Category Archives: Love Your Neighbor

Monday Morning Moment – Laughter – Medicine for the Heart

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Here’s to all those who make us laugh! Without any need for alcohol or even inspiration, something said or done, a facial expression or shoulder shrug, and we are happily taken off-guard and laughter follows. No matter the setting. In fact, I have memories of laughing with friends at the family visitation before my mom’s funeral. As off-putting as that might have been for some, it was a joy in reminiscing over shared times together, with Mom in the mix. I’m sure in some Heavenly space, Mom was glad for that momentary release from grief for us. Laughter…what a gift!

Photo Credit: Swedish proverb, PPT-Online

Earlier this morning, I was thrifting with my friend, Angela. We were scanning titles in the used book section of the store, out of view of each other. Then I heard her actively engaged in animated conversation with a man also looking at books. They clearly knew each other and their laughter at this chance meeting splashed over into my own heart. He was an old co-worker from another season of her life, Angela would tell me, and it was a happy remembrance of those days.

For me, it was just fun to hear her laugh. I was reminded of a situation yesterday afternoon while reading a book my daughter had shared with me. She said I should occasionally take a break from my serious non-fiction reading and recharge with some fiction. The first book she lent me, some weeks ago, was author Gary D. Schmidt‘s Okay For Now. [I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a break from the serious.] I finished it in a couple of days. Then she gave me Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars. Both books tell the story of middle school boys and the trials and tribulations of their lives (as seen through their oftentimes hilarious take on reality). The stories are set in the late 60s during the Vietnam War era (I resonated so much with that period and those stories).

There’s an especially funny part in The Wednesday Wars where seventh-grader Hollings, the hero of this story, was assisting the school custodian, who was replacing bulging ceiling tiles damaged by two enormous rats. Previously, the rats were the class pets (cute when tiny, terrifying once grown) but they escaped and built a nest in the unseen space above. In dislodging one tile, the custodium unleashed an avalanche – the gross, chewed up contents of the rats’ nest fell straight down onto Hollings’ head. [You’ve got to read it to know just how hysterical it was.] Reading that portion out loud to husband Dave – we were both laughing so hard, it was nearly impossible for me to finish what I wanted to share with him.

Laughter.

All this gave pause today, thinking about the joy of laughter. I’m a fairly serious sort, so folks aren’t drawn to me for hilarity. You can count on me to stay in the room if you’re struggling with something. Hopefully, you might feel better, encouraged, hopeful after our visit, but laughing out loud? Probably not. Thankfully, others bring that gracious gift to relationships.

[I actually took a few minutes to go through my phone directory to be reminded of those who simply brighten life by showing up…more than that, they regularly make me laugh. They probably aren’t that way all the time, but they are genuinely and gently funny. Steve C., John D., Sarah DeJ., David G., Anne S., Heba T., and Sharon W. Combinations of people also have a chemistry that literally combusts laughter for everyone – Khiry, Cam, and EB are such friends. Who are your people?]

Being a serious person who leads a fairly quiet life, I end up going to reels on social media for laughter (too often really; should just invite these friends over for dinner…or invite ourselves for coffee dates). Recommended for you are the three comedians below…there are many others, including folks who are just funny without making a living at it. Please put any favorites of yours in the Comments.

Michael Jr. – From Comedy to Clarity

John B. Crist

Leanne Morgan Comedy

Finally, in my family of introverts, I’ve had great cause for laughter. Husband Dave is one who makes me laugh. He can be very serious himself, but his take on life can be quite oddly funny. He also remembers perfect lines from movies for just about any situation.

Then there are our children. Christie, as older sister to her brothers, has always been a buffer for their shenanigans. She calls them back to perspective and, like her dad, has a sharp memory for stories, situations, and song lyrics (that make us laugh and can shake us all out of sourness). Her tales of babysitting in college and teaching kids in public school are still favorites when we’re together. Now with children of her own (who aren’t subjects for social media), she captures the sweet and funny with them and shares with us.

Nathan, our middle child, makes us laugh, with his many faces, and his wise and sometimes unusual takes on life. Growing up, he could be hard on both his big sister and little brother, and yet he also brought the joy. Even more now.

[Nathan with one of his many faces and post-anesthesia after wisdom tooth extraction. Legendary.]

Daniel, our youngest, is also one who can make us laugh and whom we want to make laugh. He loses it better than anyone I know. We never tire of each of the kids’ retelling stories of Daniel’s antics growing up and his many funny outbursts and creative word pronunciations. We have hilarious memories from our family vacations together, especially in the seaside town of Oualidia, Morocco. Like experiencing seafood we’d never eaten before – sea urchin (the spiny exterior was still moving) is one that caused uncontrollable laughter at our table.

Our Daniel works very hard at living independently and can take the struggles of life too deeply to heart. That’s why it’s especially lovely for his Mom to have his siblings around the table to pull that smile and laughter out of him.

Is There Laughter in Your Walls? – Cavin Harper

The grandkids are their own story which I won’t share here. Still, don’t kids say amazing things? Their wonder and joy at living, their perspective on life, and their sibling and cousin challenges and how they get sorted…always make me smile.

So there you go…now, you may be one of those people in your world that makes others laugh. I just want to thank you for that. If you’re one who takes life more seriously (as part of your own wiring), and you don’t have regular encounters with the people above, maybe it’s time to take an inventory. Watching YouTube videos or Instagram reels are a bandaid for sure, but let’s be intentional about having laughter in our lives. That generous kind that spills over into the lives of others. Bring it!

[Please comment on those folks, professional and personal, who make you laugh. Share away. Also what do you do to up your appreciation of the joys around you? – like collecting and remembering stories, journaling the joys of life, being present in the moment wherever you are and whomever you’re with.]

Laughter in the Walls – a poem by Bob Benson

Leave Some Laughter in Your Walls – The Raineys

The Science Behind the Joy of Sharing Joy – Emma Seppälä Ph.D.

Stress Relief from Laughter? It’s No Joke – Mayo Clinic

How Does Humor Affect Mental Health? – Dan Brennan

Give Your Body a Boost–with Laughter – R. Morgan Griffin

Feel-good Hormones: How They Affect Your Mind, Mood, and Body – Stephanie Watson

Independence Day Reflection – You Say I Am Free – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: My God and My Dog

[Adapted from Archives]

Today, we Americans celebrate our Independence Day.

Food, fireworks, and freedom. That’s what it’s all about. Family, too, and/or friends gathered. It’s a big day around here.

Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: NeedPix, Martinique Le Prêcheur

In this early morning, I’m reflecting on freedom.

American Independence Day (4th of July) commemorates our declaration of freedom (July 4, 1776) from the rule of Britain. We declared our own freedom. On July 4, we celebrate the freedom we continue to have as Americans because of the many wars fought to hold onto or to obtain freedom.

How much more transforming when the Lord Himself declares us free!

Some time ago, we were in Dave’s family’s home church – Grace Church in Seaford, Delaware. One of their pastors was teaching a sermon series on Avoiding Colossal Mistakes. That Sunday’s sermon centered on the cross of Christ (podcast here).

During the worship service before the sermon, this lyric really penetrated my heart:

“You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free.”

When you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive with him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14

As we celebrate our Independence Day, we have a far greater celebration in the cross of Christ. Apart from receiving His death for our sin, His righteousness for our own unrighteousness, we would be dead in our sins today. Still in bondage, enslaved.

We, in the US, have a dark history of slavery. No matter how deeply we are grieved by it, the stain of that great sin is forever a part of our nation’s fabric. Try as we may, we cannot wash that stain out.

Those who lived as slaves in this country, like those who are enslaved today through human trafficking, did not bring their bondage on themselves. It was/is a wrong done to them.

Many anti-trafficking organizations have a key strategy:

Reach, Rescue, & Restore

This is exactly what Jesus has done for us. In our sinful state, He reached out to us. He rescued us through the cross, and He restored us to Himself.

As we think about the freedom we have in Christ and the freedom we have as Americans, I pray we don’t forget our own bondage, or that of others – spiritual bondage, and for some…the physical bondage of being trafficked, forced into slavery even today.

We must reach. We must rescue. We must restore.

Worship with me, as we celebrate freedom, to the Lauren Daigle song “How Can It Be“:

I am guilty
Ashamed of what I’ve done, what I’ve become
These hands are dirty
I dare not lift them up to the Holy one

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

I’ve been hiding
Afraid I’ve let You down, inside I doubt
That You could love me
But in Your eyes there’s only grace now

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be
How can it be

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave Your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be*

He himself [Jesus Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

So then, just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, being rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7

*Lyrics & the Story Behind the Song “How Can It Be” performed by Lauren Daigle – Songwriters: Paul Mabury, Jason Ingram and Jeff Johnson

The Victory of the Cross – Chuck Smith Sermon Notes – Blue Letter Bible

Colossians 2:14-15 – Commentary – Precept Austin

Photo Credit: QuoteFancy

Independence Day in the USA – Celebrating the 4th of July and Remembering that Freedom is Not Free – Deb Mills

Conflicted Thoughts on Independence Day – Chris Turner

Monday Morning Moment – Henri Nouwen on Leadership

Photo Credit: Henri J. M. Nouwen, In Jesus’ Name, QuoteFancy

What can we learn about leadership from a priest? A priest who spent his potentially most influential years as pastor of L’Arche – a community for mentally handicapped persons? What? Plenty!

Henri J. M. Nouwen was a renowned scholar, writer, professor, and a Dutch Catholic priest. He taught for many years at such prestigious universities as Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard. His writings were prolific and his personality was winsome.

Whether you are Christian or not, you will profit from the tiny book (81 pages) he wrote on leadership – “In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership”. I read this book yesterday afternoon and was spellbound by his wisdom. Having read many texts on leadership over the years, both secular and Christian, I was captivated by Nouwen’s take on leadership…and his willingness to confront the pitfalls that can occur along the way. In a clear and succinct way, he exposed the temptations we have in leading others and the way we can extinguish them through applying certain disciplines or habits.

Nouwen points out three temptations leaders are apt to succumb to, and then he offers three disciplines to counter (and gain freedom from) them. Christian readers, you will appreciate his direction. He refers to Scripture for his teaching – two passages in particular: 1) Jesus’ questioning a repentant Peter after he had denied the Lord three times (John 21:15-19), and 2) the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). I will list the temptations below and examples from my own life where they crept in:

  1. To Be Relevant – In recent years this has actually been a longing of mine, before the Lord. After retiring from a full and satisfying ministry life, with all our children grown and on their own, my days got very quiet. I didn’t know what to do with them. The calls to join this team or lead that work just didn’t come in. Somehow I had made relevance an idol. Thankfully God was working away at that temptation in my life. He is still at work, because I still struggle…but not like before. Earlier today, I was sitting in the waiting room while an Afghan grandmother in my care was having dental work done. It’s been my least favorite activity on the refugee resettlement team of our church. The appointments are three hours long (for the dental students’ learning), and even with books, phone, and hallways to do steps, I bristled at times at the servitude of this activity. After reading Nouwen’s book, he pointed the way to resist. Contemplative prayer is the answer. Recognizing that I don’t need to be going here or there because it is I who am needed in those situations. To use the time of seeming irrelevance to participate in a grander work than I could have ever imagined. To simply be, humbled and grateful, with God, and to have a quiet many would love to know. To remember that the work, whatever it is, came from Him to begin with. I don’t own work, or ministry, or service of any kind. It is an opportunity to show up for a greater good, in a quieter state, where I am surrendered, making myself available, to love others more than myself – “in the name of Jesus”.

“I’m telling you all this because I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love…God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”Henri Nouwen

2. To Be Popular (Spectacular even)What a temptation this is. It is stealthy. We sometimes aren’t even aware that we experience it. Until we are. Sigh… Leadership lends itself to singular popularity (even in situations where people love to hate you…it’s still a superlative position of a sort). When we rise through the ranks, through experience mixed with education, it can be a very individualistic journey. “Lonely at the top”. However, there is a head trip attached where we become prone to thinking that we are the ones to call, or to consult, or to give opinion, or have the last decision. This temptation to want to be “the one” is fortunately tempered by doing work/life/church in community. By taking someone along. By sharing decision-making. By including those most affected in the conversation. Making room around the table. Nouwen, in regards to this temptation, calls the reader to Confession and Forgiveness. When is the last time you heard a leader confess a weakness or struggle? When did she or he ask forgiveness for a decision that turned out poorly or for a moral failure exposed? Being willing to remove the cape of the hero, and step off the pedestal, takes a humility that allows for, mutual confession and forgiveness within the larger community.

3. To Be Powerful – What a temptation!! To believe that we could actually have power over other people’s lives. To be in a position of making sweeping decisions with little restraint. To be surrounded by those who (dealing with their own temptations) would go along with the decisions out of their own need for popularity and power. It’s messed-up. In fact, what we think is our leading is really being led (by our own preferences, or the pressures of that vaunted position). What’s the solution? Now, each of these temptations so far has had a spiritual response – prayer, confession and forgiveness. What is the way forward when power has taken the driver’s seat? Theological Reflection. Nouwen is NOT talking about the answers that may be debated in the seminary classroom. It goes far deeper…to actually look for the truth in the background…and seeking to act on what is true…not for the sake of relevance or popularity or to hold onto power.

“Christian leaders have the arduous task of responding to personal struggles, family conflicts, national calamities, and international tensions with an articulate faith in God’s real presence. They have to say ‘no’ to every form of fatalism, defeatism, accidentalism or incidentalism which make people believe that statistics are telling us the truth. They have to say ‘no’ to every form of despair in which human life is seen as a pure matter of good or bad luck. They have to say ‘no’ to sentimental attempts to make people develop a spirit of resignation or stoic indifference in the face of the unavoidability of pain, suffering, and death…Theological reflection is reflecting on the painful and joyful realities of every day with the mind of Jesus and thereby raising human consciousness to the knowledge of God’s gentle guidance.” Henri Nouwen

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Henri Nouwen left the lofty academic environment to join in community with those who would not incline to be impressed with his credentials. Yet, in the setting of L’Arche, Nouwen dug deep into how to lead in gentler and more loving ways, with the example of the life of Jesus, and the nearness of God and community.

The beauty of his life laid down has given me pause to look differently at leadership and the possibility of being led…by a God who loves us first, in servant mode, in community with others…in the name of Jesus.

YouTube Video – Remembering Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)

In the Name of Jesus – Summary – Chuck Olson

Monday Morning Moment – Withholding – When It Goes Way Past Boundaries Into Downright Meanness

Photo Credit: Marshall B. Rosenberg, Quote Fancy

This has been days in the writing. When I saw the quote below just scrolling through Instagram, it stopped me in my tracks. Withholding (as defined here) goes way past “not knowing what to say” or “placing boundaries” or any measure of shyness or introversion. Withholding is actually an act of aggression…a display of power. One in which any of us can find ourselves if we don’t practicing checking our hearts or intentions regarding certain people or situations.

Photo Credit: Covenantal Relationships, Instagram

My Mom was the most significant influence in my life growing up. Now, I didn’t have the vocabulary for a lot of what she taught me, in word and deed, until recent years. Much of what she modeled came through her love of Scripture. She wasn’t a practicing Christian in my early childhood, but still she had made some decisions as a young person (while churched or otherwise influenced) that she practiced throughout her life. She became more mature and even more compassionate in these rules of life as she patterned her life more and more like Jesus.

I said all this to say that she was the opposite of a withholding sort of person. Even as an introvert.

Maybe growing up in a home with an alcoholic father and a timid mother influenced her willingness to show up for people – her brothers, her friends, her children, and strangers she met day-to-day. She did not withhold herself from others – all sorts of others – and it made for a beautiful life. This from a woman who worked full-time, raised four kids, and dealt with a cancer that would take her life too soon. Well, it didn’t take her life. Her life was finished at 75 to the glory of God. Even in her last hours and experiencing pain and increasing weakness, she was encouraging all of us around her. She even woke up from a coma that had silenced her to say “I love you” in response to one of her little grandchildren’s goodbyes to her.

This woman. Now you can understand why this issue of withholding feels so wrong to me. I understand people needing boundaries in toxic relationships, however, the practice of withholding can take boundaries up several notches. This probably isn’t a winsome topic because we don’t think what we’re doing is mean-spirited…it’s just because we are busy, or shy, or can’t do one more thing, or (fill in the reason).

Withholding can have different faces depending on what our intent or inclination is. It can be withholding of:

  • Time, attention, helps, favor.
  • Information, encouragement, welcome.
  • Food, possessions, recreation, experiences.
  • People (children, friends, family members).
  • Finances, job opportunities, training/equipping, inclusion.

We have all experienced withholding – either as the one holding out on others or the one experiencing that neglect (whether intended personally or just in the wake of not being chosen for any of the above).

What do we do with this issue? If you’re reading this, you are already on the path to solutions. Those who don’t read this sort of piece don’t see this as a problem. Certainly, none of us are necessarily entitled to whatever is sensed as being withheld. However, if we don’t want to be on the giving end of withholding, we can note it and practice the opposite – a humility, intentionality, watchfulness, and graciousness can move us toward an openness and willingness to be there, even when others are not.

Parenting is a long season where withholding can become a habit – when we as parents get exasperated with our children’s choices and when we are shaken in our sense of who we are and how we’re doing. An example is well-communicated below by Youth Dynamics of Montana. If we have struggled with parenting or have been harmed by our own parents’ withholding, our temptation is to extend that same experience back, over time, either with our kids or our parents.

Do we really want that to become our practice?

Photo Credit: Youth Dynamics of Montana, Instagram

For me, it’s a daily battle to be like my Mom, but one I want to come out winning, or at least fighting. To be that person who works to catch the eye of people, to engage and encourage, to be courteous and deferent, to include, to give where there is opportunity, to serve when I know I can, to share information that would help, to let people in and to show up for others. All of this models good for our children and is a blessing to those around us. Choosing not to withhold myself, my people, and my resources by tightly circling the wagons.

There’s a great call to action by the Prophet Isaiah on what can happen (if I could interject) when we don’t withhold. When we show up, God shows up in exponentially greater ways. Is that your experience?

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert…
Isaiah 35:3-6

5 Withholding Tactics Malignant Narcissists and Psychopaths Use To Torment You – Shahida Arabi, MA

What Emotional Withholding Looks Like And How To Handle It In Relationships – Row Light

Why Punishing a Child by Withholding Affection is Wrong – W. R. Cummings

Withholding: A Dangerous Saboteur of Love – That Immobilization Some Feel Under Stress Can Become Withholding Behavior. – Randi Gunther Ph.D.

To Say the Least: Where Deceptively Withholding Information Ends and Lying Begins – Marta Dynel – a highly scholarly (but very readable!), totally fascinating article on this topic

Monday Morning Moment – A Place for You – Deb Mills

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Considering Others – the Wawa Experience – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Our Posture Before a Waiting & Loving Father – with Trevin Wax

Photo Credit: Prodigal Son by Eugene Burnand, article by James Ross Kelly

And Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons; and the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.’ And he divided his living between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took his journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in loose living. And when he had spent everything, a great famine arose in that country, and he began to be in want. So he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have fed on the pods that the swine ate; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to make merry.

“Now his elder son was in the field; and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what this meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your living with harlots, you killed for him the fatted calf!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’Luke 15:11-32

The following is a treasure by writer and researcher Trevin Wax, used with permission. We met only once, but I’ve been learning from him for several years. You are in for a treat – a life-giving infusion of truth, wisdom, and grace.

“Every now and then, a song brings me to tears.

Sometimes it’s an older song that stirs the heart in a new way. I’ve never been able to sing the last verse of Isaac Watts’s hymn, “There Is a Fountain,” because I’m too moved by that image of my “poor lisping, stammering tongue” lying “silent in the grave” before rising again to sing a “nobler, sweeter song” of Christ and his “power to save.”

Songs about the cross and resurrection strike that chord, such as the vision at the end of “O Praise the Name (Anástasis)” of resurrection hope when our gaze will be fixated on the Savior. Andrew Peterson’s “Well Done, Good and Faithful” builds on a Watts hymn and imagines the Father affirming the Son’s sacrificial work; I blubber every Easter season when I hear it. Other songs do the trick too, even simple ones like Steven Curtis Chapman’s “My Redeemer is Faithful and True” or Fernando Ortega’s “Give Me Jesus.”

But for all the times when glorious gospel truth has me fumbling for a Kleenex, there many times when I sing about amazing grace with dry eyes and a lukewarm heart. This has me wondering, What dries up the heart and keeps us from feeling and experiencing the marvelous, matchless grace of God? What keeps the tear ducts blocked?

For starters, there’s the posture of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son: the self-righteous, self-sufficient one who remains “close” to the father, at least in terms of proximity, while his heart is far from home. The consummate rule-follower believes deep down that the only possible reason God would love us is because we’ve done something to deserve salvation.

Photo Credit: Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal, Stanton Lanier

This assumption can manifest itself in many ways, even among those who talk about grace all the time. The self-justifying tendencies of the human heart can lead us to stand on a pedestal of Christian teaching about grace and then look down on others who’ve not arrived at our level of doctrinal understanding or theological precision.

But we cannot weep before the majestic grace of God if we’re still searching for scraps of self-sufficiency. Tears of gratitude will never fall from eyes looking down on others, only from eyes looking up to God’s grace.

But there’s a second posture that keeps us from marveling at the grace of God: the desire to validate ourselves by doing away with sin.

The New Testament’s insistence on our need for redemption humbles us. But redefining sin removes the need for humility, leaving us affirmed in our natural state.

For many today, the problem isn’t the disease of sin, but those who’d diagnose the disease. So, instead of a father running to us with a heart overflowing with forgiveness and healing mercy, we want a father who runs to affirm us and tell us all is well, that what we’ve done either wasn’t that bad or wasn’t bad at all. We want a God to provide a spiritual presence, a transcendent dimension for the life we’ve chosen to live. God becomes the approver of our own self-validation.

This second posture is also rooted in self-righteousness, but it masks itself in false mercy. For some, sin is not that big a deal because God is merciful and it’s his job to forgive. For others, our focus on brokenness and suffering outstrips any notion of sin as transgression or treason against God. God’s mercy and help are there to make us whole, but this “wholeness” must ultimately be defined by every individual.

The first and greatest commandment is “Be true to yourself.” The second is like it: “Affirm whatever self your neighbor decides to be true to.” In this way, we rid ourselves of vice, not through forgiveness, but through redefining vices as virtues, as part of our authentic selves.

And so, the father runs to the repentant son, not to shower him with undeserved grace, but to follow him to the pigsty, where he insists the son’s rebellion was a bold and courageous act of independence, and the diet of pig food is really a feast for the self-actualized.

This posture strips us of the power to weep at grace. Sin is waved, not washed, away. To deny or minimize your sinfulness is to sever the root of gratitude for undeserved favor. Make favor deserved, a reward that showcases your innate worth and value and goodness, and you’ve gutted grace of everything that makes it amazing.

In both cases, whether it’s the elder brother who won’t lower himself to join the feast, or the younger brother who won’t come to his senses because he wants to be “free” to choose the pigsty, self-righteousness blocks tears of gratitude.

Only Jesus gives us grace that meets us in our darkest hour, grace that plumbs the depths of our cavernous hearts, grace that transforms the heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

Undeserved favor strips us of self-righteousness and shows up our paltry attempts at self-validation. Submit to that humble stripping away of all our pride, and then we can bask in the grace that makes us sing louder, shout for joy, and weep with gratitude. That’s the grace we see in the running feet of the father.” – Trevin Wax, Facebook, May 5, 2024

[If you have time, and want to sing praise to God for His great grace, click on any of the song links – old or new.]

Rembrandt’s Prodigal – A Life Lesson – Stanton Lanier

The Story of the Loving Father – William Barclay – James Ross Kelly

Monday Morning Moment – “What If You’re Wrong”

Photo Credit: Unsplash

What just happened? When you read the title “What If You’re Wrong”, was there a reaction in mind or body? If I had written “What If I’m Wrong”, it would have been far less provocative, right? Clearly, it’s possible for me to be wrong on many things. Not just possible but actual. I am most probably wrong on a number of things, either out of ignorance, preference, a lack of understanding, or neglect of the truth.

Is there a way we can talk about the stuff that matters to us with people who care about very different sorts of things? People who strongly disagree. People who are sure they are right, when we are also sure that we are…and they are wrong.

Below you’ll find an old video of a Richard Dawkins lecture at a Virginia university. He took questions from the floor, and one very brave, if not naive, student asked him “What if you’re wrong?” His answer, or non-answer but more repartee, was clearly one he had fashioned for just that question. Have a listen.

The lecture must have had to do with the existence of God, and Dr. Dawkins, though once a “Christian” is now an atheist. His response to the student was condescending, dismissive, and unkind. Oddly, his reasoning fell along the same lines as a 16y/o Muslim student in my World Religions class in Morocco. My student surmised that people followed the religion of their parents. Yet, here, Dr. Dawkins disproved what he said himself by leaving the Christian faith for atheism. In the video, maybe he considered disrespectful the student asking the question, therefore, he responded with mirrored disrespect. Who knows?

This is what I’m wanting to know. Can people engage each other with curiosity, care, and consideration (hope you don’t mind alliteration)…when they are at opposite ends of a worldview or belief system?

The key is those 3 c-words above. If I truly want to understand the position of another person, hopefully that can be communicated in such a way that engenders an openness. If that person knows I truly care about him/her, maybe they would be willing to trust me with such a conversation. If they knew my desire is to take into consideration how they came to their conclusions, maybe they would risk digging down into their reasoning. No judgment. On either side.

That would be amazing.

Writer, creator Adam Dachis posted a helpful piece for Lifehacker.

How to Know When You’re Wrong (and What You Can Do About It) – Adam Dachis

  1. Common Denominator – Find It. What might the continuing point of contention between you? Find that “button” that always gets pushed and choose together to find a way for it not to be the confounding issue.
  2. Considering What’s Right – Convictions & Outcomes When you analyze your positions (convictions), it is possible to consider which would lead to a better outcome. This is a growth point toward understanding if not change.
  3. Changing Someone Else’s Behavior – Shouldn’t Be the Goal. – Trying to change the other person’s opinion or worldview can’t be the goal. They are in control there, but you can change something about your own behavior toward them or the situation. This approach is not about people-pleasing but about defusing and deescalating. The goal has to be relationship, or why bother?
  4. Consult the Facts. We tend to focus on and be influenced by information that aligns with how we think, not even considering that the information might be wrong. If one of us considers the other wrong, the temptation is to attack (if I am the one feeling right or feeling wrong, the default is to become defensive and tempted to attack). Listen to the other side. Be tuned into what you are feeling as well. Stay in the conversation. Treat yourself and the other person with compassion. The goal is understanding.

Gustavo Razzetti, a work culture design consultant, writes about the difference between the soldier mindset and the scout mindset in dealing with conflicting worldviews:

“The soldier mindset is rooted in the need to defend ourselves. The pressure to be right elevates our adrenaline—we experience a fight-or-flight response.

A more curious mindset is that of the scout—this role is about understanding, not defending our beliefs. The scout goes out, maps the terrain, and identifies the real challenge—he wants to know what’s really there.

The mindset you choose affects your judgment, analysis, and decision-making.

The soldier mindset is rooted in emotions like aggression and tribalism. The scout mindset is rooted in curiosity—it’s about the pleasure of learning new things, being intrigued when new facts contradict our beliefs, and not feeling weak about changing our mind.

Above all, scouts are grounded—their self-worth isn’t tied to how right or wrong they are.” – Gustavo Razzetti, “What If You’re the One Who’s Wrong”

I lived for many years in countries where the majority religion was not my own. Local friends would at some point or other ask me the “right or wrong” sort of question… “Why wouldn’t I consider their religion?” I treated that question with the care I had for those friends. In fact, I have a document on my computer where I considered all their tenets of faith and what kept me from becoming a follower of their religion. What was right for them was wrong for me.

However, the most beautiful experience of those “What if you’re wrong” scenarios was what happened with my dearest local friends. Without knowing the concept at the time, we determined to make each other feel “seen, soothed, safe, and secure”. Although my own faith (especially my belief in Jesus as Savior and Lord) would not be altered, these friends mattered deeply to me. We reconciled our differences in faith through the depth of our friendship. If one had to be considered right and the other wrong, we would still love each other. Period. Full-stop.

One Small Step – StoryCorps

Winsomeness, Wisdom, and the Way of Jesus: A Few Reflections on Christ and Culture From John 6 – David S. Schrock

Photo Credit: Reddit

Worship Wednesday – For Christ-Followers – It’s Surrender – Not Self-Improvement

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”Matthew 16:24

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.Galatians 2:20

If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His footsteps. 1 Peter 2:20-21

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. Through these He has given us His precious and magnificent promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, now that you have escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities and continue to grow in them, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever lacks these traits is nearsighted to the point of blindness, having forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, brothers, strive to make your calling and election sure. For if you practice these things you will never stumble.2 Peter 1:3-10

Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.2 Corinthians 3:17-18

I’m an avid reader of non-fiction. Sometimes, oftentimes, that has included volumes of Christian self-help books. Self-improvement is very much the goal of New Year’s resolutions, and I am still in the thick of those made a few weeks back.

Then, last week, I read a chapter on improvement in Karen Swallow Prior‘s book, The Evangelical Imagination, and it has totally upended my whole understanding of improving my life – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Reading Prior’s book (and this chapter, at the moment) is a wake-up call on how we have taken on culture’s trappings, language, and ethics. Weaving them into our faith, as if they belonged. Such that we as Christians are merely improved humans, rather than the new creations God has made us.

Photo Credit: Highlight

The Evangelical Imagination: How Stories, Images & Metaphors Created a Culture in Crisis – Karen Swallow Prior

I realize my focus of late has been more self-improvement than sanctification. Why would we want to improve on the self, anyway, since Christ has told us to deny self? It’s not self that I want improved. It’s so much more than that. Sanctification is defined as being set apart. When we come to faith in Christ, we become His, set apart for Himself and for His service. Although we find in Scripture the command to work out our salvation, we must understand that we are not improving on what has already been done for us. Rather, we do what is needful to truly know Christ and to infuse every part of our being with His character. To what end? For His pleasure, for our good, and for the sake of those He places in our lives. For love’s sake.

This kind of work, discipline, habit formation is daily and full of God-shaped challenge. However, the goal is not to improve ourselves, but to become ever more His such that we manifest the very likeness of Christ in our relationships and circumstances. As believers, we aren’t just nice people…we are meant to be warriors on the ready for whatever confronts us or those around us, confident of His power at work in us.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

God calls us often to show up as peacemakers, too. To die to self, to refuse to think ill of others, to forgive (over and over at times), and to seek forgiveness when we’ve wronged someone.

Jesus prayed for us to be one with Him and with each other. To extend the fruit of the Spirit He means for the good of those around us. To confront our sin and to put down our idols. Self-improvement is by its nature self-focused…unless…

You Are Set Free from Self-Improvement – Lydia Brownback

Podcast: The False Messages Facing Women Today (Lydia Brownback)

Unless that working out we’re doing is to benefit others, even more than we are benefited. A self-abandonment. We have someone very close to us who has done a huge work in recent months to be as healthy as he can be. In all areas of his life. Some would call that a massive self-improvement effort, but I know him and I know his heart. He has taken a hard look at his life and made some decisions to stretch himself to love God and his family in deeper ways…rather than escaping into self-serving and escape when his daily work is done. Now could he fall into a lesser pursuit of self-improvement? Sure…we all can, but part of his effort is that sorting out of living the life of a new creation with access to the unfathomable grace, love, and power of God.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

I’m just at the start of figuring out this whole “dying to self and living to God” process. It’s so easy for me to choose comfort over sacrifice. To choose my preferences over His. How gracious the Lord is! He celebrates our small victories and does not condemn us when we falter. We are His, indwelt by His Spirit, with Christ Jesus interceding for us in the Heavenlies in this very moment.

This life is not a self-improvement journey for us as believers. It is a practicing the ways of Christ life. Immersing ourselves in His Word to know Him at a heart level, spending time with Him and others, believing Him to live His life through us, ruthlessly dealing with sin and deception in our lives, and then practicing (working out our salvation) His ways until they become our ways.

What joy! And freedom we discover in this Jesus life…a freedom and a hope that is only ours through Christ’s presence and power. Fleshing out His character in our frail lives, being made more and more like Him, as we work out our salvation, in truly knowing Him and being transformed into His likeness across our lifespan.

Let me close with the beautiful commentary below from Bibleref.com:

In the previous two verses (2 Peter 1:3-4), Peter summarized the enormous benefit we have received in knowing God through faith in Christ. We have been equipped to follow the example of Jesus’ glory and goodness. We’re not missing anything we need to lead the life He calls us to. More, through faith in Jesus, we have been granted the right to participate, right now, in God’s nature. We can partner with Christ in fulfilling God’s purpose on earth. We have been freed from the corruption of sin.

All of that sounds fantastic, but what does it mean for us today? Why does it seem that many Christians are so far away from participating in God’s nature, not living with Christ’s purpose, joy, and love? Why do some continue to live in the sin from whose corruption we’ve supposedly been freed?

This verse gives us a clue. God has given us all we need to live like Jesus, but now we must actually use those gifts. And that means work. Before we had received God’s gift of grace, we lacked both the ability and the desire to live in Jesus’ glory and goodness. Now that we have been empowered to do so, we must “make every effort” to add the following qualities [2 Peter 1:3-10] to, or “alongside,” our faith.

In other words, we must begin to live as if what we believe is really true.

By faith, we came to Christ. Now, with Christ’s power, we must work to add goodness to our faith, and to add knowledge to our goodness. The next two verses (vv. 6 & 7) will explore additional ideas about the chain of traits we as Christians should work to build into our lives.” Bibleref.com

#2. Add to Your Faith Goodness – (2 Peter 1:5-11) – 2 Peter & Jude Bible Studies – Ralph F. Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Practicing the Way website- John Mark Comer

Growth Is Not the Goal: Why We Need Habits of Grace – David Mathis, Desiring God

How Christian Is Self-Improvement – Marshall Segal, Desiring God

Sanctification – Bible Study Tools

The Most Important Cultural Book of the Year (Maybe Even Decade) – Review: ‘The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self’ by Carl Trueman – Andrew T. Walker

5 Friday Faves – Good Friday, Beyond the Guitar’s Rendition of Dune, How to Know a Person, Scruffy Hospitality, and Flowering Trees

Real fast. 5 Friday Faves.

1) Good Friday – Holy Week 2024 is coming to an end. Every day, I join many around the world reflecting on the events and meaning of each day of that last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Up through the crucifixion and onto Resurrection Sunday. You can read my countdown here.

“It was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father, to do his Father’s will—and it was his love for sinners like me.”D.A. Carson

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 – Hillsong (So Will I (100 Billion X)

Don’t leave until you watch and listen to Pastor S. M. Lockridge‘s powerful 3 1/2 minute oration below!

Or listen to Atlas Rhoads song He Cries with scenes from The Savior film.

2) Beyond the Guitar’s Dune – As usual, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar captures the exquisite beauty of Hans Zimmer‘s compositions (this time, from the film Dune Part 2 soundtrack).

Here’s Nathan’s rendition on classical guitar. So moving!

3) How to Know a Person – How to really know a person? David Brooks’ book delves into that so practically. I hadn’t heard of this book until someone I follow on social media described it as a masterpiece. then I caught Brooks’ interview on The Next Big Idea podcast.

Photo Credit: David Brooks, Amazon

So far, I love everything I have heard and read about this book. A few quotes from the book follow:

“The real act of, say, building a friendship or creating a community involves performing a series of small, concrete social actions well: disagreeing without poisoning the relationship; revealing vulnerability at the appropriate pace; being a good listener; knowing how to end a conversation gracefully; knowing how to ask for and offer forgiveness; knowing how to let someone down without breaking their heart; knowing how to sit with someone who is suffering; knowing how to host a gathering where everyone feels embraced; knowing how to see things from another’s point of view.”David Brooks, How to Know a Person

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them,” George Bernard Shaw wrote, “but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.”David Brooks, How to Know a Person

“On social media you can have the illusion of social contact without having to perform the gestures that actually build trust, care, and affection. On social media, stimulation replaces intimacy. There is judgment everywhere and understanding nowhere.”David Brooks, How to Know a Person

“As the Harvard psychologist Robert Kegan has observed, what the eye sees more deeply the heart tends to love more tenderly.”David Brooks, How to Know a Person

Brooks offers story after story of human connections, the kind we all long for…and how they happen. With curiosity and care and a measure of intentionality. Get the book!

How to Know a Person by David Brooks – Review, Summary, Analysis & Facts – Mental Branch – excellent review!!

David Brooks: We Change People for the Better by Knowing Them More Fully – Justin Whitmel Earley – also super helpful!

4) Scruffy Hospitality – Hospitality follows along the same thinking as David Brooks’ book on knowing people. When we put out the welcome mat for folks, we gain as much as we give, and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Photo Credit: Jason Lander, Flickr

Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship. Scheduling is hard enough in our world. If it’s eating with kind, welcoming people in a less than perfect house versus eating alone, what do you think someone would choose? We tell our guests ‘come as you are,’ perhaps we should tell ourselves ‘host as you are.’” – Jack King

In Praise of ‘Scruffy Hospitality’ – Robin Shreeves

Families are embracing ‘scruffy hospitality’ — should you join the trend? – Rosie Colosi

Scruffy Hospitality – Poems of Lived-In Places – Sarah Ann Winn

What We Gain When We Forget That Scruffy Hospitality – Tara K. E. Brelinsky

I was reminded of this sort of hospitality when a neighbor dropped by recently without notice. I felt a bit embarrassed by the piles of books on my coffee table and the general messiness of the kitchen. I was cooking for a special occasion, and the counters were full of preps in progress. She wasn’t bothered by any of it, and we had a great visit.

Just today after a meal shared with extended family, we were sitting and talked, and I noticed how dusty the floor was in the afternoon sun – the areas that don’t get “swept up” by sock-clad feet. Sigh… Even as we were visiting, I pulled out the dust-mop and tidied up the floor. It didn’t bother our visitors, but it did me, once I saw it. Couldn’t unsee it.

The important thing is to keep inviting folks into your home, into your welcome. The condition of the house is secondary. There are too many folks out there eating alone because we want the comfort of our own homes without the work of making them presentable to others. Since COVID, also, we seem to have gotten out of the sweet habit of gathering, like we once did. Worth re-visiting.

5) Flowering Trees – We’re in Springtime here, and the flowering trees and bushes are giving us quite the show! I remember with great delight the fragrance of flowering Jasmine when we used to live in North Africa. For a brief time, the Viburnum bushes with new blossoms gives that same intoxicating smell. Everywhere you look right now, trees are like watercolor paintings with flowers popping and new leaves unfurling. Spectacular time of the year!

Viburnum

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So much more…but with this being a special week of celebrating the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah…will close here. Thanks for stopping by. It means so much.

Monday Morning Moment – Considering Others – the Wawa Experience

Small acts of kindness aren’t really so small. They add up and can alter your day. Take stopping into Wawa – “the ultimate convenience store for food, drink, fuel, and more”. [If you don’t have Wawa in your town, it’s wherever you stop for gas and coffee.] Now, Wawa seems to be a working person’s stop-on-the-go place. Fueling the car and grabbing a quick beverage (plus food maybe). Customers are on the move. They have places to go.

What happens there, in seconds, is noteworthy. When folks go to and from the store, they almost without exception, hold the door for the next customer. Literally, I sometimes just stand and watch, while filling my gas tank. [It would have been creepy for me to video this activity although I was tempted. It’s a constant where the one opening the door waits for the oncoming person exiting or entering.

So considerate. So courteous. Now, I’m sure there are folks who run in to grab coffee and are lost in their thoughts. They enter and exit without thinking. Not noticing the person in front or behind them. This happens…just doesn’t seem to happen here.

I love that about Wawa. Working people who have jobs to do but take the seconds to hold the door. A small act of kindness. Do we do that intuitively? Or did we learn it from someone – at home, in the classroom? It’s definitely a work culture phenomenon as well. Check out the #1 element of work culture that matters in the SloanReview article:

10 Things Your Corporate Culture Needs to Get Right – Donald Sull and Charles Sull

We lived overseas for many years and were amazed at the courtesy extended toward us and others. If I was at tea with local ladies and children entered from school, without prompting, they would go around the circle of women and greet each one of us. No matter how old they were. That was just one example of the almost ceremonial expression of hospitality wherever we found ourselves. Now, every culture has its imperfect treatment of people, but I was struck but the impact of courtesy and consideration expressed even from small children, even from teens.

Photo Credit: How to Know a Person, David Brooks, GoodReads

A verse in the Bible comes to mind related to this: “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) In that moment, considering another more important than myself. A great exercise in life.

What does it take to teach, model, and reward/reenforce such qualities as consideration and courtesy such that they continue throughout life? I’d love to hear your take on this, in the Comments.

It was a sweet visit to Wawa for me. Consistent with every other visit. My favorite coffee (Hazelnut with vanilla creamer) even came free today and it’s not even Free Coffee Tuesday.

So…think about slowing down a bit and consider others just ahead of or behind you, and hold the door. If you read this far, you probably already make a habit of showing that level of care. Thank you.

Putting Others Before Yourself – 7 Great Tips – David Peach

The Power of Etiquette: How Practicing Good Manners Enhances Our Well-being

How to Teach Kids Good Manners: The True Meaning of Etiquette and Why It’s Important – Ashika Singh

The Importance of Courtesy: Lessons in Kindness and Respect – Naytik Sheth

Seven Activities for National Courtesy Month (September)

[Postscript: Below you’ll find another quote on being a friend or creating community. It goes beyond the scope of this Monday Morning Moment but is apropos to how we treat people, even in the moment, even strangers.]

Photo Credit: How to Know a Person, David Brooks, GoodReads

Worship Wednesday – Broken Things [Beautifully Restored]- Matthew West

Photo Credit: Heartlight

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:4-10

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”1 Corinthians 1:27-29

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”Hebrews 12:2-3

We hear the word broken almost daily – in descriptions of our world, a government, a system. Also on a more personal note: a marriage, a family, a friend. Maybe we’ve even used the word to describe some part of our own selves. Broken doesn’t have to be forever. My parents grew up in the Great Depression’s years of deep poverty. You didn’t throw anything away. Broken could always be fixed. In fact, even when not restored, sometimes broken things could still be used…well enough.

I heard this song, for the first time, today. Broken Things by Matthew West. It got me thinking about my own brokenness. Some things are obvious – weaknesses, timidities, and flaws of all sorts. Other things in my life I’ve probably done a good job of concealing, or deceiving myself that I have.

It doesn’t really matter in the end. What matters is what we do with our brokenness. Those things in our lives we consider broken are not a problem for God. He is a master re-shaper of broken. He turns those parts of us into some beautiful and good and even glorifying to Himself.

Matthew West describes the message behind the song Broken Things:

“We all have brokenness in our lives. Whether it’s a broken dream, a broken relationship, or just a broken piece of ourselves that we carry around. But God uses broken things. That’s what this song is about. It’s a reminder that God doesn’t look for perfection, He looks for a heart that’s willing to be used.

Photo Credit: Quote Addicts

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Thomas Watson

Reflecting on brokenness takes me back to the account of Job’s life and losses. God allowed His faithful servant Job to experience such awful pain and sorrow that few (if any) of us will ever know. So devastated was Job, he was left only with a grief-weary wife and a few friends who taunted more than comforted him. Yet, Job did not turn from God. He cried out to God in his deep confusion, angry at times, grieving, complaining, trying to sort out the reasoning that brought him to the darkness of his life. God did not remove Himself from Job, nor did Job remove himself from God. In fact, God rebuked Job’s friends and told them to seek Job’s prayers for themselves to prevent God’s judgment on them. He also blessed and restored Job. [Job 42]

Some of our brokenness we can understand – consequences of our sin or that of others on us. Brokenness can also seemingly be without reason or justice. Job landed well in God alone. God was always his resting place, his sanctuary. Job knew the answers lay with a loving Father. He did not allow pride, pain, or shame keep him from the Lord. May we follow his example.

May we surrender the broken things of our lives into the hands of a God who won’t shame us for them but will restore us to be used of Him mightily here and to be kept for His kingdom forever.

Where else would we go?

Worship with me in the healing truth of Matthew’s West’s Broken Things:

If grace was a kingdom, I stopped at the gate
Thinking I don’t deserve to pass through after all the mistakes that I’ve made
Oh, but I heard a whisper as Heaven bent down
Said, “Child, don’t you know that the first will be last and the last get a crown”

[Chrous]
Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours

[Verse 2]
The pages of history they tell me it’s true
That it’s never the perfect; it’s always the ones with the scars that You use
Oh, it’s the rebels and the prodigals; it’s the humble and the weak
All the misfit heroes You chose, tell me there’s hope for sinners like me

[Chrous]
Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King
I wish I could bring so much more
But if it’s true You use broken things
Then here I am Lord, I’m all Yours
I’m all Yours

[Outro]
Grace is a kingdom with gates open wide
There’s a seat at the table just waiting for you
So, come on inside
*

*Lyrics to Broken Things – Songwriters: Matthew West, A.J. Pruis, Jason Houser

What Does the Bible Say About Brokenness? – Got Questions

God Uses Broken People – 4 Reasons God Uses the Weak to Do Amazing Things – Diane Shirlaw-Ferreira

Scorning Its Shame – Adam Moran

Scorning the Shame – The Disciple-Making Parent

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Lanny Henninger