Category Archives: Fear

Worship Wednesday – Set Free From the Lies about Ourselves and Each Other – Fear Is a Liar – Zach Williams

Photo Credit: Flickr, Lisa Hall-Wilson

[Adapted from the Archives]

Now this is what the LORD says–the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel–“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.  2 Timothy 1:7

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear.1 John 4:18a

“If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

What happens when we believe lies? Oh, it’s not that we are gullible or naive. Lies sound true when spoken in the first-person pronoun. As in “I’m such a failure.” or “It’s all my fault.” Or by someone we care about. As in “You are impossible to please.” or “You will never change.”

When we, or people we love, come under an attack of some sort, we respond. Always. Two physiological responses may immediately come to mind. We fight or fear (literally fleeing or just in our head). That fight or flight response is much researched and well-documented. My default is flight…in fear. If I have to, especially for the sake of my children or others needing help, I would fight, but fear would be part of that battle. So, even in the fight response, it is mixed with fear. The threat is perceived as so real, we fear for our lives or our personhood, at some level, and we fight for it.

I too often go to fearful flight. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you go to fight. Either one can be used in ways by our enemy to keep us from a third response. That being collecting our thoughts around what is true and acting in a way that gives space for God to fight for us…and for the relationship that feels threatened. That does not mean we won’t be physically removed from a fight (to protect or for justice or mercy’s sake). Nor does it mean that we won’t be tempted to fear. We must learn to resist the lies…and the Liar.  To replace the lies with what is true. So that we are not defeated already – by believing fear’s lies or by unleashing fury that hurts in its own right and only escalates fear in the end.

When I heard Zach Williams’ song Fear Is a Liar, the lyrics drew me in immediately. I knew that experience. That experience of fear being a voice in my head, telling me things that simply were not true…but sounded true. Paralyzing me when God means for me to be free. I am free in Him. Not cowering. Not withdrawing. Fear picks us up to throw us down somewhere dark and outside of who we really are. Fear is a liar…and is generated by the “father of lies”. At first, I struggled with the personification of fear in this song…but more and more, it is like battling with Satan himself, or one of his minions. The truth is that “greater is he (God) in me, than he (the evil one) in this world”. Photo Credit: Flickr, Artem Popov

My Mom and I, through the years, would often quote 2 Timothy 1:7 to each other.God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. We both struggled with fear and needed to remind each other of the truth. My husband Dave has often helped me come back to my senses with just the two-word imperative: “Pull up”. When we struggle with fear, our thoughts can grow more and more terrifying and send us on a deep dive, spiraling out of control. Just the reminder to “pull up” would spark my returning to remember what is true.

Those of us who fear need people in our lives who remind of us of the truth and the God of truth. Not in a platitudinous way. But in a way that wraps around us, stays with us, loves us through it. Who are your people?

[Sidebar: For those of you who default to fight or fury…the wisdom is the same. Return to what is true, what is full of love, what is genuine power. Being “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” is not weakness; it is a right response that gives space for God to act. Also, another huge truth to remember: God forgives as we repent. When we shrink away in fear or strike out in fear, God does not leave us in a crumple of failed flesh. We are His. Warriors. Prophets. Priests. Children of the One God. He has flung our sin as far as the east is from the west. It does not define us or diminish us as His repentant own.]

Worship with me and cancel the fear with the truth of God. Extinguish its darkness with the light of the perfect love of Jesus. As you worship with this song, remember the lyric “he” isn’t the person in front of you – the “he” is the Evil One. Our fight is not with that person in front of us…it is a spiritual battle…and we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.

When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never change

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar*

Fear does not die easily. It requires an act of will and an act of faith. Often I have to pray myself out of fear before sleep at night, and praise my way out of picking it back up in the morning. This is after a lifetime of battling with fear. However, there is nothing sweeter…nothing…than knowing that God’s got this. Whatever “this” is. We live in a world full of scary and confusing struggle. We can’t see yet how it will all come out or what is happening in the unseen. Trusting God with what frightens and acting accordingly is how we deal with the struggle. We don’t retreat…we don’t attack…but we also don’t go it alone. That gives me joy, and I will not to be afraid.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” – JesusJohn 16:33

*Lyrics to Fear is a Liar – Songwriters: Zach Williams, Jason Ingram, Jonathan Lindley Smith

Zach Williams Music

Worship Wednesday – No Fear – Same Power – Jeremy Camp

YouTube Video – Casting Crowns – East to West (Official Lyric Video)

Fear Is a Liar – 91 Images on Pinterest

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

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

Worship Wednesday – When All I See Is the Battle, You See the Victory (Battle Belongs) – Phil Wickham

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Toby Mac

Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.  And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord...Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”2 Chronicles 20:3-4, 15-17

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.Isaiah 55:8-9

When the song Battle Belongs first came to my hearing just this past week, it stirred so much thought and prayer…not so many words, but they are in the song…and my hands go up, and I want to dance!

Praying this prayer:

“Oh, God, give me eyes to see how You see things…and people. Free my thoughts from the bondage of the ‘but’s’ and the ‘what if’s’. Empty my mind of worry and fear…and even ridiculous dread. Forgive me when I am consumed by thoughts that are simply not true…when I believe lies over what You have already told us…already promised. Remind me that You mean nothing but good for Your children.  Fill my heart with love for a good and loving God. Guide my steps to walk in Your confidence and Your compassion. You are God. There is nothing to fear. You are God…and we are Yours. You light our paths. You steady our gait. You hold us close. We are Yours…and we will rest our hearts and minds in Your keeping.”

Worship with me to this emboldened hymn of praise by Phil Wickham and Brian Johnson

“Battle Belongs”

When all I see is the battle
You see my victory
When all I see is the mountain
You see a mountain moved
And as I walk through the shadow
Your love surrounds me
There’s nothing to fear now
For I am safe with You
So when I fight I’ll fight on my knees
With my hands lifted high
Oh God the battle belongs to You
And every fear I lay at Your feet
I’ll sing through the night
Oh God the battle belongs to You
And if You are for me
Who can be against me (yeah)
For Jesus there’s nothing
Impossible for You
When all I see are the ashes
You see the beauty (thank You God)
When all I see is a cross
God You see the empty tomb
So when I fight I’ll fight on my knees
With my hands lifted high
Oh God the battle belongs to You
And every fear I lay at Your feet
I’ll sing through the night
Oh God the battle belongs to You
Almighty Fortress You go before us
Nothing can stand against
The power of our God
You shine in the shadow
You win every battle
Nothing can stand against
The power of our GodAlmighty Fortress You go before us
Nothing can stand against
The power of our God
You shine in the shadow
You win every battle
Nothing can stand against
The power of our GodAlmighty Fortress You go before us
Nothing can stand against
The power of our God
You shine in the shadows
You win every battle
Nothing can stand against
The power of our GodSo when I fight I’ll fight on my knees
With my hands lifted high
Oh God the battle belongs to You
And every fear I lay at Your feet
I’ll sing through the night
Oh God the battle belongs to YouOh God the battle belongs to You*

*Lyrics to “Battle Belongs” – Songwriters: Brian Johnson, Phil Wickham

[Phil Wickham explained the following in a story behind “Battle Belongs”, “One of my favourite stories in all of scripture comes from ‘2 Chronicles 20’. It’s a story of this huge army that is amassed to come against the people of God. And when the people of God and their king, Jehoshaphat, hear of this horde coming their way, they freak out. They literally come to God and say, ‘We are powerless against this army, but our eyes are on you, God. Show us what to do.’ And God responds to them. His Spirit comes upon this Levite man and through the Levite man God says, ‘Do not be afraid or dismayed, for the battle is not yours, but it is God’s. You will not have to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position and see the Salvation of the Lord on your behalf.'”]

Monday Morning Moment – Poet Langston Hughes on Life and America

Photo Credit: The Wisdom Daily

American poet Langston Hughes was born in 1902. His life as a black man in such a time as this gave voice to that of many in America. Especially blacks, but to others as well who also found themselves marginalized by the powerful and influential of their day. He died much too young at 65.

I discovered his poetry in 2020…very late to the party or revolution.

Raised by a loving, Godly mom, I was taught to be color-blind regarding races of people. It turns out that didn’t prove to be healing to black friends, neighbors, and strangers on the street. Blacks whose lives had been deeply and darkly affected by a racism I simply had not learned or experienced. How could that be? Yet, it is true.

[My mom had a pure heart; I’m sure of this. She wanted to believe that there was only one race, the human race. She grew up poor, worked hard all her life, mostly making minimum wage, held her family together, and kept her faith. Much like the black women who lived in that distant, unknown part of town. She just didn’t know what was happening in government and the private sector that divided us…and diminished some. All of us, by degrees.]

Racism is wrong and must be exposed and wrestled down. I don’t believe that what has happened in the US over 2020 will move us in that direction.  I could be wrong. For sure.

Still…I’m so thankful for people who, despite the wrongs done to them or around them, have flourished. Like the rising tide, raising all boats in its wake. My desire is to recognize and support those who resist street-level thuggery and use platforms that don’t divide but draw us all in.

Langston Hughes is an example of that sort of person. [Now, he died during a pivotal time in the Civil Rights Movement, a year before Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed. Had he lived longer, I don’t know how his thinking or poetry would have changed.]

I’d like to let just a few of Langston Hughes’ words speak for him:

“Looks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you–
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.”
“I swear to the Lord,I still can’t see,Why Democracy means,Everybody but me. ”

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”
Langston Hughes

On this day, commemorating Hughes’ birthday, a friend of mine posted on Facebook the two following poems (one by Walt Whitman followed by a poem of response by Langston Hughes):

I Hear America Singing – Walt Whitman – 1819-1892

*I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.”*

I, Too – Langston Hughes – 1902-1967

“I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.”*

Hughes wrote about America and life as a black person in America. Especially as it related to freedom of expression:

“This is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America — this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible...Then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority — may the Lord be praised!…These common people are not afraid of spirituals, as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were, and jazz is their child. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardization. And perhaps these common people will give to the world its truly great Negro artist, the one who is not afraid to be himself.” – Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues

Here, on the first day of Black History Month, in a more somber America 2021, I salute the great poet Langston Hughes. May we learn from him and from each other.

[May we also beware of those who “seem to be influential” in our culture today – those who would divide and diminish us – when we have the capacity and capability to help each other flourish…all of us. – This warning coming of all places from my reading in the Bible this early snowy morning, Galatians 2.]

I’d like to close with just an excerpt of the powerful Hughes poem “Let America Be America Again” (recited in full in the YouTube video above):

“O, let America be America again– The land that never has been yet– And yet must be–the land where every man is free. The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME– Who made America, Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, Must bring back our mighty dream again. Sure, call me any ugly name you choose– The steel of freedom does not stain. From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives, We must take back our land again, America! O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath– America will be! Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, We, the people, must redeem The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. The mountains and the endless plain– All, all the stretch of these great green states– And make America again! “

I Dream a World – Langston Hughes

*Poets – Lesson plan, which features poems by Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Elizabeth Alexander

10 of Langston Hughes’ Most Popular Poems – Rachel Chang

The Bold Wisdom Within Langston Hughes’ Poems – Ellen Levitt

Black Lives Mattered to Langston Hughes – Robin Bates

Worship Wednesday – It Is Well With My Soul – Timothy Challies & Audrey Assad Calling Us to Worship

Photo Credit: Bible Verse Images

The weight of worry is something we have all carried…a burden never meant for our own shoulders. Over the safety and future of our children. Over our ability to provide adequately for our families. Over the meaning of the lump or the dizziness or the pain. Worry fills our mind to no good end. Joy and peace are pushed out, for no good reason.

Sure…there is plenty to drive us to worry, but we are too small, too fragile ourselves to fix everything we want fixed. Worry is futile.

My Mom was once a world-class worrier. She would lose nights of sleep in worry mixed with prayer mixed with tears. I remember, as a teen, waking to her muffled crying (from another bedroom, hoping not to wake Dad with her fitfulness). Do I go to her, or would that make her sorrow worse, to have waked up one of her children? I stayed and prayed.

However, for any of you who had the joy of knowing Mom, the best of her life story is that she learned to trust. Not just for herself but for all those God placed in her path.

When Mom got cancer and fought it futilely for the last three years of her life, her faith in God grew as it only can in suffering. Through chronic pain and cancer treatment that only made her sick, and left the cancer untouched. Mom was radiant in her faith. While we all prayed for healing, she only prayed for God to be glorified…and He answered her prayer (our also but in Heaven, as He called her Home). She had lamented one time years earlier of how she wished God would speak plainly to her so she could know it was Him. In her last days, I asked her was God talking to her through her experience with cancer. She looked at me with those bright, beautiful eyes of her and that radiant smile, and answered, “All the time”. All the time!

She prayed His will and He showed up strong and with grace upon grace. She endured, and He showed up. That intimacy with God was worth it all for Mom.

What I learned from Mom in the worry of years earlier and in her walk of faith with God in the end changed my life forever.

Does worry still rise up in its mean life-stealing phantom form? Yes.

If we pay attention, God will point us to what is true, through His Word and through precious brothers and sisters, reminding us of His character and His ways for us.Photo Credit: Daily Verses

I’ve already written earlier this week on the teachings of Canadian author Tim Challies, but his most recent posting stirred today’s blog.

Shedding Tears Over Sorrows That May Never Come

[Challies lost his son, Nick, recently…just a few weeks ago. Suddenly… without warning. Nick was 20 years old. Challies has been writing about the loss of his son in a series of blogs. Here is one: The Cruelty of Quarantine: A Lament.]

He writes most recently on the day he drove his daughter, Abby, to the airport to return to her Freshman year at college (after spending the holidays together, grieving the loss of their son/brother). It was at college that Nick died. Anxiety over releasing Abby to God…as parents have to do over and over again in life…overwhelmed him…

“How, then, can I let go of such anxiety? If I have learned any antidote it is this: deliberately submitting myself to the will of God, for comfort is closely related to acquiescence. As long as I fight the will of God, as long as I battle God’s right to rule his world in his way, peace remains distant and furtive. But when I surrender, when I bow the knee, then peace flows like a river and “attendeth my way.” For when I do so, I remind myself that the will of God is inseparable from the character of God. I remind myself that the will of God is always good because God is always good. Hence I pray a prayer of faith, not fatalism: “Your will be done. Not as I will, but as you will.”

“So I will pray for the desires of my heart, I will ask God to bless and protect my girl, I’ll plead with him to bring her home to me in May. But the steel thread woven through the fabric of such a prayer is not “my will be done” but “thy will be done.” Ultimately, if there is to be comfort, it will not be grounded in the hope that nothing bad will happen to me or to the people I love, but in the perfect God whose perfect character is displayed in his perfect will.”Tim Challies

In his reminding of the goodness of God, no matter what, he also brought to mind the great old hymn It Is Well With My Soul. If you don’t know the powerful story of the writing of this hymn, take the time to read it in the link below.

History of Hymns – It Is Well With My Soul – Horatio G. Spafford

Would you worship with me? With the words of this song my mom loved as must Tim Challies…and so many of us. Sung by Audrey Assad.

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul

It is well
With my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, o my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well (it is well)
With my soul (with my soul)
It is well, it is well with my soul*

I’d like to close with the last verses of the hymn (not included in Assad’s version above):

“For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!”*

Hallelujah!

*Lyrics to It Is Well With My Soul – Songwriter: Horatio G. Spafford

Worship Wednesday – the Embattled Jesus – Withstanding Every Assault and Then Rest Comes – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Rest, the Lord Is Near – a Reminder by Steve Green – Deb Mills

4 Practical Things to Do Instead of Worrying – Becky Thomton

YouTube Video – Like a River Glorious (Stayed Upon Jehovah, Hearts are Fully Blessed) – by Frances Ridley Havergal – a favorite hymn of mine growing up

Look Again and Think – My Utmost for His Highest – Oswald Chambers – Devotional for today, January 27

A Facebook post from a friend came up today on Memories – the Chambers devotional for today (see above). God is always good.

Monday Morning Moment – A New Day – It’s Gonna Be OK

Sometimes rolling out of bed is an act of faith. I’d been awake for an hour already. Trying to clear the dark thoughts out of my head. Praying. Remembering what is true and distinguishing what is only speculation. This time it had to do with a family concern…what could we do to help? What could I do? Only God could do anything at this point. So I prayed.

Prayer can clear the mechanism, for sure. Going to God when we are distracted beyond good sense, disoriented by the noise in our heads, worried that nothing good is coming down the pike. By concentrating our thoughts into a cry to God, we gain clarity. Maybe on how to deal with an issue ourselves, or finding no clear answer, on the goodness of a holy and wise God.

So I rolled out of bed, had coffee, spent a bit of time in Scripture, got my clothes on, and headed out the door.

What a sky! Past the vivid colors of sunrise, but still with the hint of pink, streaking the clouds. It was beautiful! In a split second, taking in the largeness of the sky and the clean slate of a Monday morning, I head out…with hope…and peace in my heart.

Just like the sky changes through the day, so do our thoughts. Is the family concern still real and present? Yes. As far as I know. Do I have a clear path to help? No. However, it’s a new day. Anything could happen.

Dark clouds are rolling in, and just a hint of blue remains before the rain starts.

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. No big celebrations this time because the 2021 US Presidential Inauguration is in two days. This year our United States capital as well as state capitals, are under high alert for armed protests. Parades are just not happening.

FAQs: 2021 inauguration plans after Capitol riot, amid pandemic

Even since last year, when I wrote here on Martin Luther King Jr., our country seems changed. Divided, blaming, hostile, cautious. Remembering Dr. King is a good thing. He did much to bring us together, even as divided we were across racial and ideological lines.

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote, Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the car this morning, a song came on, unfamiliar to me. It was “Into the Sea (It’s Gonna Be OK”). By singer/songwriters Tasha Layton and husband Keith Everette Smith.

Perfect for reflecting on the action by which God had rescued me from my own thoughts. Giving me the will and determination to take on a new day.

The songwriters created this song from the Biblical text below.

God is our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah  – Psalm 46: 1-3, 10-11

The song above, “It’s Gonna Be OK”, was born out of dark times for the songwriter couple, through which God brought them into light. A song just right for us going through COVID and this year of 2020.

We may not have any idea what “OK” is going to look like…but we can grab hold of it, and take each new day as both promise and possibility.

YouTube Video – Look Up, Child – Lauren Daigle

Clear the Mechanism: Finding God in the Middle of Anxiety – Joshua Crawford

For Love of the Game

5 Friday Faves – “Beyond the Guitar” Doing What He Does, From Cynicism to Delight, the Glad Game, a Great Life & a COVID Death, and Life’s Comforting Rhythms

Happy Weekend! Staying on the positive in my finds this week.

1) Beyond the Guitar Doing What He Does –Classical guitarist Nathan Mills, on the platform Beyond the Guitar, arranges and performs themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. The last couple of weeks he has showcased two arrangements of his that display his genre at its best.

YouTube Video – The Mandalorian/Force Mashup – Classical Guitar Cover

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

YouTube Video – Spider-man: Miles Morales (PS5) Main theme on Guitar

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, YouTube

Nathan teaches privately and via his Arrangers Academy (membership opens twice a year). His music (videos, sheet music, and MP3s) are why we are patrons. Well, and because we love the guy playing the guitar. Beautiful, nostalgic themes. Heart-soothing on every level and on any day.

2) From Cynicism to Delight – With that noise of social media and biased news media, we struggle to know what to believe about what’s going on around us. The tendency is to gradually go cynical, thinking ill of others, moving toward mistrust. Our thinking becomes negative, and we become suspicious of motives, questioning authority, and even disbelieving people trying to do right by others.

Negativity can become a habit…a negative habit.

This is no way to live. Cynicism dulls our thinking and darkens our heart.

How do we upend cynicism? Writer Jennie Allen talks on a podcast about how we can move away from cynicism and toward delight. Now, that is a surprising and almost old-fashioned idea. Delight is defined as “a high degree of gratification or pleasure; joy; giving keen enjoyment”.

Jennie Allen Podcast – Cynicism vs. Delight

What do you take delight in? It requires a measure of savoring, pausing to take note, considering a different possibility. We rush around in life, or at least in our thoughts – flipping channels, scrolling endlessly, moving from class to class or meeting to meeting with little notice to what’s going on around us (or in our own heads). What if? What if? We stopped, or slowed down, our minds and just took note.

Allen talks about the importance of what we put into our minds. Do we even think about it? 20 minutes on social media (depending on those we friend/follow) could begin a stubborn funk in our thinking. What about the people in our lives? She doesn’t encourage cutting people off, but guarding our conversations against the negative –  gossiping, complaining, criticizing, thinking ill.

In the space we intentionally gain from the guarding above, we can begin practicing delight. At how well things are going instead of how badly, for instance. How beautiful the weather is, thoughtful your neighbor, generous your colleague, wise your mom or dad…This isn’t putting our heads in the sand; it is just considering life from a different angle…just as true/real as the negative, cynical take.

Allen encourages taking note of art as a fast track to delight. Whether it is music, or poetry, or painting. The world is full of beauty. We forget that sometimes in our “screened-in” lives. Many of us live in a place of four seasons. There’s always something to marvel at in nature. For many years, we lived in a part of the world with only two seasons. In each was still a myriad of beautiful discoveries. I have always enjoyed watching people, taking in all that’s there for the observer, without intruding. Then, of course, there is the wonder of God. How he continues to infuse our lives with good and possibility.

“The opposite of being cynical is being life-giving, and some might call you naive for it, but for the most part, people just need that in their lives. Most people will want to go to coffee with you because they need someone to speak life into them and actually believe it.”Jennie Allen

Photo Credit: Empowered Living, Facebook

3) The Glad Game – There is so much we can learn from sweet Pollyanna and young Anne of Green Gables. Either through the book about Pollyanna or the movie. Or Anne: the books or the movies/TV series.

Both these girls were orphans, and both had figured out a way to thrive in their circumstances. Very different ways, but fascinating.

Ten Things Anne of Green Gables Taught Me – Samantha Ellis

Anne of Green Gables vs. Pollyanna – (In the Battle for My Mind)

I was reminded (see Friday Fave #2 above) of Pollyanna’s Glad Game. She was determined to find something good in every situation… something to be glad about.

YouTube Video – Pollyanna and the Glad Game

YouTube Video – You Surely Will (Pollyann’s conversation with the minister)

“When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will.” – Abraham Lincoln

Photo Credit: Pinterest, Abraham Lincoln

If Your Behavior Is Contagious, What Will People Catch?

Networking Lessons from Pollyanna and Anne of Green Gables – Marzena Podhorska

4) A Great Life and a COVID Death – As we continue to physically distance during this pandemic, we are beginning to know people who have died from COVID-19. The nearest one to us died just before Christmas. Reverend David Pickard. He was just 76. One of the pastors Mom wanted to preach her funeral. He did. The pastor who officiated at Dave’s and my wedding close to 40 years ago. 

Pastor David has always held a special place in my heart. So full of joy. A smile and presence that would shake the chill off any roomful of people. He genuinely loved God and people. Generous and good, this man.

He always made time. That meant so much to us as first our mom became ill with cancer, and then years later, our dad with Alzheimer’s. Pastor David was no longer in their church, but he continued in their lives.

We have been in separate countries (for awhile) and states now for many years. When we heard he was in the hospital with COVID, we prayed hard like everyone else who loved him. It wasn’t meant to be. His time here was done, but not without leaving a wide wake of love and Gospel truth to everyone he had a bit of time with. He is so missed.Pastor Dave and his sweetheart for life, Mrs. Dottie.

5) Life’s Comforting Rhythms – Here’s to all the rhythms of our lives that we count on and continue to bless us. Christmas cards, even in 2020 (although most of them arrived in 2021 through a weary postal service).

Christmas cactuses blooming right on schedule (how do they do it?).

Kale planted in the Fall still yummy in January.

Daffodils and irises pushing up through the soil with the promise of blooms in the Spring of this new year.

Sharing hot soup on a cold day with old friends (the lunch location altered somewhat by COVID)

And birthday greetings [this one from a lifelong friend who hung with me through our many losses and gains, and my lapses in communication] and a memoir by someone we have also shared through the years – through radio and concerts. #Garrison[Karen, hope you don’t mind. Your note says it all. Especially getting through all the latest hards.]

That’s it for this Friday Faves.  Please comment yourself on the rhythms that comfort you and the things that bring you delight. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Ten Habits of People Who Lose Weight and Keep It Off – Gina Cleo

7 Good Things That Came Out of 2020 (It Actually Wasn’t All Bad)

Here’s How to Get Stronger After 50 – Abigail Barronian

5 Things People With Tidy Homes Don’t Do

What If We Have Another Year Like 2020 – Nice Lessons Leaders Should Already Have Learned – Eli Amdur

Amazing Image of Unborn Baby at 18 Weeks Is Called the Photograph of the Century – Micaiah Bilger

Image may contain: 1 personPhoto Credit: Eric McCool, Facebook

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Guitar Mix, the Mercy of Forgiveness, Virtual Christmas Parties, Festive Foods, and Forever Friends

Friday. Deep breath. Hope you can rest some and take in all the sweetness of this time of you. Here are this week’s favorite finds.

1) Christmas Guitar Mix Nathan at Beyond the Guitar has arranged guitar pieces for each Christmas over the past few years. Looking forward to the one coming out this year also (a surprise so far). Here’s the collection so far. Enjoy!Photo Credit: Tyler Scheerschmidt, TSVideoProduction

YouTube Video – 3 Christmas Movie Classics on Guitar – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – A Star Wars Christmas – Classical Guitar Mashup – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – December Song (Peter Hollens) – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (w/ Surprise Guest!) – Beyond the Guitar

2) The Mercy of Forgiveness – Talking to my sweet mom-in-law this morning, and she was commenting on how “life is too short for unforgiveness”. Immediately the thought came to mind “and eternal life is way too long for unforgiveness”. We may have a lot to forgive, and we may think we have forgiven (willing & hoping to never see that person again in our lives)…the thing is, I’m pretty sure we know in our hearts if we have truly forgiven or not. Unforgiveness is living in the past, ruminating over the offenses and the person who did them, negative thoughts that permeate our mind. Can’t get clear of them …without forgiveness. Photo Credit: Twitter, C. S. Lewis

Peace in the present…that’s what forgiveness gives. It also frees us from the self-imposed imprisonment of unforgiveness…which imprisons us, our families/friends/coworkers – depending who all our unforgiveness includes. Forgiveness – it’s what we’re counting on from God. How can we think our reasons for unforgiveness are higher than His in forgiving us? Peace. P.S. I get how hard unforgiveness can be. So thankful my mom (in Heaven now for almost 20 years) practiced and taught us to keep short accounts with others. Short accounts, knowing we can hurt others, too…and we do.

The following is an excerpt from an excellent piece on “Forgiveness in the Family” by writer Ed Chinn:

“Every home (like every other micro-society) has a distinct culture. In other words, every home reflects a pattern of unspoken assumptions which convey the approved way to perceive, think, and feel.

One of the most important things parents can do is to create a culture of forgiveness in the home.

It begins with a gracious tongue. Parents should be quick (and sincere) to speak grace into every corner of family life. The language of graces and manners – “Please,” “thank you,” “pardon me,” and “I’m sorry” — should flavor the family conversation.

Additionally, parents should not tolerate disrespect, shrillness, selfishness or cynicism.

We didn’t dishonor our children; they couldn’t either. House rules.

[Included in our house rules as well]

Forgiveness should never be extended purely as a model or teaching tool. However, parents should be quick to apologize to each other and to the children. And, of course, children should be taught how to extend and receive forgiveness.

In view of God’s incomprehensible generosity, how can we remain locked up in the prison of resentment? We are free to forgive each other freely and generously because we have been freely and generously forgiven.”Ed ChinnPhoto Credit: Flowers On the Rubbish Heap; Forgiveness by C.S. Lewis

Scriptures on Forgiveness: Even When It’s Hard – Sunshyne Gray

How to Let Go of Resentment and Grudges – Sunshyne Gray

7 Dangers of Embracing Mere Therapeutic Forgiveness – Mike Leake

Therapy & Theology: What Forgiveness Isn’t and Isn’t According to the Bible – Proverbs 31 Ministries; Podcast with Lysa Terkeurst Transcript from the Podcast

Pinterest Page with Forgiveness Quotes

Photo Credit: Sunshyne Gray Christian Counseling & Coaching

3) Virtual Christmas Parties – Most all of our Christmas festivities this year have been cancelled thanks to COVID. Well, except for small family gatherings. We did decide to convert one annual friend party into a virtual “get-together”. A White Elephant gift exchange has always been part of our party tradition. How do we do that, physically distanced?

We gathered on a zoom call and chatted while we all ate our respective suppers in our respective dining or living rooms.

[A surprise element to this party was also a gender reveal. So fun!]

We had some extra gifts in case folks forgot or just didn’t come prepared…we had it covered.

Each party friend took turns choosing a gift. With Zoom, we just showed off the gift we had made or bought and kept it in view as turns were taken and gifts were secured or stolen by another.

In the days after the party, we work out a driveway visit with those who chose our White Elephant gifts. What a plus that we get to see our friends face-to-face, albeit physically distanced. Sweet times.

How about you? How have you altered your festivities? Please comment below. We all need ideas for this year, especially.

4) Festive Foods – So many holidays have festive foods attached to them. When friends of ours dropped by this past week, for a backyard visit, they brought a copy of their Christmas menu. They live in a 55+ community and will have these foods offered in their dining room. It was sumptuous with something yummy for everyone.

As we count down to Christmas, all sorts of goodies are gifted or created in our own kitchens.

What are some of your festive foods? Again, please share in Comments. The stew below isn’t attached to Christmas memories. It is a meatball tajine with memories of Morocco in every bite. Yum!

5) Forever Friends – I wanted to close with a salute to those forever friends in our lives. Because of COVID and all the restrictions, like many of you, I have not visited with friends as often or in the more usual ways. It’s been nine months now…nine months. Our friends, especially those who live out of town, have kept in touch by phone, social media messaging, and video calls. Even cards as birthdays and holidays have passed without our seeing so much of each other… or not at all. What a blessing that we have forever friends who will hang in there with us through this and whatever comes after.

On one of my rare outings to a favorite thrift store recently, I found this little Pooh ornament. The sentiment is true. So thankful for you.

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s it for this week…hope you have a weekend full of peace and joy. Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, and Merry, Merry Christmas!

Bonuses:

Crossroads Christmas Special with Lecrae and Amy Grant

Food Bank Collection at Home with Help from the Little Ones

To Live Remarkably, Repeat This One Affirmation Every Single Day for the Rest of Your Life – Jeff Haden

What Can You Do When You’re Flattened by Depression? Plan for It – Daryl Chen

The Rockettes Are Teaching Free Virtual Dance Classes This Holiday Season – Faith Brar

Facebook capture – the story of actor James Stewart, PTSD, and “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Video below is a walk down memory lane for me. Having lived in Cairo for many years, this was fun to watch some old familiar places.

Worship Wednesday – When Earnestly Wrong – Behold! – Plumb

[A theme “Behold” – See! – continues this month in Worship Wednesday – last week’s blog Behold Him is found here.]

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 43:19

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...” – Jesus – Matthew 5:43-44

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – Jesus – John 13:34-15

This week I oddly became the target of some Twitter hate, related to my politics and a comment I had made. It was nothing – social media stone-throwing doesn’t usually have an effect if you have nothing to lose. Plenty of folks reacted in my defense, but when the last person commented (to me) that what I expressed was “shameful” – and she was also a Christ-follower, I finally had to respond: “You don’t know me”.

With the greatest of earnestness, was I wrong? Was she?

How do we respond to each other when what we think or believe is contested? What goes on in our hearts when our reputation seems at stake? How do we process a situation when what we were longing for…what we had hoped would happen…didn’t. Do we throw in the towel on relationships that get complicated, or even hurtful, because we don’t want to do the work of reconciling them…or nurturing them back to health. Do we want our way more than God’s?

Could we be earnestly wrong about such things?

The Jews of Jesus’ day were earnestly wrong about the coming Messiah. Oh, not that they weren’t looking for him…but he was supposed to be a “conquering king on a white horse, not the suffering servant…. Should they have known about the Messiah coming first as a baby?”

Yes. The Scriptures are full of prophecies and promises about the Messiah…There would be those who received Jesus…and through the ages there will be…as Himself, not as we wish he would be…our own made-up messiah.

When we want something that doesn’t go the way we think it should, something dark can happen in our hearts. Something dark that we then take out on others…even on God Himself.

The real Jesus calls us to trust him even in the darkness of our current circumstances. He calls us to love when we would rather hate. He calls us to speak and live in the truth, when we would rather just give the perception of doing so, without the reality displayed in our lives.

Whether my Twitter foe knew me or not…God knows me…and loves me…and wants what’s better for me than even I want for myself. When I stated to her, “You don’t know me”, my own self-protective heart was exposed. She didn’t know me…did she see Jesus in me?

Singer, songwriter Plumb talks about Advent being the season of anticipation. When we set our hearts on who God is, who we are as His image-bearers, and whatever His purposes might be, we can look forward with joy…for the coming of Christ. This Christmas. This coming year. Into every circumstance and every relationship.

“We in our own lives anticipate things coming or happening and sometimes they don’t happen or they don’t come in such a way that we thought or we expect or we wanted. We can still trust in the same God who knew what we needed then in a Baby. He knows what we need now in our own lives, no matter what. Behold, He has come, and He knows exactly what we need, and we can trust Him.”Plumb

Worship with me to Plumb’s Christmas worship song “Behold”.

Years of silence
Waiting on a king
They thought they knew who you would be
A soldier, fearless and strong
A warrior, but they were wrong

In the darkest night
Came brightest light

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world

So we pray
We ask and seek
When the answers don’t come easily
And when they’re not what we expect
Help us to trust you even then

In our darkest night
Be the brightest light

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world

Unlikely Joy
Anticipated hope
Give us your peace
Undeserved love
Such relentless grace
You are our king

Behold
Behold
A baby’s birth
Precious lamb of God
Behold
Behold
Your gift to us
Savior of the world*

As we count down to Christmas and to the end of 2020, a hard year (harder for some of us than we ever thought), we have an opportunity to examine our own hearts. Have we been earnestly wrong in dealing with a situation? Have we taken our own counsel about a relationship and not God’s (the Scripture is bursting with His great wisdom)? Has our resoluteness in our own rightness (in politics, or any other stand) jammed a wedge between us and someone He also loves? If so, there can be forgiveness…

“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 2:5-8

“Oh come to my heart, Lord Jesus. There is room in my heart for Thee.”

*Lyrics: Behold – Songwriters: Tiffany Arbuckle Lee (Plumb), Christa Wells, and Jerrod Morris

YouTube Video – The Story Behind the Song “Behold” – Plumb

Isaiah 43:19 Commentaries

Advent and Christmas Music in the Midst of COVID-19 – Diana Sanchez-Bushong – includes the program of a Service of Lessons and Carols