a few of the different kinds of love in John 21. This is the third time he’s appeared before his Disciples since his death and resurrection. Several of them went night fishing, but they caught nothing. Then Jesus shows up on the shore and instructs them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Just as you’d expect, the nets come up bursting with fish. They recognize Jesus, and Peter dives into the water to swim to Him. The others probably shook their heads at their friend’s impulsiveness as they rowed ashore.


Jesus cooked them breakfast, and then He took Peter aside to chat. Knowing how Peter felt about Jesus and knowing that he was surely still broken from his betrayal of Christ just before the Cross—three times denying that he knew Jesus—Peter’s heart must’ve been thrumming inside his chest. Would he be chastised? Would he be stripped of his position, no longer able to be part of the mission Christ had prepared them for?


John 21:15-17 (CSB)

When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love (phileo) you.”

“Feed my lambs,” he told him.

A second time he asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love (agape) me?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love (phileo) you.”

“Shepherd my sheep,” he told him.

He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love (phileo) me?”

Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love (phileo) you.”

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus said.


For each time Peter had betrayed Jesus in the past, he was given the chance to proclaim his love and devotion for his risen Savior by that seashore. Twice, Jesus asked Peter for his full commitment, but Peter wasn’t there yet. He kept playing the “let’s just be good friends” card instead. On the third attempt, Jesus met Peter where he was, but he still pushed him toward how to go beyond phileo and get to agape. Jesus knew what lie ahead for Peter, so He wanted him to be all in. Jesus showed Peter (and us) that when we don’t know the state of our own hearts, a good starting place is feeding His sheep—action over words. Real love.