Category Archives: Purpose in Life

Monday Morning Moment – In or Out – Your Choice, but You DO Choose

Photo Credit: Corinne Dobbas

A friend of mine lamented this morning that someone in her family unfriended her on Facebook. Painful. I get it. Been there.

We make choices every day to lean in or pull out. Some of these choices have little consequence. Others break hearts or turn them into concrete. Taking ourselves out of others’ lives has consequence.

Father’s Day is coming and it has become a complicated holiday for me. I had a distant birth father and a great step-dad – both gone. My husband is a good father. My son and son-in-law as well. What complicates it is when things with fathers aren’t so good. This Father’s Day marks two years of a painful extended family rift. The pain of that has wide circles reverberating throughout. Everyone hurts for those hurt the most. Do we just ignore it or take sides? That would be choosing the “out” option. Or do we choose to stay in – refusing to leave the room (or either room since there are two now), praying for wholeness and healing, and fiercely fighting for our family?

I choose the latter for as long as I’m allowed to do so.

To be honest, whether it is family/friend conflict, or political, social or theological division – we choose where we stand. We choose to set up camp in a tight zone of comfort with those like us, or we choose to battle for those in harm’s way…including ourselves.

Maybe it’s always been this way, but today, for sure, we must be on watch of being deceived by popular opinion. It is not unifying. A choice is required. To think we don’t have to choose is its own delusion.

We’re either in…or we’re out.

“We all, like Frodo, carry a Quest, a Task: our daily duties. They come to us, not from us. We are free only to accept or refuse our task- and, implicitly, our Taskmaster. None of us is a free creator or designer of his own life. “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” (Romans 14:7). Either God, or fate, or meaningless chance has laid upon each of us a Task, a Quest, which we would not have chosen for ourselves. We are all Hobbits who love our Shire, or security, our creature comforts, whether these are pipeweed, mushrooms, five meals a day, and local gossip, or Starbucks coffees, recreational sex, and politics. But something, some authority not named in The Lord of the Rings (but named in the Silmarillion), has decreed that a Quest should interrupt this delightful Epicurean garden and send us on an odyssey. We are plucked out of our Hobbit holes and plunked down onto a Road.Peter Creeft
Now, we can scramble back into the “shire” of our own choosing. Life is so much grander than that. Being an avid book person and homebody myself, I can easily snuggle down into a self-made and self-soothing burrow. This is my daily battle of thinking I am “in the world but not of the world”.
When we are physically (emotionally) absent in real life, we are choosing “out”, not “in”. That real life includes work, family, neighborhood, and some semblance of the world…which means choosing to be in with some we would NOT have chosen to be in with. Am I wrong here? Please talk to me in the Comments below.
“Reading a book about something can be an obstacle to doing it because it gives you the impression that you are doing what you are only thinking about doing. It is tempting to remain in the comfortable theater of our imagination instead of the real world, to fall in love with the idea of becoming a saint and loving God and neighbor instead of doing the actual work, because the idea makes no demands on you. It is like a book on a shelf. But, as Dostoyevsky says, ‘love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams’ (The Brothers Karamazov).”Peter Creeft
This choosing “in” even when it’s uncomfortable may actually be the road chosen for us. The choosing “out” dulls us to what could actually happen with {God and] us in the formula.
“This [the choosing out] is where our culture has evolved and I say reject it!”Angela
As these thoughts were cooking in my head, I came across the YouTube video below by Catholic priest Father Mike. It relates to a question he received on whether Judas Iscariot was in Heaven or Hell. Judas was the one who betrayed Jesus to the authorities who had him crucified. Later Judas would hang himself. Beyond that topic, Father Mike talked about our choices and how they affect both life and after-life.
“In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”St. Teresa of Avila
Photo Credit: Heartlight
We make choices all day long. Choosing how we spend our time, whose lives we lean into, and what we teach our children (by attitude and action) – all those choices have an “in or out” component. The quote above speaks to these choices. If we live for this world, our default is to hold tightly to our choices. However, if we live for the next, we can open our hands, and lean in. This life, no matter how hard, compared with Heaven, is like “one night in a bad hotel”. At its worst!
Perspective.
It’s our choice. In or out.

Worship Wednesday – Godspeed – Just a Closer WALK with Thee

Photo Credit: Screenshot from Godspeed

Then the man and his wife heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the breeze of the day, and they hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  But the LORD God called out to the man, “Where are you?”Genesis 3:9

The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary; His understanding is beyond searching out. He gives power to the faint and increases the strength of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall. But those who wait upon the LORD will renew their strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.Isaiah 40:28-31

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast [stand firm], immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Spiritually speaking, I’m a runner…oh not in the champion circle kind of runner (at least not yet)…but definitely one eager to be in the thick of things, even if it’s “slow and steady wins the race” plodding.

It’s not because I’m old and time seems to be flying, although that does factor in. I’ve always had a sense of urgency, a fire in my bones, about the lost, the unreached, the displaced or marginalized, and those who “fall through the cracks”.

Because of this, it happens sometimes that I may run ahead of God and exhaust myself at pulling at the reins or rubbing against the yoke the Lord calls “easy”. In my fits and starts, I make a burden out of what’s not meant to be.

let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.Hebrews 12:1

In the Scriptures above, the Lord calls to mind a pace in heart and life that is more in accordance with His will and His character. In the Garden, after Adam and Eve had sinned, the Lord came walking and called out to them. “Where are you?” Of course, He knew where they were…but the question implies a distance from Him. They had determined to go their own way…bad news for them and the rest of us.

What’s the lesson? The Scripture is full of pacing and direction. When we are out of step with God, we are truly on our own…off helter-skelter deceived that we’re about His work (or maybe not caring really, just checking off the boxes of a “good life”).

We will at times, in our journey with the Lord, walk, run, even fly. Other times, He calls us to stand firm in the heat of battle, and He also calls us to rest, sheltering us from the heat.

This is our God…the One whose pace, which can seem exceedingly slow but, is perfectly measured. For our good and His great glory.

Just this week, I confess a chafing in the instruction of our dear pastor. He was calling us as small group leaders to take a summer break. To relax… I honestly have no idea what he said over the next few sentences because the word “relax” triggered a brain freeze. Knowing him, and without following up (to be honest), I believe he meant that the programming can be relaxed and we can enjoy an opportunity to change things up…to go deeper…to truly get to know one another in different ways (including other ‘one anothers’ with whom we don’t usually share space).

So thanks, Pastor Cliff.

Below you will find some resources that aren’t meant to be extra but actually the core of this Worship Wednesday. Take time to check out all of them – short time commitment and long impact. The short film Godspeed – the Pace of Being Known is amazing! This whole idea of giving ourselves to God and each other – where we can truly be known and know one another– is both healing and life-transforming. So… don’t necessarily slow down, but find God’s pace…let’s do it together.

Take that walk with God. Find Your People. Find your parish.

An article, a podcast, a short film, and, finally, a song:

Godspeed – Mark Buchanan – don’t miss this short article. So good!

Made for This Podcast – Jennie Allen – Life in Scotland with Pastor Matt Canlis – this podcast is the story of Pastor Canlis’ journey to Godspeed.

Godspeed – the Pace of Being Known – documentary – Matt Canlis – Watch this! Beautiful, every bit of it.

YouTube Video – Just a Closer Walk with Thee – Alabama – old song, slowed down and lovely.

[All screenshots above taken from the documentary Godspeed]

Monday Morning Moment – Who Needs Sharpening?

We lose our edge sometimes.

Once a month I volunteer to teach in the children’s program at church. Second through fifth graders. They happily burn through a lot of activities in a short amount of time, for sure. When I opened the supply cabinet to retrieve colored pencils for them, the image above is what I discovered. Now, to be sure, we still had enough colored pencils, but it struck me with the thought of how life itself renders us in need of sharpening.

We lose our edge sometimes with the press and pressures of daily responsibilities and relationships. We get dull, and we don’t even see it in ourselves. What a blessing to have people in our lives who not only know and love us enough to speak truth to us, but who also lean in and help us out of the ditches or ruts in our lives…before we decide just to stay camped there.

Counselor, writer Barry Pearman posted a practical and easy read: Sharpening: A Spiritual Habit for Better Mental Health. He tackles this topic of sharpening and offers a 5-point solution:

  1. Recognize our need for help. This may come from another’s assessment or our own awareness of a growing fatigue and disengagement.
  2. Lean in to sharpening with someone you trust. Once our quality of life or relationships gives notice that we have gotten ourselves into a rut, ditch, or dull place, we may be able to turn it around without help. However, having a partner in “sharpening” our lives speeds and enhances the whole process.
  3. Beware of how the past shapes our responses (and dulls our edge – these can be past inclinations, besetting sins, defaults – the ruts and ditches we’re prone to fall into). Pearman asks what is our true north and where are we on that thinking compass.
  4. Develop habits of sharpening. What practices each day can be a refresh for us? [This is what Stephen Covey prescribed in his classic book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The article by The 10-minute Leader gives quick helps for habit formation in this area of sharpening.
  5. Keep accountable within community. Seek out a small group of like-minded and like-focused individuals who practice iron sharpening iron with each other. “Sharpening the saw”, as Covey calls it, will make sparks fly. We need people who are committed to each other in such a way they just don’t leave the room.

If you got a bit tired reading these 5 points, you may need sharpening. Not to improve productivity necessarily (that’s not what we’re talking about here), but to improve your well-being. Your joy in life. Your relationships. No judging here, by the way. We all need sharpening as part of life. We can’t always see it ourselves…but once recognized, we can act on restoring beauty and balance in our lives.

Photo Credit: FranklinCovey, Stephen Covey, Kim Kerrigan

Would you consider it? Talk to someone you trust. As for the problem of pencils above? I actually think some of them were still usable. For the others? I ordered a best-of-the-best electric pencil sharpener…we’ll see how long it lasts. [Comment below if you want to recommend one…for the next time our sharpener dies. Fortunately for us, when we need sharpening…no purchase is necessary.

10 Ways to Sharpen the Spiritual Saw – Jean Wise

The 7 Habits: Sharpening the Saw – Brett & Kate McKay

Monday Morning Moment – Blind Adventurer Erik Weihenmayer Talks the Struggle of Life and the Advantage of Adversity

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Richmond Forum

There was something about his eyes. Knowing already that adventurer Erik Weihenmayer is blind, I still couldn’t get over his eyes – there is searching and wonder in his whole face…which could describe the life he has carved out for himself.

Photo Credit: Facebook, The Richmond Forum

Erik became blind in his early teen’s. Yet even then, he refused to let go of whatever it was he could do, even blind. He wrestled on his high school team and welcomed the sport of rock climbing. He discovered his hands and feet could become his eyes on rock walls…and later ice cliffs.

Dave and I had the great good of hearing Erik speak this weekend at The Richmond Forum. We were fully prepared to spend the evening listening to him regale on his incredible adventurer’s life. What it has been like to be blind and yet to accomplish such feats as climb to the summit of Mt. Everest or kayak the river rapids through the Grand Canyon.

He did not disappoint on that, but deeper still was how he reflected on struggle in life, on the advantage of adversity, on the critical nature of having mentors, and the beauty of a ropes team (those holding the ropes for each other, no one just holding for him/herself alone).Photo Credit: Flickr, Didrik Johnck

Here are just some of my takeaways from his insight into life (for all of us not just those aspiring to climb tall mountains):

  • On what’s possible: He has found a way to see what’s possible while others see what’s only in the way. “What’s within you is stronger than what’s in the way.”
  • On struggle: He focused on the struggle in life and how to build mental maps to “navigate forward”. In wrestling with the struggle, in the hours of preparation and practice, you discover what barriers are more easily overcome and what still remain to be conquered. [Learn more about his organization No Barriers here.]
  • On quitters, campers, & climbers: He talked about three types of people in the world: quitters, campers, and climbers. [This is also covered in his book with Paul StoltzAdversity Advantage.] Erik believes we all start out as climbers but how we deal with the barriers in life separate us out over time. Quitters essentially just give up on the ascent (whatever that means for them). Campers work hard toward a certain level. Then they make the decision that it’s enough and put up their tent right there. Climbers are the few who keep learning, and growing, and pressing forward…committed not just to the summit but to fulfilling their life purpose. Climbers are those who can say, “I gave it my all”. He challenged the audience to ask themselves who they are and who they want to be.
  • On choosing our response: Growing up, Erik dealt with his fear of being left behind or put in a corner (because he was blind). He quoted Victor Frankl about how we deal with what we’re given in life: Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
  • On reach: There is a reach common to all of us. What we do with it determines our outcomes. We are tempted to stop reaching when we fear failure or falling short.
  • On adversity: When we keep climbing, keep reaching, adversity follows. Rather than fall to hopelessness, we must attack the adversities – the small ones and on to the most complex ones.
  • On teams: “Ropes teams” are invaluable. No one gets to the summit alone. Erik extolled the essential ingredient of trust in a good team. Do you trust your team? Are you linked together behind one vision? Everyone doing what each needs to do for the sake of the team? In climbing, if one hiker starts falling, the climbers on each end do what is necessary to stop them one from falling, for his sake, for theirs and for the whole team, Such a good word for any of us.
  • On fear: Try to do something a little courageous. Small acts of courage lead to big ones. He struggles with fear. What he’s learned in life is that over time, as you prepare yourself for whatever is ahead, fear moves to the periphery, and you have room for awareness, focus, gratitude.
  • On parenting: His counsel to parents was brilliant. “Help your kids develop executive leadership skills. Go explore but be responsible…Don’t let love become a prison…Get kids out there doing something bigger than them. Get them socialized to real life…There are consequences to mouthing off to an older brother”.

I could have listened for hours still. Capture for yourself what Erik has learned about struggle, adversity, and the importance of purpose and people in our lives. You can find some YouTube videos, but his books, documentaries, and podcast give you a deeper dive.

I’ll close with two last quotes from him, and one by writer Ryan Holiday.

“There’s a very blurry line between the things we can’t do and the things we can.” – Erik Weihenmayer
“Adversity alone has the unique power to inspire exceptional clarity, purge any vestiges of lethargy, refocus your priorities, hone your character, and unleash your most potent forces.” – Erik Weihenmayer, The Adversity Advantage: Turning Everyday Struggles into Everyday Greatness

“It’s not just: How can I think this is not so bad? No, it is how to will yourself to see that this must be good—an opportunity to gain a new foothold, move forward, or go in a better direction. Not “be positive” but learn to be ceaselessly creative and opportunistic. Not: This is not so bad. But: I can make this good. Because it can be done. In fact, it has and is being done. Every day.” – Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle Is the Way

Worship Wednesday – What If – Matthew West with Lathan Warlick

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Jeremy Taylor

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.Psalm 90:12

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.James 4:14

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.Deuteronomy 6:6-7

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.2 Peter 1:3

The older we get the less surprised we are by the brevity of life.

Heaven keeps getting sweeter as more and more of our loves exit this crazy world. However, as much as we look forward to seeing Jesus, we want to stretch our days out with the joys of this life. Family, friends, our work and art, the every day splendors of life.

As we turn our thoughts to the day-to-day, we can shrink our view of forever. We soak up the sweet moments with our grandchildren and the beauty that surrounds us…even in a world scorched by war. Most of us live outside of the hard of that reality and can turn our thoughts to tending our yards and finding deals for family vacations.

Those are good things.

The dilemma is when good overrules what God is up to in our lives. God is about revealing Himself through us to a world that desperately needs Him…and we receive back the joy of being part of that loving, comforting, healing work.

The thing we face each day is whether we are willing to be part of that. God’s ways are higher than ours but are also scarier as well. But oh so satisfying!

I’ve lost four days this week to a cold. Just no energy added to complete brain fog. The keeping company with the couch was about the best I could do. Then hearing the song “What If” coincided with my day of starting to feel better. Joy!! That I have today to follow God.

It’s all we ever have, for sure. Today.

The official video of “What If” shows a series of family events around singer, songwriter’s Matthew West‘s birthday (with a little surprise ending). Fun times. Making memories. Going after experiences over material gifts. All the sorts of things that are large in our culture right now.

Larger still is the deeper meaning of West’ song. He is definitely communicating to be intentional about life, being that it is but a vapor. As video spells out, we squeeze all the good we can out of life, but that “good” is far more than just trips of a lifetime or every fun memory we can give our children.

If we’re hoping to orchestrate the “best version of our lives“, we have all we need…today…for that to happen.…as God defines it. His idea of that is so much larger than we imagine for ourselves. To bear witness to Him, to reflect the love of Jesus, to display joy, to give hope, to make a difference, to stand in the gap, to repair the breach.

Matthew West has given us many empowering songs including “Do Something”, “Forgiveness”, “Look What You’ve Done”, and “I’m Not Strong Enough” – all of which I’ve written about and taken hope from.

West talks about the story behind the song “What If”:

“You should do one thing a day that scares you…What if is a life-defining question. What if I made a change that I know I need to make, what if I sought help for an area of my life where I’m struggling, what if I stepped out and lived boldly for Christ, what if I stepped into the fullness of God’s plan for my life?  Or you can wait until the story is all but written, then you’re answering the question in the past tense. I want to answer that question now. While I still have a chance to change the things that can change. I don’t want to be answering the ‘what if” question when it’s all too late. Then it’s just about regret. I want to look back and know that I have no regrets. John 10:10 –Jesus said “I’ve come that they may have life and have it to the full”. The time is now. Live like today is the only day you’ve got. For the best version of your life, answer that “what if” question now.”Matthew West

What scary thing might God be calling you to endeavor today? He is with you. He is always with you. West reminds us to live today like it’s our last. A good word.

I’ve had a few regrets in my life…not so many because Mom taught us to keep short accounts with God and people. Asking for forgiveness and forgiving others are two parts of that. As much as it is possible, live at peace with all men (women). No grudges. No regrets. It is a daily battle, but one filled with God’s purposes and promises, as we keep our minds on Him.

Keeping Short Accounts with God – Jonathan Kirby

Worship with me to West’s song “What If” featuring artist Lathan Warlick:

I’ve heard ’em say before to live just like you’re dying, yeah
Wish I could say that’s how I am but I been lying, yeah
Lying in my bed at night, and one too many times I’m thinking
What if, what if
My biggest fear is waking up to find what matters
Is miles away from what I spent my life chasing after
Is my story gonna have the same two words in every chapter?
What if, what if

But last I checked this heart
Inside my chest is still beating
Well, I guess it’s not too late

What if today’s the only day I got?
I don’t wanna waste it if it’s my last shot
No regrets in the end
I wanna know I got no what ifs
I’m running till the road runs out
I’m lighting it up right here right now
No regrets in the end
I wanna know I got no what ifs, yeah

See, I refuse to be a shoulda woulda coulda been
I can’t go back in time, I don’t have a DeLorean
What I’m trying to say is I don’t wanna say these words again
What if, what if

But last I checked this heart
Inside my chest is still beating
Well, I guess it’s not too late, no no

What if today’s the only day I got?
I don’t wanna waste it if it’s my last shot
No regrets in the end
I wanna know I got no what ifs
I’m running till the road runs out
I’m lighting it up right here right now
No regrets in the end (yeah)
I wanna know I got no what ifs (no what ifs)

I can see the clock is ticking and I’m tired of wasting my time
I’ma do it for today, so if tomorrow come, then I’m fine
Yeah, I’m far from perfect, I’ll be asking God to keep me in mind
And this life is shorter than we think, it’s really passing us by
I can’t be taking what’s going on for granted and when it get hard you won’t see me panic
Went through the storm and came out with scars but you don’t see me with no permanent damage
Yeah, this life is like a vapor, so go ahead and take advantage
Of what’s going on now, while you still got time to manage, yeah

‘Cause what if today’s the only day I got? (I’ve got it, got it)
I don’t wanna waste it (haha) if it’s my last shot (let’s go)
No regrets (no) in the end (in the end)
I wanna know I got no what ifs (I got no what ifs)
I’m running till the road runs out (whoa)
I’m lighting it up right (ah) here right now (yeah)
No regrets (no regrets) in the end (in the end)
I wanna know I got no what ifs (no what ifs, let’s go)

I wanna know I got no what ifs (no what ifs)
I wanna know I got no what ifs (no what ifs)*

*Lyrics to What If (Songwriters: AJ Pruis, Matthew West, Ran Jackson)

What If Bible Reading Plan – Matthew West

Photo Credit: Pinterest

5 Friday Faves – Beyond Grumpiness, the Coming of Spring, Shame as Our Personal Assistant, Vulnerability, and Great Marriage Advice

Friday Faves – Go!

1) Beyond Grumpiness –A friend of mine pointed this blog to me today and it bumped its way to the top of my Faves. English professor Alan Jacobs mused about the grumpiness of old people. I don’t know when it happens and why exactly it happens, but it is something that has happened to me of late…and I don’t think I’m old enough yet for it to happen.

Photo Credit: Stream

Here’s a bit of what Dr. Jacobs says about grumpiness, but you should read his whole piece, especially if you’re finding yourself becoming grumpy (whatever age you are).

“I think the explanation for such widespread grumpiness is fairly simple…It’s not the big foul acts or horribly cruel words that do you in, it’s the slow drip drip drip of little annoyances that become over time a vast sea of frustration. Surely you’ve been there? You become exasperated by someone’s passing comment and when they are genuinely puzzled by your anger over so trivial a matter, you try to explain (apologetically, penitently, I hope) that it wouldn’t be a problem if this thing had happened once but it has happened a thousand times. It’s the repetition that kills you.” [Dr. Jacobs goes on to talk about the divisions on which we’ve taken sides give the sense of being new and revolutionary…and yet they are old divisions revisited.] “You can’t learn from the past if you don’t know what happened in it. So yeah, I’m gradually turning into a grumpy old man. Because nobody learns anything…” [About these things that divide us: We seem to care too much, or too little, or just plain not at all. Dr. Jacobs challenges us to that only truly loving people gives us the right to voice an opinion, and definitely not a shaming one.] “It’s a hard path to walk, this Way of avoiding both indifference and ‘the conscious impotence of rage / At human folly.’ But the hard path is the only real Way. (All the others circle back on themselves.) So I try every day to follow it. I don’t think I could manage even that if I did not have an Advocate to accompany me, to encourage me, and to guide me.” – Alan Jacobs, Beyond Grumpiness

Against Stupidity – Alan Jacobs

The Destructive Power of Grumbling and Complaining – Michael Brown

2) The Coming of Spring –March weather – “In like a lion, out like a lamb”. Of course, we’re only mid-way through March, but we have no more predictions of snow. Daffodils bloomed in snow last week, but the winds of March have blown all the rough weather away for now. I’m not rushing Spring, but it is such a beautiful and refreshing time of the year. Here are some pics of our March so far.

Photo Credit: Kathryn Visneski (East Tennessee; we had this same snow but no captures of red cardinals in it.)

3) Shame as our Personal Assistant – In Dr. Curt Thompson‘s excellent book The Soul of Shame: Retelling Stories We Believe About Ourselves, we find the intriguing term shame assistant.

Imagine having a personal assistant who means us only evil. Whispers in our ear of how we’re not prepared enough, not attractive enough, not smart enough…just not enough.

It’s hard not to believe what seems to be coming out of our own reasoned thinking. Maybe…just maybe…we’re not enough.

To defend ourselves, without consciously being aware, we armor up against those thoughts…protecting ourselves from being too exposed to others. Isolating ourselves. This hiding keeps us from community which we need the most in dealing with shame.

At times, we strike out against the shame. Either by punishing ourselves or by blaming someone else for the pain we feel. Again, this further isolates us from others…leaving us alone with the shame attendant of our lives.

There’s good news, though, Friend. See #4.

Shame: Your Inner Attendant – Katelyn Entz

Toxic Shame Has Its Own Neurobiology. The Gospel Offers a Cure – Werner Mischke

4) Vulnerability – Curt Thompson spends a chapter in his book on the remedy for shame. It is vulnerability. How do we convince ourselves, all armored up against being exposed that the path to healing is dropping the armor? Here’s the thing: armor or no, we are vulnerable. Period. Full stop. We can’t keep shame at a distance. It crouches at our mind’s door, ready at a moment’s notice, to destroy our peace…and diminish our relationships.

Photo Credit: Curt Thompson MD, Instagram

“To be vulnerable is not first something we choose. It is something we are.”* We are vulnerable. It is our state of being. We spend an enormous amount of energy protecting it. We can be free of this.

*Being Known Podcast – Vulnerability – Season 1, Episode 3

You know how we teach little ones to say, “Please” and “Thank you”? These aren’t just practices of good manners. They are actually acknowledgements of our vulnerability from an early age. Little ones have to ask for what they can’t get on their own, and then they express gratitude that their need was seen and responded to.

Our willingness to be openly vulnerable within community moves us toward intimacy. “Vulnerability creates opportunity for connection.” When we don’t avail ourselves to these opportunities, we just stay in our protective armor. Opening up to a trusted friend or small group emboldens us to tell our stories and recognize that the stinging words of shame don’t belong to us. We matter. We are enough. Being able to share such things with people who will NOT leave the room gives us the courage to then be more vulnerable with others – like our boss, or professor, or estranged family member.

Dr. Thompson also talks about the other side of being vulnerable – when we are the ones others are being vulnerable with. We may want to move away from the awkwardness of that kind of disclosure. Or we may want to try to fix it which early on is more to help ourselves dealing with the discomfort than the one sharing. “What they most need from us is our empathic presence…” To lean in, to demonstrate that they are being seen, and to connect with them, and validate what they are feeling, to see them in whatever the hard is for them in being vulnerable. In the end, we may ask how we can be helpful but we don’t go right there in the immediate of their telling their story.

This is vulnerability and it moves us to healing, to community, and to joy.

5) Great Marriage Advice – Marriage…whew! Earlier in my adult life, I always cringed at the observation that marriage is work. It didn’t look like work, and having the opportunity to share life with your special person seemed more joy than labor. Then I got married.

It is joy and it is work…not in the dull, redundant sort of work we may have from time to time…but the challenging, invigorating, problem-solving, “in it to win it” kind of work.

I happened across a sweet thread on Jane Lewis’ Twitter page. She reached out to her followers for marriage wisdom. Lots of response!

Below are just some of them…the ones I especially found valuable:

“No one”……and I mean “no one” can read your mind!

Develop and maintain hobbies independent of each other AND protect the hobbies you do together.

Attack the problem, not the person.

Faith (if you are inclined that way), mutual respect, and honest, loving, open communication are the Big Three that get you through life together.

Don’t take the little things for granted.

There is a challenge to live connected but free with your spouse. I’ve read that your primary job in marriage is to protect your spouse from your control.

My advice is laugh a lot, kiss each other often, and pray for and with each other daily.

Forgive quickly and keep a short memory of the bad. Focus on the good and appreciate him immensely!

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate – not just about money, work, chores, kids or health, but also spirituality, fun, world events. 2. Each of you needs ‘me’ time. 3. Do something fun together every week. 4. Sex is great, but marriage is about more than that. 5. Communicate.

Seek to have a quiet heart each day. Thought today of Mary facing extreme excitement (Luke 1:18,19) and deep coming sorrow (Luke 1:35). The Lord is your Keeper in highs and lows.

Don’t criticize or complain about your spouse in public. Smile at the “husbands be like” jokes, but don’t contribute. Be honest & kind. Talk to each other about your problems, not to friends/family. Keep your own hobbies, bank account & bathroom if possible.

Don’t be easily offended. As John Bevere says in his book, it is “The Bate of Satan.”

Stay curious. Keep flirting. Never forget to tell him you appreciate his hard work…never forget the reasons why you fell in love with each other…never forget that you are on the same team.

Neither of you is the same person you will be in 5 years, 20 years, or 45 years. You’re each committing to the version of the person you love now, but you’re also committing to the many versions they will become.

As much as you love him and he loves you, know that you cannot completely fulfill him, nor he fulfill you…it’s unfair to put that burden on either and will only end in heartache.

Have close girlfriends. Be humble when you fight. Hold healthy boundaries. Learn how he processes. Let him be different than you. Stick. Bad times pass. Glorify God. Forgive. Remember marriage is a picture to help us understand Christ’s love for the church. Let that sink in.

Find ways to laugh together and always have compassion for one another.

Find a reason to laugh, fist bump or high five with your spouse everyday.

Mind who you talk about your marriage with and who you listen to about your marriage. There’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from others who have gone before, but there are also people who you shouldn’t let speak to your marriage.

My advice to a new bride- maintain your friendships.with your girlfriends. He does not want to chit chat, go shopping or do your hair the way your girlfriends do. Keep your girlfriends. He will be happier and so will you.

Hold to your integrity. Trust Jesus w everything. Listen deeply. Celebrate madly. Speak truth in love. Have fun! Pray together. Walk together. Hold hands. Let there be space in your togetherness. Let go & hold on.

Give dignity to your differences. Make adequate space for whatever conversation needs to happen. You’ll both still be there tomorrow, and few things are urgent. Have your own tubes of toothpaste.

An abbreviated quote by Camille Paglia: “Men have sacrificed and crippled themselves physically and emotionally to feed, house, and protect women and children. (But the world) portrays men as oppressive and callous exploiters.” Be understanding of his burden.

Talk through how you deal with money and come up with a budget you both agree on. One spouse can pay the bills but both of you should be aware of the state of your finances and financial goals.

You are the same team. In disagreements, in different skill sets and ways of communicating, you are all on the same team. Argue and forgive like teammates. Notice and applaud like teammates. Work out problems and brainstorm like teammates. We use “same team” as shorthand to stop ourselves when we disagree or misunderstand each other. Take a breath and explain what is going on. Learning to argue well, to listen well and be self-aware enough to give names to things and be heard. And give loads of grace.

@janeelisabethh, you have some wise women (and a couple of guys) in your Twitter world. People (and threads) like this are why I am still on Twitter.

Coming up on 38 years with this guy.

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Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, Tim Keller

Photo Credit: Instagram, Tim Keller NYC

10 Ways to Live Life to the Fullest After 60 – Rebecca Wilson

Worship Wednesday – The Commission – Cain the Band

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:18-20

When good news shakes up and transforms our very lives, we don’t keep it to ourselves. We can’t. In fact, in his last conversation with his disciples, the Messiah Jesus speaks of this in commanding terms.

The occasion for his words in the Gospel of Matthew was a gathering of Jesus’ followers with him. They were filled with both the comfort and joy of having come through His unwarranted death on a Roman cross and then having witnessed His resurrection from the dead. Nothing could keep Jesus in the grave. Nothing.

He took our sins to the cross. He died in our place. He gave himself for our sake that we could know His abundant life on earth and be with the Lord forever in Heaven.

In his commissioning (Matthew 28:18-20), he spoke to his followers but the words ring through the centuries to all of us and to those who come after us. Only he had the authority to speak them and to send us out. His authority came from the Father, we can speak the good news of Christ through his authority and the power of the Holy Spirit. He goes with us and is with us always.

So what is our commission?

  • Go – to our children, our larger families, our friends, our neighbors, our workplace, the marketplace, the world.
  • Make disciples – not by any coercion or bait-and-switch strategy. We live Christ before others and we speak the words of Christ to those he places in our path. We are not Christian from birth (as some think about Christians). We are also not saved by manipulation or parental persuasion. We are saved by reckoning with our sinful state and need for a savior. The Lord saves; we cannot save ourselves. “Making disciples” is to lay out the truth of our own experience in received salvation from Christ and inviting others to receive the same. It is not the Lord’s desire for anyone to die without an opportunity to come to faith in him (2 Peter 3:9). He has commissioned us to bring about that opportunity.
  • Baptize – in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus himself was baptized, (without need but as a witness for what he calls us to do). It is a public pronouncement of our faith in the sufficiency of Christ and our decision to follow him.
  • Teaching to obey. Obedience to Christ is not a peevish, demeaning thing. It is a beautiful alignment with all his promises, with all of who he is, and with all the good he brings out of our obedience – not just for ourselves but with a wide and generational ripple effect.

And that glorious promise: He is with us always. Glory!

[A note from my mom when we took a job outside the U.S. – she was a great pray-er.]

Have you received this Christ as your savior? Not an acknowledging of a form of Christ made popular across religions…but the One true God (three in one, in perfect unity). Not a “hope to get to Heaven” ticket…but through a personal relationship where God the Father sees us as we were meant to be – pure and beautiful sons and daughters, transformed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Salvation – Explore God

For those of us who have experienced this incredible, undeserved, God-given adoption into his kingdom, we have our commission.

Worship with me (lyrics/music in the link).

See my hands and look at my feet
It’s okay if it’s hard to believe
I have faith that you will do greater things
It’s my time to go, but before I leave
Go tell the world about me
I was dead but now I live
I’ve gotta go now for a little while
But goodbye is not the end
Don’t forget the things that I taught you
I’ve conquered death and I hold the keys
Where I go you will go too someday
But there’s much to do here before you leave so
Go tell the world about me
I was dead but now I live
I’ve gotta go now for a little while
But goodbye is not the
End of the journey
The end of the road
My spirit is with you
Wherever you go
You have a purpose
And I have a plan
I’ll make you this promise
I’ll come back again
But until then
Go tell the world about me
For I was dead but now I live
Oh, I’ve gotta go now for a little while
Hey, but goodbye is not the end(Go tell the world)
Oh, go tell them about me
(Go tell the world)
I’ve gotta go
(Go tell the world)
For a little while
But goodbye is not the end*

*Lyrics to The Commission

YouTube – The Story Behind the Song The Commission by Cain

Cain the Band Website

YouTube – I Am with You Always: Matthew 28:18-20 – Desiring God – John Piper

Worship Wednesday – Somebody’s Prayin’ – John G. Elliott

Photo Credit: Heartlight

 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.1 Timothy 2:1

When we lived overseas, one of my greatest joys was to pray, on the streets doing errands. In Cairo, Tunis, Sfax, and Casablanca. Just walking in and out of stores. Praying for people as they came across my path. Strangers with lives of which I had no knowledge. Except for those things we all hold in common. Work, health, family, and some understanding of God. I felt such a connection with these people who I might never really know…or maybe I would…one day.

Praying.

What a privilege also to pray for those near to us…family, friends, neighbors, colleagues. Near…and far. Those in power and those far removed. Those who deeply need prayer in the moment as well as those who discount their need…but it is still there.

In the early 90s, an album by singer, songwriter John G. Elliott found an enduring place on our playlist. Let All the Thirsty Come (1988). Beautiful lyrics and Elliott’s voice brought these heartsongs to life for us. In particular, our favorite song is his Somebody’s Prayin’. Not surprisingly, he is on staff today at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri.

My Mom was a great pray-er, and we, her children, are still buoyed on the wings of those prayers. Now, my praying mentor is my treasured mom-in-law. She is praying, early morning and through the day, for many somebodies…us included. [She won’t love the image below that I captured without her knowledge. For me, it is a beautiful, albeit early-morning-grainy image for me of one before the throne of God.] So thankful for her and for the God who draws her to Himself.

If you wonder sometimes if anyone is praying for you…take that wondering to God and with it your own prayer for someone else. Keep in mind that in our loneliest, most isolated times, Someone is always praying for us…His name is Jesus.

Who is there to condemn us? For Christ Jesus, who died, and more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God—and He is interceding for us.Romans 8:34

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship with me (lyrics and music in the link. This cover done beautifully by Ricky Skaggs).

Somebody’s prayin, I can feel it
Somebody’s prayin’ for me
Mighty hands are guiding me
To protect what I can’t see
Lord I believe, Lord I believe
That somebody’s prayin’, for me

Angels are watchin’, I can feel it
Angels are watchin’ over me
There’s many miles ahead ’til I get home
Still I’m safely kept before Your throne
‘Cause Lord I believe, Lord I believe
Your angels are watchin’ over me

Well, I’ve walked through barren wilderness
When my pillow was a stone
And I’ve been through the darkest caverns
Where no light had ever shown
Still I went on ’cause there was someone
Who was down on their knees
And Lord. I thank You for those people
Prayin’ all this time for me

Somebody’s prayin’, I can feel it
Somebody’s prayin’ for me
Mighty hands are guiding me
To protect me from what I can’t see
Lord I believe, Lord I believe
Somebody’s prayin’ for me*

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I hope you know you’re prayed for…thanks for those of you who have prayed for me over the years.

*Lyrics to “Somebody’s Prayin’” – Songwriter: John G. Elliott

John G. Elliott – Bandcamp – Music

The Heart of Songwriting – John G. Elliott – International House of Prayer, Kansas City

Our Top 10 Blogs of 2021 – International House of Prayer, Kansas City

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Saturday Short – My Mom – a Lifetime Full of Love Notes – Her Birthday Just Ahead of Valentine’s Day

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 19 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I lived close to home, and Mom was my best friend. She died almost 20 years ago, and I miss her every day still. To people who knew her well, I would often say  “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

Mom pictures for website 012

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. At that time, it was the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I have kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between Mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions, or traditions like them. Passing them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out with words of kindness and encouragement. Written or spoken, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.1 Thessalonians 5:11

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ Revisited in 2022- Kari Jobe

 

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. – the Apostle Paul, Acts 20:24

Entering year three of COVID, who would have thought?

I wonder how much time each day we spend talking about, reading about, and altering our lives to prevent COVID. So. Much. Time. On a phone call with a friend yesterday, she observed that we seem to all place ourselves somewhere on a continuum of tired or terrified. Which is it for you?

Then I come across a tweet that snaps me into a new consciousness.

Photo Credit: Spence Shelton, Twitter

“Secluded comfort” has lulled us into a false sense of safety from COVID. Also a spiritual dullness which (as Spence Shelton states) downplays “gospel urgency and gospel sacrifice”. Whoa! I certainly have experienced some of this.

My mom was tireless in serving God and others right to the moment she lost consciousness in her last hours on earth. She always amazed me. Never too busy to be interrupted. Never too tired to respond to a need. Just never. She amazed me.

Toward the end of her battle with cancer, I asked her (you’ve heard this story before) if she heard God speak to her. In years past, she struggled with whether God was guiding her or she was on her own. It was something she fretted over at times. In the hard days of cancer, I was hoping maybe that had changed… Again, when I asked if she heard God when she prayed, and she trained those clear blue eyes on me. With a smile that comforts me still, she said, “All the time.”

A different generation? A time before COVID? Did fighting cancer sharpen her sense of the presence and purposes of God? Is it possible COVID is meant to do the same? What can we draw from “such a time as this”…this right now?

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang The Cause of Christ by Kari Jobe. In the setting of church gathered, the Holy Spirit moved my heart deeply with the purpose of this life. This song reminded me of God’s will for us, not matter the externals in our lives, to persevere and refuse to keep silent.

My heart’s best desire is to be wholly about God’s purposes and to radiate, in word and deed, the love and person of Jesus Christ. Seasons come (as with COVID) when this desire is dampened by fears, distractions, and cultural cloyings that disguise lies for truth. I have not always lived for the God who saved me…definitely have not been always faithful to speak the glorious truth of who God is and what He has done for us.

Oh…the awful silence of choosing my own comfort over the cause of Christ.

What joy in those occasions when we enter into the cause of Christ and share the truth of God, in word and deed. He takes our feeble attempts and, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the opportunity to point to love and life in Him.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.John 3:16-17

How can we keep silent?

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Before we worship together with the singing and meditating on Kari Jobe’s The Cause of Christ, I’d like to post and pray (with you) pastorJohn Piper‘s prayer, from his book Coronavirus and Christ.

“Father, at our best moments, by Your grace, we are not sleeping in Gethsemane, we are awake and listening to Your Son’s prayer. He knows deep down that He must suffer but in His perfect humanity, He cries out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass.” In the same way, we sense deep down that this pandemic is appointed in Your wisdom for good and necessary purposes. We, too, must suffer. Your Son was innocent. We are not. Yet, with Him, in our less than perfect humanity, we too cry out, “If it is possible, let this cup pass.”

Do quickly, oh Lord, the painful, just, and merciful work You have resolved to do. Do not linger in judgment, do not delay Your compassion. Remember the poor, oh Lord, according to Your mercy. Do not forget the cry of the afflicted. Grant recovery. Grant a cure. Deliver us, Your people, helpless creatures, from these sorrows, we pray. But do not waste our misery and grief, oh Lord. Purify Your people from powerless preoccupation with barren materialism and Christless entertainment. Put our mouths out of taste with the bait of Satan.

Cut from us the roots and remnant of pride and hate and unjust ways. Grant us capacities of outrage at our own belittling of Your glory. Open the eyes of our hearts to see and savor the beauty of Christ. Incline our hearts to Your word, Your Son, Your way. Fill us with compassionate courage and make a name for Yourself in the way Your people serve. Stretch forth Your hand in great awakening.

For the sake of this perishing world, let the terrible words of Revelation not be spoken over this generation, ‘yet still they did not repent’. As You have stricken bodies, strike now the slumbering souls. Forbid that they would remain asleep in the darkness of pride and unbelief. In Your great mercy, say to these bones, live and bring the hearts and lives of millions into alignment with the infinite worth of Jesus. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.” – John Piper, Coronavirus and Christ

Worship with me for the cause of Christ (music in the link):

The only thing I want in life
Is to be known for loving Christ
To build His church, to love His bride
And make His name known far and wide

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

He is all my soul will prize
Regardless of the joy or trial
When agonizing questions rise
In Jesus, all my hope abides

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

Jesus, my Jesus
For Your glory, for Your name
Jesus, my Jesus
I will only sing Your praise

For this cause I live
For this cause I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

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*Lyrics to The Cause of Christ – Writers: Kari Jobe, Benjamin Hastings, Bryan Fowler

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe – interview starts at 4:45 [also how to play the song]

What Is the Cause of Christ?

A Cause Worthy of Your Life – Andrew Corbett

What Does It Mean to Be Saved? – Steven J. Cole

For the Cause – Getty Music

YouTube Video – When It’s All Been Said and Done – Robin Mark

Finishing Strong – Mildred McAdams – (our mom) – 1927-2002

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

Photo Credit: Heartlight