Category Archives: Books

Monday Morning Moment – Worldly and Wordly Wisdom – Podcasts and Jesus

Wisdom…such a great treasure. I’m sure you can name people in your life who not only speak wisdom to you but who also live wisely.

Worldly wisdom is defined as “experienced in the ways of the world; understanding of the affairs of the world”. Wordly wisdom is a different take on that with God as the source of wisdom. “Wordly” being a play on words, meaning the wisdom that comes from the Word of God (both the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ).

Godly vs. Worldly Wisdom – Jennifer Sum

Both worldly and wordly wisdom can be extremely useful in maneuvering through life…no matter your religious beliefs. However, you will have to wrestle with the experience of conflicting “wisdoms”…when you have to choose which path seems most true; most appropriate. The popular “your truth”/”my truth” philosophy of today rarely works in facing conflict of reason. Thoughts?

Writer, storyteller Srinivas Rao, host of The Unmistakable Creative podcast, on his 43rd birthday, posted 43 quotes, things he’d learned, from some of his podcast guests. My 10 favorites of those are listed here:

  1. Don’t Wait to Spend time with the most important people in your life. – Frank Ostaseski
  2. Your life is the result of what you focus your attention on – Cal Newport
  3. Happiness is an input to a great life. Not a bonus you get at the end of one. – Nataly Kogan
  4. We are all amateurs at loving each other –Bob Goff
  5. You can’t cross the extra mile without going the essential mile. –
    T.K. Coleman
  6. You can find extraordinary joy in ordinary things. –Ingrid Fetell Lee
  7. If you don’t appreciate what you have now, you’ll never appreciate what you’ll get later – Tim Ferriss
  8. Choose Wonder over Worry – Amber Rae
  9. Don’t label people after the worst things they’ve ever done –
    Joe Loya
  10. A story well lived is told after the fact – Donald Miller

43 Things I’ve Learned From Podcast Guests – Srinivas Rao, Facebook

I love Srini Rao’s podcasts. As do I love several others (some linked below). They help me have a sense of both popular thinking and the wisdom of contemporaries.

What if Srini could interview Jesus of Nazareth? That would be something to listen to. We have the Scriptures to know what Jesus said or would say about anything we might encounter today (weighing out the whole of what is written in the Bible).

If Rao’s list of what he’s learned from podcast guests included Jesus, the following quotes might be considered wisdom. All from Jesus:

 “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, and your ‘No,’ ‘No’.” – Matthew 5:37

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” – Matthew 6:27; Matthew   6:34

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” – Matthew 12:25

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!” – Matthew 18:21-22

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14

“‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” – Matthew 22:37-39

“Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” – Luke 6:27-28

“Why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?” – Luke 6:41

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” – Luke 12:21

“Whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” – Luke 16:10

So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” – John 13:34

What worldly or wordly wisdom do you have to share? Please put any of your favorites in the Comments below. Thanks for stopping by.

Worldly Wisdom vs. Wordly Wisdom – Clay & Sally Clarkson

The Glenn Show – Glenn Loury Podcast

The Carey Nieuwhoff Podcast (Leadership)

Alisa Childers Podcast

Resurrection Sunday of Holy Week – Day 8 – Risen, Indeed! Thank You, Jesus!

Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

[Adapted from the Archives]

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. – John 20:1 

Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”. John 20:18

On this Sunday, this most glorious day in all of history, death gave way to life. The grave could not hold Jesus. Those who loved Jesus most came to the tomb, guarded and sealed, and found it empty. Then ones, twos, small groups, and a crowd of 500 would see him alive. Jesus himself, bearing the wounds of the cross, walking with them, eating with them, teaching them again…as he promised.

He is alive! This man from Nazareth, the Messiah of Israel, the Lord of the world.

With the breath of creation, He speaks of peace, faith, and mission.

With lungs full of air, He breathes on His disciples and grants His Spirit. My Jesus – alive!

The eyes that saw the darkness of death now drink in the sunlight of Easter. My Jesus – alive!* – Trevin Wax

[Read the rest of Wax’s poem here.]

Oh the joy…the indescribable joy of that reality. He died and yet he lives. We were dead in our sins, and because of him, we have life.

Take the time to read this amazing story yourself. The Gospel writers have all given detailed accounts of the risen Christ (Matthew 28:1-13, Mark 16:1-14, Luke 24:1-49, and John 20:1-29). The Apostle Paul also wrote about Jesus’ resurrection in his letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 15).

Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive…

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
  O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Cor. 15:20-22, 55-57

Sadly, there are those who think the resurrection of Jesus is a myth, or a fairy tale. Even his life is treated casually. Yet, for sure, anyone who does a careful examination of the life and teachings of Jesus would be radically changed.  This certainly was my experience. I know too well how wicked my heart can be…my thoughts and actions. God draws us to Himself, and in the drawing we recognize our desperate need for a savior, a strong arm to pull us out of the muck and mire of our own making. Jesus did that for me.

I know Jesus is alive from the historical accounts and the writing of eye witnesses, and because of his own word. I also know he is alive because of how he has transformed lives through the ages. He has changed my life, and he continues to do so.

For the past 20 years, during Lent, I have read Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking. I would like to close with a portion out of his Easter reading.

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”John 20:19

“On that dark Sunday morning, Mary could never have guessed the cosmic significance of the empty tomb. When Jesus rose from the dead the ancient engines of order were fired once more and, in his body on earth, chaos was defeated. And what a wonderful moment for Jesus and his disciples. Neither locks nor fears could withstand the peace and security that the risen Saviour brought, and still brings to his people. It is the peace of knowing that, however rough the road may need to be (and it often is), we shall indeed, in the most real sense, live happily ever after.” – Adrian Plass**

Christ is risen! — He is risen indeed!

Holy Week – Day 8: Resurrection Sunday! – Thank you, Mary Fairfield for writing so well, so thoughtfully, and so thoroughly for Christianity.About.com.

Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Sean Davis

5 Reasons to Believe That Jesus Rose From the Dead – Adam4d

*My Jesus – Alive! by Trevin Wax

**The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People (1994) by Adrian Plass

Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter – Timothy Keller

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to Resurrection – Beth Wayland

ToGather: Time to Reclaim the Joy (April 4 2021) – Demetrius Collins & Phil Ware – This is a powerful Easter Sunday service via a pastor’s written message and great singing thanks to YouTube selections!

YouTube Video – Doxology – David Crowder

YouTube Video – Because He Lives – Matt Maher

YouTube Video – Passion Song – The Story of Holy Week (Lyric Video) by @scartermusic

YouTube video with lyrics – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

YouTube video with lyrics – Before the Throne of God Above – sung by Selah

Story Behind the Song Before the Throne of God Above

YouTube Video – Easter Song (Live) – Keith Green – (song starts 2 minutes in)

YouTube Video – Easter Song (1974) – The 2nd Chapter of Acts

YouTube Video – He’s Alive – Don Francisco

YouTube Video – Then Came the Morning – Guy Penrod

The Bridge Gospel Presentation

عيد القيامة يسوع المسيح مبارك وكلّ عام وانت واعئلتك بالف خير! المسيح فام! حقّاً قام!

5 Friday Faves – LOTR’s “May It Be”, Easter Reading, Forgiveness, On Death and Dying, and Music in the Family

1) LOTR’s “May It Be”Classical guitarist Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, and singer Malinda Kathleen Reese previously collaborated on a beautiful cover of May It Be. This week, he arranged, performed, and posted a full rendition of “May It Be”. Take in all the beauty here.

2) Easter Reading – Every year, sometime early in Lent, I pull out the books below to read in anticipation of Easter. Rich and inspiring.

This year, I added Timothy Keller‘s new book Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. Wow! It is taking time to read because every page is full of meaning…requiring savoring and reflecting. Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City (since 1989). Since 2017 he oversees the work of Redeemer City to City – teaching, mentoring, and writing. The book Hope in Times of Fear was written during the year of COVID-19 (2020) which is also the year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hopefully God will give him, and us, many more brilliant and beautiful books. For now, this is my new favorite. Thanks, Dr. Keller.

Just here you will find one of the stunning passages in this book:

“The claims of Jesus Christ, if they are truly heard for what they are, never evoke moderate response. Jesus claimed to be the Lord God of the universe, who had come to earth to give himself for us so that we could live for him. That is a call for total allegiance. You will have to either run away screaming in anger and fear or run toward him with joy and love and fall down at his feet and say, ‘I am yours.’ Nothing in the middle makes any sense. Unless you are running away from him or running toward him, you actually don’t really know who he is. Peter has done both. Because of the instruction that he has received from the risen Jesus, Peter now knows enough about the gospel of grace to realize he has nothing to fear from Jesus’s divine presence. But there is a great deal of unfinished business between Peter and His Savior.”Tim Keller, p. 98, Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter

3) Forgiveness – I don’t have a lot to say right here. To me, it’s so clear. We are wise if we forgive. We are wise if we ask forgiveness.

This past week, I listened to this old Eagles song “Heart of the Matter”.  It’s a sad song…about regret. The focus was the need to forgive…before it’s too late.

It reminded me of a blog I wrote some time ago (I’ve written many about forgiveness or the lack of it).  Singer songwriter Matthew West wrote a really beautiful song titled Forgiveness, out of a story of terrible loss and extravagant forgiveness.

I just want to leave the lyrics right here:

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…

Forgiveness
Forgiveness

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness.*

Why Do We Add to Our Trouble? – Tim Challies

YouTube Video – Forgiveness (live) by Matthew West

Story Behind the song “Forgiveness”

4) On Death and Dying – Having been a cancer nurse, I am familiar with this topic more than most maybe. However, it is never an easy one, given we don’t want to lose people we love nor do we want to leave people we love.

It is important for us to talk about death and preparations for dying, even if it is uncomfortable. It is a loving thing to do. My husband’s sweet dad, John, prior to having surgery some years ago, executed an advance life directive spelling out his wishes for end-of-life. He did great through that surgery and lived many healthy years afterward. Julia, his wonderful wife, didn’t think about it again. Then after years of poor health with Parkinson’s, he had a massive stroke. We were so grateful that the medical staff were able to retrieve a forgotten document that made decisions regarding his care so much easier for us. John had made decisions in his love for his family… years before. Because of this, we got to bring him home, with hospice support, and be with him, caring for him, until he died a week later.

With COVID, and now even with vaccines, we have had to take a clear-eyed look at death. When my neighbor, who is a bit older but as healthy as me, told me she and her husband had met with the funeral home to do their planning, I was a bit stunned. Yet, it is important and such a loving thing to do for a family.

Julia, my precious mom-in-law, and I, on a visit last year, had challenged each other to complete our own advanced care (or end-of-life) directive. We haven’t done it yet. Either one of us. So I pulled it up again…and hope to finish it this weekend.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, one of President Biden’s medical advisors on COVID, has been very public in his desire not to live past 75. Of course, he is only 63, this year. 75 may not seem as young to him as it might in a few more years. He talks about the diminishing returns of getting older, and that it its own loss, for the person and for those who would care.

I don’t care for Dr. Emanuel’s take on this, but I do very much agree with the following:

  • Think seriously about your beliefs in God and what happens in the after-life.
  • Get right with God and reconcile with those you are at odds with…especially family members. For them, if not for yourself.
  • Decide what your wishes are about end-of-life. Write it down. Tell your children or medical representative.
  • Make whatever arrangements you can while you still have your health.
  • Be sure your will is clear and understandable to those for whom it will matter most.
  • Then live your life in all its beauty. When dying begins, it can have its own meaning and purpose. I think of Kara Tippetts and so many others who died as they had lived.

What else should be added to these points? Please comment below.

The Hope That Sustained Tim Keller Through 2020 – Matt McCullough

Growing My Faith in the Face of Death – Timothy Keller

20 Quotes From Tim Keller’s Short (New) Book on Death – Ivan Mesa, Tim Keller

Passing On – Documentary – Arizona Public Media – thoughtful documentary on end-of-life planning. Also the complementary film “Dying Wishes”

The Passing On Movie – a Documentary – on disappearing traditions of Black funeral homes

Advanced Life or End-of-Life Directive – State of Virginia – pdf

Kara Tippetts and other stories of redemption – Deb Mills Writer

Photo Credit: Screenshot, Life in the Labyrinth

5) Music in the Family – Wow! Don’t know how I missed the Kanneh-Mason siblings until recently. They have been playing, both together and as soloists, since at least 2017. Ranging in age from 11 to 24, these seven are incredibly talented and hard working in their craft – playing either cello, violin, or piano. When the COVID pandemic hit, they were all home together, in Great Britain, and made even more music together. The video below of them playing Redemption Song is how I first heard them. Wow!

The Kanneh-Mason Website

We are a musical family as well. Not world-class maybe (yet…who knows?!). However, we do know what it is like to hear music all the time and to always have an audience or somebody who plays alongside. The Kanneh-Mason siblings have really benefited from growing up together with supportive parents. Read this great piece to find out Everything You Need to Know About the Kanneh-Mason Family.

I have in my to-buy wish list their beautiful album Carnival of the Animals.

Raising The Kanneh-Masons: The World’s Most Musical Family – Jessica Duchen

That’s it for this week. Thanks so much for stopping by. It means a lot. Enjoy the weekend and those you love. Keep the door open…

Bonuses:

Banana Pudding – Karen Burnette Garner

YouTube Video – I Waited For You – Janette…ikz Wedding Vows

Photo Credit: Facebook, Tropical Life Food and Fun

My Favorite Things for a Civilized Life – Sally Clarkson

YouTube Video – A Song for Mama – Boyz II Men – This song is new to me. Heard it this past week as part of a funeral to a mom who died of early-onset Alzheimer’s. It was a fitting tribute by her two sons.

Worship Wednesday – Forgiveness in Friendly Fire – When We Sustain Wounds From Those We Love

An old Eagles song came on today and just ripped out my heart. It’s “Heart of the Matter” and it’s about heartache, brokenness, and forgiveness.

We expect attacks from those we know don’t care for us or, in fact, want us gone. They want our jobs or see us as threats, or they can’t stomach our beliefs or ideologies. These confrontations are a part of life and work and we take them in stride; hurtful as they may be, they are expected.

It’s the surprise attacks that catch us off-guard, especially when we come under-fire by those who should have our backs. “Friendly fire” is a phrase coined from military situations when something goes very wrong in battle, and a fellow soldier is wounded or killed by a comrade in arms. Too often, we have experienced the sting of friendly fire.

We may endure long periods of hardship at the hands of difficult bosses or through relentless attacks by acquaintances or colleagues who think very differently than we do. What happens, though, when those who believe as we do (in this case, fellow Christ-followers) fire on us…sometimes over and over again?  Here is where the breath is knocked out of us and we straighten up again, bewildered, disoriented, and deeply hurt.

This isn’t supposed to happen. As Christians, we know to love one another, even our enemies, to forgive without exception, and to bear with one another and be deferent toward each other. This is not the stuff of doormats or deer “in the headlights”. This is living life in community (whether, work, family, or church) as Jesus calls us to live. I think that’s why we’re caught off-balance when someone who identifies with Christ fires away at us…and especially if there’s no repentance of that “friendly fire”.

How are we to respond in those situations? In fact, how are we to live with our eyes wide open, knowing friendly fire happens, and understanding that we might be the perpetrator the same as anyone else.

Michael Milton wrote an excellent piece on this entitled Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You. If you are right now dressing the wounds of such an attack, his counsel may be hard to bear. The truth is, though, that the wounds you have right now will never really heal until you do what is necessary for a full recovery. In fact, as we follow Jesus’ example of enduring such attacks, then we can recover much quicker and refuse to retaliate ourselves. We also restrain from launching such barbs ourselves in the heat of some battle.

Milton offers 3 steps in responding when someone hurts you – and this someone can be a family member, friend, colleague or one in authority over you (a Christian boss or pastor).

Step 1 – Take up Your Cross – Followers of Christ are not kept from pain; it is part of our lives as much as it was part of the life of Christ Himself. Even looking back to Old Testament accounts, we see betrayal, deceit, and hurt of every kind. The story of Joseph (Genesis 50:15-21) sold by his brothers into slavery, and then falsely accused and placed in prison for years is a great example. Joseph would finally end up in a position of influence where he was able to save his whole family from famine. He told his terrified and repentant brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:15-21).

Milton points out the lesson of taking up our cross in the face of friendly fire: “Every sorrow, every act of treachery, every act of betrayal [becomes] a point of identification with Christ.” He calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). Even when we are hurt or offended or betrayed. “You and I are called to take up our cross in every way, including our relationships. It is true that you may be hurt, but you are a disciple of One who was betrayed, who was hurt, and you are no better than Jesus.” (Milton) As we wrestle with this truth, we actually move from being victims to victors in Christ.

Step 2 – Take Off Your Crown – When we are injured by another, we want that person to pay for it. We want to be in control of determining the punishment that person deserves. The truth is we are not sovereign, not in control; only God is. The crown of sovereign rule belongs to Him, and we really wouldn’t want it any other way. In the Genesis account, Joseph “escaped being a victim and became a victor by naming God, not as the author of evil, but the One who caused it to work together for good…The crucial step in coming to terms with any pain that has come against us, including getting hurt by someone close to us, is to say, ‘God, You are in control. What do You want me to learn?’” (Milton)

Step 3 – Go to Your Gethsemane – The Apostle Paul trusted God through his many hardships and imprisonments to use that suffering, sometimes at the hands of people who knew him well, to make him more like Jesus.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ..that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Paul (Philippians 3:8, 10)

Milton urged: “Gethsemane is the place where, like Jesus, like Paul, like Joseph, you come face-to-face with your crucifixion and with the fact that God is in control. If there is to be resurrection – a new life to emerge from the pain, the betrayal, the hurtful words – there must be a crucifixion, and if there is to be a crucifixion – by the Father for the good of many – there must be a Gethsemane moment when you say, ‘Not my will but yours.’ There must be a moment when you say, even when the shadow of pain is falling over you, ‘They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’

God loves us so much. He knows very intimately the pain of the cross. He knows the weight of sovereignty. He knows the deep surrender of a Gethsemane moment. He calls us to a life gloriously beyond being victims, or “walking wounded”. Milton closes his piece with this proclamation of truth: “He will transform you who have been hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, from a victim to a victor by trusting in the One who was hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, but who pronounced forgiveness from the cross. In Him there can be no more victims – only victors.”

We are to pray for one another – those who have come under friendly fire, for months or a moment – and those who have fired on another – to trust God to bring us through victoriously…for His glory and our good…for the good of all of us. When we forgive, as He has forgiven us, He is glorified.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You by Michael Milton

8 Responses to Friendly Fire by Jim Stitzinger

My Story by Jenny – Surviving Friendly Fire by Ronald Dunn

Surviving Friendly Fire – How to Respond When You’re Hurt by Someone You Trust by Ronald Dunn

Blog - Friendly Fire

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Monday Morning Moment – Gentle and Empowering Wisdom on American Racial Struggle – Bryan Stevenson

Photo Credit: The Richmond Forum, Bryan Stevenson

My children didn’t grow up in the South. They are TCK’s (third culture kids) spending most of their childhood in other countries. They/we were minorities in those countries, so they understand some of what that means. A big difference is that we were still privileged minorities. We had the blue American passport. We could be forbidden entrance to those countries in the future but, once in, we would most probably always be allowed to peacefully live in and peacefully leave from those countries.

These children of ours have all now spent their college years and early adult years back in the US. Their understanding of racial differences has been impacted, having lived as “different” in other places.

Their parents, that would be Dave and me, taught them from a color-blind Biblical ideology. That’s how our parents taught us and I’m thankful for that kind of worldview. God loves everyone; we are to love everyone. Never based on what they look like, including skin color, an immutable characteristic. This is always a bent that moves people toward each other. We had been sheltered in life from the hardships and challenges of what it was for some to grow up black in the US. We didn’t know. We should have. Now we know more. What we may not know is what it is to love and experience love across differences (be it race or social status).

Our kids, since returning to the US, have found themselves in a culture of outrage, blaming, and unforgiveness. The push for academics and work environments to include Critical Race Theory and anti-racism is much more divisive than healing. Do not hear in anything I say below in support of such teaching.

What is the answer? What can we do? When a hardship or marginalization falls along racial lines? The Richmond Forum took us many steps forward by hosting Bryan Stevenson as speaker this weekend.

Stevenson is an American attorney who founded and directs the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Stevenson works with some of the hardest cases in the court system. He advocates for those who did not receive fair and right judgments and find themselves in long prison terms, some even on Death Row. He also fights the situation where children are tried and imprisoned as adults…when it is not necessary for the sake of society, at the detriment of the child.

He talked and we listened. Stevenson, without judgment or contempt, talked about what it would take to move forward. He listed four actions we could all, no matter our race or privilege, do.

  1. Find ways to get proximate to people who are suffering. – Stevenson focuses intently on proximity. We can’t presume to know what it is like to be poor, marginalized, abused, or excluded. We have to come near. Find meaningful ways to do so. True innovation is only possible when we develop real understanding of those who feel the burn of racial, societal, or socioeconomic difference. Stevenson encourages us to “wrap your arms around the excluded and affirm their humanity and dignity”.  We know we live in a culture where “if you’re rich and guilty, you’re treated better than if you’re poor and innocent”. This isn’t a victimizing statement. It is simply true. Do you disagree?
  2. Assess and change our narratives if they keep us indifferent to people. What is our belief, our story, about race in our country? Is there bias in that story? Does our story disbelieve racial injustice? Is our narrative meant to protect us from feeling any sense of responsibility, or even compassion, for today’s racial tensions? “A narrative of racial difference made us indifferent and comfortable with slavery. We had to create a false narrative to justify slavery. That narrative gave rise to white supremacy.” White supremacy is such an emotionally charged phrase in these days. Stevenson gives a space for us all to consider how that had impact in the past, and what lingers today in people’s narratives. What do we fear? What makes us angry? He asked the question, do any of us have “a presumption of dangerousness and guilt regarding blacks”? This may be what law enforcement officers wrestle with in their work in parts of our cities. Have we taken it on as part of our beliefs? To get to truth and justice, and that narrative, we must create space for truth-telling. Stevenson spoke of how other countries have very publicly dealt with their own unjust treatment of fellow countrymen. South Africa, Germany, Rwanda. In recent years, he and others established the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. In hopes that America one day can heal in this painful part of our past.
  3. Stay hopeful. Stevenson talked about hope being our super-power. If we become calloused and cynical, we help no one. Least of all our children. For they will have someone’s narrative thrust on them – either through education systems or news media. Better for us to confront what is true about racial bias by listening and learning from those most affected. Listening and learning from each other, then incorporating that into our own narrative, life, and work. [I have a writer friend, an intelligent articulate young man, wise beyond his years, who happens to be black and who strongly insists the listening and learning must be in both directions. He actually gives me the most hope for what is possible in this American situation.]
  4. Be willing to do what is uncomfortable and inconvenient. There are no shortcuts…Truth-telling is the first priority. Healing is a possibility.” We can move forward with the smallest of steps that will grow larger as we persevere. One option is to get involved with the Equal Justice Initiative, from wherever we are. We can find out what agencies in our towns are working toward healthy communities and learn from them. Plugging in where we can. Embrace Communities is one of those agencies in our state. Also, as my parents taught me, we can be kind, lean in, vote for what’s right, and serve others…all others, for we all need each other.

Stevenson said so much more than I covered here. To hear this brilliant, thoughtful, hopeful black man speak on this painful and divisive issue was thrilling and captivating for us. If you’ve ever had one of those awakening experiences [not “woke” – that word has darkened the conversation politically for many of us] – like a black friend telling how he has been pulled over by the police on multiple occasions, having done nothing wrong; or reading Stevenson’s book Just Mercy (or seeing the film of the same name), or visiting someone desperately poor, or watching the documentary 13th, or what? You say…what are we allowing to gentle and mature our own narratives, reckoning with “the implicit and unconscious biases” of our lives?

I’d like to close with some of Bryan Stevenson’s remarks from an interview almost a decade ago. His honoring wisdom was not an outcome of the terrible summer of 2020. He’s been beating this drum for all his adult life. We are wise to listen and learn.

What is justice? I think justice is a constant struggle. That’s as good a definition as I can come up with. I think that injustice is evident when people are not struggling to protect the norms, the values, the goals, the aspirations of the entire community — for fairness, equality and balance.Bryan Stevenson

When I talk about race and poverty, I’m not talking about doing things for African-Americans. I’m talking about doing things for the entire community.Bryan Stevenson

An Interview with Bryan Stevenson: What Is Justice? – Kyle Whitmire

Worship Wednesday – Proximity to God and the Marginalized – Nearness – Nearer to God – Deb Mills

Just Mercy Quotes – Good Reads

“Do Some Uncomfortable and Inconvenient Things”: A Civil Rights Champion’s Call to Action for CEOs – Matthew Heimer (watch the video at start of the article)

YouTube Video – True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality (HBO/Kunhardt Films, 2019) – Documentary

TED Talk – We Need to Talk About Injustice – Bryan Stevenson

YouTube Video – 13th – full-length documentary – Netflix [“The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime”. – Wikipedia

Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror – EJI Report

Interfaith Day of Prayer – Prayer by Bryan Stevenson

Photo Credit: Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy, Pinterest

Monday Morning Moment – Building and Re-building Community

Just before the start of COVID’s mandate for physical distancing (just a year ago), group video calls were only a thing at work. Not with people in your other life. Not with your community.

Yet it has become normal now.

Except for my family, no other people have been in my living room in a year. That is staggering for me to register…even now. This roomwas made for people…like my heart is. It’s been a strange year.

Community isn’t gone. It has changed. It is just as precious and just as vital to healthy, flourishing living.

One day many of these and other dear ones will gather again around our table and sprawl around our living room. I’ll be so glad.

Until then, we do what we can with video calls, cards and phone calls, and physically distanced visits in yards and driveways.

Community is not cancelled, just challenged.

Right now I’m plowing through a book by Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson. Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World. “Plowing through” because the messages are deep and thought-provoking. Good for the soul and great for kick-starting community.

Sally Clarkson’s daughter Sarah writes about creating community. She references the great “love chapter” in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13). In this text we are reminded what love looks like. Sarah goes on to talk about how she incorporates the character of love in growing community.  In the coming aftermath of COVID – can you hear my hope? – three keys to building and rebuilding community come to bear:

  1. Remember and rekindle – We have all known community, hopefully at its fullest. A place of being known and loved, just as we are. A place where we can serve and be served. A place of rest also. Post-COVID, our culture will be changed, but our need for community will not be changed. In fact, we may need it even more, but will we go after it? This is where we must rekindle, as Sarah puts it, our vision to reach out to one another in meaningful ways.
  2. Renew and revitalize. Community takes effort and intentionality. We don’t have to do all the work ourselves nor is it even wise to do so. Find partners, neighbors, like-minded people who will add their own gifts and energy to the process. My husband and I actually live in a neighborhood with such folks. What a joy it is to know we are there for each other and will show up, regularly, when there is a need…or just for the pleasure of it.   [Memorial Day parade in our neighborhood; May, 2020]
  3. Really love and rejoice over each other. Community is not a project. It is a way of life, a mindset, a worldview. People matter. Life is short. When we truly invest in one another, our lives are enlarged. Both the giver and the receiver. I have missed the ease of pre-COVID community. I took it for granted. Now I value it more than ever. Hopefully it is a lesson that won’t be easily forgotten. Hopefully we go after community like never before, having learned in a hard way how much we need it.

[The section below is retrieved from one of my recent blogs.]

In the book above, Sarah also writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are imperative in building and rebuilding community as well:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

So thankful for all the ways we’ve experienced friendship and community, both here and far from here.

I’d like to close with some wise words from Rosaria Butterfield from her incredible, autobiographical book “The Gospel Comes with a House Key”. Until you read the whole of it, soak up some of her quotes from GoodReads (written to Christians, but, honestly, anyone who longs to create community can take the good from this book).

“Hospitality always requires hands and heads and hearts, and mess and sacrifice and weakness. Always.” – Rosaria Butterfield

“Are Christians victims of this post-Christian world? No. Sadly, Christians are co-conspirators. We embrace modernism’s perks when they serve our own lusts and selfish ambitions. We despise modernism when it crosses lines of our precious moralism. Our cold and hard hearts; our failure to love the stranger; our selfishness with our money, our time, and our home; and our privileged back turned against widows, orphans, prisoners, and refugees mean we are guilty in the face of God of withholding love and Christian witness. And even more serious is our failure to read our Bibles well enough to see that the creation ordinance and the moral law, found first in the Old Testament, is as binding to the Christian as any red letter. Our own conduct condemns our witness to this world.” – Rosaria Butterfield

We introverts miss out on great blessings when we excuse ourselves from practicing hospitality because it exhausts us. I often find people exhausting. But over the years I have learned how to pace myself, how to prepare for the private time necessary to recharge, and how to grow in discomfort. Knowing your personality and your sensitivities does not excuse you from ministry. It means that you need to prepare for it differently than others might.” – Rosaria Butterfield

Living out radically ordinary Christian hospitality means knowing that your relationship with others must be as strong as your words. The balance cannot tip here. Having strong words and a weak relationship with your neighbor is violent. It captures the violent carelessness of our social media–infused age. That is not how neighbors talk with each other. That is not how image bearers of the same God relate to one another. Radically ordinary hospitality values the time it takes to invest in relationships, to build bridges, to repent of sins of the past, to reconcile. Bridge building and remaking friendships cannot be rushed. – Rosaria Butterfield

 

Beginner’s Guide to Reaching Out to Your Neighbors – Angela Sackett

How to Build a Unique Community – 10 Lessons By a Master Community Builder – Michael Burkhardt – this excellent piece is more bent toward a business community or alliance/affiliation BUT also has great takeaways for any type of community building.

10 Key Components of Healthy, Equitable Communities – Again, this article is also a comprehensive look more at community planning at a municipal level – fascinating stuff.

Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig, Embrace Richmond, Embrace Communities

Monday Morning Moment – the Story of a Girl and Friendship

[School Days, Cairo, Egypt – a couple of decades ago]

This delightful girl has a birthday today.

I want to celebrate her here. The girl and the understanding of friendship she has brought to her mom and to those who have best known her.

She was born on a windy March morning. Our first-born. I have brothers, and my Mom had all brothers. Having a daughter as our first was a complete joy and wonder to me, as my Mom tells me I was for her in the midst of all boys.

She would be my sidekick for many of our early adventures together. Welcoming two brothers during her preschool years. Enjoying the friendship of neighbors and church family. Homeschooling in East Tennessee.  

I will never forget the Spring when she came home from Jack and Barbara Lavender’s Sunday School class with two tiny cups of growing seedlings. We planted them in her daddy’s garden and they grew an enormous bed of Cushaw squash. From those two little seeds. Sweet memories of friends who invested in our girl’s life.

Then there was the terrible time when she got desperately ill with what we would, over too many days, finally discover to be a ruptured appendix. This girl has always had a high threshold of pain, and it took four trips to the pediatrician’s office before I was taken seriously. She ended up with big surgery and 10 days on IV nutrition. This image shows her having her first meal over a week after her surgery (pillowcase from our friend, Kay – she still has this pillowcase).

Then our travels outside East Tennessee began.

For this quiet girl, having her life, and childhood friendships, disrupted was hard. Despite the incredible experiences of many moves across four countries, she learned resilience the hard way.

In those days, before smartphones, we carried our memories of people and places in tangible ways. Photo albums. This girl would often go deeper with new people in her life by introducing them to her previous life…through these cherished photo albums.

Everywhere we went, everywhere we lived, we have the photo memories of the sweet parts of those years. They are a treasure.

Friendships were not always easy for this girl. Well, not being able to easily make friends, adjusting to all the changes imposed on her life by her parents’ work moves. She was not the life-of-the-party, center-of-attention, making things happen, people magnet sort of girl. She loved books and they were often her friend. In the reality of multiple moves and too many goodbyes.

She did have two constant friends who went through all those moves with her. Her two brothers. They are still close. Remembering all the good, all the tears, and all the big sister times with her [calling her “Auntie” when she observed and advised where they preferred to be left to their own devices].

As this girl grew up, she learned how to recognize mean girls and not to take them personally nor to become one…which can easily happen for any of us in strained situations. She learned to embrace the new and sift for where she belonged in the different. And could even make a difference.[Her tiny Senior class, 2005, Casablanca, Morocco]

[Noor, a dear friend from high school, knowing the experience and also understanding what it’s like to move places and countries with your family]

[Maria, a fellow student and enduring friend as they both tackled teaching together. Different schools but similar challenges.]

Besides her brothers, this girl had two men she knew she could count on. Her Dad…and in time, her beloved whom she would marry. I love to catch snippets of conversations she and her Dad have on visits home. For two introverts, their words pour out with each other…safe people, safe places.

[This girl and her boy who would capture her heart and parent two little ones by her side – no pics of the littles – this girl’s preference and I honor it]

In this season of making a home and family, she has grown into this beautiful woman (OK…if you’re still reading, you either love her or the idea of her or you have such a her in your own lives). I am in awe of this girl. Not because she is anything of celebrity but because of how she handles today’s bumps. Also how she has taken both the bad and the beautiful of her growing up years and turned them into her own story.

This Christmas  she gave me a book by Sarah, Sally, and Joy Clarkson. Girls’ Club – Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World.

This sweet girl has recommended Sally Clarkson to me often in the last year as a mom and mentor in life. In the book above, Sally’s daughter Sarah writes a chapter entitled Saturday Mornings: The Girls’ Club Prototype. In this chapter, she describes “five progressive actions…central to the powerful cultivation of friendship”. They are:

  • Invite – Reach out and bring in a new someone to an adventure and your life.
  • Plan – Work out the logistics of an event, a meetup, an outing. Make it a welcome ritual or routine.
  • Provide – Show love, Sarah says, by preparing the table, so to speak. Whether it is the physical space itself (your home, for instance) or your own “mind and heart” to wholly receive the new friend.
  • Stay – This is huge! Whether distance or circumstance separate you, be a continual presence in the life of a friend. Be there. Show up. This takes effort and intentionality, and it’s not easy. It requires both forgiveness and faithfulness…no matter what.
  • Pray – When we remember that every single person we meet is an image-bearer of God, we are reminded of the value there. Even those “mean girls” in our lives didn’t get mean in a vacuum. “Hurt people hurt people”. They have God’s imprint like every other imperfect person… When we recognize our own frailty and that of others, we are drawn to pray. For our own hearts to love like Jesus. For eyes to see how God sees people…and to reach out in love…as only He has made us to do so.

I’ve watched this girl executing all the above without having read the book. She has commented that making and nurturing friendships as adults has also been a challenge, maybe because of all the other pieces of life that need our attention. I think she is learning to juggle all this, and me with her.

I’ll close this “Happy Birthday” piece on this note: our girl has a fierce faith in God that brought her through the hard so far in her life. I’m confident that whatever lies ahead – joys and sorrows – she will lean into God to sustain her. She will be there for those whom God has placed in her life – family, friends, and friends-to-be.

Like her, I will leave you with a few last images of life we’ve enjoyed together. Hope your day is filled with joys familiar and joys anew. Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl.[Learning to make biscuits with Memaw – my Mom, the master cook]

Monday Morning Moment – Conflict in Marriage – The Dance of Negative Escalation – with Esther Perel

Photo Credit: YouTube, Esther Perel

Do you have conflict in your marriage? Or even in roommate, friend, or family relationships? Maybe even at work with colleagues?
Of course, you do. Oh, there’s the rare situation where people can work out their differences amicably. My mom-in-law would always say she and our father-in-law never had a fight…well, once maybe. I’ve been around them in all sorts of situations, and I have to agree. Early in marriage, they worked out a system where they served each other and the family in complimentary ways. They genuinely loved and enjoyed each other.
Their oldest son, having grown up in this sweet and peaceful home, fell in love with a woman from a very different family…a home full of love but also where conflict and chaos sometimes reigned. That woman would be me.
Over the course of our 30+ years of marriage, we have matured. With age and experience, with resultant understanding, the fights are rare. The tears and silences are also pretty much absent.
We never ever considered divorce an option. Both of us have had too much experience with divorce (in my biological family and his in his extended family). We didn’t want it for ourselves or for our parents or children. So….we white-knuckled from time to time. In the end, I’m so thankful we hung in there with each other. It’s what I tell couples considering divorce…hang in there…it gets better.
OK…maybe not always, BUT the resources for helping us to do marriage and relationships are vast and easily accessible…if not in-person then online. If one or both of you are willing to inquire.
[Also, please, this is not meant to hammer anyone who’s experienced divorce. A betrayal is devastating and feels impossible to overcome.]
Dave and I had the opportunity just this weekend to hear couples therapist Esther Perel speak. She is Belgian and the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. She is married and has two sons. Her practice is international. She is a prolific writer and a life-long learner.
After hearing this brilliant, insightful, caring woman speak, I started looking for her online. So many YouTube videos, interviews, articles. Her podcasts, too. Among the topics was something she called a dance of negative escalation. What this entails is a process whereby two persons address an issue with one of maybe 3 or 4 responses.
  • Both listening and sharing, engaged, connected which would NOT be the dance of negative escalation.
  • Both withdrawing into their own thoughts – away from the perceived conflict or threat. Not outright escalation but no resolution either.
  • Both attacking, escalating into screaming and violence until…This wouldn’t even be considered a dance probably. I’m still learning.
  • One felt to be attacking, and the other felt to be withdrawing. This is where the dance takes place).

Perel defines this dance of negative escalation in this way: a “pattern occurs when one partner stonewalls and the other, in reaction to this refusal to engage, allows their emotions to escalate…For both partners the part of themselves they struggle with today is the very trait that saved them as a child. Sometimes what works as a survival strategy backfires when we are no longer under threat.”

“It takes two people to create a pattern, but only one to change it.”
Esther Perel, Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence

All kinds of light bulbs went off for me in reading and listening to Perel talk about this phenomenon.
There are always two sides. Two views of a situation. With two different histories (all the way back to childhood potentially). Two different emotional meanings.
When a conflict builds, the combative one, the aggressor, is usually seen and experienced as “the bad guy”. However, we all know from the classroom, that a child can be drawn into a negative response through the badgering of or intentional exclusion by another child. Yet, when the teacher is late to notice the interaction, only one child, the responder, is disciplined, and the other seemingly “good child” is left unchecked in the altercation.
We all want to be heard, to be valued, and none of us want to carry the responsibility or blame of an escalation. Four things are mentioned by Perel as being devastating to a marriage or long-term relationship. This can also be true of work relationships. Any of these can mark a relationship in peril. They are:
  • Indifference
  • Neglect
  • Contempt
  • Violence

We don’t want to go there in our relationships. Or if one partner or the other is there, the other can still begin to make positive change.

If you are in a relationship with the pattern using the dance of negative escalation to deal with issues , there is such hope! The links below are incredibly helpful…and they are just a few of the many resources available by Esther Perel and others.

I just wanted to introduce this subject. For those of you who know you struggle with these negative cycles, start with the links and go on your own journey of healing and restoration.

In her talk the other night, Esther Perel described the experience of having more than one marriage, sometimes with the same person. In a way, I experienced that with my sweet husband. We have a thick cord of continuity through our marriage, but, in ways, our marriage has passed through such seasons that almost feel like we are in a different marriage. I’m so thankful we stuck it out with each other.

Remember, a negative cycle is the problem. It may have absolutely nothing to do with the character of either spouse. “Name the cycle” rather than blaming your explosive partner or feeling betrayed by the withdrawing one. Start there. Then take steps to slow down the conflict in a safe environment in order to see what is happening underneath. With grace, accountability (external and internal), and time, you can come out on the other side, stronger, healthier, and with love rekindled and restored.

_________________________________________________________________________

Where Should We Begin? Podcast – It’s Very Hard to Live with a Saint – Esther Perel – excellent example of the dance of negative escalation. The podcast is an actual marriage counseling session. If you prefer reading, the transcript is here.

Marital Destructive Styles of Communication – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Couples Negative Cycles – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Naming Your Negative Cycle – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Withdrawers  Desire Safety – Round Rock Couples Counseling

Negative Couples Cycle: Finding the Bad Guy – Kevin Leapley, Round Rock Couples Counseling

YouTube Video – Fight Smarter – Avoid the Most Common Argument Patterns – Esther Perel

Emotionally Focused Therapy – a Roadmap for Working with Couples (pdf) – Tanya Radecker

Series : Marriage with a Chronically Self-Centered Spouse – Brad Hambrick – Dr. Hambrick is an excellent “counselor to the church”. He covers a lot of ground on this topic related to the different aspects of being self-centered in a marriage: the low emotional intelligence self-centered spouse, the lazy or apathetic self-centered spouse, the situationally explosive self-centered spouse, and the intentionally manipulative self-centered spouse. Fascinating. Great helps as well.

Growing in Negative Emotion Tolerance – Brad Hambrick

Worship Wednesday – the Small Virtue of Humility – the Grand Journey of Self-Forgetfulness

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:3-8

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”Jeremiah 9:23-24

I’m still making my way through a re-read of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Long over-due. Although the chapters are super short, each contains such a wealth of wisdom to think through and process.

In The Letters, a senior demon, Screwtape, is advising his nephew on how to draw away a young Englishman from his new-found faith in God, whom the demon calls The Enemy. The nephew is given strategies to muddle up “the patient’s” thinking on God and how one is to live, “loving our neighbors as ourselves”.

Chapter 14 (in just 3 pages) dissects the issues of humility, pride, and self-forgetfulness. We may think ourselves that humility is having and expressing a low regard of self, even self-deprecation. That is not humility. In the fullest sense, humility is a right understanding of God, other people and ourselves, in relation to all. God and others.

True humility is a growing awareness of how all things work together, including the hard things in life, and an appreciation of the good and glory in the world. Celebrating God, and His choosing to continue to display His goodness in all of life…in mine and yours, and throughout the natural world.

When we can pull our eyes off our own successes or, on the flip side, our challenges, perspective comes. Not puffing ourselves up or bringing yourselves down, but just seeing God everywhere. He purposefully and beautifully knit each of us together and His purposes are not thwarted.

Focused on God and others, we can live in a place of self-forgetfulness. Satan wants to destroy such peace by pressing us to ever compare, ever put ourselves down, or ever feel envy and longing regarding others’ good works. Or, if he can to even push us into pride, thinking more highly of ourselves, even though we operate out of the gifts and opportunities God gives us.

Here’s a bit of Screwtape’s instruction to Wormwood in the tempting of the young Christian:

“To anticipate the Enemy’s strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents – or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 14

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

Let’s worship the God who frees us from self as we turn our eyes each day, and through the day, onto Him. Why this old song? It speaks to troubled hearts. If humility is not where we live, our hearts become troubled – either in some embattled state of self-loathing or self-obsessing. We can live free of all that.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Chorus:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Chorus

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Chorus*

Why did I call humility “a small virtue”? Because it doesn’t draw attention to itself. It points to God and to others. However, it doesn’t leave us out. We also get to be on this grand journey. We are flesh, so when God gives us the opportunity to do something amazing, we naively may say, “Wow, I did that!” Pride rears its head, even for a moment. We can then either beat ourselves for the pride and make ourselves small in some sort of false humility or…we regain perspective. “Wow, I got to do that! Thank You, God!” If it was someone else who “got to do that”, we rejoice the same. It is the beautiful sphere of self-forgetfulness.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Tim Keller

Room for everyone on the podium in a very real way…because God is at the foundation of every podium we will ever encounter. Actually, forget the podium. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross. We’ve all heard this. Humility is where we live it.

“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself…True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”– Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: 2 Chron 714 Network, Facebook

*Lyrics – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Songwriter: Helen Howarth Lemmel

Humble and Kind – Restless Pilgrim Blog & Podcast on The Screwtape Letters – Chapter 14

YouTube Video – Blessed Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller – Edited Synopsis – 7 Minutes

YouTube Video – Lyric Video – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Hillsong Worship

Monday Morning Moment – One Shocking Revelation After Another – Shaking Off Our Fantasies and Grounding Ourselves in the Real

A dear old friend gave me a book shortly before Christmas of 2020. Just starting to read it in January, and once in, I realized I was way behind. Debbie Macomber‘s One Perfect Word gives a strong case for choosing a word for the year. A word to dissect, and meditate on, and to make real in both our thoughts and walks of life. One Perfect Word. For the year.

[Thanks, Kay, for this book.]

Here, a bit into this year, the word compassion has become my word for 2021. For clarity: It is best defined as: to recognize the suffering of others and then take action to help. Compassion embodies a tangible expression of love for those who are suffering.

For those who know or think they know me, compassionate is a word that might seem already descriptive of who I am. “Seem” is the operative word.

10 Ways to Show Compassion – Katie Krawczyk

You see I have always thought of myself as compassionate. Being there for friend and family. A cancer nurse for many years. Hospice, as well. Living overseas for love’s sake. Volunteering in my community and beyond. Love God. Love neighbor. Love even my enemies. This is life…the life Jesus lived; the life I’ve ascribed to live.

So I chose a word compassion to examine and flesh out in my life.

As fate would have it, some friends and I decide to tackle an old and brilliant book: C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters (1942). In affectionately abbreviated TSL, Lewis presents a series of fantastical letters from a master demon (Screwtape) to his nephew, Wormwood. The nephew is on assignment to mess in the affairs of a certain young Englishman. In the letters, God is referred to as The Enemy.

[I recommend this book to everyone, whatever your worldview or belief system – the wisdom captured on the pages of this small book is phenomenal. Our human nature and struggles or challenges in life are exposed. Fortunately, we are also given a way forward; oddly by looking at the schemes set in place to trip us up or cause us to fail.  This book is both fascinating and heady. It requires a deep read, for sure.]

In Chapter 6 of TSL, the demon uncle advises his younger on how to trouble the human assigned to him. In the particular area of worrying about the future. This is where fantasy can overtake the real, and, fortunately vice versa: the real can prevail, if we pay attention. Remember my word, compassion.

Screwtape gives much “good counsel” to Wormwood on how to trouble the human by keeping his thoughts on the fears of and hopes for the future rather than on what is right in front of him. For those who do believe in God’s providential care of people, Lewis wholly satisfies us readers as well.

The main message of Screwtape is to keep the human off balance and focused on himself, thinking that he cares for people and outcomes and that he is a good person. The reality is that the human is actually overcome by cares of the world yet does little about them.

How do we shake off our fantasies and ground ourselves in the real?

Screwtape instructs Wormwood to deal with the human as one made up of concentric circles of will, intellect, and fantasies or imagination. Our will, or our heart in spiritual terms, is the deepest part of who we are. It is where we make our choices on how to act and then, in turn, take action. Different than intellect, or what we know about life (intellect) or what we imagine or fantasize about life…or about doing life.

YouTube Video – Screwtape Letter 6 – Providence eLearning – Dr. Arthur Hippler – a clear and excellent resource

Photo Credit: Providence eLearning, YouTube, Screwtape Letters

So I can think I am a compassionate person. In fact, one can choose to be compassionate. However, we can also simply apply our intellect to the whole idea of compassion and then only fantasize or imagine ourselves doing acts of compassion… This is NOT what we think it is. Compassion, in its truest most real sense, happens in the will…and in the moment. Oh, we can plan on acts of compassion and put in place steps toward compassionate outcomes… but, until we act, compassion itself lies in the realm of imagination or fantasy.

Sobering and extremely helpful.

A huge and relevant example in modern culture right now is the statement, and call to action, “Black Lives Matter”. Do black lives matter? Absolutely. Do all lives matter? Of course. Do lives “womb to tomb” matter? Not to everyone…but that’s for another day.

We can say and lean into powerful messaging. Yet, until we grapple with the realities of that messaging, and sort out what truly communicates the truth of that message…not just in word but also in deed…then, in fact, the messaging is just so many words.

Screwtape has wreaked his havoc in our culture and in us as fellow humans, as we struggle with how to respond to messaging. Both in our news and social media platforms, and conversations with neighbors and friends. What is fantasy and what is reality and how shall we then act?

“Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as some malice, in your [human’s] soul. The great thing is to direct the malice to his immediate neighbours whom he meets every day and to thrust his benevolence out to the remote circumference, to people he does not know. The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.Screwtape to Wormwood, Chapter 6, The Screwtape Letters

Related to compassion, my word for 2021, I no longer want to stay locked in debate over whose lives matter or what hasn’t been done than needs to be done. I would love to settle in my will to act…with compassion. Not thinking I am showing some sacrificial compassion out there among those I don’t even know…but in fact, acting in compassion, toward my housemates, my extended family and friends, this neighborhood and beyond. Leaving off the malice of disagreeing or tweaking each others messages out there in the world somewhere.

This is the goal: shaking off my fantasies about compassion and the idea of my being a compassionate person and grounding myself, my very will, in the real…acting in compassion, in the moment and moving toward making it habit.

Restless Pilgrim – Pints With Jack – The Screwtape Letters 6 – “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”the most fun to be had in diving deep into C. S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters

YouTube Channel – C. S. Lewis Doodle