This is a picture of Dead River Falls in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, pictures rarely do nature justice, but I wish you could hear them!

As I sat by the falls, I found myself in awe of God’s handiwork and drawn to the beauty of the rocks. The roar of the falls and the colors of Michigan in the fall were amazing but it was the rocks that sparked a thought.  The rocks are smooth from the water flowing over them for years and years. The rough edges are rounded, looking almost soft as their wet surfaces shine in the sun. Something so hard and unmoving has changed slowly over time because the water has continued to flow.

Hang with me here but here’s the thought – if God is the continuous flow of water (love, forgiveness, grace) and I am a rock full of hard edges then change is possible. No matter how rough the edge, God can smooth it over time.  The quick words, the insecurities, the pride, and the fears are all in a smoothing process because of God’s continuous flow.

In Isaiah 42:16 God says, I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

I’m not a scientist by any stretch, but I know that it’s the sediment in the water that wears away the rock and makes it smooth. (forgive this oversimplification) The friction, over time, makes the changes.  Friction isn’t comfortable. And if we’re honest, most of us want the smooth edges without the friction that is necessary to create them. When I look back at my life, I can see that any smoother edges I have are due to a time of friction.

There is hope in these promises found in Isaiah. God says, I will lead, I will guide, I will turn dark to light, I will not forsake.  I will make rough places smooth.  These are things I will do.  Rough places and hard edges often look like choices.  It’s rough to get up early enough to spend time with Jesus.  It’s a hard edge that shows itself when we’re pushed or criticized.  It’s rough to tithe when money is tight.  It’s a hard edge that can make us see others with judgmental eyes. It causes friction because it goes against a habit, a response, logic, or culture.  Yet, God promises us that he will lead, guide, and help make rough areas smooth.  He does this through the constant flow of grace, love, and forgiveness that pours over us day in and day out.

It’s possible for every rock, every person.  As the water flows, God slowly works within us to begin to soften our edges as we discover love, grace, and forgiveness. We can expect some friction but as we round our edges we allow his grace and love to flow more freely toward others.

James says it this way: Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2

Let God work, let him smooth the edges.  It will take time, the changes might be almost imperceptible, but let the water continue to flow.  Getting up does get easier, responding with truth in love comes more naturally, tithing brings blessings, and our eyes become more like His – not overnight but over time.

Are you feeling the friction change brings?  Hang in there and let the water flow.



I choose to believe that they are doing the best that they can.
– Brene Brown

I read this in Brene Brown’s book a while ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  Some would say this is a naïve statement because it’s not necessarily true.  But, I’ve been seeking to really allow this statement to dive deep into my heart.  What if I did this?  What if I really believed that people are doing the best that they can?  It might not change them, but it changes me.  It changes how I hear their words, perceive their actions, and removes control.  It fosters compassion.  Jesus did it, he taught his disciples to do it, and in a world full of judgment, comparison, and criticism what a breath of fresh air if I really did this.

What if we gave people the benefit of the doubt?  I want to, but it’s really hard sometimes.  It’s so easy to slip into thinking I would do it better or assuming I know the story behind the action or behavior.  And…I don’t.  What if their best is just being present because they’ve been hurt so badly that they can’t share?  What if their best is different than yours?  What if their best was just leaving the house that day because of the depression they fight?  What if their best is survival?  But, maybe, just what if, we realized that in that moment when we start to judge, we stopped.

People don’t know what they don’t know so we need to be careful.  We may know how to manage our time, but someone else may not.  We may not fear failure but someone else may be crippled by it.  We may not wear masks but someone else may not know how to truly be themselves.  It’s a complicated messy thing – but – choosing to believe that (fill in a name here) is doing the best that they can helps us walk with some grace and encourages our desire to be the best we can be.

One thing that my years of student ministry have taught me is forgiveness and grace.  You can’t walk with teenagers without it.  I didn’t do this so well in the beginning, but as with most things, we learn this most when we need it.  As I needed forgiveness and grace, so I have come to value it highly for those around me.  The kid that screws up, the one that lies, the one that causes drama, and the one that sees judgement all around.  We all deserve a chance to do better next time by not holding our past against us.

I’m a glass half-full person, a 2 on the Enneagram (if you know what that is), and an intro-extrovert…depending on the age group I’m with. We all have different perspectives on life and how to live it.  So for me, I know that grace might be easier for me to give than for someone who might be a different personality or a glass half-empty person. But, I want to believe that we can all choose to allow grace.

As parents, we know this.  Our kids need us to forgive and then let them move forward.  If we continually hold their past over their heads we create a culture of shame what builds wounds that can affect the rest of their lives.  Yet, we don’t do this as readily for others.

Jesus said, Love your neighbor.  This isn’t just your children, those in Africa, or in homeless programs.   It’s also the person who sits at the desk next to you.  It’s the person who scans your groceries.

What an amazing way to live.  To truly choose to believe that those around us are doing the best that they can.  Imagine how that might change the comparison, judgement, and criticism our world is full of.  Instead of judging the woman in the grocery story with the crying child, realize that you honestly have no idea what her day has been like. Instead of criticizing how someone has chosen to dress that day, realize that what a stranger decides to wear is none of your business.

It is so easy to believe the worst, or think we might have a better way. It’s freeing to let go of trying to change everyone – only Jesus changes people.  I can let him do his work and be the best example of grace in the process.

I can hear the critic, but what if they aren’t?  I would answer, who are we to say?  No one sees into the heart but Jesus.   Your willingness to believe the best in someone may just be the turning point needed.  Think of it as an act of grace.   By believing the best, showing grace, you give someone the opportunity to live into it. It might just be the boost they need to truly move ahead.

And on that day that you’re the one with the crying baby in the store, you’re the one that dropped the ball on the project, you’re the one that fell a bit short – wouldn’t it be great if people gave you grace?  We will fall short, we will have bad days, we will have that day when we can’t quite give the 100% needed because we just can’t – and on those days – do the best that you can.  God’s got the rest.