This morning I woke weighed down with so much undone that needing doing. A week of travel, as delightful as it was, lends itself to a deep sleep on Sunday night and an early fretful waking on a Monday morning.
Do you have those awakenings? When your mind clears from sleep and you begin looking at the week ahead and think “How am I going to get it all done?” Or “How do I even do it?” Anxiety builds, and depression follows.
That’s how this morning started…and then the heaviness lifted with the simplest thought. A reminder I received just this weekend…a reminder that stirred sweet memories of a woman with huge influence on my younger years…writer Elisabeth Elliot.
On our trip to see family this past week, we had an evening with girl talk. Four generations of women around the dinner table, laughing, sharing, and remembering. [I know men do this, too – how else do they keep all those football, baseball, and fishing trip stories so fresh in their memories?]
In the course of the warm glow of that conversation, my dear sister-in-law, Stacie, reminded her girls of how she counseled with them through their high school angsty moments. She told us she used to quote Elisabeth Elliot‘s own advice to her daughter, Valerie, when she was overwhelmed by life: “Do the next thing.”
[Stacie sounded just like Elisabeth Elliot as well…took me back to when I was her girls’ ages and first began reading Elliot’s books, including her husband Jim’s journals.]
Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, but through her life she wrote many books that had huge impact on my life. From my teen years. Books that remain treasures today…
For years after, as a struggling mom with young children, I would tune into her daily radio shows – Gateway to Joy – listening to her “square-your-shoulders” walk-with-God counsel. Her manner was both tough and tender as she covered the real stuff of life and how we maneuver through it in the presence of God.
This morning, in the cloud of confusion over where to even begin this week, God brought our dinner table conversation to mind. Hearing Stacie quoting Eliot in that no-nonsense voice of hers made me laugh then, and smile today.
Four little words that brought clarity.
“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now…Do the next thing.“ – Elisabeth Elliot
Life waits on no one. That tension of lovely and less than occasionally takes us away from such things as thinking and putting those thoughts into words on a screen.
I love to write.
1000 words a day paves the way for that book…or that blog that touches lives with clarity and thoughtFULness.
The connection between you and me is encouraging and emboldening, I hope. It sure is for me. Even not knowing who “you” are with each posting, my imagining is that we would be friends. If we aren’t already.
Thanks for reading and thinking along with me.
It’s been over a week and will be two before I sit in front of this “word processing” place.
A new granddaughter…a birthday and anniversary…a visit with beloved inlaws out of state. These and other things have taken priority.
For the moment…
So gladly I have hit pause.
Miss you but you have those moments too…
when writing or something else less peopled waits as we embrace what is in front of us.
While I’m not writing, how about you write? I would love to hear in the Comments, who you are, Dear Reader. Dear fellow traveler. In this space of a life.
Do any of us really believe we can conceal a wrong forever? Do we truly think we can get away with something…especially something with impact on another? Or maybe we could if a wrong only affects me? Right? No one has to know…right?
We are in a time in history and civilization where, like never before, “Your sins will find you out”. It is ironic because being that we’re in a post-Christian era, sins are not taken as seriously by many as they were just a generation or two before. However, called another name… wrong-doing… or abuse…will be exposed. Eventually that sin will be brought out of the darkness.
There is a dark place in our hearts where we delight in others being “found out”…their wrongdoing exposed. Humility, true humility, sorrows, knowing too well, that it could happen to any of us, for we have all wronged others. All of us.
When we face our part in wronging another, when we “come clean”, healing can begin in both parties. For those who have long concealed, this is very difficult to do. To bear the responsibility of a wrong. Time doesn’t heal wrong; it seems to just grow and grow… with time. However, when we shine a light on that dark place and own our wrongdoing, we can hopefully begin to turn things right. Make restitution if possible. Ask forgiveness. Humble ourselves.
But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:7-9
What keeps us from confessing is the whisper of a hope that we are not to blame, that we had our reasons, that it wasn’t that bad, or that it wasn’t us. Or, we know we did wrong, and the prospect of consequences that could follow confessing is just too terrifying.
When we fall on the mercy of God, we can free ourselves of covering up and actually know the joy of being covered. Forgiven. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us, we are justified…“just-as-if I’d never sinned”. Now we may still have to reckon with righting a wrong against another person, as much as is possible, even paying society for a wrong. From God’s side, when “we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9)
How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! – Psalm 32:1
Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered. – Romans 4:7
In our culture today, we are bombarded by blaming and blame-shifting, fingers pointing at wrong-doers or even those it’s not clear are wrong-doers…they are just a race or gender or political party we determine to be wrong-doers.
Thank God, we have a Judge who sees our hearts perfectly and weighs our actions and intents with both justice and mercy. In that courtroom, grace abounds.
Postscript: My Mom used to quote a Bible verse in circumstances when one of us, fortunate enough to be loved by her, had done wrong.
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8
Now, she would guide us to right living, and she would be tough with us in doing right to those we wronged. In her love, in her quiet handling of our sins as youngsters and young adults, we learned about the love of God…both just and full of mercy.
Mom didn’t feel the need to expose our sin or wrong-doing to others, giving God room to move in our hearts and alter the course of our lives. God’s love covers our sins, through the sinless life of Jesus, and His sacrifice poured out on our sinful selves.
TV is on in the background. Watching our government come apart at the seams. Or so it seems. Here are my lightning-speed Friday Faves;
1) Emotional Pixar Themes – Beyond the Guitar posted his arrangement this week of some of the heartbreaking Pixar movie themes. Masterful music – you just don’t expect to feel sad in a children’s animated film. Still the sweetest memories of these nights at the movies. Did you see them all?
2) Relationships – I discovered a few unique articles this week on the precious, life-giving quality of relationships. One of those articles even deals with relationship-shattering divorce (I have dear friends and family who have experienced the hard of divorce. This article is for those who have had divorce thrust on them or they are considering divorce as their only recourse…at least worth the read…).
If you have a resource you have found affirming regarding relationships, please share in Comments.
3) Caring for the Most Vulnerable – What does it take to care for our most vulnerable neighbors? There are so many books out there with warnings about charitable giving, or help that hurts. Giving is a good thing but it’s not a complete thing. Raleigh Sadler wrote a paper that speaks to this so well: Jesus’ Invitation to Care for Our Most Vulnerable Neighbors. He addresses five ideas regarding these we long to help but don’t know how. These ideas are: Identify, Empower, Protect, Include, and Collaborate. [His article is a quick read…let him answer your questions.] Along these very lines, Embrace Richmond does training on Assets-Based Community Development. Wendy McCaig, the trainer and executive director of Embrace Richmond, guides those in the audience in learning how to do community listening.Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig
Those we want to care for are the ones we need to get to know, look them in the eye, and give ear…then we might be able to come alongside them, and together we help make their lives better.
Look for this sort of effort in your own community.
4) The Question – Nope, it’s not “Will you marry me?”
This week marked TV’s Fall Season premiers. Lots of great story-lines and ensemble casts. My favorites are law, medical, and police shows. New Amsterdam is a new program that highlights the patient care in a huge medical center with all the drama of politics and corruption affecting the patients. A new medical director, Dr. Goodwin, comes on the scene, in the first episode, and turns the status quo upside down, for the sake of those most vulnerable. Over and over, he asked the question:
5) Reason –The Supreme Court of the United States has a vacancy. The US President nominates a candidate. The next step is for the Senate Judiciary Committee to do the heavy and serious work of examining the fitness of the candidate before releasing their name to the Senate for a vote. This is a weeks-long process.
Finally the candidate sits before the Committee to answer their questions. The Judiciary Committee is made up of 11 senators – men and women. Documents and witnesses are presented. It can be a grueling process for everyone.
Our current situation is the accusation of sexual assault by a woman who once knew the nominee. This week, she gave testimony, and the nominee gave his response. She said…he said.
Everyone in the US who cares knows the facts of this proceeding in great detail…our political bias impacts what we believe is true…whether we admit it or not. [Great article below.]
Using reason, or reasoning, can also be described more plainly as providing good, or the best, reasons. For example, when evaluating a moral decision, “morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason—that is, doing what there are the best reasons for doing—while giving equal [and impartial] weight to the interests of all those affected by what one does.“ – Wikipedia
Watching the proceedings of this confirmation hearing was like nothing I have ever seen before. The vitriole. The partisan divide. The reckless treatment of people. The lying (there must be lying somewhere).
Whoever watched these proceedings would take one side or the other. There is no room for fence-sitting on these issues. How do we reason out what is happening here? How do we reason together when it seems people refuse to hear and try to understand the other side?
Where I would see reason, another person might see something very different…and on the flip side, I also saw something else…so damaging to the individuals interviewed this week…and to our country. God help us.
In the last days of Jesus’ time on earth, he was repeatedly accused of wrong-doing. He had done no wrong, and yet with powerful adversaries, his innocence and integrity were questioned over and over. He never faltered. Even with the most unscrupulous scheming of the religious leaders of that day. They hid their intentions behind questions on his authority and grasp of religious and civil law. Their attempts to trick him, day after day, must have been exhausting, but he never wavered. He had done nothing wrong.
Then a break came in the questioning. An unnamed scribe entered into the fray… He had heard his fellows hammer Jesus with question after question, and finally he asked one himself:
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Mark 12:28-34
Unbelievably this scribe actually spoke with reason. Jesus had answered his question so well the scribe could not sully him, even if he wanted to. He, in fact, repeated Jesus’ answer in affirmation.
Don’t you love when truth and reason prevail? When people who may be completely opposed on an issue can recognize and are willing to speak out in agreement when they find common ground. This scribe agreed with Jesus, the one his peers wanted exposed, even killed.Photo Credit: Christian Publishing House Blog
As winsomely as Jesus endured these tormentors and answered his accusers in ways that confounded them, he would still be put on trial and turned over to executioners.
He would die…for us. Innocent and without any guilt of wrong-doing. For us. No terrible mistake here. No win for the religious or political of that day. His death was on his terms. He died that we might live.
From the cross, one of the last thing Jesus said was telling:
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then bowing his head, he gave up his spirit.– John 19:30
What he came to earth to do was done. He had healed and taught, prayed and worshiped, loved and laughed, and single-handedly shook up the status quo. The world would be forever changed.
Three days in the tomb, and then Jesus rose. He rose never to taste death again. Never before and never since did this happen in history.
After a season of days with his disciples, he ascended to the Father.
After the Lord Jesus had said these things to the disciples, he was taken back up to heaven where he sat down at the right side of God. – Mark 16:19
…where he sat down at the right side of God.
That passage is so beautiful. Just as God rested on the 7th day of Creation, Jesus rested after his work was finished. Did he need to rest? No. However, it is a beautiful punctuation mark.
We need rest. When we are faced with hard. When accusers bite at our heels. When loss or disappointment darkens the sun in our lives. When the work is just too exhausting…we need rest. Even when we know God has fought our battles for us, we are frail humanity. We stand against the onslaught, but a time comes when we are just done. When we withstand whatever has come against us, He calls us to rest.
Steve Green sings a beautiful song…almost a lullaby…to remind us that we can rest because God is with us and will fight for us always.
One of our neighbors is a published historian who has another manuscript ready to go. If it were me, those pages would have been mailed to the publisher months ago. Not this author. The chapter footnotes must be accurate, so weeks upon weeks have been spent on the tedious task of checking and re-verifying their accuracy.
Finishing anything well takes great effort and persistence. Especially a life well-lived to the finish.
His points are as followed. Read Dodd’s blog for the rest of his notes on Dr. Hunt’s excellent talk. The observations that follow the points below are my emphases. Also every point can apply to us as women as well.
Men Who Finish Well
Want to finish well. – Desire and the focus of our desire are the foundation of finishing well.
Ooze with humility. – This is not about talking humble or having an humble expressiveness. This is genuine humility – a person who inserts his life into the humble; willing to do humble things; a person with a clear understanding of who he is and what he is capable of (both holy and horrible).
Know they could be steps away from a fall. – One bad choice can follow us all through our lives, or catch up with us. We shouldn’t be discouraged by that, but we should be aware, from a young age, that consequences of our actions come…sooner or later. Best to avoid or correct as early as possible.
Are intentional, putting up guardrails in their lives. – Guardrails are barriers we put up for ourselves that keep us from the edge of an activity or mindset that could cause damage down the road. We have all said, thought, or acted on “That’s not so bad.” or “Everybody’s doing it.” What we once considered unacceptable may be considered acceptable today but tomorrow it could be a high crime. We must intentionally determine where the edge is and take a step back by putting guardrails in place. Not for fear of consequences but out of care…and aiming to finish well.
Plan to finish well. – Guardrails are part of this. Do you have a plan in place? What does it look like?
Firmly committed to their families. – This makes a huge difference. Huge influence on our decision-making.
Have some kind of mentor in their lives. – Another guardrail actually, but also vital to honest accountability. Lone rangers who may often find themselves at the top of organizations and culture influencers are highly vulnerable to falling from their own isolation.
Live in the Word of God and on their knees. – Johnny Hunt is finishing strong because he doesn’t separate sacred and secular. He understands the importance of having a guide to live life in a fickle, changeable world system. A sign of his own humility is his dependence on being daily in God’s Word and daily praying.
Committed to integrity. – Finishing well requires us to be consistent and dependable in our actions and decision-making. Dabbling in less-than-honest transactions with people will eventually find us out.
Evangelize regularly. – This may seem an odd characteristic of finishing well if you are reading as a person not given to faith or especially faith in God through Jesus. In Johnny Hunt’s long faith walk, he has taken the claims of Christ very seriously and has seen the work of God’s grace in his life and others. He knows the glorious good that comes out of that relationship with God and would not withhold the knowledge of that from anyone.
Ambitious only in honoring Jesus. – Dr. Hunt could have stayed in his pastor position for another 10-15 years or more. This mega-church pastor role can be a real head-trip if these men don’t take precautions to guard their hearts against that level of pride. For the sake of his church’s future and doing his best to listen to God’s leading, Dr. Hunt chose to step down…for very good and Godly reasons.
[I counted 11 so we got a bonus help from Dr. Hunt and Brian Dodd.]
When our children left home for college, one by one, we had many talks together. Trying to prepare them for what could lie ahead. All through their lives, we had taught them to treat others with care. To also see the wrong in taking advantage of someone or some situation for ill, no matter the reason. Some of that teaching came out of our own histories, Dave and me, and from making our own mistakes as young people. Doing all we could to ensure these precious ones would avoid the pitfalls of life that can take you down.Photo Credit: Michael Staires
Avoid situations where you are alone with the opposite sex, especially late at night. Don’t accept open beverage containers. Be cautious in group events where there is drinking and no supervision. Abstain from recreational drugs or beverages. Make choices regarding dress and demeanor as to not compromise another person. Keep your hands to yourself. Be responsible in choosing whom you spend time with.
[Nothing original here. The nature of these teen talks became more serious as our kids were preparing to be out on their own. No one looking over their shoulder. Their choices could have life-long implications.]
This year, I listened to a good friend process sending her oldest son off to college. He is one of the sweetest young men I know – a good heart, respectful, and genuinely friendly to all he meets. This mom (and the dad) wanted to make sure that he understood that college today is not just about his choices but how others perceive his behavior. It’s not just being careful to do right by others but also to behave in such a manner that no one could take offense…now or twenty years from now. Especially in any perceived sexual offense. Other? What are your thoughts?
This is where we seem to be today in America.
Finishing well, especially as men, might be more complicated today but it is still within the grasp of those who determine from the beginning to aim far and run their lives with steadfast resolve.
Weekend! Sometimes the end of the week just pours out so quickly it splashes right into the weekend. Friday Faves on a Saturday, y’all.
1) Celebrating Fall – In this part of the world, Fall has arrived. For many years, we lived in countries where seasons were subtle in their changing one into another. The rewards were the lush foliage and flowers of the rainy season and the deep textures in the seeming sameness of the desert. [I miss those places now as our American Fall was missed in those years.]
Fall is just peeking out now around the corner of Summer…even as the sturdiest of bushes push out their last summer blooms.
An East Tennessee friend of ours, Pam Archer, laid out a Fall palette for us at The Colorful Cottage. It’s like turning the pages of a magazine taking in festive and inviting entryways into homes…and into Fall. [Click through all the pictures at the link above.] You can almost smell pumpkin spice and a fire in the fireplace.
…and before long, the full glory of Fall will be briefly and wondrously upon us.Photo Credit: Deb Mills
2) On Being Forgiven – This week I offended someone. It could be that offending people happens many times over, without me knowing, but this time…I knew. He made it very clear…and he didn’t forgive me.
This was a stranger…a business person we were contacting to do a service…After several messages left on the company voicemail, the last one got a quick call-back. He didn’t like my choice of words nor my tone…and essentially told me I could look somewhere else for service.
Gulp… I tried to explain again and said I was sorry several times over. He refused to understand my side of the situation. We don’t slam down phones anymore…but. That conversation and hang-up kept me up for hours. I felt terrible and then mad and then terrible again.
A two-minute conversation full of accusation and misunderstanding was rough on me and rough on him, too, maybe. We secured another company to do what we needed, and the gentleman above may remember me as a demanding and unyielding woman for a few days. Our conversation may make it harder on the next person who calls, and for that, I am also sorry.
The marvel is what a wonder in life it is to be forgiven. When people apply grace. When margin is extended for failure or unintentional misspeak. When we are given the benefit of the doubt. When a choice is made not to be offended. When a cheek is turned. When a harsh response is withheld. Even when we feel completely justified to do otherwise.
Forgiveness – that incredible experience of not getting what we might have deserved; that generous letting go of an opportunity to have the upper hand; that treating another person just as if they hadn’t wronged you. This is not doormat behavior…this is giving grace.
Kelly Delp‘s piece this week On Becoming an Outsider reminded me of times when we lived overseas. Day after day, person after person dealt gently with our offenses… We were foreigners; we didn’t know; we were forgiven.
It wouldn’t hurt, maybe, if we treated each other a bit more like foreigners… in a good way, of course.
3) Old Trees – Tall trees that have stood sentinel for decades upon decades deserve our gratitude and respect. In our backyard, we have had two giant oaks shade us in summer and drop leaves and acorns all Fall. Now, one has died. Some sort of blight. Just seeing it without green leaves in summer seems so wrong alongside the healthy sister tree.
So…it must be taken down…sadly.
Honestly, it was just such an excellent tree service company…and the way they took down that tree carried a measure of respect as well…I could have been imagining, but I don’t think so.
“Dust to dust” came to mind as that massive tree was chipped (branches) or hauled off (trunk) and the stump ground to mulch.
Grateful for that tree…and for the one still standing in the center of the yard.
4) Signage – Signage is a form of communication, either in words, symbols, or images. As new drivers, we all learned the importance of attending to signs to keep ourselves and others from harm. We read labels and note landmarks. Signage can communicate much more than the literal messages. Take the signage below as a for instance. It’s in a local church building. What does it say to you?
Everywhere you looked in and around this building, signs pointed to community – how folks could serve God and serve one another and with one another. This isn’t my church (I was there for a meeting), but the signage was so engaging and empowering.
Another sign that finally moved me to action was the sign below. Several of these have been placed around our city because of the daily presence of people begging at intersections. It seemed a hopeful “No worries. Your city is watching out for the homeless.”
This week, I called the number on the sign. It was our county’s social services division. The voicemail instructions were helpful and as promised I received a call back later in the same day. That was when I discovered this phone number was meant to start the process for homeless to get “in the system”. The person answering my question was honest and forth-coming. If someone was homeless (or would be in 3 days), if they called this number, it would start a process whereby he/she could get housing…as to when? Days, weeks…
This sign, its agency, and the church community above (and others like it) have the skills and desire to make good happen. Then there might be a place to sleep for that one begging …sooner.
5) a Pile of Books – Truth be told, I didn’t get nearly far enough on my summer reading list. We always plan an annual get-away to the beach for a few days, once the high season is over. A few of these books will be coming along.
One in particular will definitely make the cut. In this season of life, I seem always to be culling one thing or another from our stash of wonderfulness. Thinning out some of our books, I found Calvin Miller‘s Walking with Saints – Through the Best and Worst Times of Our Lives. Flipping through the pages of this old book of Dave’s I realized it was one that needed to be read sooner than later. It was a Christmas present, bought in Cairo, by a little boy who loved his daddy and loved to draw. That gift inscription alone means it will stay in our stash of stuff for the next forever.
Do you have some books on your must-read list? Please tell us about them in Comments below. Also, do you have books that have made it to be a sentimental favorite? Those stories are meant to be shared as well.
That’s the 5 this week. Hope your week was full of new and old favorites. Enjoy this first weekend of Fall…either for real, or through the images and stories of those of us who have the sweet experience of this season. Blessings.
Quote: Why does “Mid-Century Modern” sound so cool when describing architecture or furniture? It was made in the 1950’s. I was made in the 1950’s. Next time someone asks me my age, I’m gonna say, “Mid-Century Modern.” – Jody Ohlsen Collins
Quote: One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now. –Paulo Coelho
“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham – Genesis 12:2
We are so blessed. Even those who don’t believe God is will use the expression of being blessed. I wonder, “by whom” and “why?”
We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.
From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…
They both cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love that He loves them, also.
“[We need to] come out of Moral Superiority Castle, cross over the stagnant moat of separation and meet the kingdom of God where justice and mercy meet, where the never-ending stream is full of justice and goodness; where people are messed up and broken and dirty like old cracked pots that leak and feel pretty useless and that, that is where we are and where we are a part of the repairing and restoring and transforming of the world. It is a place of tension. It is a place of unresolved hurt.
No-one said that where justice and mercy meet was a comfortable place.” – Kevin Lewis
Bring heaven to earth, Lord
Bring peace where there’s fear
Bring life where there’s death, Lord
Bring joy in these tears
Bring love where there’s lust, Lord
Bring hope where there’s pain
Bring rest where there’s chaos
Bring faith where there’s fame
You invite us to partner with you
To see your kingdom come
We are blessed, to bless a world in pieces We are loved, to love where love is not We are changed, to be the change you promised We are freed, to be your hands, O God
Bring home to the homeless
Bring keys to the chained
Bring worth to the purchased
And touch to the shamed
Bring flesh from your word, Lord
Bring truth where there’s spin
Bring risk where’s there safety
And grace where there’s sin
In the broken, we shall see restored
The image of our King
We are blessed…
Lord we cry out to you
Change the atmosphere
Breathe new life in all who gather here
We are blessed…
Bring justice to profit
Bring patience to growth
Bring wisdom to progress
Plant trees on this road
Bring freedom from debt, Lord
An end to excess
Bring closer your kingdom
By quiet success
May we grow in the knowledge of you
Through every heart and face
We are blessed…*
Postscript: Andy Flannagan, in a town meeting with London mayor Sadiq Khan, at a local church, talked (in this video clip) about what we as Christians do well. He closed with “The harder thing is to go back to the Jericho Road to work out how to stop anybody else getting mugged.” (Luke 10:35-37)
Centuries ago, a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, asked this question of an innocent man, brought before him by accusers. Religious leaders who wanted to destroy him. Men who would have their way no matter what it meant for this man…even death.
Pilate was complicit in the death of Jesus Christ because he found no evidence against him, yet, to satisfy the loud voices crying out against him, he washed his hands of the matter and sent him out to be crucified.
This morning I read a local news account which has disturbed me all day.
The article surprised me because I actually knew the particulars of the story very well. The reporter described a recent event and then added a completely unrelated previous event. The first was morally neutral, but the second event was scandalous. The innuendo was clear. The article fairly sizzled with the possibility…probability that the two events…the two persons (very different from each other) were linked. Thus casting a shadow on the innocent one with the clear guilt of the other. Just a shadow. Just a possibility of wrong.
Did this reporter lie? She did not, in so many words. Did she shade the truth? Yes.
“The Greek word for ‘truth’ is aletheia, which literally means to ‘un-hide’ or ‘hiding nothing.’ It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. The Hebrew word for ‘truth’ is emeth, which means ‘firmness,’ ‘constancy’ and ‘duration.’ Such a definition implies an everlasting substance and something that can be relied upon.
From a philosophical perspective, there are three simple ways to define truth:
1. Truth is that which corresponds to reality. 2. Truth is that which matches its object. 3. Truth is simply telling it like it is.” – Got Questions
Telling the truth is a huge core value in our family. Growing up, our children knew that lying would bring a most undesirable consequence. We would rather know they were telling the truth, even when it exposed something that would grieve us as their parents.
We live in a culture today that seems to thrive on a semblance of “my truth” or “truth as I know it”. What that means is “If I can convince you I am right then we will all be better off…well, especially me.” There seems almost a fever for exposing lies. The irony is the lengths people will go to to expose falsehood in others – political opponents, for instance. Even lying to do so. Making lying a necessary “evil” or a “moral high road” to bring down the greater villain or threat.
I know personally how easy it is to be deceived and to deceive oneself. In my 20s, I had my Sunday life and my “rest of the week” life. Politically, I was fairly soft on the issues, bowing to those in my life who were more articulate or who had done their homework… more than me. Spiritually, I wanted the world too much to be faithful to the God whom I owed everything. I wanted to be liked, admired, accepted…the tinsel of a life pleasing to others blinded me for awhile. I was deceived.
“Once you take to the habit of deception, every new lie comes that much easier. Though to me it wasn’t so much lies as a matter of judicious editing. We all inevitably present a version of ourselves that is a collection of half-truths and exclusions. The way I saw it, the truth was too complicated, whereas the well-chosen lie would put everyone’s mind at ease.” ― Caroline Kettlewell, Skin Game– GoodReads
I can actually tell you the moment that the scales fell off my eyes (another time). At that moment, I remembered that truth was the hinge that swings open the door to life as it’s meant to be lived. Or maybe truth is the door.
For sure, seeking the truth and speaking the truth are huge. In our home, with our kids growing up, even just watching a movie, we would point out the messages that had lies as the foundation. [That might have driven our kids nuts, when I think about it now.] We would do the same about the latest social commentary and, as they went off to college, we talked about what they would encounter in terms of worldviews different from their own.
In my younger years, I loved how journalists rabidly exposed lies, protecting us from evil politicians or uncivil servants. These days, the vigilance of reporters and partisan politicians regarding “what is truth” seems too self-serving and mean to be righteous.
“The fact is, the truth matters – especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie.”– Ravi Zacharias
If I have been harsh in this writing, please forgive me. That article of earlier in the day is still ringing and stinging in my ear. Truth is not meant to be a hammer and everything else a nail. Even the One crucified gave us the example of Truth lived out in love (Ephesians 4:15).
So…for our children. Thank you, for not being too hard on us while we taught you, out of our own mistakes and short-sightedness. Thank you, for still being willing to have truth conversations with us. Thank you, for continuing to seek the truth, even in the midst of a culture of innuendo, nuance, half-truths (definitely a misnomer), and sizzling stories that beg to be believed.
Also, thank you, you influencers out there, who also love the truth and guard it with your life and that influence.
Exposing lies is important, but if the desire in going after the truth is really motivated by the desire to destroy someone in your way…or to elevate your own agenda…no matter how noble…it can’t be worth what is lost along the way. It must not be.
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
As I write it’s raining… This Friday – lots of country music and YouTube videos…and a grateful heart. Oh…and just as I was about to publish, Nathan Mills‘ arrangement of John Paesano‘s Spiderman theme (for the PS4 game of the same name) just got posted. Enjoy.
2) Fall TV Shows – Nope, not talking NFL football here. Nor is this heralding the many Fall-themed Hallmark movies on the horizon. This fave marks the building excitement for premier weeks for our favorite TV shows. You tell me your favorites, I’ll tell you mine. Fall is maybe my favorite seasons…this being one reason among many.
3) Getting Older – Country artist (and Songwriters Hall of FamerAlan Jackson turns 60 this month. That’s still real young, but his song The Older I Get rings true to the experience of…getting older. The lyrics of this poignant country song ring true…they can speak for themselves.
The older I get The more I think You only get a minute, better live while you’re in it ‘Cause it’s gone in a blink And the older I get The truer it is It’s the people you love, not the money and stuff That makes you rich
And if they found a fountain of youth I wouldn’t drink a drop and that’s the truth Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet
The older I get The fewer friends I have But you don’t need a lot when the ones that you got Have always got your back And the older I get The better I am At knowing when to give And when to just not give a damn
And if they found a fountain of youth I wouldn’t drink a drop and that’s the truth Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet The older I get
And I don’t mind all the lines From all the times I’ve laughed and cried Souvenirs and little signs of the life I’ve lived
The older I get The longer I pray I don’t know why, I guess that I Got more to say And the older I get The more thankful I feel For the life I’ve had, and all the life I’m living still*
[Along with getting older with its sweet upside of grandchildren and finding clarity and contentment…there is the sadder side of losing people we love. That happened for Alan Jackson this week with the unexpected death of his oldest daughter Mattie’s husband, Ben Selecman…married less than a year. Prayers for this family.]
4) A Narcissist Culture – What happened to a once civil society? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg spoke this week on the divisive and partisan Senate confirmation hearings of recent years. She reflected on her own hearing and that of her good friend and conservative Justice Scalia. Both of them confirmed to the Supreme Court by an almost unanimous Senate vote.
Some would say what has changed is the caliber of leaders in office now. Narcissist is a word used frequently in mainstream media.
Do you get weary of the contentious nature of our press? How about the behavior of our elected officials, on both sides? Maybe a lifetime in the political arena (whether in public or private sector positions) brings the cynic out of everyone. Maybe the goal of doing whatever possible good we can breaks down if our boss is just too difficult or just too not like us.
The more I read on narcissistic bosses, the more I find that many who rise to the top have some of those traits. It’s what helped them get there. We can raise our backs to that and make as much noise as we can to get rid of that person or disrupt every process or decision.
Or we can seek out what is wisdom in handling a narcissistic boss… for our own sakes, the sake of the company (or country), and even for his. It is one thing to feel helpless and a whole other thing to escalate a situation and add to the damage, whatever it is.
In this article 5 Scientific Secrets to Handling a Narcissist, he gives some excellent counsel on what to do. Some of his advice may be hard to stomach…but stirring up a narcissist with negative, blaming banter will not get anyone where they say they hope to go.
Here are Barker’s 5 bits of excellent advice:
If at all possible, just steer clear of him. – Do your job. Do it well.
If he’s your boss, kiss up or shut up. – A narcissist doesn’t want to hear your take on things, especially if it is against his take. Until you decide to leave your organization, do your best to just get along. He is much better at deflecting and retaliating than you probably are at exposing his faults or unfitness for the job.
Know what you want and get payment up front. This relates to folks who have something (information, relationships, influence) the narcissist wants but doesn’t yet have. I can’t even think of an example…can you offer one? “Now I’ve been very negative toward narcissists (understandably) but they can be worked with and can even be good employees. Yes, really.Why? Because they want something. They really need to look good. And if you can align your desires with their desires, you may find yourself with an unstoppable achievement machine…They get what they want when they do what you want.” – Eric Barker
If you have a raging narcissist within hearing and one who lets you close, ask some of equivalent of: “What would people think?” Let them answer the questions. “Emphasize community and use disappointment, rather than anger, to keep them in line. They want to look good. So help them look good by helping them do good.”
Be Dexter. Dexter was the focal character of a TV show of the same name. He was a forensics technician working murder cases. He became a serial killer of serial killers. Whew! I never watched the show but know of its cultish popularity. The thing is, all of us can become narcissistic. Especially in cultures where narcissists rise to power. If we can confront the narcissism in ourselves then we can fight it by nurturing empathy – refusing to give into the impulse to self-elevate and direct that impulse to empower others. Something to think about.
5) Visual Aids – I am a visual learner. By that, information intake comes easier with images. I used to think because of being a voracious note taker that auditory learning was my preference. No, it was that innately, writing the notes was salvation for me because they gave me visual cues to master the auditory information taken in…later. Looking at my notes.
This week, I began a study of Genesis through Community Bible Study. The study opened with a YouTube visual that “storied” the beginning journey of the God and humankind. Genesis 1-11 in less than 8 minutes, being drawn as we watched. So good.
A big part of why children’s books are so attractive for a visual learner is the rich illustrations that accompany the story. One of my favorite artists is Marjolein Bastin. She paints the world around us with all its beauty, tiny detail, and true-to-life (im)perfections.
American Idol Sweethearts – Caleb Lee Hutchison and Maddie Poppe fell in love while competing in the 16th season of the ABC music show American Idol. Maddie eventually went on to win with Caleb coming in second. Renditions of songs like Maddie’s Landslide and Caleb’s Don’t Close Your Eyes took them straight to the finals and into fans’ hearts. Here they are on the Live Tour singing together You’ve Got a Friend. So darling.