Category Archives: Forgiveness

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar Sweetness, Words Matter, Leading Teams, Long-lost Relatives, and Shared Sacrifice

Happy Weekend!

I don’t know about you, but this pandemic has me way more distracted than I want to be. It’s a good thing to be informed and to abide by the recommended safe practices. The struggle for me is the bent toward being glued to the news updates. Becoming a content expert on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a private citizen will not make a difference in the larger…global…sense of this problem.

For the moment, let’s be champions of safe practices and in tune to our communities, especially the most at-risk, vulnerable. We can still reach out, in creative ways, still maintaining social distancing for now.

How thankful we all are for the medical/nursing professionals, first responders, scientists, and policy-makers out there helping us get through this! Also the lab workers, waste management folks, truckers, grocery and other food providers, farmers, etc. etc.

Two weeks…let’s pray these two weeks can make a difference (in all our countries) in the morbidity/mortality of this strange and sobering disease.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus – A Guide to Christian Leaders – Andy Crouch [the author will update as our situation in the US changes]

1) Classical Guitar Sweetness –This week Nathan Mills arranged and performed the exquisite Pure Imagination. This is one of the lovely songs composed by  Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Listen to Nathan’s sweetly nostalgic arrangement here.

Photo Credit: YouTube

2) Words matter. – Our nation has been divided along political and ideological lines for some time now. With the growing and deadly problem of the Coronavirus in our country, we are being compelled to come together to turn around the devastation of this disease. In just over five weeks, we in the US have gone from a handful of cases to over 25,000. The political race for the next US Presidency has gone almost quiet, as everyone with any power does what they can for the sake of all Americans.

For our politicians to be willing to cooperate across the aisle and to speak the truth to each other and all of us, it sends a huge message of hope. Maybe we can come together as a nation again one day.

I wrote earlier this week about what we could learn from Mr. Rogers. The quote below is his…and serves us well today. If forgiveness didn’t take root in your young lives, it isn’t too late.

“Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life’s important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.”Fred Rogers

45 Quotes From Mr. Rogers That We All Need Today – Geoffrey James

3) Leading Teams – Patrick Lencioni in the business world and Carey Nieuwhof in the church world are two of my favorite thought leaders. Below you will find two recent posts by them. Lencioni talks about the ideal team player in a new TEDx talk. I read his book of the same name and was enthralled by his talk on the three attributes of that team member – humble, hungry and smart. He also points out what you have to deal with when a teammate doesn’t have all three. The TEDx talk is a fast and fascinating rendering of his book.

Then Carey Nieuwhof takes on our current situation of teams working remotely. With so many of us practicing social distancing (a new phrase thanks to the Coronavirus), leading a “digital team” can be complicated. Nieuwhof gives wise counsel in his quick read below. Personalizing the experience of working from home is key.

My Top 7 Rules For Leading A Digital Team

4) Long-lost Relatives – Have you ever gone looking for relatives you’ve lost touch with? I’ve certainly done that with friends, and thanks to Facebook, long-ago relationships were happily rekindled.

In recent days, with the threat of this virus, and our hearts enlarging toward others, an opportunity presented itself to find cousins long-lost. Because of my parents’ divorce, my biological father’s family was a complete unknown. My mom and her siblings grew up with an alcoholic father). As happens with adult children of alcoholics, the shared pain was not something that held them together. One cousin who I haven’t seen in at least 30 years reached out to me, and we had a long and lovely phone conversations.

He filled in so many gaps on his family, and I was grateful. We also talked about my family, of course. His genuine interest and care touched my heart. Now I’m inspired to widen the search. To be honest, some of the conversations ahead may be painful…losses unshared, evolved misunderstandings…who knows what I will encounter. The risk is worth the reward of knowing these people… overdue as it is.

5) Shared Sacrifice – This is a new expression for me. I thought it was a concept borne out of our fight as a nation against the Coronavirus. However, it’s been used before – this idea of all of us cinching up our belts for one another’s sakes. President Obama talked about “shared sacrifice” and now President Trump calls us to it. Sociologist Jerome Karabel posted this week a beautiful piece on how the US steps up during times of war:

“America’s history demonstrates that, in times of war, we can rise above our ardent individualism and suspicion of the government and come together to defend the public good. So if we can…come to perceive today’s crisis as a war, we will rise to the occasion as we have done in the past. 

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, a spirit of shared sacrifice was everywhere visible: in the thousands of men and women who volunteered for duty, in the public’s acceptance of rationing, in labor’s no-strike pledge, in the purchase of war bonds by Americans of every economic level, and in the eighteen million “victory gardens” which produced one-third of the nation’s vegetables. During World War II, business converted to wartime production with astonishing speed, producing 300,000 military planes, 86,000 tanks, and 71,000 ships…[Today] the nation is at war with a deadly and stealthy foe. Like World War II, the current situation demands personal sacrifice and social solidarity. But unlike in World War II, we cannot wait years to win the war; this is a war that must be won in weeks, or at most, months. Every day of delay has the potential to cost thousands of lives. And if we do not act with decisiveness now, the toll may go well beyond the 405,399 Americans who died in World War II.” – Jerome Karabel

As government advances billions, if not trillions, of dollars into our economy, we in the private sector, businesses and private citizens, can share the burden of a nation under attack…and we will.

Photo Credit: Chili’s, Facebook

Walmart Announces Special Cash Bonus and Early Payment of Q1 Bonuses Totaling Nearly $550 Million for Hourly Associates

Kevin Love Kicks Off Support Drive for Arena Workers with $100k Pledge – Dave McMenamin – Just one of many stories of professional athletes showing appreciation for the many whose work serves their fans during a time when games have been cancelled/postponed.

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That’s five of my favorites for the week. How about you? The Comment section below is waiting for your words on life in this season of the Coronavirus.

Stay well.

Bonuses:

ImagePhoto Credit: Twitter, Lifeway

I’ve Been Working From Home for Eight Days. The Netflix-and-quarantine Life is Not That Chill. – Geoffrey A. Fowler

30 Edifying Things to Watch When Stuck at Home – Brett McCracken

Remember Typing Class: The Class That Actually Mattered in the Long Run – Dana Daly – I am still an fast and accurate typist, thanks to Coach Dan Smith, back in high school. How about you?

Paris Museums Put 100,000 Images Online for Unrestricted Public Use – Jason Kottke

Why I Hate That Howard Thurman Quote

How Giving up Refined Sugar Changed My Brain – Michael Grothaus

YouTube Video – Maurizio Marchini Serenades City of FLorence From His Balcony During the Italian Quarantine Lockdown

YouTube Video – Heartwarming Moments Quarantined Italians Sing Together From Balconies – check out other videos of Italians quarantined, singing to one another from their balconies.

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – the 40-Day Lenten Road to Easter

Photo Credit: Flickr

[Adapted from the Archives]

“How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting, and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death? Yes, Lord, I have to die—with you, through you, and in you—and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess…. I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.”Henri Nouwen  (From A Cry for Mercy: Prayers from the Genesee, Orbis)

It wasn’t until I was six years old that church even came on my radar as a thing. My mom worked all the time in those days, and finally, after a last-resort divorce, she settled us into a different life of meager means and lavish love. It was in those days that we responded to an invitation to church from neighbors. A weary single mom and four eager children met the welcome care of a loving church. Our experience was small town Bible-Belt Baptist, and that set the foundation for my understanding of God, and I am grateful.

My understanding of religion then was that it was Christianity only.

Years later, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I actually thought it would be a survey course on… Christianity.

[Even within the context of Christianity, I knew very little of its practice outside the realm of Southern evangelicalism. Now being older, I understand the difference in religion and faith. – that there are many religions. However, who the Person of God, and who we are as followers, is more about relationship than religion.]

My first experience with Lent was through a college friendship. One Wednesday long ago, I caught up with my best friend after she had disappeared from our usual daily routine. We met for lunch and she had this mysterious, ashen cross smudged on her forehead. I resisted the urge of just lovingly wiping it off for her, thinking she was unaware of it. Pointing it out instead, she taught me my first lessons about Lent – lessons on repentance, fasting (sacrifice), the Cross and the Resurrection of Christ. All of that was gloriously real for me already, except for setting aside 40 days of resolve prior to the celebration of Easter.Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust – Preparing for Ash Wednesday – Pastor Kirk Thorson

For years, I still didn’t take Lent very seriously and still don’t know quite how to incorporate it into my life…except that my thinking has changed. In this world gone mad, I am more convinced than ever that we as the Church need to stand together for the sake of the nations and for the glory of God. If in Lent, I can find elements that help me see God, and our corporate and personal need for Him, more clearly, then I want to integrate some measure of Lenten practice into my life.

Month-long fasting (one part of Lent) has never been a draw for me, as I was always completely sure it would be a fail. While we lived in North Africa, and especially in Egypt, fasting was very much a part of our Muslim and Christian neighbors’ lives. Even those Christians who were evangelical (from Coptic backgrounds) saw the importance of fasting. Their awareness of the evil of sin in the world and the need for drastic measures lined up solidly with Jesus’ own life and teaching on this.

As I write this, my penitent friend with the ash smeared on her forehead comes to mind again. Decades later, on this day, I’m sure, wherever she is, she has a new ashen cross applied. Reminding her of the sin in her own life that Christ paid for Himself with His death on the Cross.

[We like our foreheads clean, don’t we? Being reminded of the dark and dirty smudge of sin in our lives is not something we want to carry around with us publicly. Especially in this post-Christian world of ours. Even with the message of the Cross as the only response to that sin…it’s just too public, too culturally “in your face” so to speak.]

Many may see Lent as extra-Biblical and therefore unnecessary to add to our countdown to commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For me, at least, it gives a bit narrower road to walk for forty days – examining our own frailty, our sin, and the brevity of life alongside the magnificent perfection of the life and love of a wholly surrendered Christ.

Bible Gateway extends a free invitation to receive devotionals daily through Lent – A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’ll be going through that as part of my reading these 40 days until Easter.

Also for the past several years, during Lent, I have read British writer Adrian Plass’ book The Unlocking – God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. It was a gift from a good friend during our years living overseas. There’s a lot in this world that’s frightening these days. Yet God is still God and is at work in the midst of so much crazy. I believe Him at His word. Full stop. We have a role in dealing with what we see in the world. As Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 17:21), there is evil that we can only battle with prayer and fasting. This is a power unleashed in a true observance of Lent.Blog - Lent - Easter (3)

As we grieve so much death around us in these days, and as we look to Easter, I would like to close with a prayer from Adrian Plass’ book:

“Loving heavenly Father, I want to try to tackle this business of loving enemies. First of all I’m going to sit quietly here and go through a mental list of the folk who I would call my enemies. Help me to be really honest…I don’t want to leave anyone out….I’ve done it, Lord. There are rather a lot, and some of them I really hate. But You made it quite clear that You can’t forgive me if I don’t forgive them, so I’ll start the process, even if it takes a long time to mean it. Love them for me, Lord, and please accept my prayers for their welfare and safety. Soften my hard heart as the days go by, until I begin to see them through Your eyes. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.”

For these forty-plus days before Easter, my resolve is to:

  • read A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer;
  • refer back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking;
  • reflect on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teaching
  • resist (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues;
  • repent of the sins of neglect and indifference;
  • remember to pray and
  • reach out to God and those around me as His vessel for His purposes among the nations.

May the days of Lent roll on naturally into the rest of our days…

Preparing for Easter – 50 Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Cultural Contradictions – Why We Can’t All Just Get Along*

Photo Credit: Deb Mills, Mission BBQ

Right through college, I wondered, with hope, at the question:

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

With enough will, effort, and care, we should all be able to find some common ground…where we can agree more than we disagree.

That was decades ago, and the world has changed so much. We still remember how it once was (we all do, no matter our generation), and we examine our world today with those lenses…and are mortified.

I am still hopeful…but not in the somewhat childish idea that it is possible to agree if we care enough. However, I do believe we can understand each other, if we care enough. And be gracious.

It is not necessary, and no way helpful, to blame, and boil over in anger at what we consider the stupidity or short sidedness of “the other side”…whatever that is. It just alienates and isolates and dims the possibility of working toward real solutions to problems.

Monday Morning Moment – Life and Politics – What If We Refused to Get Angry? – Deb Mills

I don’t want to be angry anymore. I want to treat people with grace, and respect, and genuine interest. Including people who don’t agree with me…and I’m not alone.

Defuse America’s Explosive Politics – Politicians in Both Parties Need to Clean Up Their Own Side of the Street – Peggy Noonan

America is divided along so many lines. Those lines are blurred by cultural contradictions. What does that mean? When we say we believe one thing but our actions communicate something very different. Or vice versa.

Examples?

  • We celebrate Thanksgiving Day in America, expressing gratitude for all we have, and then make a mad rush to the stores hours later to buy more.
  • Our elected officials say they care about the poor and yet the economically disadvantaged continue to be so, but our politicians get richer and richer.
  • We talk about health care for all, but in its current state it’s too costly for those who can already afford to pay for some measure of insurance. We do nothing about health care reform but want health care for all.
  • Americans have a high regard for life, and yet the most vulnerable – those who can’t defend themselves – the unborn – are, at times, considered disposable.
  • We see the painful racial divides in our country, and yet the walls continue to go up (built by the major political parties in their own unique ways, along with educators and celebrity influencers).
  • We feel a sense of ownership/stewardship over the earth, but again, we mainly just point fingers in blame, rather than coming to a policy table to wrestle through the problems and solutions.
  • We are proud of being a nation of immigrants, and yet for decades our government has been unable to exact reform in our sluggish immigration system – except either to temporarily protect or bar illegal immigrants or to wall off our borders. Our immigrant numbers dwindle and we blame…rather than work across our differences.

[Even in writing these examples, I find myself blaming. Forgive me. As an evangelical and political conservative, I have my own hopes for solving the contradictions listed above…but it would be thrilling to have the opportunity to observe or participate in problem-solving that “reaches across the aisle.”].

As another example, it’s a grievous thing when we Christians rabidly go after each other – on social media mostly – over our choices of political platforms or candidates. If we follow the teachings and life of Christ, we are always to forgive, no matter what, and to love even our enemies. How would our social media posts look during an election year if we, just us Christians, practiced our faith in this way?

How would our conversations go if we would keep listening and asking questions across our cultural contradictions? And determined not to judge each other in those contradictions?

What got me thinking about this is the increase of fairly surly posts popping up as the Presidential primaries are upon us…We agree on so many things…but some of the “loudest” things currently being broadcasted divide us and get personal. Righteous indignation doesn’t stay righteous when it moves from issues to individuals.

Then Trevin Wax‘s blog got my attention – The Maddening Contradictions of Our Current Moment . He engaged with the British journalist Douglas Murray on his book The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity . Two brilliant men who agree and disagree and yet give us much to consider in this contentious culture of ours. Take time to read that post…I learned so much.

Another place that helps me, as a passionate but somewhat passive observer, is Twitter. I follow some who are very much like me, somewhat like me, and nothing at all like me. They teach exquisite lessons on our post-Christian culture…where we do not have to interact in a post-Christ way. We can still be civil, caring and clear.

This is its own form of cross-cultural communication – learning how to winsomely engage people given all our cultural contradictions. We find ourselves in an intellectual and spiritual quagmire, but we can learn to recognize distinctions and learn how to keep talking and to stay engaged with each other.

[Don’t miss these writers below – whether you agree with all they say…their clarity is refreshing. Let’s learn from them.]

Must Pro-Life Mean Pro-Trump? – Karen Swallow Prior

The Science of Being ‘Nice’: How Politeness Is Different From Compassion – Kun Zhao and Luke Smillie

Four Lies on the Left That Make It Tough to Change Culture – David French

Managing Cultural and Emotional ‘Contradictions” at Work – Michael Moffa

*Can’t We All Just Get Along? – Warren Berger

Monday Morning Moment – Life & Politics – What If We Refused to Get Angry?

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

A friend of mine reached out to me this week with this dilemma. A Christian herself, she finds herself in the middle of a stand-off between pro-choice non-Christian colleagues and pro-life Christian friends. Each side angry at the other, without even knowing each other, just on principle alone.

I’ve been puzzling over her situation all week, and then yesterday, thanks to a pastor friend, an answer came. In fact, it is the most definitive answer to so many conflictive situations in our lives. Is it easy, no? Simple, yes.

The answer…or the path to the answer…is to refuse to get angry. Refuse to think ill of another. Refuse.

I’m not talking about stuffing our anger somewhere inside, keeping it pressurized until it explodes sometime later. Refusing to get angry is actually a step toward defusing it. Anger demands action. We take the energy of the anger and do something altogether different with it.

Jesus of Nazareth once delivered a short sermon known as the Sermon on the Mount. No matter our current faith, if we applied his teaching to life and politics, we could change the world for good. In the crowd that day, many religious leaders saw him as a threat, and would seek to destroy him in the months to come. However, that day…the wisdom and authority of Jesus’ words hit home to those in hearing, and they “were amazed”.

Here’s what Jesus said about anger:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.” – Matthew 5:21-22

See the contrast…we would never even think of murder as the solution but we allow ourselves to stir up anger like it’s nothing… especially if “deserved”. Jesus sees it differently.

When someone cuts us off in traffic, puts you down at work, or sets in motion legislation against a cause dear to us, we get angry. What is our response?

Anger too often goes to a place which escalates the situation rather than altering it in a positive way.

If we take to responding to anger, with a quietened heart, this is far from passivism. This is about as intentional and reasoned an action possible for us to take. Refusing to act in anger…refusing to think ill or speak ill of another.

Our strong opinions about politics today (especially, this being an election year) drive us to put relational wedges between ourselves and those with whom we disagree. What if we responded differently to those with whom anger becomes the first emotion?

We would listen, with our finger on the pulse of their hearts. We would seek to understand. Our disagreements become a launch pad for positive action. Anger would cease being a call to retaliatory or retributive action. It would become a flag, a button, a cue to respond in love and forgiveness.

Not as satisfying as “righteous indignation”, right? Not as definitive as my definition of justice…my, my, my.

What if there is another path to justice or rightness? We have another example from the life of Jesus…well, maybe examples, but here is one that peels away any sense of my right to express anger.

Jesus’ enemies would prevail against his life. It wasn’t really about the Jewish religious leaders or the Roman political authorities. Jesus gave his life for us. He was always in control, and his purposes were fulfilled, not thwarted, on the cross.

At any time, Jesus could have turned the situation around that day. When he was beaten, ridiculed, and falsely accused, he could have walked away. When he was attached to the cross, he could have taken himself down (Matthew 27:40-41). When he saw the sorrow on Mary’s face or his friend John’s torment, he could have acted in anger against those causing so much pain.

He did not. How he responded was an altogether different way:

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23:34

When we find ourselves getting angry or having reason for anger, we can take another path through it. Instead of hardening our hearts toward those who cut us off or block our goals, we can take the anger a different way. We are not obliged to cultivate hatred and contempt…for reckless drivers (I first put “bad” but changed it), power brokers at work, or politicians or political parties.

What if anger sparked in us an intentionality to love and forgive.  What if, instead of railing in Facebook posts or blogs or office conversations, we work toward solutions about the things we care most about?…the things that suffer when we do nothing but express anger about them. What if we prayed more for our President, for instance…for Congress…for our governors and State legislatures. What if we thought deeply about solutions and then wrote them to those decision-makers? Rather than just talking to friend (or enemy) about how we disagree with them…or to those with whom we agree and agree to hate the other side.

What if (for my friend above) we took our anger at abortion (or protecting choice on the other side of the conversation), and we worked to make access to birth control and health care truly available for those most vulnerable?

What would the world look like if we refused to act on anger in hateful, punishing ways? What if we remembered we are all frail humanity? No matter how we come across to others or how powerful or powerless we are, we can alter the course of anger… in ways that heal instead of hurt.

There is another verse in the Bible where the Apostle Paul says, “Be angry but do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26). We, as Christians, sometimes justify our anger by calling it righteous, when our actions say otherwise. When we act out of anger, we can’t reflect the One who lived a life without sin…unless we act in love, tempering our anger into something that elevates rather than diminishes.

Thanks, Cliff, for that sermon, and thanks, Sherry, for reaching out to me…and making me think about this.

Movement Church – Sermon on the Mount Series – on Anger

The Twist in the Sermon on the Mount That You Probably Missed – Mark L. Ward, Jr.

Worship Wednesday – Fighting Words – Ellie Holcomb

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”Ephesians 6:10-13
“Use your words.” That’s what we say to our little ones when they come running with wails of woe that are more emotion than intellect. They have to learn to find the words to say what they are feeling so they can get the proper help or solace that they need.
With our children as they grew older, the sorrows were more wrapped around struggling with chemistry homework, or not making the soccer team, or dealing with bullying. The sad or angry tears would come along with words that kicked at their situation…wondering aloud what was wrong with them.

Photo Credit: Piqsels

“What’s really true?” we parents would ask. No, they were not stupid, or untalented, or too different from others. The truth is that they were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), and they were “loved with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:37-38

Singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb‘s song Fighting Words caught me off-guard at first. Fighting words? That expression always meant something that escalated a situation, yet she uses “fighting words” as those with a righteous punch…an impact that exposed the lies!

Our adversary Satan uses words against us. Whispering stinging accusations in our thoughts. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the thoughts have my voice around them or that of the enemy. Whatever the origin, our hearts and minds are embattled by words that aren’t true, even when they sound true.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Through the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, and the Lord Jesus who so graciously saved us, and the Word of God that arms us with truth…we are equipped to stand against the evil one.

After hearing the whole of Holcomb’s song, I’m inspired. Earlier this week, studying in Genesis, the temptation of Eve touched my heart like never before. Satan used words to color the truth  in ways that made God seem less good. As if He was withholding something good from her. As if He shouldn’t be trusted.

Eve fell for the lies. Oh, if only she had used “fighting words” against the tempter. She and Adam. If only…

We have terrible outcomes from their acting on lies. We also have benefit of her experience…of being caught off guard wavering on the truth, with calamitous consequences. We also have benefit of so many others in the Bible who faced trials and temptations, without faltering, standing on the truth of God’s Word.

Oh God, help us to believe You. Help us in our unbelief. Help us to remember who we are…who You are. Remind us daily of the great gift of salvation we have through Jesus. Give us courage to stand as Your children and speak with the authority You have given us in Christ…speaking the truth without compromise…speaking the truth in love.

Worship with me.

[Verse 1]
Fear is like a broken record, same old songs of accusation play
Like, “who are you to speak the truth, just look at all your failures and mistakes”
And “If they really knew you, there’s no way they could love you anyway”
Oh-oh-ohh, but I will…

[Chorus]
Fight the lies with the truth, oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh

[Verse 2]
The enemy keeps talking, telling me to hide my face in shame
Whispering that everything I’ve done will drive the Father’s love away
Saying, “It’s too late for hoping, that something in your heart could ever change”
Oh-oh-ohh, so I will…

[Chorus]
Fight the lies with the truth, oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh

[Bridge]
My debt is paid up
I’ve been set free and
You gave Your life up to rescue me
You say that I am
Worth fighting for and
Grace is like waves that keep crashing on the shore!

[Chorus]
Fight, the lies with the truth, oh-oh-ohh
Keep my eyes fixed on You
I will sing the truth into the dark
I will use my fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh, fighting words
Oh-oh-ohh…

[Outro]
I’m so tired of forgetting what I’m worth
So I will use, my fighting words*

*Lyrics to “Fighting Words” – Songwriter: Ellie Holcomb

“Fighting Words” – Story Behind the Song

Get Back, Satan! 5 Tips for Using Scripture as Defense – Alicia Purdy

YouTube Video – “Kutless” Word of God Speak

Worship Wednesday – Spiritual Depression – It Is Well With My Soul – Kristene DiMarco, Wintley Phipps, & Guy Penrod

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?
Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him,
my Savior and my God.Psalm 42:5, 11

I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.Romans 8:38-39

We all have those pivotal moments in life…seconds that turn us in a completely different direction…and the memories of those moments fixed in minds easily retrievable when remembering matters.

One of those moments for me was one night, lying in bed. I was in my 20s and living a life of double-mindedness. In church on Sundays, but dabbling in all sorts of worldliness the rest of the week.

It was a season when I bought into the lie that whatever good would come to my life I had to make happen. So deceived in my thinking, I didn’t even realize how complicit I was with Satan in derailing my walk with the Jesus and deposing Him as Lord.

The deceit of living a lie finally wore me out, and the Spirit of God Himself woke me to the futility of it all…leaving me fearful and lost inside.

Lying in bed, I prayed. In that darkness, it was as if my prayers reached the ceiling of the room and then fell shattered all around me. A Scripture verse came to mind from memory, learned long ago – back in the days of memorizing from the King James Version:

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. – Psalm 66:18

A deep spiritual depression settled in me that would take some time to work its way out in repentance and restoration. Thankfully, the Lord always completes what He begins (Philippians 1:6).

Photo Credit: Quote Fancy

As I woke up to the darkening work of my own flesh and that of the Enemy, God began showing me where I had forgotten the great work of salvation He had done in my life. He reminded me of His love and His goodness. He opened my eyes to what I called a benign thing He called sin. Then He received me back to Himself as a mom receives her weary wayward child.

 Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me. I cried out to him with my mouth, and praise was on my tongue. If I had been aware of malice [sin] in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. However, God has listened; he has paid attention to the sound of my prayer. Blessed be God! He has not turned away my prayer or turned his faithful love from me.Psalm 66:16-20

Our community group at Movement Church is beginning a study together on spiritual depression. One of our study aids will be the classic book Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and its Cure by physician pastor David Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Do you ever struggle to get to sleep because of worrying about the “what if’s” of life? Does fear rise up as we listen to our own voices in our head and believe them true? Lloyd-Jones prescribes taking action to stop listening to ourselves and begin speaking the truth to ourselves. “Preaching [the Gospel] to ourselves”.

The Psalmist closed out his psalm over his troubled soul with, “put your hope in God”. Our hope has a sure place in the Lord. Our peace can be restored in Him. We “will still praise Him”.

Worship with me:

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see

And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name [repeat last line during 3rd run]
[x3]

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
[repeat 3x]

It is well it is well with my soul [x3]
ahhhhhhh (softly)

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You Lord
Through it all, through it all
It is well with me.
[x2] *

 *Lyrics to It Is Well by Bethel

YouTube Video – It Is Well – Bethel – Lyric Video

YouTube Video – It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco

Story Behind the Song It Is Well by Bethel

Martyn Lloyd Jones Trust – Sermon Series on Spiritual Depression (these sermons comprise his classical book Spiritual Depression)

Deb Mills Writer – Worship Wednesday – Then Came the Morning and It Is Well With My Soul – Because He Lives – Guy Penrod

Deb Mills Writer – Through It All – It Is Well With My Soul – with Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

Monday Morning Moment – the Culture of Contempt and How to Change It…or At Least Yourself Within It

Photo Credit: Paul Ekman Group

Today is Martin Luther King Day. It’s also my birthday, but that’s not today’s subject. In Richmond, Virginia, today a gun rights rally is scheduled because of new gun control laws slated to be passed in our state. Thousands are expected to attend. Some argue that having such a rally on Martin Luther King Day is morally wrong. The political divide on the issue of guns in our country is as wide as it’s ever been.

Later today, Dave and I will see the film Just Mercy, based on Bryan Stevenson‘s book of the same title.  The film tells the story of one of the cases attorney Stevenson fought and won for the release of an innocent man from death row. It speaks to the hatred and contempt found in culture, along racial lines, but also along the lines of class, authority, and privilege.

Our country…America…”one nation under God” a phrase still in our pledge (for now)…is woefully divided. With our presidential election looming later this year, we are sturdying ourselves to withstand the character assassinations of one political party for the other…Either trying to determine truth from falsehood and where we can stand. No matter what side politically we lean, we find it awkward and uncomfortable because of the behavior of those on our side and their contempt for the other.

“Contempt is the deadliest form of relationship cancer. So says John Gottman…[he] defines contempt as trying to speak from a higher level while attempting to push another down to a lower level. Contempt – closely related to disgust – is all about hierarchy and wielding elitist power to hatefully exclude another from the community.”Robert E. Hall

Is there any way forward in this culture of contempt? I believe there is. In fact, many are writing and speaking from their different platforms on how that might look…and how we might engage with one another.

Author and social scientist Arthur C. Brooks is one of the voices in this crucial conversation. His book Love Your Enemies speaks to a way we can counter contempt in our own character and culture. 

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem. . . . If you listen to how people talk to each other in political life today, you notice it is with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it. So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.” – Arthur Brooks, Love Your Enemies

I experience contempt – not personally as much as from the social media broadcasting again “people like me”. If people who would have contempt for people “like me” really knew how deeply I feel about some of today’s issues, the contempt register would get personal.

From reading, listening to others, and trying to understand how to even be a healthy, engaged part of our culture…these 5 actions items are what I subscribe to:

1) Determine to stay engaged with those “on the other side”. Now I understand how we come to the point of needing to block others’ opinions in our lives (social media or social distancing in real life). However, I don’t think that gets us anywhere positive. [This is not to say a person must stay in an abusive relationship. Exit for safety’s sake, but bear in mind, healing requires more than exiting.] Exiting relationships out of contempt means the opportunity to move forward is gone…with that person and future “like” persons. We are practicing an exit clause that can become habitual across wider life experience. Arthur Brooks has much to say on this. Simply, “Just because you disagree with something doesn’t mean it’s hate speech or the person saying it is a deviant.” 

2) Listen.Listening Is an Act of Love. Too often we listen to respond, right? What if we listened just to know the other person? Just to show love and to communicate, “You are being heard. You are seen. You have value.” StoryCorps is even launching a venture giving opportunity for people who have polarized views and relationships to sit face-to-face and explore their differences and what they are about. Check out One Small Step.

3) Love your enemies. Jesus spoke these words to those who would follow him. Evangelicals have gotten a bad rap in our country these days, and maybe some of it is deserved… but if they are true followers of Jesus, they are not your enemy. A bold statement, but true if Jesus’ teaching is paramount to their lives. As for those politically polarized from each other…the far right and the far left… what if we truly tried to love them, to show them respect, to not make sweeping judgments on who they are as people? What if…

4) Pray. A huge way to deal with contempt is to pray for the individual (or group) for whom you feel it. Not to pray that she/he/they fail, but to pray for wisdom, to pray for excellent counsel in their lives, to pray for understanding. Prayer, in the very act of doing it, can change our hearts toward other people. Talking, talking, talking about people for whom we battle contempt…with those who feel the same as we do just fuels our contempt. Unless we are committed to pray and have our understanding of them seasoned with the love of God. Our stand on issues aren’t the issue. It’s our opinion of other people, not the issues, that can change our culture.

5) Take action with hope and good faith. Lean in. Forgive…every single time. [Not easy, nor will it be for someone who questions my heart or take on things.] Work toward listening opportunities with those we may oppose or who oppose us. Find ways in our workplaces, churches/etc, communities to join with others, maybe not like us, to learn, grow, gain understanding, in hopes of making substantive change for our world.

“Push opportunity to the people who need it the most.”Arthur Brooks

Even as I write this, there’s this creeping sense that those reading might think “She has really lost it now”. The thing is, I have always believed that “together we can make things better”. Nothing original here. This cultural calamity of contempt has gotten so big that even people I might not align with agree something has to change…and I am with them.

Sick and Tired of the Culture of Contempt? Here Are 5 Ways You Can Subvert It – Arthur Brooks

Take One Small Step with StoryCorps

What Is Contempt? – Paul Ekman Group

Saving America From Our Culture of Contempt – Arthur Brooks Lecture, UVA – Miller Center (Video)

The Pursuit – A Better World For All Starting at the Margins – Arthur Brooks Documentary

YouTube – Arthur Brooks on the Eric Metaxas Show

To Change Our ‘Culture of Contempt’, Arthur Brooks Suggests All of Us  ‘Love Your Enemies – Helen Raleigh

How You Can Subvert Our Pervasive Culture of Contempt – Leroy Seat

Worship Wednesday – He Will Hold Me Fast – Shane & Shane

Photo Credit: Pinimg

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. – Jude 24–25

I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. 2 Timothy 1:12

In a recent worship service, I heard a song for the first time. He Will Hold Me Fast. The lyrics were written in 1906 by the English hymn-writer Ada Ruth Habershon.

[She is most famous for her 1907 hymn Will the Circle Be Unbroken? – here arranged and performed by Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar].

As the worship team led us in singing the song, I was feverishly writing down the lyrics. So mesmerized by the truth and power of the words, I didn’t want to take the chance I couldn’t find it later online.

In a moment of distraction, I noticed a friend of mine sitting nearby doing exactly the same thing. Our lives are so very different that the question came to me: How are these words touching us both the same?

You see, compared to her, my life is lived in relative comfort and safety. Most of the time, she spends her days in a much more difficult kind of work and situation.

A first responder of sorts. Surrounded by so much need. So much want.

As we both scrambled to write down the lyrics, I was reminded how God doesn’t weigh out our need for Him to determine who gets more of Him. He is completely generous with His love, His care, His provision.

Other friends of ours are in the midst of a life-or-death battle. Their son has been diagnosed with that horrific brain cancer, glioblastoma. We are all praying for him for healing and for his family, grace.

His father wrote this on his Facebook page:

“…The one thing we can be certain of is that He gives us His loving presence, strength, and He promises never to leave us nor forsake us. When we follow our Lord, we are always living in the assurance of an eternity in God’s glorious presence!! When Joshua in the Old Testament was leading Israel into battles which would determine Israel’s future in the Land God promised to them, God promised Joshua in chapter 1:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Again, in chapter 1:9, God says “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
No, He does not zap us in order to punish, or chastise, or test us, but He does promise that whatever happens, if we are following Him, He will be with us in whatever we are going through. He will bring healing of mind, heart, will, or life. His healing sometimes is to deliver us from suffering and to take us home in eternity!. As Paul says in Philippians 4:12 “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” – Sam James, The Making of a Servant

Throughout Scripture, God calls us to remember…Him and how He moves in our circumstances. Our brother Sam is remembering by speaking the Gospel to his own heart and sharing it with all of us.

My friend and I both experienced God’s embrace in that old hymn – updated by songwriter Matthew Merker and performed by Christian duo Shane & Shane.

No matter what comes…He will hold us fast.

Worship with me:

When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path
For my love is often cold, He must hold me fast

Chorus
He will hold me fast, He will hold me fast
For my Savior loves me so, He will hold me fast

Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast

Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast
He’ll not let my soul be lost, His Promises shall last
Bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast

For my life He bled and died, Christ will hold me fast
Justice has been satisfied, He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life, He will hold me fast
Till our faith is turned to sight, when He comes at last

He began a work in me (x2); He’ll complete a work in me (x2)

Song by Shane & Shane

*Lyrics to He Will Hold Me Fast – Songwriters: Ada Habershon & Matthew Merker

YouTube Video – He Will Hold Me Fast – Story Behind the Song – Matt Merker

Jude 24, 25 – The Doxology, All Glory to God! – Dr. John Sparks

Worship Wednesday – This Is Christmas – Kutless

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:1, 14

This is Christmas. So many beautiful and as well as a few hard memories attached to it. My dad died on Christmas Day in 2016. He loved Christmas and made it all the more fun for all of us.

I wanted to write today…but like many days recently, the words are not coming. Writing takes time…and thought. Life itself takes precedence even though writing can be life to us writers.

Life is precious and calls for us to notice it and to savor every moment, and every person within those moments. It’s been 3 1/2 years since my breath-taking cancer diagnosis, I am fortunate. 3 1/2 years out is a very good thing.

My writing will come back, but for today it will be just a moment with you…a moment, a few pictures, and a worship song.

Merry Christmas. If it’s not your holiday, enjoy its gentling nature.

What is Christmas?

Wonder…of children, grandchildren, and the birth of one special baby…the Christ child.

Christmas Music – so varied and glorious we start listening in October.

Family – both with us and not able to be.

Friends – near and far.

Food…so much food.

Serving others.

Traditions – favorite books and movies, all the lights, treasured ornaments on the Christmas tree, outings…and those quiet staying in times.

That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown:

Worship with me to the song This Is Christmas by the band Kutless:

Do you find it hard to sleep tonight
Resting by the Christmas lights?
Could there be something you forgot?
Beyond the bows, and mistletoe
The tree with presents wrapped below
There’s more to this than you had ever thought?
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?

[Chorus:]
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?

Remember how the story goes
God’s gift was wrapped in swaddling clothes
Beneath the star, one great and holy night
The shepherds heard the angels sing
The wise men brought an offering
Peace on Earth began in Bethlehem
Have we lost the reason that we celebrate each year?

[Chorus:]
What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas?
If the angels never sang ‘Glory to the new born king?’
What is Christmas without Christ?

There’d be no
Glo-oo-oo-oo-ria
In excelsis deo
Glo-oo-oo-oo-ria
In excelsis deo

What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?
This is Christmas
It’s all about the Savior wrapped in a manger
This is Christmas
Because of Jesus Christ
This is Christmas
Because of Christ
Because of Christ*

I pray your Christmas is filled with all the good of this day. Whether words come or not…that you may know the love meant for you in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May we also take every opportunity to “give it away“.

[Video above featured Samaritan’s Purse which is a great organization. We personally support the smaller Baptist Global Response. Both give us opportunities to give to world’s neediest.]

*Lyrics to This Is Christmas – Songwriters: Jon Micah Sumrall, David  M. Lubben

A Christmas Letter to Every Mama – Sally Clarkson

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort and Joy – Deb Mills

Merry Christmas, from Dave & me

Monday Morning Moment – the Positive Power of a Community of Women

First off, this is for you women out there. Men could also profit reading, because it speaks to a need they have as well. [At the bottom, Guys, is a link marked with an * that speaks to a situation worth assessing, along with this one.] Today, I am writing to women though because it’s women I know best and whose community I need most.

West Texas mom and blogger Amy Weatherly has written a great piece on the essential nature of having a tribe. I have to say that word has gone South for me. A tribe too often means “a clique, a squad, a pack” – exclusive, closed, self-promoting. Not in Amy Weatherly’s article, at all…as you will see. Just for my own sensibilities, the word tribe is translated community elsewhere in this blog.

Here’s Amy Weatherly’s piece and her defining quote on women in community:

Behind Every Successful Woman Is a Tribe. A Tribe of Women Who Could Choose to Compete, But Take the Higher Road of Collaboration Instead

Behind every successful woman is a tribe. A tribe of other women who support her and love her and push her to be her absolute best but stick by her even when she’s at her absolute worst. A tribe of other women who could choose to compete, but take the higher, better road of collaboration instead. A tribe of other women who don’t just fix her crown, but also bend down to pick it up and dust it off when it’s fallen off. A tribe of other women who refuse to get jealous. Who refuse to compare. Who refuse to belittle or go low. Who refuse to gossip, or leave out, or hurt just to watch her crumble under the pressure.

A tribe of women who tell the truth. When it’s hard. When it’s easy. When it’s uncomfortable. When a lie would be the simpler road to travel.

A tribe of women who pick her up and put her back on her feet when she’s gone off-course. A tribe of women who have the courage to encourage her. A tribe of women who have the strength to strengthen her.

A tribe of other women who have her back, and her front, and her side, and her soul, and her spirit, and her heart, and her best interest in mind. Always.

Behind every successful woman is a God who knows the plans He has had for her from the very beginning. A God who holds her in His own hand and cheers her on from Heaven. A God who loved her before she was even born and had dreams for her before she even took her first breath. She mattered to Him before the womb. She mattered to Him in the womb. And she sure matters to Him now. – Amy Weatherly

We Adore Messy Bun, No-makeup Mom’s Post After Friend Asks: ‘Who Even Are You Anymore?’ – Sonja Haller – USA Today

What Weatherly wrote so resonated. Across the geography of my life, communities of women have reached in and given me love, confidence, and safe places where dreams can turn into reality. I hope to have learned well enough from them to do likewise in other circles of influence.

Sometimes the communities are small – my mom and me, for one. However, there are always other women connected. I think of the women, friends of my mom’s, who taught and counseled me growing up (in church and in our neighborhood). Then in Mom’s last years, friends of hers (and mine) who leaned in to love us well when cancer became our collective enemy. Losing Mom was awful, but her friends stayed…and are staying still, for me. Praise God for that community.

After reading Weatherly’s article, I got to thinking: what is it that makes for such a community? Here are some characteristics:

  • They show up…
  • And they stay (you don’t have to worry about them walking away)
  • Challenge in positive ways (all in)
  • Empower (bringing their own skill sets to insure success)
  • Serve one another
  • No selfish ambition
  • Inclusive
  • Genuinely interested in what each cares about
  • Will give benefit of the doubt
  • Refuse to think/speak ill of the other
  • Will move Heaven and earth to make things happen
  • Celebrate each other’s successes
  • Grieve the losses and comfort those most affected
  • Speak the truth in love
  • Keep short accounts (ask forgiveness, forgive, and counsel to do both)
  • Speak blessing
  • See and know each other

This is not an exhaustive list. What would you add? [In Comments below.]

Are any of us always that way as a group? No. Of course not. Still, in genuine community, we experience a fertile soil to grow and flourish.

I wish I could include images of all the communities of women that have peopled and blessed my school, work, and home life through the years. It would be a beautiful sight.

As for the communities of women that break our hearts or frustrate our hopes or, in some way, feel we have done wrong to them? We learn in these situations as well…to keep seeking to grow, to understand and to love anyway.Photo Credit: Edwin Markham, Tony Mayo

*Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

The Power of Women in Circle: Ideas for Women’s Groups

The Health Benefits of Female Friendships and Girlfriends [According to Science Your Girl Squad Can Help You Release More Oxytonin] – Laura Barcella

Why Women Need Their Tribe