“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. It is not a cliche. It is truth. Even those who don’t believe that God is will still use the expression of being blessed.
I wonder, “by whom?”.
Earlier this week I wrote about silence as punishment…withholding our words, ourselves, from others. Today we focus on the opposite – blessing others, through our words and actions. Reaching out, drawing in. Speaking life and love. Listening close. Blessing.
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.
Writer Tina Boesch has written a beautiful book on blessing: Given: the Forgotten Meaning and Practice of Blessing. The first page of the book begins with a Scottish blessing: “Life be in my speech, sense in what I say…the love Christ Jesus gave filling me for every one.” Boesch writes about how, no matter the situation or the persons in front of us, we can bless them, because He has so utterly blessed us.
Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. – Colossians 3:17
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 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 – our words and deeds – 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)
The silent treatment. Seems so juvenile, in a way, and yet it is used as a punishment in relationships, both personal and professional. We may be the ones doing it without even thinking that’s what it is. Here we go.
In the earliest years of our marriage, Dave and I would sometimes have a fight about something. At times, the conflict didn’t end well for me, anyway. Then, without really a goal to be vindictive or mean, I would just have nothing to say to him…for as many as three days. Oh, we would cover the normal conversation of life – schedules, kids, etc., but from my side, all matters of the heart were wrapped in silence. Punishing him with that silence. I don’t think he always noticed, but inside my own heart and head, it was brutal.
Fortunately for us both, I grew out of that. Now after a disagreement, it may take me a few minutes to shake off my frustration…but not days. Silent treatment in our marriage is over.
In a recent blog by Jan Riley (a dear friend of mine), she talked about the use of silence to “break a person down”. She writes below:
In his bookOstracism: The Power of Silence, psychologist Kipling Williams writes: “William James [father of American psychology] suggested that to be ‘cut dead’ and to go ‘unnoticed’ by others would be worse than the ‘most fiendish punishment.’ The silent treatment may well be the most frequently used method of cutting people dead.”
In his piece Ostracism, Dr. Williams introduced the topic with a further quote by Dr. James: “If no one turned round when we entered, answered when we spoke, or minded what we did, but if every person we met “cut us dead,” and acted as if we were non-existing things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would ere long well up in us, from which the cruelest bodily tortures would be a relief; for these would make us feel that, however bad might be our plight, we had not sunk to such a depth as to be unworthy of attention at all.( James 1890/1950, pp. 293–94)
Psychologist Karen Young talks about silent treatment as “a way to inflict pain without visible bruising – literally. Research has shown that the act of ignoring or excluding activates the same area of the brain that is activated by physical pain…The ability to detect ostracism is hardwired in us – it doesn’t matter if you’re being ignored by a group or a person you can’t stand, the pain still registers. The silent treatment, even if it’s brief, activates the anterior cingulate cortex – the part of the brain that detects physical pain.The initial pain is the same, regardless of whether the exclusion is by strangers, close friends or enemies…Being noticed is so close to being loved, that sometimes they feel the same. Being ignored is just as powerful.” – Karen Young
Silence is a very disorienting experience because you usually can’t discern what it means. It can put you off balance.
Anyone who has ever experienced ostracism knows what it feels like and how debilitating it can be, even for a mature thinker.
Silent treatment can be intentional and manipulative, however it can also become a habit of “communication” – neglectful communication. Excluding someone from a conversation (at work or other association), not making eye contact, not speaking in casual encounters, not answering emails/texts, leaving a group member off a group email, not acknowledging someone’s input…and so it goes.
[Of course, all the above can happen innocently for the overloaded person, without intention. The dilemma is when we, over time, just let it keep happening because we can’t figure out how to fix it..or just aren’t inclined…to fix it.]
The curious thing about silent treatment, if you confront the person you sense is doing it, that person can always deny it…whereupon you feel like you’ve read the situation wrongly, you overreacted, etc. It is like a double punch.
So what does one do in regards to silent treatment? What are the counter-measures? I would love for you to share yours in the Comments because I am still sorting out what can affect change.
In a personal relationship, in a non-conflictive moment, you may talk together about what silence conveys. It may be that neither of you have an understanding of what’s going on with the other…because of the silence. Face-to-face communication most always helps with understanding each other better.
In a work situation, or other organizational affiliation that demands working together, systems can be put in place that facilitates engagement… team meetings, weekly email updates, some sort of regular internal communication process. Like with bullying prevention, a core value that speaks to the essential of regular, empowering communication can have impact.
A work or family culture that just accepts silence as a way of coping with stress or frustration can affect everyone in that culture. Identify the issues and do what you can to move them toward health.
One-on-one, there still may be little we can do to counter or improve a situation with such a someone – one who has made silence a pattern to control their encounters with others. We can definitely mark the experience, and check the pain. Then if there seems no way to improve the relationship, the best thing we can do is put our own boundaries around the experience…but not necessarily the person.
[The above graphic was a chuckle, not a true work-around.]
We don’t want to respond to passive-aggressive behavior with the same sort of behavior. We may, however, have to acknowledge that for some people, it’s a deeply ingrained habit that could even have become unconscious.
When our daughter was 3 years old, she went through a season of not speaking to people. She would bury her face in my leg, or just turn her face/body away from the person. Then I tried to “excuse” her behavior with “she’s become shy lately.” The same friend above, Jan, who was also a parenting mentor for me, said outright: “That’s not being shy; that’s being rude.” Some of you may be put off by that, but I appreciated her being straight with me. From that day on, this mama worked with that 3-year-old on what ignoring and not speaking communicated and on how to be courteous and respectful. Now the lovely woman she has become is working on the same lessons with her little one.
Whatever your take is on this, hopefully you won’t default to perpetrating the silent treatment as your own pattern of controlling situations. Don’t do it yourself. Don’t be that person.
It helps me to realize that friends, family, and coworkers who use silent treatment didn’t get there overnight. There could have been an event, an altercation, a painful experience of their own that set them up for emotionally withdrawing and using silence as coping or as punishment. For some, like in our early years of marriage, silent treatment may be very situational. For others, it is borne out of habit – a habit of feeling no compulsion toward connecting with people they don’t value or whom they feel don’t value them. It is what it is.
In this day of social media and over-sharing, to put yourself out there and then be met with silence is a strange and sometimes painful experience. Fortunately, even that does not define us. Right? Right.
And when he [Jesus] drew near and saw the city, he wept over it. – Luke 19:41
Jesus continued going around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. – Matthew 9:35-36
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.– Psalm 127:1
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce…But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. – Jeremiah 29:4-5, 7
The shining city we call home is Richmond, Virginia. It is a beautiful, gleaming mix of old and new. A river runs east-west through it, and interstate highways divide it north-south. The divide goes much deeper than the highways cut through neighborhoods decades ago, but these transportation portals speak to that divide.
Then “progress” happened. City and state officials determined the design of what is now our vast interstate system. This all-white group of officials made the decision of what would best serve the city and beyond. The highways would be laid down right through Jackson Ward. 1000 homes were lost through the city’s powers of eminent domain.
Recently I saw a TV show, All Rise, that featured an anquished young man, wrongly accused of a felony. While awaiting the jury’s verdict, his public defender sat with him. She asked about why he was studying urban planning. This was the powerful scene that speaks to what happened in our city and others:
“Every shining city is built on something pretty dark.”
The above statement from the scene isn’t always true (especially when I think of Heaven), BUT. God, in His Word, demonstrated both understanding of and love for cities.
Not just transactional charity…where we give of our goods but not ourselves. Jesus did feed the thousands (transactional) but He also gave all of Himself to all people (transformational). He left that example for us…that transformational model of loving people.
This past Sunday, our worship team at Movement Church, led us in a song new to me. Spirit Pour Out. It was written by Andy and Rachel Graham out of a worship experience with Urban Doxology, a ministry based in Richmond. Members of Urban Doxology live, work, worship, and serve in the racially diverse (and divided) neighborhoods of Richmond. They bring a message and vision for reconciliation – with God and each other. See the Ted Talk about Urban Doxology here. The YouTube video below shows footage of our city, Richmond, Virginia. It is a call to prayer for cities – for ours and for all cities.
Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come
Come restore generations of desolation
Bind up the poor and broken heart
Plant and sow, till and grow what time has ravaged
Break down the walls of race and war
Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come
God we seek the peace and welfare of our city
Prosper redeem her as your own
That all would see your glory here in greater measure
Through us your church your kingdom come
Spirit pour out and flood this city
Heaven come down and shake the walls
Fill us Lord the world is waiting
Father let your kingdom come
You are the God who builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Evil has no claim
You are the God builds
You are the one who saves
You are the God who prospers
Fervently we pray*
Peter says that Christians are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11) and Paul says “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). In fact, we will do most good for this world by keeping a steadfast freedom from its beguiling attractions. We will serve our city best by getting our values from “the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). We will do our city most good by calling as many of its citizens as we can to be citizens of “the Jerusalem above” (Galatians 4:26).
So, let’s live — let’s do so much good (1 Peter 2:12) — that the natives will want to meet our King. – John Piper
“Let this be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which ha become the cornerstone’. Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:10-12
God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11
I didn’t start life in a Christian home. My religious education started sometime after I was 6 or 7. We had not attended church (or any other religious establishment) previously. Neighbors invited us to their church and we finally accepted their invitation.
It was then that I heard the astonishing account of a holy God who made a way for a messed-up people to enter a right relationship with Him. Somehow, as a young child, the idea of trying to be good (especially for my Mom) seemed the right thing. I so wanted to be good for her…but it rarely worked out that way.
To hear of God as one-in-three-persons was a huge concept for me as a child. Yet, it made sense the older I got – God, the Father; God, the Son; God, the Holy Spirit – Especially how Jesus was present with the Father, co-existing from the beginning, before His brief time on earth, participating in the creation of the world and all in it. When Jesus returned to Heaven, after the crucifixion and resurrection, He assured His followers He would leave with them a comforter – this Holy Spirit who was one with God the Father and God the Son.
A Moroccan student of mine raised a fascinating topic in our World Religions class years ago. He said we are all destined to follow the religions of our parents. A lively discussion was borne out of that comment.
My mother, if she was a Christian then, did not guide us toward a faith in God when we were little. As a single parent, working long hours, it was all she could do to keep us fed, with a roof overhead. However, for all of us, those years following, in church and under Biblical teaching, changed our lives.
Maybe if our neighbors had taken us to a mosque or a Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish temple, I would have a different story. All I know, for sure, is this:
What I learned about the one God – the Father, Son, Holy Spirit – three-in-one – I embraced at the age of 9. What Jesus did for me, in complete and perfect unity with the Father and Holy Spirit, transformed my life…from that day on.
He is not the Father of Christianity. He is not the founder of the world’s largest religion. He is not just a legend of a man or a myth.
Jesus came to earth on mission. He came to redeem a sinful people back to God. He provided a sinless ransom for a people who could not save themselves. He was not killed by a Roman court, or the religious authorities, or a fickle mob. He laid His life down for us.
He is God. Worthy of the praise that God alone deserves.
When our children came along, we wanted the greatness of God and the love of Jesus to resonate in their hearts and minds. From babyhood onward. We sang them lullabies about Jesus and we worshiped together with songs of truth they could understand and cherish all their lives. [See links below.]
Worship God with me in the name of the One who made a way for us to know God and be with Him forever. Choose from any of the songs below or above, or one of your own favorites. The rest of our day can wait a few minutes.
Today marks the eve of the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 bombings in the US. We all have our stories of where we were when we heard that terrible news. I heard the news as an elevator door opened in a hospital emergency room in Cairo, Egypt. The surgeon watching for us to deliver the patient walking into the elevator, saying, “I am so, so sorry.” I thought he was referring to the precious one on the stretcher beside me, so small and injured from a terrible bus accident the day before. It turns out he was talking about the news that traveled instantly from the States about the bombings. I’d like to go back to the day before. For us, it would help to go there, before I can ever process the grief of this day that we all share.
It was like any other Monday, that bright, warm September 10th in Cairo, Egypt…until the phone call. Janna was on the other end of the call, telling me that Genessa and April had been in a bus accident on the Sinai. April had called her and relayed their location, at a hospital in Sharm el-Sheikh. These were girls in our Middle Eastern Studies Program, and they were finishing their time with us, taking a vacation together. They would re-trace some of their experiences in Bedouin villages across the Sinai and then enjoy a few days on the Red Sea. They were to return that Monday, traveling in on one of the over-night buses across the desert.
Details will have to wait for another time, but with this information, my husband, Dave, left immediately with Janna and a local Egyptian friend who was also one of our language coaches. He took these two women because of their relationship with each other and with all of us. He also understood that there were two injured friends hours away in a hospital who would need women to minister to their needs. I would be praying and on the phone the rest of the day with families, other friends, US Embassy people, and our other young people in the program. I can’t begin to describe the emotional nature of that day…not knowing, hoping, praying.
When Dave and our friends arrived at the hospital, he was directed to April. She had painful, serious injuries, but none life-threatening, praise God. Then he was escorted into the critical care area to see Genessa. To his horror, it wasn’t Genessa. It was another young woman, unconscious – an Italian tourist, who rode in the same ambulance with April. April, lucid and still able to communicate, had tried to comfort her on that long dark ride to the hospital. Personal belongings were all scrambled at the wreck site, and the authorities made the mistakened decision that because April was speaking to her, she was Genessa.
Then Dave went on the search for our dear one…somewhere else in the Sinai. He back-tracked toward the site of the accident, checking other hospitals where other injured were taken. At this point, he was also talking to US Embassy staff, as he drove through the desert. Just shortly before he arrived at the hospital where he would find Genessa, the staff person told him they confirmed her identification from a credit card she had in her pocket…in the morgue of that small village hospital.
Dave and Janna, that friend who received the first phone call, stood beside this precious girl’s body, to make the formal identification…to know for sure that this was Genessa. And it was…and yet not. She, the luminous, laughing, loving girl we knew, was gone. It was more than any of us who loved her could take in on that Monday evening in Cairo, Egypt…the day before 9/11.
As they left the hospital to return to April, two more friends joined them from Cairo to help. For any of you who have been completely spent in every way by such a day, you can understand what it was for them to look up and see Matt and Richard getting out of a car. God in His great goodness alerted them, stirred their hearts to drive all those hours…and then to arrive…just when they were most needed. So many arrangements had to be made…and most importantly, at that moment, to get April back safely and quickly to Cairo for surgery.
She came into Cairo on a plane near the middle of the day of 9/11. By the time we got her from the airport in an ambulance to the specialty hospital to get the further care she needed, a series of horrific events had begun taking place in the US. We would hear of them from this caring Egyptian surgeon…who had no idea how numb we were from losing Genessa and how concerned we were that April got what she needed as soon as possible. We were already so drenched by grief, this unfathomable news about the bombings washed over us without understanding the scope of it…the pain of it…for all the rest of America.
Later in that day, with April receiving the best care possible, and me watching by her side, I could take in some of the loss coming at us on the small t.v. mounted in the hospital room. Egyptians were telling us how so, so sorry they were for us (as Americans). If they only knew, they were our mourners for our loss of Genessa, too. In the din of world-changing news, and a country brought together in grief…we grieved, too, a continent away…for the losses of 9/11 and the day before.
That was 18 years ago…April healed from her injuries (only she and God know what all that took on the inside), the other young people in our program have gone on to careers and families across the US and around the world. We have also gone on…back to the US for now, and to other work.
Two things have not changed…a beautiful girl, who fell asleep by the window of a bus in the Sinai night and woke up in Heaven… and the God who welcomed her Home. There is so much, much, more to this story, but I have to close with this. As her family back in the US were pulling the pieces of their lives back together, and going through Genessa’s things, they found a little cassette player on her bed…there left by her, two years before, as she left for Cairo. In it was a cassette where she’d made a tape of her singing one of her favorite songs, I Long for the Day, by singer/songwriter Dennis Jernigan. If we look at Genessa’s life through the lens of some American dream, then we would think how tragic to die so young, so full of promise. Look through the lens of how much she loved God, and knowing Him was what mattered most to her…and all who knew her knew His love through her.
This expression “leveraging our limitations” is brand-new to me. Fresh as today, in fact. Best-selling author Jeff Goins talked about it in this week’s e-newsletter (worth your subscribing for his wisdom as a writer but also in tackling any challenge).
Before I jump into Goins’ take on leaning into our limitations, Let me describe the situation today where my limitations all but glowed.
Through a Communities in School (CIS) program in a local county, I was able to become a mentor for a high school student trained on how to interview and gather information from various members of a community. Their answers would add to a body of work on both what residents love about their neighborhood and what they wish they could change. This listening project will hopefully culminate in a “dream team” of neighbor influencers, potentially including this student…all who could participate in engineering a plan for change if needed.
It was a joy for me to enter into the experience of adult neighbors and their like-culture student interviewer. Even the time we needed out of their day seemed a thing gladly given. We all want to be heard…and for these several minutes, the student and I were listening with full attention.
I was both wholly in the experience and also observing the experience. The women interviewed were so gracious. Children in tow sometimes. Their responses were so insightful and authentic. Even speaking with strangers. It was surprising and lovely. These women clearly were influencers in their own right…in the small sphere of their world.
The one man we interviewed was the most surprising. He had just gotten home from work and his wife was leaving at the same time (I didn’t understand if it was to her job or for something personal). He still invited us in for the interview. Still holding his lunch bag, and his supper prepared for him and getting cold on the table, he answered our young interviewer’s questions. This man was so elegant and articulate. I could see him, in a different life situation, capable of being a town mayor or other community leader. Without English as a first language and an immigrant in this country, his opportunities to lead have been diminished. I hope through this project, he (they) can have a voice at the table.
This, for me, was hopefully the first of many such afternoons, accompanying a high school student engaging her community in a very different and deeper way.
For me it was extraordinary.
Finding this eletter from Jeff Goins on arriving home, its timing couldn’t have been more perfect…and what he had to say about leveraging our limitations…enthralling.
Part of his message today:
“How often do we think something cannot be done until someone else does it?
Sometimes, the trick isn’t to work harder. It’s to recognize the opportunity in the obstacle.
These days, I think of limitations as leverage. My greatest breakthroughs come not when I ignore my challenges or even try to overcome them, but when I learn to use them. Turns out, this is a pretty good strategy for doing work that’s worth noticing: Don’t be better, be different.
How many limitations am I not leaning into?
How many obstacles am I trying to overcome when really I just need to own them?
You see, for some time now, I’ve wanted to figure out how to confront the staggering problems of poverty and race relations in our city. How could someone like me help in a healthy and sustainable way? One person with so many limitations.
Being an outsider.
Having little influence myself.
Not knowing the language (Spanish or Mixteko – the two languages in the neighborhood of our listening project).
Leaning into our limitations…leveraging our limitations can make us more authentic and approachable. More determined to not let our limitations to define us or hinder us.
Did I want to quit several times this afternoon? Absolutely. Did our amazing high schooler? Totally. Today we didn’t quit…hopefully we won’t. We construct our comfort zones to protect our limitations… to not have to face them. It’s not conscious necessarily, but it just is.
So here’s to leveraging our limitations. Ready to lean in…another day.
Foroux hands his readers a mirror and asks these pointed questions and others – regarding habits. Our junk food diet, our propensity for complaining, our couch-potato screen habits, our spending beyond what we make. Pretty much in-your-face. However, he also provides free helps to get us off the couch or office chair and on to the kinds of habits that move us to that future self we hope to be. His free ebook How to Get From Procrastinate Hero to Procrastinate Zero is valuable, worth hopping onto his email list for me.
3) Wisdom of Great Leaders – Mark Crowley, leadership sage himself, posted a piece recently entitled 10 of the World’s Great Sages Share Their Most Important Leadership Advice. He’s taken these quotes from his own interviews with these leaders on his insightful Lead From the Heart podcast. Below are four of my favorite quotes from Crowley’s article. Check out the interviews in full – great stuff! “When a human being feels as though they are being cared for and nurtured, their physiology works at its best…Leaders who affect the hearts in people get the best results, and your companies will become far more successful once you embrace this.” – Dr. James Doty
“A ‘multiplier’ leader is someone who uses their own intelligence, capabilities, and talents in a way that amplifies the talents and intelligence of others. They’re leaders who we’re best around.” – Liz Wiseman
“There’s a pathological disconnect between the attributes that seduce us when hiring managers and those that are actually needed to be an effective leader. We can see the effects of hyper-masculine leadership; what we need today are managers who are more self-effacing, empathetic and altruistic – other-focused people who are good coaches and mentors.” – Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic
“It’s not the big decisions that differentiate high-performing CEOs, it’s the volume and speed of their decisions. It’s about the speed rather than the precision on the hundreds of decisions they need to make.” – Kim Powell
The Oscar Wilde satirical quote below is NOT among Crowley’s #LeadFromtheHeart counsel above. It does speak to the problem of our leaders being knowers and non-learners. Learners are the best kind of knowers. Excellent leaders never stop learning.
We all have fathers – whether very present or long-time absent. Some of you may be fathers. Some of you may have wanted to be fathers but are not able to be…for whatever reasons. This day of commemoration usually means a good meal and some sort of gifting or pampering for you dads. For all of you, with or without children, you can be influencers…and we need you. My biological father was absent long before my parents divorced. Thankfully I have had a rich heritage of good fathers through the rest of my life – my step-dad, brothers, uncles, husband, father-in-law, son/son-in-law, and loving, empowering male friends and colleagues. Most of these good fathers in my life were spiritual fathers…but fathers nonetheless.
5) Southern Baptists – My family didn’t start out in church or Christian. Mom was a believer but through a difficult marriage and trying to feed and clothe four children, she left church before I was born. After her divorce, neighbors invited us to church and it was a huge discovery for us…people who loved us even though we came with a lot of baggage as a family…and a God who loved us just as we were. It was a small Southern Baptist church in Georgia, and I’ve been Southern Baptist ever since.
In June every year church representatives of this large denomination meet somewhere in the US to worship together, reflect on the past year and plan for the future, and invariably, deal with some issue that could divide them.
After the fun of catching up with old friends and colleagues from years past, two of the highlights of this convention for me were:
the Scripture translation project (we could buy verses of the New Testament for $5 each – for a New Testament to be translated for a people group who don’t have it in their language). By the end of the convention, it was funded!
This year two of the dividing issues were the continuing need for racial reconciliation and responding with care to those victimized by clergy in the Southern Baptist Convention. We aren’t where we need to be eventually, but we made progress, thankfully.Photo Credit: Religion News
The piece below is where I am after listening to the panel above:
Slowly and surely I began to realize that my problem was not that I was a person of privilege. Jesus was the most privileged being to ever walk this earth. My problem was what I did with my privilege. Would I use it (consciously or unconsciously) for my own gain, or could I let go of my grasp and use it to serve others. Jesus showed me how, “Who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing”.
How Jesus lived and died would serve as an example for me, and would ultimately allow me to live and die like him. He has taken my shame so that I no longer have to respond defensively about my privilege. I can embrace it, now no longer for myself, but for those for whom Christ died and rose again. Not in a white savior way, He’s the Messiah, I am not. But in an incarnational, self-emptying, for-the-sake-of-others way.
The gospel for the privileged is that Christ took our state of mis-being so that we can live for others. Hallelujah. – Missioeric
OK…so today started really great. Then it got a bit murky…then downright dark. I was all set to turn today’s blog into the ultimate rant! Fortunately, something else happened along the way.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes
Looking up meanings to words like “disingenuous” and thinking of the ways that people communicate that shut others down. Aarrgghh!
Then…I snapped out of it. Negative thinking is such an unhelpful, unhealthy activity. It is not how I want to be, nor was I ever…routinely negative, that is… until recent years. Getting older seems to bend us toward negativity. My mama sure didn’t raise me to be that way.Photo Credit: Disney Film Bambi, CineLessons, Pinterest
Somewhere in the middle of beefing up my rants on condescension and exclusivity and those most affected by decision-making not having a place at that table (see the downward spiral?)…I took a deep breath and turned around. Dave will sometimes tell me “pull up” when he could see me mentally plunge downward…and so I did…pull up.
You may have read what I wrote previously about identifying negativity and correcting course. It seems to be a bit of a recurrent subject of late. Those pieces are here:
Today, I came across a super-simple prescription for rewiring our thinking toward positivity. The team at Daily Health Post focused on complaining as a culprit that can actually cause our brains to default to anxiety and depression. From experience, I know this is true. Check out the article below:
The prescription for rewiring our thinking is straightforward and easy, with practice. In fact, these four reminders could easily sit on a card at our work station to help us stay on the road and out of the ditch:
Be grateful. – Keep a journal and write down things/persons for which you’re grateful – morning and evening. Turn your thoughts toward gratitude when you’re tempted to go negative/complaining.
Catch yourself. – Shake off the negativity before your friends/coworkers intervene…or pull away. Learn to catch yourself and change course.
Change your mood. – If your emotions start to spiral, shift your environment. Take a walk. Listen to music. Step away from your work station. Grab a few minutes with a friend.
Practice wise effort. – “Wise effort is the practice of letting go of anything that doesn’t serve you. If your worry won’t improve your situation or teach you a lesson, simply let it go and move on.This is much easier said then done, of course, but if you write it out, ask friends for advice, and take some time to think it through constructively, it really can be done.” – Daily Health Post
All this is common sense. Still, in an age of outrage, we must practice thinking positively until it becomes a discipline…a healthy habit.
So…as fascinating as you would have found my rant, I’m sure…better to let it go…and the stress along with it. For now. There are things, destructive hurtful actions (or communications) that might need our intervention along the way. However, we only hurt ourselves and those closest to us when we just go all negative, faithless, and brooding. Thanking God, this is not how this day will end.
This week I’ve had the privilege of speaking at a home-school conference. One of the topics was the role that we as parents have in modeling wonder and training worship. Our children are born with this huge sense of wonder, and then as the years go by, it can be dampened by the harder things (or people) in our lives. However, we, as adults, can model our own grown-up wonder. What follows as we remind our children the source of the wonder…is worship.
The conference was themed from the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” In reading it again prior to the conference, I was reminded of the apostle Peter’s exclamation below. At one time in Jesus’ ministry on earth, some of his followers fell away. He then asked his closest followers if they would leave him (John 6:67-69):
“Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Where would we go? There’s nowhere…no one…like the Lord. The Creator and Sustainer of this beautiful world…
“When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place— What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings; You crowned him with glory and honor.” – Psalm 8:3-5
“Even the darkness is not dark to You, but the night shines like the day, for darkness is as light to You. For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.” – Psalm 139:12-14
“So if you cannot do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow: they do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!” – Luke 12:26-28
“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement…I should ask that [a] gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life. If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” – Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder
What happens to our wonder? How do we pass it along, or keep it flourishing in our kiddos?
It’s helpful to spend a bit of time in reflection on some of what causes us to wonder:
Cracking open a perfectly ripe watermelon – the color, how it smells, how it tastes.
Flowers coming from the tiniest of seeds (Dave has gardened in 4 different countries – pots on balconies when necessary).
The sky, night or day, and the vastness of space.
The water lines on the mountains of the Sinai Desert – no other way they could get there but a world-wide flood.
The wonder of sleep – lights out & alone with our thoughts & God; also sleep interrupted from anxiety but then the wonder of waking in the morning after miraculously falling back to sleep.
God’s answering Mom’s prayer – preferring for Him to be glorified in her cancer more than being healed from it, this side of Heaven.
To name just a few…
and, most importantly:
the wonder ofGod Himself and that we are heard, known, & understood…by Him.
If we aren’t careful we falter in our wonder because of the seeming weight of our responsibilities or the distraction of our differences one with another. God never meant it to be this way.
“In a world full of pragmatic ‘older brothers’ it is easy, even in church, to forget the love that wants to stream between us. Instead we allow our heads and backs to bend under the weight of all that needs to be put right.” – Teresa McCaffery
“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” – C. S. Lewis
Our response to the wonder that surrounds us…the marvel of God Himself reflected in this world…and in His image-bearers? Gratefulness.
God of creation There at the start Before the beginning of time With no point of reference You spoke to the dark And fleshed out the wonder of light
And as You speak A hundred billion galaxies are born In the vapor of Your breath the planets form If the stars were made to worship so will I I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made Every burning star A signal fire of grace If creation sings Your praises so will I
God of Your promise You don’t speak in vain No syllable empty or void For once You have spoken All nature and science Follow the sound of Your voice
And as You speak A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath Evolving in pursuit of what You said If it all reveals Your nature so will I I can see Your heart in everything You say Every painted sky A canvas of Your grace If creation still obeys You so will I
If the stars were made to worship so will I If the mountains bow in reverence so will I If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I For if everything exists to lift You high so will I If the wind goes where You send it so will I If the rocks cry out in silence so will I If the sum of all our praises still falls shy Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times
God of salvation You chased down my heart Through all of my failure and pride On a hill You created The light of the world Abandoned in darkness to die
And as You speak A hundred billion failures disappear Where You lost Your life so I could find it here If You left the grave behind You so will I I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done Every part designed in a work of art called love If You gladly chose surrender so will I I can see Your heart Eight billion different ways Every precious one A child You died to save If You gave Your life to love them so will I
Like You would again a hundred billion times But what measure could amount to Your desire You’re the One who never leaves the one behind*
“Lord, what a world you’ve given us! Our senses are full of the wonder of Your creation. Even more than that, the wonder of You. How You love us is beyond our understanding or comprehension. Your provision for our lives…the people You have brought close to love and to be loved by. The work You have given us…we are so privileged. Life eternal and abundant that we have both here and in the Hereafter. We are amazed, Oh God. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.
2) Doing What You Love – Marcel Schwantes, executive coach and a voice for servant leadership, posted, this week, a provocative piece on success. He quoted notables Warren Buffett, Tim Cook, and Steve Jobs on the one characteristic that sets apart successful people from all others.
We may all go through seasons where we are working in a job because it is our vehicle for a paycheck, to pay the bills, to support the family. Work we have loved can go through iterations to the point it is no longer that work we are passionate about.
Schwantes himself also supports the core value of love in action. “Knowing what you love should be a top priority. If you don’t know what it is you love, then finding out what it is should be your first step. Some people call it passion; others call it purpose. Whichever term you choose, your purpose is exactly what you can’t help but keep doing. Even if there are low monetary rewards, you would probably do it anyway because of your love for it. When you discover what this is for you, it’s the thing that makes you come alive.” – Marcel Schwantes
3) Language-Learning for Life – I have a neighbor in her 80s who has recently finished a course to learn Spanish. So proud of her. In university, I minored in Spanish myself. It may very well have kept open some language center in my brain to learn Arabic in my 40s. Seriously, early on in “mastering” this very difficult language, Spanish words and grammar would pop up in my memory even though I hadn’t used Spanish in decades. If you do a Google search of brain benefits of language-learning, you will be amazed.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Research is increasingly showing that the brains of people who know two or more languages are different from those who know just one—and those differences are all for the better. Multilingual people, studies show, are better at reasoning, at multitasking, at grasping and reconciling conflicting ideas. They work faster and expend less energy doing so, and as they age, they retain their cognitive faculties longer, delaying the onset of dementia and even full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.“
Even a partial grasp of other languages opens doors, not just to a better quality of life for ourselves (now and when we are older), but…the doors open for relationship. We live in a world of languages. I learned both Spanish and Arabic because they were the heart languages of peoples important to me.
Consider a path to a second language, no matter your age. Children can master other languages, too. Definitely by the age of 10, but some researchers believe children can start learning other languages by the age of three or four. Give them a head-start on communicating in the world they will be encountering as they grow.
4) Temple Grandin – Several years ago (2010), we watched a film about a young girl/woman who had autism. This biopic film was entitled Temple Grandin. Photo Credit: Our Lady of Calvary
Depicted by Claire Danes in the film, Grandin was fascinating in how she not only coped with autism but eventually adapted to it to become successful in her life and career.
This week she is featured at the Richmond Forum. Her discussion of the autism experience was winsome, humorous, and enlightening.Photo Credit: Richmond Forum
5) Supplying a Food Desert – Food insecurity was a Friday Fave sometime ago. This coming week marks a big change in a Richmond neighborhood (Church Hill) as a supermarket opens in one of our city’s often described food deserts.
Always being aware of those who may need food is important. Certain times of the year, around special holidays, we are more likely to give to food banks, church food pantries, and other outreach ministries. This is just a beginning place…but it is a beginning.
Having The Market on 25th opening in Church Hill is huge!