Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. – Romans 10:13-15
Do you know when you first heard about Jesus?
How old were you? What was the circumstance?
For me…I was maybe 6 or 7. Before that, my mom was doing all she could to keep us fed and clothed in a hard marriage. If she told us about Jesus, I don’t remember. She might have, but for her during those years of small ones, faith had been wrung out of her by hardship and disappointment.
Until…some neighbors invited us to their church, and we went. It was there that, as Paul described in his letter to the Roman church above that we first heard a clear message of the person and life of Jesus Christ. It was in that church, as a 9 year old, that I trusted God, through Christ, for the forgiveness of my sins. I trusted God with my small life and my large future.
There have been bumps in the road over the decades following, but none so large that caused me to leave my faith. During a time of great persecution, the apostle Peter declared (in response to Jesus’ question “Do you want to leave?”): “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
That is my witness as well. Nowhere would I want to be except in this journey and destination the Lord has graciously given to me…and you. What a wonder that I got to hear about Him. At an early age. How about you?
It’s not always in a church building where we hear. I’ve known people (and the stories of many others) who came to faith through the quiet revelation of truth by the Holy Spirit…a taxi driver in a far away place whose conversation with a believer really just confirmed what he had already heard, in his dreams and private wrestling with God. A young woman who witnessed her mother’s long years of faithful following of Christ and finally received Him for herself. A man who heard Jesus’ teaching, as he read torn and discarded pieces of Scripture, and believed. So many.
What joy we experience in knowing Jesus. He has brought joy to the whole world. May many hear and receive the good news!
[Pet peeves are not anything we want to cultivate or nurture…I get to a more positive place at the end so hang in there with me.]
US culture has changed – especially related to encounters with strangers or those we consider insignificant or irrelevant – as shown by turned down or away faces, looking beyond people, or not engaging with those we don’t know or don’t care to know.
People passing in hallways as if a living human being isn’t within their visual field. Charting a course from Point A to Point B, maneuvering around people without words. Stepping aside, disengaging, when someone else enters the space and greets one of the two in conversation. Disinterested.
I don’t understand this lack of desire in connection. This avoidance of engagement.
Where does it start? I occasionally teach elementary school-aged children, and even at this early age, there are kiddos who seem to easily engage across groups and with authority figures, others who are shy to engage or are awkward in social interactions, and, finally, those who only engage with their buddies (unless pressed to engage with others). Is it a personality thing? A social anxiety? Is there an environment (classroom or home) that sets a pattern for the children who see and engage with those around them and the ones who refuse to see beyond their friend group? It’s probably complicated, right?
We have grandchildren that look, gaze, see others…and refuse not to be seen. I hope it never changes as they grow older. How did they get where they are as children? I need to ask this question of their parents.
Eye contact as a behavior of connection can occur on a spectrum. No one wants the gift of creepy, penetrating stare-downs. A more subtle or passing gaze could communicate a desire for engagement but accompanied by a further desire not to intrude. Or at the opposing end of the spectrum, the total lack of eye contact as if there is no one there…or the hope, with social anxiety, that if I don’t look, you don’t see me. However, somewhere in the middle of all this, is the one who makes steady and engaging eye contact. That one that says with their eyes and facial expressions, “I see you”. Conversation may or may not follow…but to be seen and acknowledged is a small and precious gift we can present to another.
A life habit easily developed is to determine to see those around us. To make meaningful eye contact. To honor those in front of us (whether a store clerk, fellow employee, or guy in the gym). Lock eyes, a head nod, a smile, a greeting – communicating “I see you”.
This comes to play in all sorts of situations. It is a humanizing practice. A situational awareness that goes beyond keeping ourselves and others safe. It communicates that we matter in the spaces we share.
In our city, as one for instance, we see people with signs at many of the intersections. Beggars. Homeless. Not really sure. The very least we can give them is our eyes…acknowledging them whether we give money or not.
Remember, I spoke earlier of a pet peeve not being something I want to indulge, right? So…
A pet peeve is a button pushed. Long ago, I made it an aim to get rid of the buttons in my life. They divide us and there’s enough division out there already.
This is one I’m still wrestling with…and not to my credit. It becomes easy for me to intentionally ignore, or see past those who see past me…or those who “refuse to see” ones who matter to me. Yet…am I not doing the same thing then? By faulting those in my small opinion are “refusing to see”? When we fault people, without understanding them, we don’t really see them either.
2022 is rapidly winding down. Whew! to finish out the year, these Friday Faves can help us get ready for the new year…hopefully a joyful one!
1) New Year’s Resolutions – 2022…the end is in sight. What do we do with this new year ahead? Do we revisit those habits we thought about changing up in this year? Maybe so. Or maybe we didn’t alter course so much for good reason. Let’s give pause a moment and consider…
I take New Year’s resolutions seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body, the spirit….and, when possible, family and community.
New Year’s resolutions are not always exercises in futility. They can be excellent pathways to a strong start into the next year. Some of my family and friends treat resolutions with disdain…they never work; they never last. Oh, but not always!
They can be super energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, aids in our understanding of habits and true habit change.
Without knowing it, I have actually used a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.
His article on Seven Principles of Habit Change came at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. I have actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).
Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people). – Ken Sande
Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.
“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.” – Paul Jun
It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions, singularly and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to become more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most – related to people, resources, and life purpose.
When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more transformative than just a few weeks of good intentions. These habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.
Five years back, our pastor Cliff at Movement Church challenged us to commit to some resolutions to the Lord…together [podcast of 12/31/2017 here]. That was such a pivotal exercise that I have kept the resolutions made that day in a visible place, to be reminded of the good change in life, and the struggle… Still in view…five years out. Still relevant to now. For 2023, on it again.
Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on a New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life.
Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. Even with the continuing threat of COVID...if we are ruthless and wise, and don’t give in to another year of listlessness and waiting.
2) Habit Planner –Anyone who knows the writing of Justin Whitmel Earley knows his commitment to a life well-lived. He is determined to live intentionally, not leaving the substance of his life to outside powers or sloppy habits.
“Unlike resolutions, we actually become our habits. There are no changed lives outside of changed habits. And if we want to actually change, we need to take a sober look at where our habits are leading us.” – Justin Whitmel Earley
“Habits are the little things we do over and over without thinking about them. And the tiny and subconscious nature of habits makes them powerful. Why? Because they create our “normal.” Normal life is what stays with you from January through December. Normal life is what shapes your kids, your body, your schedule, and your heart.” – Justin Whitmel Earley
His two books – The Common Rule and Habits of the Household – lay out a simple path for examining our current lives and then setting strategy for habit change. So accessible and engaging whatever our preferences for methods are. If spreadsheets help, he has one for you. If you need a more fuzzy-boundaried approach (that would be me), you can glean from his wisdom, and alter course accordingly.
Below are his own examples of the habit planner. I appreciate his heart so much. He helps us all he can (in his books and free resources):
Below is Tim Ferriss’ guide for a past year review from his own blog (and podcast):
Grab a notepad and create two columns: POSITIVE and NEGATIVE.
Go through your calendar from the last year, looking at every week.
For each week, jot down on the pad any people or activities or commitments that triggered peak positive or negative emotions for that month. Put them in their respective columns.
Once you’ve gone through the past year, look at your notepad list and ask, “What 20% of each column produced the most reliable or powerful peaks?”
Based on the answers, take your “positive” leaders and schedule more of them in the new year. Get them on the calendar now! Book things with friends and prepay for activities/events/commitments that you know work. It’s not real until it’s in the calendar. That’s step one. Step two is to take your “negative” leaders, put “NOT-TO-DO LIST” at the top, and put them somewhere you can see them each morning for the first few weeks of 2022. These are the people and things you *know* make you miserable, so don’t put them on your calendar out of obligation, guilt, FOMO, or other nonsense.
We do a year-end review but not in order to plan out the next year. Mostly to celebrate the year rapidly coming to an end and to reflect on how we might reorder the course of the next year (re the negatives).
4) Word for the Year –Two years ago, I read Debbie Macomber‘s book One Perfect Word. She tells fascinating stories of persons’ choosing a word to guide their year. Finishing her book and praying a bit, the word compassion became my focus. 2021 was a good year for that as we dealt with so many divisions over COVID, race, politics, etc. Compassion for all on both sides of each issue.
At first I wasn’t going to do “a word” for 2022, and then a rapid series of “coincidences” drew me to the word: joy. As 2021 ended, I had become negative and even a bit cynical. Still having faith in God but not so much in humans, including myself. Even after a year of compassion!!
to notice joy in this day and to hope for joy in days to come,
to look for light and share it with others this Advent season,
to see beauty in creation and the people we encounter,
to laugh heartily with childlike glee,
to feel true joy in your presence. Amen.
Now looking at 2023…what word? For awhile, I thought the word would be persevere. Dave and I both agreed that perseverance is essential but did I want to make it my word of the year? Prayed that one down. Then in the last several days, the Lord keeps bringing the word wonder to mind.
I’m thinking God is preparing me for a year full of wonder…with eyes fixed on Him.
5) The Last Days of 2022 – What a year! Losses and gains as most years bring. The losses feel more lonely, and the gains more glorious. Maybe it’s my age, but as this year ends, I’m just incredibly grateful for God, for life, for loves in this life…and for opportunity…welcoming 2023 holding onto God and those around us…with joy and wonder.
Now on to 2023!! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.
Resolve in 2013 to mend fences, repair broken bridges, build appropriate gates, and tear down unnecessary walls. — Burk Parsons @burkparsons
Is it writer’s block? Words have always been a friend to me, but they are hard-won in writing these days.
Christmas is a time of tremendous joy for me…deeper than happiness. Much deeper. For in the joy are such things as longing, grief, disappointment, anxiety. Most of the time, I can shake those off so as not to miss Christmas. Most of the time.
Here’s a tiny example. You may think it frivolous but it is reminiscent of something more. Our children grew up doing the nativity story as part of our Christmas traditions.
It was fun and chaotic – never sure how it would turn out, but for several years, the kids just acquiesced to the direction of the grownups in their lives. Some of it, I’m pretty sure they even enjoyed. Fast forward to them now being adults who bring their children – our grandchildren – into the picture.
For a year or two, our grands have also been caught up in the wonder of the Baby, donning costumes, and waiting patiently (sorta kinda) for the narration to move them to the next point of action. Not all of them wanted to participate but they were close at hand to add to the drama of the moment. It was sweet.
This year…it didn’t happen. In an attempt to do the play earlier (taking some stress out of a Christmas time together), we experienced a great divide – two eager and willing older grandchildren dressed in Middle Eastern garb, and, at the same time, being brilliantly silly with their parts. So…looking the part but definitely not in character. The other two younger grands…just not interested; not even present in the room. Now, Christmas weekend is still a few days away with another family occasion planned, but I have no inclination to revisit this tradition. Maybe next year.
After giving up on the play, and rejoining the rest of the family, I asked the kids to pray for me. Somehow longings and expectations had clouded my mind, and joy was left trembling at the edges of my heart. Such a small thing (right?)…it revealed more than just a family tradition in transition. It revealed an idol of some sort – so small but effective, distorting the reality of this beautiful time of the year.
In the chapter “Honest Songs”, Sauls proposed the ordinariness of distressed feelings. He wrote how some of the Scripture writers laid out these “negative” emotions, along with their praises, before a God who understands and loves us through them, not in spite of them.
In referencing Ecclesiastes, Sauls writes: “Like a skilled songwriter or poet, Solomon made sure that was was genuinely inside of him also came out of him. [Herman] Melville likened Solomon to Jesus, whom the Bible also describes as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief…The Suffering Servant [Jesus] fully embraces, and is careful not to diminish, dystopian stories as well as the happily-ever-after ones…He refuses to whitewash the darker parts of our history.” – Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen
He goes on: “The Suffering Servant invites us, in our pain, to wipe disingenuous smiles off our faces and start living honestly concerning how damaged and hurt we feel…Jesus loves humans, and when the humans you love become injured or threatened, the natural and godlike response is to get angry and feel the swell of energy directed toward righting a wrong…There is a solidarity to suffering that we are meant to embrace, so that no one might suffer alone. Sharing in one another’s suffering binds us together in the deepest form of fellowship.” – Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen
So what’s the connection between a situation of no Christmas play this year and the suffering of a grander scale? You probably already know. The play is not the point. It wasn’t about our darling grands meeting any expectations I might have…it was the larger story. How the play reminded me of sweet memories, and sad ones. Of parents no longer with us who I miss terribly. Of grown up children I want to pull in and keep close (they are close…but a mother’s heart seems never full…again a larger story). Of the account of Christ’s birth that is so magnificent and miraculous…and how He laid down his life, just a few years later, through death on a cross…for us. How do we communicate such grandeur to our little ones?
Our kids will figure it out…and we will support them.
So…how about you? My example probably seems so mundane. I could have shared heartache over a painful family rift. Or about a friend in a terribly troubled marriage, or one who lost both parents within weeks of each other, or another struggling with mental illness, or another praying her heart out for a grandson white-knuckling through early sobriety.
Distress messes with our joy. Let’s not let it isolate us…drawing us away from each other to suffer alone. Being real with people is complicated. “Real is unsettling, scary, even traumatic. Take the risk anyway and lean in. Leaning into lament is a necessary skill in the art of rejoicing…Almost every person is insecure and underencouraged. Almost no person wants to admit it…There is no shortcut past Good Friday to get to Easter. There is no joy without a sorrow, no rejoicing without mourning, no comfort without distress, no rest without weariness, no gain without loss, no songs of joy without songs of lament, no rejoicing from Philippians without the vapor from Ecclesiastes.” [Scott Sauls, Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen]
That day this weekend, when the Christmas play didn’t come together, my kids prayed for me. I don’t even think it seemed silly to them. [Dave was grilling our supper or he would have been right there in all that struggle with me.] Distress happens, and when it does, call on those who care for you to come alongside…for comfort and for joy.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. – James 1:17
Thanksgiving is here again. At least in the US. For us, it’s all about food, family, and football…but there’s also another element…faith. I am grateful every day for the kindnesses of God and those he’s placed in our lives. Celebrating Thanksgiving allows us to put an exclamation point on being grateful. It’s not just about a table full of food, although food is clearly a focal point. Thanksgiving, even as a national holiday and not a religious one, focuses our sight beyond ourselves. There is an object in Thanksgiving beyond ourselves.
Oh…just in case this Thanksgiving is a struggle…and it isn’t all happy family fun…I pray you take courage . I pray you can rein in your heart to remember that God sees you and loves you beyond your imagining. We can find blessing even in the struggle. You are a blessing to more than you realize…your taking the time right now to read these words is a blessing to me, and I hope right back at you.
Wish you were at our table…maybe one day you will be. You are definitely welcome at God’s table. There’s a place for you there, and I look forward to looking into those eyes of yours, and listening to all your stories. Or we can sit in the silence of His peace. As you like.
[If you’re too young to have seen the film/play “Godspell“, don’t miss this endearing song, in video below, about the goodness of our God. It portrays Jesus (in Superman shirt) and his disciples. I still get goosebumps listening to this song. Happy Thanksgiving, Friends and Family!]
Thanks for reading along and worshipping with me today.
Have you ever found yourself in a season of waiting that seemed as if it would never end? Maybe you’re there right now.
The more pivotal thing about waiting is what we do with it…can we stay on top of the entitlement and all its turbulent emotions when they are unsatisfied? That is a goal worthy of pursuing. Treating the waiting not as a waste but as a way to wisdom.
Just this morning, I was waiting with a friend for a promised outcome. She is an old grandmother, resettled here from another country, with few resources.
She had the hope this morning of receiving some much-needed dental work ( in process for several months now). Today was to be the day for her to receive the last treatment – the fitting of a partial denture which would allow her to enjoy eating again.
It did not happen.
For whatever reasons it was delayed and more appointments would be made. Apologies and explanations were made, and the grandmother pulled herself up out of the dental chair one more time. We weren’t entitled to a different outcome. She is receiving free care through a local university and foundation. So why did this make me so angry and sad at the same time?
I was sad for this sweet grandmother who has already been through so much this year. Sad for myself, as her driver, for another series of appointments ahead of us. Even a little sad for the dental student breaking the news to us. And close-to-tears angry that either we misunderstood or someone somewhere dropped the (proverbial) ball.
As I collected myself and came back to my senses, I was reminded (in the conversation going on in my head) that this was a small thing. What if I was waiting on a big thing?! What would my response be to that?!
In years past, cancer nursing was my profession. Talking to a friend about this whole waiting thing, she recalled what so many cancer patients go through in waiting – for biopsy results, for treatment decisions, for blood counts to come back, for reevaluations of their cancer, for…for…for. We wait. To conceive that much-longed-for baby. To meet that person we will spend our lives with. To hear the outcome of elections or military coups. To determine if we prepared well enough for landfall of hurricanes.
Big things and small things all require waiting in life. We either wait in wasteful, blaming, soul-diminishing ways or we wait in wisdom.
Maybe it’s in the wait that we find what matters more.
In the minutes that tick by, we re-order our thoughts toward life and hope and possibility. Photo Credit: Heartlight
By the time my grandmother friend and I left the dental clinic this morning, we were better. No blaming. No feeling mad or bad. We accepted that today wasn’t the day we would say our goodbyes to this long waiting. It was just another day situated in between more to come. I didn’t resign myself to the disappointment, but rather determined it would not rob me of the joy of the day. We would be back, and, one day, she would get what we originally came for, months prior.
Don’t get me wrong about waiting. I have, at times, pushed back against it. Not just for myself but because it was a disservice to someone else. There does seem to be a pecking order in waiting…the poor and marginalized are required to wait the most, it seems.
When waiting generates a disturbance in our hearts that takes us nowhere good, then we must check it, and check our reaction to it. In that space, we can choose to change direction and keep our heads and hearts at peace. We can choose a way to wisdom, rather than an explosive, diminishing waste of the waiting.Photo Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, AZ Quotes
Waiting can be exasperating…and any engineering to decrease it is a beautiful thing…so there’s that for which to be thankful. Also, what is the object of our waiting. If we look to people to always deliver (in a timely fashion), they (we) will disappoint. If we can take our eyes of people and on to God, waiting becomes a very different experience.
Two of my favorite verses from the Old Testament speak of this:
I waited patiently for the Lord;he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction,out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock,making my steps secure. – Psalm 40:1-2
Those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31
Even Jesus on his last day of life on earth waited…until all of the prophecies were fulfilled. While hanging in pain on the cross, He waited until just the moment all were fulfilled, and then he gave his last breath. Wow!
May we learn to wait as the Messiah did with loving perseverance and hope of a greater future.
“While we are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives, pure and blameless in His sight. Consider the patience of the Lord as salvation.” – 2 Peter 3:14-15
…when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4-5
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation. – Revelation 5:9
This time of year we see a lot of red in the stores and jolly bearded fellows. David Crowder is one of those in real life. He is a brilliant and whimsical Christian singer/songwriter. His concerts are joyful and boisterous…unrestrained in the sheer pleasure of worshiping Jesus in the company of other believers.
His last album was in 2021. It was Milk & Honey with the timely and hopeful message of God’s presence and provision for his people in difficult and confusing times.
This October, he released the Christmas album Milk & Cookies. Some quirky tracks we’ve come to expect from Crowder, some updated but still nostalgic standards, and some originals that will become worship standards. He delivers both playful and poignant songs and includes some interludes which sound like a monologue you might hear on an old holiday vinyl album. Shades of “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
You might want to add Crowder’s album to your Christmas collection. The particular song I’d like to highlight today is “Your Praise Goes On”. Its message is both simple and profound.
Crowder is marveling at the birth of the Savior. He calls our attention to nighttime birth of a baby over 2000 years ago. Born in a stable and placed in a feed trough, that baby was the one “who assembled the earth”.
How could such a humble birth still be heralded all these centuries later?
This was not just any baby. He was the Messiah…our Savior. We will sing praise to His name until the end of time and on into eternity. Hallelujah! Your praise, Lord Jesus, goes on!
My older brother was 10 when he handed off our infant brother into my small arms in the backseat of the car, as Mom drove us away. 4 kids driving away from my biological father. I was five years old.
That father didn’t disappear from our lives just after the divorce. He already had, while still living in the house. Mom was the sole provider, and she hired babysitters for us because, although our father didn’t work, he also didn’t take responsibility for caring for us.
The three smaller of us kids have no memories really of those years. My older brother has since died, but I wish I had asked him about growing up with our dad. He never shared any positive memories in those years following that day of leaving. He actually shared no memories and he, at 10, was old enough to have some.
I have written about the topic of generational sin previously, but I wanted to return to this subject, maybe one last time (maybe not). The reality of sin passing through generations is sobering. When we have experienced harm, or at the very least, a lack of care from a parent or parents, we are at risk of repeating that exact same harm in our own children’s lives. As a parent myself, I want any generational sin to stop right here!
We don’t want to linger in the past, nor do we want to disparage a parent, especially one who has since died. “They did the best they could” is often what we say and hear. I’m not at all about blaming parents for ill treatment of their children, but I do think when we refuse to acknowledge the wrong or harm done to us, then we may find ourselves repeating those same patterns with our own children – patterns we learned too well ourselves growing up.
We can change the course of our lives…and that of our children…and it’s not just through distancing ourselves from parents who harmed us. Otherwise all we teach our children is how to disengage. We don’t give them the skillset to recognize harm and disarm the situation. When we feel the victim, we too often teach our children more what that looks like, rather than how to turn it around for our sake and theirs…and maybe even for our parent(s).
In my family’s childhood home, neglect and abandonment happened even with both parents in the home. Mom was working; she had to work. Given that, she had no choice but to place us in the care of others. Somehow I felt a strong attachment to my Mom following those years (maybe even during those years living with our dad). I’m not sure if my brothers had the same experience, since their dad just wasn’t there for them. Was it harder for them because their same-sex parent wasn’t bonded to them?Photo Credit: Gabor Mate, dr_anniephd, Instagram
We are not left without help these days. Even on social media, we can find solid counsel (even when we can’t afford or feel awkward going to a counselor in person). Check out the full thread of Dr. Nicole LePera’s below (she posts helps every day).
Whether we experienced abuse, neglect, abandonment from our fathers, or our mothers…the impact of their lives continues with us through ours…either steering us along the same course or moving us to take a very different one. We can keep our distance from those sinful patterns as adults without necessarily sacrificing those relationships. That’s a whole other pattern we can guide our children in – that of understanding, humility, and forgiveness.
My father disappeared from our lives. The neglect and abandonment present in our preschool years became permanent. We would never know him…what his own growing up years were like…why he couldn’t seem to love us. We would never know. What spurs me on is the profound love of a great mom and a steadfast God. I know my siblings and I have experienced some sort of imprint from previous generations, but recognizing it is a huge step forward. We then can steer clear of its negative impact on us and our children.
If you experienced harm from a parent, you may not be able to do anything to change that situation, but you can be an instrument of change in your own life…and for the sake of your children.
Also, even with the gift of a deeply loving and bonded parent, like our Mom, don’t be surprised if she/he hasn’t endured trauma from their own childhood home. Be aware of that generational connection.
Understanding the possibility of intergenerational transfer of trauma is not to make victims of a future generation. Understanding allows us to recognize if we have vulnerability and to set in place healthy barriers against the impact of our parents’ trauma.
I actually don’t know what my father’s childhood was like. My mom grew up with an alcoholic father who vented his frustrations about life on his wife and children. Mom stood against his abuse of her own mother and brothers. Her fighter responses were tempered as an adult when she became a believer (follower of Christ). Still that quickness to take offense and wariness of mean-spiritedness were reactions she had to fight all her life. I see that also in myself. – Deb Mills
In The Lord of the Rings, there is a powerful scene of Gandalf standing between those in his care and a monstrous enemy. He called out to this evil creature: “You shall not pass!” When it looked as if he had victory over the beast, he turned his back away from him. This turned out to be disastrous (minute 1:50 into this scene below). There’s a lesson here that just ignoring trauma, even when it feels like we’ve put it behind us, won’t keep it from rearing up again. We are wise to be alert, aware, and prepared for its circling back around.
Boundaries are talked about a lot these days. Forgiveness also… True forgiveness is actually its own boundary. It keeps our hearts tender and our minds free to take a better path in parenting and in relationships, in general. Like in Gandalf’s situation, we would be unwise to prematurely think we have conquered the evil of generational sin. That sin that may have been transferred to us, if not genetically then familially.
Not to despair. Being vigilant is wise in two areas: 1) guarding our hearts against bitterness and hatred toward our parents and 2) caring for and leading our children in the same ways. We have vast resources available to us these days, and we have a God who does not turn away from us as we seek to love as we are loved. No matter what kind of love we received (or receive) from our earthly parents.
“He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ Therefore, we may boldly say: The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”– Hebrews 13:5b-6
Finally, I want to leave you with this encouragement of steps you can take towards bringing an end to the “sins of the fathers” – at least detoxifying it for the rest of your life and future generations. What would you add to this list? [Share in Comments.]
If you are willing, pray for the person who has harmed you. Not necessarily for them to change but for God to bless them. Weird, right? The winsomeness of this sort of prayer is the impact it has on our own your own care for that person. Our hearts are tendered when we pray.
Tell your story. All of it. To someone you can trust. Someone who will not just sympathize or take up an offense against that person but who truly cares for you and your own healing.
If abuse is part of your story, sort out boundaries without building walls. The walls not only keep that person out; they imprison us within. They also teach our children that walls are the way to go when harm happens…more prisons.
Recognize the sin in “the sins of the fathers”. You may already see a leaning toward it in your own life as an adult. Put safeguards (accountability) in your life to help you choose another path.
Seek understanding (you may need a counselor or that trusted friend above). For health and healing, don’t try to figure this out by yourself.
Remember the one who harmed you may have also been similarly harmed. The sins of his/her own fathers and grandfathers could be imprinted on his life and actions. Not justifying the behavior here but recognizing it might not have started with his relationship with you.
Resist blaming. We want to avoid living as a victim. This is definitely contagious for our children. The person who harmed you did wrong. Calling it sin is a start, then, rather than blaming, forgive. No small thing. When we blame, we carry the brunt of the sin with us into our adult life…with the pain we experienced as a 5 y/o, or 15 y/o. As an adult we can look at that pain with mature eyes. It was wrong, but blaming empowers the sin to continue hurting. We are grown now and don’t have to come under that hurt anymore.
Pursue peace, as much as you yourself can (Romans 12:18; Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 12:14-15. Reconciliation is extremely hard work. We resist it. That work of resisting, trying to ignore that person, carving out our lives away from that person, pretending it doesn’t matter – so much more exhausting and debilitating. Reconciliation requires at least two people, but it can start with one and hopefully the door stays open for future possibilities.
Don’t be deceived thinking you will not fall into the same hurtful pattern you experienced. We can pass that onto our children without even trying…hard warning here. It may look different but it is not gone without our determination to end it with us.
Acknowledge that more people are affected by this sin (for me, neglect and abandonment) than just you and your dad. What is your hope, your goal? If it is just to lessen your own pain (which matters), those who love you will join into the work of that…and its burden. What can you do to lessen that burden on yourself and those around you? [This is a big step forward.]
Increase your capacity for tolerating negative emotions. [See link below.] They do not have to disrupt your joy or destroy your peace. They are indicators for what’s going on under the surface. You don’t have to live in them. They are actually helpful in pointing to next steps.
Do what you can to nurture the relationship. Don’t expect your father (or mother) will have the same skillset nor understanding that you have developed over time. Give grace.
When we give grace, we experience the bountiful good of it ourselves, and our children learn a huge life lesson that benefits them as well.
In the end, we seek to forgive. We can say we forgive but if we keep putting bricks in the walls between us and the one who harmed us, there is no fruit in that “forgiveness”. The fruit is not just for your father/mother, it’s for you and your children. Forgiving doesn’t let that one off the hook; really, it keeps that hurt from dominating our lives (or that of our children’s). Check out resource below on this.
He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. – Isaiah 40:11
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you go through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. – Isaiah 43:1-3
“Even to your old age, I will be the same, and I will bear you up when you turn gray. I have made you, and I will carry you; I will sustain you and deliver you.” – Isaiah 46:4
We are carried. From before we were born until we are delivered, after death, into our forever home…we are carried.
Singer/songwriters Ellie Holcomb and Benjamin Glover wrote a song entitled “I Will Carry You”. Originally meant to describe the deep love of a parent for their child, the writers found it actually described something much greater. God had inspired lyrics demonstrating His own love for His children.
“When I wrote this song with Ben Glover, we wanted to write a song for our daughters, but as it turns out, it ended up being a song that we desperately needed to hear for our own hearts,” the mother of three shares. “My hope for every listener who hears this song — no matter what they’re carrying in their lives or in their hearts right now — is that they would be reminded that they are carried by the God who made them and loves them.” – Ellie Holcomb
Last night a friend of mine shared this song with me…she shared it from her own deep dependence on her Savior. A Savior who is carrying her through a divorce, a hard extended family situation, and a long recovery from childhood trauma. At the end of our conversation about the struggle she is facing right now, she introduced to me this song I’d not heard before. God is good to His children. Suffering does not separate us from His care…we see even more clearly how He carries us through it…who He is and how He sees us…most beloved and treasured.Photo Credit: Katie Faris, Elisabeth Elliot
I know you’re tired, I see it in your eyes
All that anxiety that rules your mind
I’ll be your shield when you don’t feel
Like you’ve got strength enough to fight
I’ll stand by your side
I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you
You are not the sum of your mistakes
You don’t have to hide the parts of you that ache
I choose you as you are a million times
‘Cause I am not ashamed of you
I won’t walk away from you
I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you
Up and over the mountains
Valley deep as the oceans
When you can’t keep going
I will shoulder your burdens
Up and over the mountains
Valley deep as the oceans
When you can’t keep going
I will shoulder your burdens
I will carry you
Through your darkest night
When you’re terrified
I will carry you
When the waters rise
When your hope runs dry
I will carry you
(I will carry you, carry you)
(Through the darkest night) You
(When you’re terrified)
(I will shoulder your burdens)
(I will carry you, carry you)
(When the waters rise) You
I will carry you*
“…no matter what you are experiencing, sweet or bitter, good or evil, no matter how long it has lasted, he has not left you alone (John 14:18). He is with you (Psalm 23:4), he is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28), and he will be with you to the end (Matthew 28:20).” – Jon Bloom
He is carrying you. Drop your shoulders. Relax your body. Rest your mind. Refresh your spirit. In the care of a wholly trustworthy, fiercely loving Shepherd and Savior.
[P.S. That friend of mine above…the one with so much going on…in the midst of all of it, there is a radiance about her…an unmistakable hope…in her heart, she KNOWS she is being carried. So thankful for that. Thank You, God!]
Friday Faves – coming in hot! Days later. Life races on, doesn’t it?!
1) Beyond the Guitar – Magic on a Cheap Guitar – Sweet original composition by classical guitarist Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. Showcasing two very different guitars…or rather what the difference – pretty much, it’s the guitarist, not the guitar. [Not to say the beautiful David J. Pace guitar isn’t his go-to instrument for all his guitar work/performances…but to emphasize it is the one playing it, whatever the guitar is, that makes the music.]Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar
2) The Most Repeated Command in the Bible – Even more than “Love the Lord your God” or “Love your neighbor as yourself. The most repeated command is “Do not be afraid”.
Something to think about because we are surrounded to fearsome situations…yet, we are not to fear. How do we keep from it?
By practicing remembering. Remembering the provision of God in times past. Remembering the goodness of God in all we have in life right now – people who love us, work and other resources, health and/or helps toward restoring health, time, meaning, forgiveness, and beauty surrounding us.
The tricky thing about fear is that we can’t necessarily stop it from happening. It comes over us. However, we can keep it from overwhelming us…determining to live in the freedom and light of what is true, instead of what could happen. God is there for that as well.
When fear messes with our relationships or makes us timid to enter new ones, we can take courage in the command “Do not be afraid”. This week in our church, in The Art of Neighboring, we studied about fear in neighboring relationships. 1 Peter 3:14 (quoting from Isaiah 8:12) Do we allow fear of rejection or fear of our differences keep us from leaning into each other? What if we leave fear out of the equation in caring for one another? That’s the better path.
3) The Evercrisp Apple – One of the best parts of this time of year is the Fall apple harvest. Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and Cosmic Crisp apples have been our favorite in recent years…until this Fall, when we discovered the Evercrisp apple. Wow!
We discovered this apple on a recent trip across Virginia toward the Appalachian Mountains. The Apple Shed delivers on several types of apples and introduced us to this one.
A small delight in life but, for this season, a huge one. What’s your favorite apple?
4) (Dis)Comfort Zone – Is the phrase “comfort zone” a first world experience? I don’t think so. It is a universal idea – a place where we feel safe and soothed. A bad thing? Not necessarily except for how it insulates us from the rest of life. What if developing our capacity for discomfort helps us to live more fully, more in community?
Jason Seib, a health and selfcare coach, has actually built his whole platform on embracing a (dis)comfort zone. He teaches how we can maneuver around our uncomfortable moments in healthy ways.
If you go to his website, his home page currently seems all about his workshop (which I haven’t taken although it is reasonable cost-wise). However, hang in there. He also extends solid content to non-subscribers through his podcasts and social media pages. I think that speaks to his integrity as someone who actually cares about people wherever we are in our comfort zones.
The main message for us in his coaching is that we reach for food, alcohol, or other addictive substances or activities when faced with discomfort. Our temptation is to do whatever we can to restore comfort. Jason Seib points to developing skills in sharpening our awareness of discomfort when it happens and respond in ways that don’t harm us.
Jason Seib reminds me of counselor Brad Hambrick whose webinar on “Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance” was extremely helpful for me. Seib and Hambrick both talk about the importance of us recognizing that negative emotions are not necessarily bad [they are actually informative] but how we respond to them matters.
5) Old Friends – This week has been one of celebrating old friends – visits both here and states away with people who have stayed the course with me through years and years.
I don’t know about you, but loneliness is a real time experience for me. So many moves and changes for us. A different season – children grown with their own lives, me now in retirement sorta kinda, and most of my closest friends living far from where we now live.
It gives pause to reflect on friendship and revisiting the kind of friend I am and hope to be. A key to having old friends in our every day life is continuing to reach out and nurture those relationships. I’m working on it…and trying to show up for these friends who have shown up for me. They, and others like them, point the way.
Old friends, even while not on the daily or even the regular, have the rare quality of history. Memory. Understanding. Loving anyway, through seasons of neglect, distraction, and loss. Old friends remain.
So grateful for forever friends – people who know us well and love us anyway. Singer, songwriter Michael W. Smith‘s song says it all:
“Come deeper. The waves won’t knock you down back here!”
Deeper in the Word
Deeper in Prayer
Deeper in Worship
Deeper in love with Jesus
Yes, the waves will still come, regular and strong.
But in the deep…
We will have peace,
We will be comforted,
We will have healing,
We will have restoration,
We will have joy,
Because we will be moving with The One who controls the winds and waves.