Category Archives: Redeeming & Restoring

Worship Wednesday – Habakkuk’s Response to the Incomprehensible Goodness of God

[Adapted from the Archives]

Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength; He will make my feet like deer’s feet, And He will make me walk on my high hills.Habakkuk 3:17-19

Reading the book of Habakkuk, we are spellbound by the devastating situation where the people of God find themselves.  Habakkuk wrestles with God over this, and finally yields in faith to the God he trusts…no matter what. Whether in hunger or high places.

The thought of being completely without food is pretty frightening. The stories we hear in the news of displaced peoples, who had to flee their homes and villages and figure out how to survive on foot, are heartbreaking. I can’t fathom that situation, yet I know it’s real for far too many right now.

I’m also afraid of heights. When we fly, I always get an aisle seat, and treat the experience as if I’m on a cross-country bus trip. I love to look at mountains, but being up in them, on narrow roads or cliff-edge paths, is not what I would choose for transportation or relaxation.

Reading through the short account of desperate times, as recorded by the prophet Habakkuk, reminds me of the raw nature of life sometimes. What is that situation for you that would be the worst you could imagine? The loss of a person or the lack of a provision?

Is there anything that could so devastate me that I would take my eyes off God?

I pray not…and Habakkuk gives hope. He cried out to God, cried out against God, in the beginning, because of the horrific circumstances of his people, God’s people. Yet,  when we besiege the throne of God with our desperate requests, He hears His children and answers us. Not always in ways that suit us at the time, but He responds, with the wisdom of One who sees how all of life, all of history, fits together.

As we pray, whatever He does in answer to our appeals is up to Him – a perfectly loving, merciful and just God. Yet, there is a glorious spiritual transaction that happens, if we keep our eyes on Him. He restores our joy; He brings peace; He gives strength.

I love the passage in C. S. LewisThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are trying to describe Aslan, the lion who symbolizes Jesus in the Narnia stories. Lucy and Susan ask if Aslan is safe. Mr. Beaver responds, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

God is completely good. That does not mean that He keeps us always in comfortable places. His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Yet, as we look over the shoulders of Habakkuk, and see the world as he saw it…he still came around to seeing the goodness of God. We can also choose to rejoice in whatever situation we find ourselves. That is the faith that plants our feet surely on any path where God leads.

The Faith to Rejoice – A sermon on Habakkuk 3:17-19 by Coty Pinckney, Community Bible Church, Williamstown, MA

The Choice To Rejoice – A sermon by Richard Bray

Precept Austin Bible Study Helps for the book of Habakkuk

Aslan – Is He Safe? – Andrew Groves

Worship Wednesday – Standing Firm, Side by Side, in Community, Not Afraid

Photo Credit: Philipp M., Pexels

[From the Archives]

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. – the Apostle Paul to the Philippian Church Philippians 1:27-28

God’s Word is powerful and freeing. We are emboldened and sustained by it – for life, for love, for forgiveness, for endurance.

Reading this passage recently, a charge from these words sizzled through me like electricity. Goosebumps and all.

Another translation of Paul’s writing introduced the above Scripture passage with the phrase “Just one thing”. We are living in confusing and shaky times, but God is unchanged. His truth is as riveting and reliable as when first written for us.

For months now, we have been kept apart by the social distancing of COVID-19. A year ago, we were brought together by the terrible loss of George Floyd. Brought together and at the same time torn apart. Protests and a pandemic. Racial unrest and a radical disease.

This time last year, a group of friends and I went through a Bible study together which turned out to be incredibly timely. We couldn’t be together so we met over a video call, working through Jennie Allen‘s Get Out of Your Head. In this book, Allen talks through our struggle with the kinds of thoughts that spiral downward taking us with them. The text she takes her readers through is Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He was in prison and yet wrote this short life-transforming letter to encourage the church experiencing its own hardship.

In confusing and chaotic times, our thoughts can be our worst enemy. We juggle the “what if’s” until they become more than we can manage. We question what’s right, what’s true, what’s our place in all of it…what’s God’s place. We become suspicious of others’ motives, and even sometimes our own. We grow weary of sorting it all out. We can withdraw…making six feet apart way too easy.

Jennie Allen reminds us that we have a choice; we can flip the downward spiral. We can make our aim, in all things,God’s glory and His headship. Keeping our focus on God, we then seek peace, do justice, love even our enemies, and trust God with our lives (whether the threat is COVID and or violence in the streets).

“As theologian and emeritus professor D. A. Carson has observed, People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”Jennie Allen
So how do we avoid that drift Dr. Carson talked about above?
In community. Standing firm, side by side, not afraid – in God’s strength and His salvation – Philippians 1:27-28.
However, even if community is shaky, God never is. We remind ourselves and each other that He is our refuge and we never have to be shaken...no matter the situation.

Psalm 62 – Trust in God Alone

For the choir director; according to Jeduthan. A psalm of David

I am at rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will never be shaken.

How long will you threaten a man?
Will all of you attack
as if he were a leaning wall
or a tottering fence?
They only plan to bring him down
from his high position.
They take pleasure in lying;
they bless with their mouths,
but they curse inwardly. Selah

Rest in God alone, my soul,
for my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I will not be shaken.
My salvation and glory depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts before Him.
God is our refuge.Selah

Common people are only a vapor;
important people, an illusion.
Together on a scale,
they weigh less than a vapor.
Place no trust in oppression
or false hope in robbery.
If wealth increases,
don’t set your heart on it.

God has spoken once;
I have heard this twice:
Strength belongs to God,
and faithful love belongs to You, Lord.
For You repay each according to his works.Psalm 62

Monday Morning Moment – 5 R’s of Handling and Healing Our Past

Photo Credit: Rick Warren, Heartlight

The past. We are never rid of it, nor would we wish to be. Our roots are there. The foundation of our lives. Our first and formative relationships are there.  Both life and death, pain and promise.

Memories are born in the past. Experiences and emotions attached to them that feel exquisitely personal…yet are shared. Others close to us may have our exact same experiences, but have very different feelings and memories attached to them.

Family is complicated and always has been (remember Cain and Abel?). Throughout the history of humankind, family was meant to be a nurturing and stabilizing influence in our lives. It doesn’t always work out that way, but wisdom is to lean in whenever possible and learn both from the brokenness and the beauty available to us.

So how do we deal with the past? Do we ruminate on the wrongs of our past? Do they loom larger than the good? Do we see ourselves in the right in each point of conflict? Or the victim? Is our memory of family colored in ways that make us pull away?

There is a way forward, and I believe it is revisiting the past with the aim of healing…not just for ourselves but for the family as a whole.

[I love alliteration – words with the same beginning letters used in phrases or headings. So it was a personal thrill for me that this came together with alliteration.]

5 R’s of Handling and Healing Our Past

1) Remember – We trust our memories, don’t we? Well, until age shakes that up a bit. Still, our memories can be altered by the power of our emotions and by further experiences that call the past to mind. Then our emotions, deepened by memory, can “resolve” to see things more our way, whatever is happening in the moment. Memories can be reinforced, and not always in helpful ways. We need to take into account that we, family members or friends, can remember something very differently, based on what was going on emotionally for each person at the time. That’s why we must handle memories gently with each other. Love the person her/himself more than what they might remember. Determine not to be put off by memories where we don’t come off in a positive light. Remembering is done best in community. It’s richer and more reliable that way. Of course, this requires tons of trust, transparency, and humility. It may not feel safe in some situations to remember in community. It’s also never helpful to insist our memories are the only ones that are true. Right? Again, it is experience plus emotion. Love covers. Love helps heal when we remember, with care for the other.

2) Reminisce – As we remember, we reminisce. This calls to mind the sweet memories of the past. Even as painful memories rush in, what happy times come to mind? How might these memories weave together? Was it all bad? All good? Reminiscing taps into the positives, and even opens the mind to what the memories of the other might be in the same experience. Are we projecting motive or intent into our experience? As we reminisce, might we look at how an experience was different for the other. Reminiscing done in community is, again, eye-opening. It can be threatening if our side of the memory is on the line, but when we enlarge on what was going on in our past, we gain deeper understanding. A softening of our attitudes can come.

3) Reflect – When we reflect on a particular situation or relationship in the past, we treat it with as much grace as we can muster. We take the past and turn it over and examine it from different angles, considering what we can learn from it. How is it affecting our present – both life experience and relationships? What can we do to glean something positive from a painful past? What is to be gained by holding onto the past? If we choose healing, what is then possible for us and the others involved? What kind of faith would be required? What kind of work? Are we willing?

“Walk a Mile in His Moccasins” – Mary T. Lathrap, 1895

4) Repent and Reconcile when possible (instead of forever Regret ) – Here’s the big leap! Owning our part and doing something about it. This is huge!

Let’s say, our past includes painful memories from our early childhood. What can a child own from situations out of their control? We can own our attitudes today as adults. For instance, it took me a long time to tender my memories of a neglectful biological father. I only have a few memories of him, none great. One memory stands out. Mom had left him, and we were living in a tiny house, supported by her income alone. One night we were awakened by shouting. I don’t remember a lot, but my estranged father, Mom, and an uncle of ours were in some sort of argument. We four children were huddled together on a bottom bunk. I remember blood and our father’s hand wrapped in a handkerchief. Was there a knife? I don’t remember. We were terrified. After that…he was pretty much absent from our lives. I don’t remember asking Mom what all happened. It just took me a long time to feel anything for that dad. Yet, I know he had to have known pain, isolation, and maybe even some regret at the dregs of his relationship with Mom and us. As an adult, I have chosen some compassion for him. Not much but some.

Why did I share that story? It is how as children, when we have trauma (or what we perceive as trauma when maybe it had little to do with us), we process it differently than we might as adults. Revisiting, with humble hearts, can make a difference in how we think about the past as adults.

When our past pushes into our present, and conflicts are revisited, we are tempted to try the offending party in the court of our emotions (re-try them, actually). We resurrect the past and all its emotions, and bring all that trauma to bear on whatever the present misunderstanding is. We are then not able to just deal with the present. All that past comes down on us, that past that may have been once forgiven, and unloads. Making it virtually impossible to deal with whatever is happening at the moment.

This is where we repent. We refuse to nurse old wounds. We deal with the current conflict as it is, without all the past. The current conflict is enough. We deal with it as adults. We repent of our part. I can tell you, if we don’t, there is collateral damage to those who love us. “Friendly fire” is not friendly, and these struggles, heightened by our past, become the past of those around us. Our children. Our grandchildren.

Repentance may take more the form of forgiveness. We refuse to remember (one place where we refuse to remember) the offense of another. We choose to forgive in the most expansive way we can.

I know we sometimes say we forgive that one who offends us, who offended in the past, and continues to do so. We forgive but commit and feel justified to have nothing to do with them ever again. I get that. I get the pain behind such a decision. It’s heart-breaking. Just to reflect: Who does that punish? As wide a circle as our relationship together makes. We are all punished…that is most probably not meant to be the intent.

Repent and reconcile whenever possible. There will be cheering by everyone who loves us both. I know; I’ve experienced it from both sides. The repenting side and the relieved and thankful other side.

[This is often excruciating and not always satisfying. Even if the outcomes are not what we hope. We benefit from trying…as do the generations that follow. Who knows? The situation – and relationship – can still change in that possible future.]

5) Rejoice – Put your hand on your chest. Can you feel your heart beating? Can you feel the rise and fall of your breath? Be grateful. Rejoice in the present. We didn’t die from our past. We still have a chance to put things right. Maybe imperfectly…but it’s possible.

A wonderful scene of this possibility is found in the 1970 film “Scrooge”. “I’ll Begin Again”.

The past doesn’t have to be forever. You have a present. There may be a future…one not framed by the hurting past but built on a healed past. We have that possibility…in our present. We can do our part… it’s the only thing we have in our control. Is it complicated? Of course, but it will always be worth the effort.

*Special thanks to my writer friend, Angela at Living Well Journal, who talked and prayed through this with me…on a neighborhood walk, in the cool of a Spring morning.

A note I found just this week flipping through an old Bible. Mom would leave love notes around whenever she came to visit, and we did the same after her pattern…and taught our children to do the same.

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind, Mental Health Awareness, Antidote for Self-deceit, Showing Up…Or Not, and Unmasking

1) Beyond the Guitar – Beauty to the Ears & Mind – We think of beauty more in what we experience visually, but there is a powerful connection between music and the mind. Beautiful music soothes the soul and lifts our hearts. Moves us. Often it is because of nostalgia attached to the music, but even without that emotional connection, music can bring our minds to a better place.

Your Brain on Music – Pegasus, UCF

Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has that way about his craft. Moving our hearts with the beauty of his arrangements and performance. I don’t know any of the pieces in his medley of 4 Underrated (but Beautiful) Video Game Themes, but something happens when I listen. Shoulders drop; breathing slows; wonder sets in. Beauty has its way with our ears and our minds.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

2) Mental Health Awareness –  May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The theme message for 2021 is “You Are Not Alone”. Our need for connection is bigger than ever, having gone through so much COVID isolation. Whether mental health issues are our own personal struggle or we are family, friends, caregivers of those who struggle, helps abound. We just must be aware and utilize them.

Tools 2 Thrive – Mental Health America

Mental Health Awareness Month 2021: What to Know – Karen Veazey

Photo Credit: Twitter, Nicolino Frate

Suicide and death by drug overdose have increased during COVID. They are shocking for us and real losses, either for us or for friends. We can’t keep isolating ourselves from each other. Finding ways to help is imperative.

Photo Credit: Facebook, Key Ministry, Your Neighbour #GiveHope

YouTube Video: Unseen: Exposing the Mental Health Crisis Among Special Needs Caregivers | Documentary Trailer

3) Antidote for Self-Deceit –  Self-deceit (or self-deception) is “a process of denying or rationalizing away the relevance, significance, or importance of opposing evidence and logical argument. Self-deception involves convincing oneself of a truth (or lack of truth) so that one does not reveal any self-knowledge of the deception”.

The Most Dangerous Form of Deception: Self-Deception

I’ve allowed myself to be deceived (either with the help of outside influences or from sheer will and desire, wanting something to be so, or not be so). It’s not pretty. One of my strongest memories was sitting in a circle of friends who essentially did an loving intervention with me. I was in a self-destructive (but non-abusive) relationship, and they had the courage to point me to the changes in my life and thinking. I will never forget it. The life I have now is much impacted by their willingness to go to that place with me. Forever grateful.

Regarding deceit, it is way too easy to get into our own heads and assess life with a self-tuned receiver. I wrote about this before (the practice of noticing). A somewhat dated video (with a still fresh message) speaks to this so well.

During the particular season of self-deception (described above), I got to the place that lying in my bed at night, when I would usually pray, it got impossible to pray. That was terrifying. It’s like all the desires and my rationalizations for them had crowded out any space for God. Especially for a holy God. Like I said, terrifying. No matter how loving God is, I couldn’t justify praying when my own desires trumped His for me.

The Antidote to Self Deception – J. D. Walt

As the video illuminates, as we get out of our own heads, and start seeing other people around us, we find the antidote. Caring more for others than ourselves, we can actually clear our heads some. Self-deception causes us to “circle the wagons” and keep others at a distance. As we determine to get close to people again, especially to genuinely listen and serve, our own deceit can be more readily understood/recognized. Of course, our neglected relationship with God will take its own time and action on our part. He is ready, when we are.

Photo Credit: Chip Scholz

4) Showing Up…or Not – Showing up is a good thing. For all of us. Keeping commitments. Being present. Choosing to lean in. Listening.

So much is said about listening and its positive impact. To listen requires proximity.

On the East Coast, this week, we had a gas shortage (or a perceived gas shortage…not sure which is more accurate). Everyone was making decisions about filling their tanks and sorting out needful car trips vs. those that can be jettisoned for another time.

I was a part of a couple of meetings where some folks didn’t show up. Without a phone call, text, or email message. Was it the gas shortage? Or did it display something else? Honestly, I also wondered how often I’ve done this same thing myself.

We are in a culture right now when a RSVP yes can turn to no without a word. I’m showing my age…but does this matter?

Below you’ll find quotes from three different authors on this and what it can mean. The showing up…or not. After you read their observations, I’d love to hear what you have to say in the Comments.

“Standing someone up is a personal attack. You are saying that you have no respect at all for this person’s time, energy or feelings. This person set aside time from his or her day to hang out with YOU.

And maybe he or she didn’t feel like showing up. But no, this person had enough respect for you to feel as though he or she couldn’t bail on you. Then how did you repay the favor? You didn’t show up. With no warning.

And don’t even get me started on the fact that if this person cared about you enough to make and honor plans with you, odds are that he or she would probably be WORRIED about you when you don’t send a message. Because falling off the face of the Earth is a little alarming….You get the picture here.” – Candice Jalili

Why It Is Literally Never, Ever OK to Just Not Show Up For Your Plans – Candice Jalili

“There are commitments you are not going to keep no matter how hard you try, but even if you fail to keep them, you can still honor them. How do you do this?

“The difference between “keeping” and “honoring” is key: keeping a promise is about the letter of the promise, while honoring a promise is about the spirit. It is even possible to keep a promise while not honoring it. People will forgive an honored but un-kept promise, but it takes a real saint to let go of an un-honored promise—kept or not.

So what are the practical aspects of honoring a commitment? They are:

  • respect
  • communication
  • productive effort

It’s uncomfortable to take responsibility (for a failed commitment), but discomfort is a lot easier to shoulder than disrespect or disappointment. Even if you failed to honor a commitment up until now, it is not too late: disrespect and disappointment can be rolled back or even erased in the face of genuine honor.” –  Kenneth Vogt

How to Cope When You Fail to Honor a Commitment – Kenneth Vogt

[The two writers above have very different tones to their pieces. Both worthy of note. I especially appreciated Vogt’s distinction of honoring a commitment (whether you’re able to keep it or not). Honoring the person by communicating your inability to keep the commitment…as well as the honoring that goes on by making the effort to keep the commitment whether  easy or not. We don’t really know what goes on for another who does the work of keeping a commitment or the one who just can’t. What we do know is what it is like for us to keep or not keep a commitment; to honor or dishonor a person in the commitment. So much more understanding and care come out of the smallest communications. Something to think about.]

Below Rachel Macy Stafford posted an image and (in the link) a Facebook story about sitting in a line for gas this week, and an elderly man, just ahead of her, deliberately nodding her way (as he chose not to completely fill his tank, doing what he could to “leave” some for her). No RSVP’ed commitment. No relationship. But a deeply kind gesture to her that she was seen. We all need that…that being seen.

Photo Credit: Rachel Macy Stafford, Facebook, The Hands Free Revolution

It’s…“a deliberate decision to look out for the person behind (you)…It’s not about us. Even though it’s hard not to think only of our own needs, there is someone behind us…and someone behind that person…with their own set of struggles. If you can…will you look out for them? A wave will do, just so they know they are seen…it’s the kind of gesture that takes people farther than a full tank of gas.”Rachel Macy Stafford

5) Unmasking – Get ready for another new culture shock thanks to the Coronavirus: unmasking!!! I am so excited myself.Photo Credit: Pexels, Gustavo Fring

Based on this week’s CDC recommendations, fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks or physically distance anymore (except in rare defined situations). This, of course, is still only a recommendation and each state must give direction at a local level. Our governor just announced that we will align with the CDC recommendations.

Now, no one is going to know who is vaccinated and who isn’t. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is to be wise in dealing with the viral world. Those not vaccinated will probably forego masks as well. The freedom feels intoxicating, honestly, but possibly fearful to some, even some who are fully vaccinated.

I hope we can leave fear behind us. COVID is still rampant in some parts of the world and that is tragic. As we in the US and other countries get past our own experiences with this virus, hopefully we can be a help to those still battling the disease.

The culture shock part is real. I will have my mask with me, and see what the signs say on the doors of each business, store, school, or community space.

Still….so worth celebrating!!!

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s a wrap. Would love your comments below on your own favorites of the week. Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot to me.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Twitter

Angry with God: Living in the Tension of Partial Understanding – Brad Hambrick

YouTube – Podcast – An Honest and Raw Conversation with Francis Chan – Preston Sprinkle

My next read:

Wednesday Worship – Truth I’m Standing On – Leanna Crawford

bible verse 2 Timothy 1:7Photo Credit: Woman of God

“So do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”Isaiah 41:10

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!  Psalm 34:8

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken, nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”  – Isaiah 54:10

Right now my thoughts are drawn to some young friends in my life who are struggling with the unknown – a future the seems full of what if’s. The worst of it is the question, “What if God is not good?” What if He gives me more than I can bear? What if things don’t change? What if they do?

So many questions and fears can batter our minds. Storms pounding against the shore of our lives. Will we hold on? Will we keep standing? Will God show up…for us…for me?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

Photo Credit: Quotescosmos

An old hymn comes to mind – Stayed Upon Jehovah (Like a River Glorious). One of my favorites. Here are some of the fortifying lyrics:

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do.
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

The words “Stayed upon Jehovah” give us the key to the peace God means for us to have. Eyes fixed on Him. Staying on His truth. No. Matter. What.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  – Jesus – John 16:33

So as I think of my friends going through uncharted territory right now. Our temptation is to fear. To wonder if God loves us. If God is good. Oh, Dear Ones, He is. He is good. He loves us. He will never leave us alone. Take hold of that. Again.

Worship the Lord with me to the Leanna Crawford song “Truth I’m Standing On”. Worshiping the God who is good, and no matter what our circumstance, He is faithful through it all.

Scared, oh I thought I knew scared
But I’m so filled with fear
I can barely move

Doubt, I’ve had my share of doubt
But never more than right now
I’m wondering where are You

Here on the edge of fall apart
Somehow Your promises
Find my troubled heart

This is the truth I’m standing on
Even when all my strength is gone
You are faithful forever
And I know You’ll never
Let me fall

Right now I’m choosing to believe
Someday soon I’ll look back and see
All the pain had a purpose
Your plan was perfect all along
This is the truth I’m standing on

Good, I believe You’re still good
Even when life’s not good
I will not lose this hope

That the God who parts the sea
Promises He’s gonna
Make a way for me

This is the truth I’m standing on
Even when all my strength is gone
You are faithful forever
And I know You’ll never
Let me fall

Right now I’m choosing to believe
Someday soon I’ll look back and see
All the pain had a purpose
Your plan was perfect all along
This is the truth I’m standing on

My rock, my shield, my firm foundation
I know I will not be shaken
You remind me
Where my help comes from

This is the truth I’m standing on
Even when all my strength is gone
You are faithful forever
And I know You’ll never
Let me fall

Right now I’m choosing to believe
Someday soon I’ll look back and see
All the pain had a purpose
Your plan was perfect all along
This is the truth I’m standing on*

*Lyrics to Truth I’m Standing On – Songwriters: Aj Pruis, Leanna Crawford, Matthew Joseph West

Leanna Crawford Website

Worship Wednesday – God’s Perfect Peace – Like a River Glorious by Frances Havergal – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Square Quotes

Worship Wednesday – Tyler Perry’s “Refuse Hate.” and Revolutionary by Josh Wilson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

[Adapted from the Archives]

Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.Psalm 4:4-5, 8

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.Ephesians 4:26-27

“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, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”Matthew 5:43-45

The 2021 Oscars (Academy Awards Ceremony) this week delivered the lowest ratings in the award show’s history. It’s been a strange year. The highlight for us was actually the acceptance speech for this year’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The recipient is the filmmaker and benefactor Tyler Perry.

Watch his very different, almost politically incorrect, 3-minute acceptance speech below. [Full transcript here.]

An excerpt follows:

I refuse to hate someone because they’re Mexican or because they are Black or white, or LGBTQ. I refuse to hate someone because they’re a police officer. I refuse to hate someone because they are Asian. I would hope that we would refuse hate.
So anyone who wants to meet me in the middle, to refuse hate, to refuse blanket judgment and to help lift someone’s feet off the ground, this one is for you, too. God bless you and thank you Academy, I appreciate it.”Tyler Perry
As  followers of Christ, we cannot join the throngs of people who hate. We may want to block or cancel the words or actions of others. Yet, we are confronted ourselves by the truth that we were all once the enemies of God…and He forgave us. Do we presume that our indignation is more righteous than His? Do we consider our being wronged as more needful of judgment than His own? God have mercy!
What is the response of the believer toward those we are tempted to feel hate?

Only love. Spoken and acted out in kindness and mercy.

Do we stomp and kick the dust at that calling and command? Do we hold tighter to our stones? Do we give lip service to “forgiving” but everything in our actions and attitudes tells a different story?

How thankful we can be to a God who is all-wise and all-loving! He understands us completely. He walked among us, in the sandals of the incarnate Christ. He experienced hatred and persecution, even to His last breath on this earth. Yet…He forgave, He loved, He administered the greatest kindness possible – His life for ours.

In His loving mercy, He has taught us how to live in this life.

We are to love. We are to forgive. We are to keep our own hearts from sinning against another. We are to remember that we and our neighbor (enemy or friend) are both made in the image of God. We are not to forget our own bent toward sin…the very sin that caused Jesus to take the cross upon Himself…for us. Not just for another.

God calls us to remember whose we are. He is at work in our hearts, in that of our neighbors (and enemies), and in the nations.

We can join Him…through revolutionary acts of kindness.

I’ve just recently discovered the writing of Lois Tverberg. She teaches the Scripture in context, meaning within the culture of the world in which it was written. We might think Jesus’ command to us to love our enemies is hard. Yet, if we recall our own struggle with sin and how neighbors and enemies are not so different from us, we can access the grace of God to love…and show kindness.

Jesus’ Most Radical Teaching – Lois Tverberg

Loving Your Neighbor, Who Is Like You – Lois Tverberg

Instead of striving to be right…what if we strove to be kind – loving, serving, and praying for those our flesh cries out to hate? This is the way of Jesus.

Josh Wilson (with a team of other songwriters) gave us the song “Revolutionary” in October 2019, having no idea what 2020 or 2021 would hold. It was a prophetic call to the church to love…all.

“It seems natural, almost effortless, to focus on our differences with others rather than our similarities. Drawing attention to those differences keeps us glued to the news and social media because of the moral outrage we feel towards the “other.” I think there’s a better way though, and that’s the way of empathy and understanding, the way of kindness….No matter what side of the political spectrum we’re on, deep down I know that we are not as different as we are led to believe. There is peace to be made, there are names to be learned, meals to be had, chasms to be crossed, and it all starts with kindness.Josh Wilson

Worship with me.

Maybe you’re not like me
Maybe we don’t agree
Maybe that doesn’t mean
We gotta be enemies
Maybe we just get brave
Take a big leap of faith
Call a truce so me and you
Can find a better way
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen, yeah
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different, yeah
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
I’m turning the TV down
Drowning their voices out
‘Cause I believe that you and me
Can find some common ground
See maybe I’m not like you
But I’ll walk a mile in your shoes
If it means I might see
The world the way you do
Let’s take some time, open our eyes, look and listen
And we’re gonna find we’re more alike than we are different
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
What would Jesus do
He would love first
He would love first, hmm
What would Jesus do
He would love first
Yeah, He would love first
So we should love first
Why does kindness seem revolutionary
When did we let hate get so ordinary
Let’s turn it around, flip the script
Judge slow, love quick
God help us get revolutionary
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
Whoa oh
Let’s get, let’s get
Whoa oh
Revolutionary
God help us get revolutionary*
“‘Revolutionary’ is all about kindness,” shares Josh Wilson. “I believe that kindness matters. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the negativity we see in the world and on the news, and this song is a reminder that we are called to more than that. We’re called to love as Christ has loved us. I am so encouraged by the acts of kindness I’ve seen recently, even amidst a worldwide pandemic, even in an election year. In many ways, our struggles are actually bringing us together. We’re learning that we all have a lot more in common than we thought, and it’s beautiful to see the ways people are serving each other. The lyrics are a prayer for God, through us, to start a revolution of kindness. Will you join us?”Josh Wilson

Postscript:

Josh Wilson also wrote “Dream Small” which I covered here. He capturing how God has wrapped all commands into two – for our good and to the glory of our magnificent God:
Love God
Love others.
“Keep loving, keep serving
Keep listening, keep learning
Keep praying, keep hoping
Keep seeking, keep searching
Out of these small things and watch them grow bigger
The God who does all things makes oceans
From rivers.”

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson – Deb Mills

Story Behind the Song “Revolutionary”

Worship Wednesday – Famous For (I Believe) – Tauren Wells & Jenn Johnson

Photo Credit: Heartlight

LORD, I have heard of your fame. I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Renew your work in the midst of the years. In the midst of the years make it known. In wrath, you remember mercy. – Habakkuk 3:2

He [David] said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,  my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.2 Samuel 22:2-3

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear…Psalm 46:1-2a

“My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him…” – Daniel – Daniel 6:22

The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them…And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live…and you shall know that I am the Lord.” – Ezekiel 37:1-6

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 3:20-21

When we read the great accounts in Scripture of the Lord’s showing up and radical things happening, we stand in awe of such a God. Our faith increases and our prayers follow. Displaying faith in a faithful God.

Here in this modern day, we have our own stories of God’s great deliverance. We, like the ancients probably, also struggle with hoping and praying He shows, but with little faith. I have a fantasy about Heaven. Borrowed from a friend, actually. With all of eternity before us, part of how we spend it could be in some sort of venue where we are able to see bits of our lives (on some sort of video screen) as God intervened in those bits… situations where He showed up, and we may not not have realized He was there. Some venue like Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheater.Photo Credit: Uncover Colorado

I love thinking about Heaven. In my fantasy above, it’s like “Let’s watch the morning of [great catastrophe or miracle day – fill in the blank] – just to reminisce but more to see it how God saw it. Or any ordinary day….or so we thought, and God put together a seemingly random series of “coincidences”, as He does something glorious in the life of a neighbor, coworker, or stranger passing by.

“Small world”, right? NO…BIG GOD.

God is good. No matter what. He is also magnificent in power and perfect in love. We know this from His Word and from His transforming work in our lives.

Our prayers and praises should reflect the greatness of God. One day we will see clearly the final outcome of His movement in our lives and throughout history. Hallelujah!

Worship with me this faithful God. Tauren Wells & Jenn Johnson lead out in this song. The lyrics are packed with the truths of Scripture (seen in the passages above).

There is no fear ’cause I believe
There is no doubt ’cause I have seen
Your faithfulness, my fortress
Over and over

I have a hope found in Your name
I have a strength found in Your grace
Your faithfulness, my fortress
Over and over

Make way through the waters
Walk me through the fire
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for
Shut the mouths of lions
Bring dry bones to life and
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for
I believe in You, God
I believe in You

Release Your love inside of me
Unleash Your power for all to see
Spirit, come, and fall on us
Over and over, oh Lord

Make way through the waters
Walk me through the fire
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for
Shut the mouths of lions
Bring dry bones to life and
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for

God of exceedingly, God of abundantly
More than we ask or think, Lord
You will never fail, Your name is powerful, Your word’s unstoppable
All things are possible in You
God of exceedingly, God of abundantly
More than we ask or think, Lord
You will never fail, Your name is powerful, Your word’s unstoppable
All things are possible in You

Make way through the waters
Walk me through the fire
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for
Shut the mouths of lions
Bring dry bones to life and
Do what You are famous for
What You are famous for
I believe in You, God
I believe in You

There is no fear ’cause I believe
There is no doubt ’cause I have seen
Your faithfulness, my fortress
Over and over*

*Lyrics to Famous For – Songwriters: Tauren G. Wells, Krissy Nordhoff, Jordan Douglas Sapp, Alexis Slifer, Chuck Butler

Story Behind the Song Famous For – Tauren G. Wells

Worship Wednesday – When We Love Like Jesus – How Beautiful – Twila Paris

Photo Credit: Burke Church, Facebook

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:9-10

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.  1 John 3:16

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Our world is so full of words…so many voices. Too many are divisive and blaming. Too many propose solutions that seem beyond our capability or capacity. Beyond our understanding even.

Especially in the issue of racial inequality, racial reconciliation, and racial healing. When we look at the proposals made by politicians and even some educators, we are stunned and bewildered.

What will it really take for things to get better? What actions can bridge the racial divide? The words blasting through our news outlets seem more hurtful than healing. We as the church are wrestling with what to say…what to do. I have found that so puzzling given how the Lord has told us how to live and how to love…but we seem challenged especially in this dark dilemma of our times.

Then just today…two voices came through the noise: U.S. Senator Tim Scott and Reverend Keith Haney

Senator Scott posted the following on his Instagram and Twitter page today. Take the time to watch the video.

He deals with the politicizing of the racial unrest in our country, and he calls us as Christians to love people…really love people. Wow! Why “Wow!”? Because we know what is the truth and yet we don’t do it. We talk about it, we react when others tell us what we should do, but…We already know what Jesus tells us to do…and He has shown us how by His own beautiful life.

I have been thinking about what Senator Scott said the rest of the day, and then, in the kindness we regularly experience from God, I discovered this blog The Light Breaks Through authored by Reverend Haney. The piece below is a blog he wrote after George Floyd was killed and all that happened in Minneapolis in reaction.

How Should the Church Respond to Racial Issues?

Reverend Haney writes: “Genuine change only happens when we can change hearts, and only the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ can do that. The community is begging for someone to step up and make things better.

What I hear the world really asking is this:

Dear Christian Church,

As I look at the racial pain all around and the way it is portrayed in the national media, it saddens me. The tone is so negative, and it is feeding into the darkness that is already out there in our sin-sick world. I don’t expect the world to have real solutions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Dear Church, especially the Black Church, just as you answered the call in the Civil Rights Movement, you have a pivotal role to play. You have the Light. You know the only real Love. The world is lost without your voice. Without your direction. It is time to stand and lead. Now is the time to speak out.”

Then Reverend Haney further encouraged us: “…We are living in a broken world, and the racial issues only serve as a stark reminder of our need for a Savior, a healer, a reconciler.

There is a spiritual reason behind this racial rift. Church leaders you have the power to change things. Our Lord and Savior armed you with the spiritual weapons of God. Battle Satan’s lies the way Jesus did with the truth of the Scripture. All people have value because we are created by the same One True God. We all begin our journey at the foot of the cross and end our trip at the grave.”

We have a beautiful Savior who showed us how to really love each other. Not, as Senator Scott read from his devotional, “just pretend to love others”.  We can state our beliefs about racial divides and racism. We can voice commitments as the church on where we stand. Words only (just talking about issues or doling out our opinions) do not take us to the cross…or to the grave.

Our Savior held nothing back. Maybe we don’t know what that means for us in specifics, given the problems we face as a nation, as a world today…but we know where to start.

We start with receiving the love Christ has given us, every one of us. We receive from His hands. Then we become His hands for one another. He loves…we love. He serves…we serve.

I don’t have sweeping answers but, after today, I am less confused… and less distracted by all the negative talk and virtue signaling. We don’t have to be led to answers, especially by people who have no interest in what Jesus says and does about injustices. He has given us a way forward…ours is to take that path.

Worship with me…to this song by Twila Paris on the beauty of Christ and the beauty of His church – How Beautiful

How Beautiful the hands that served
The Wine and the Bread and the sons of the earth
How beautiful the feet that walked
The long dusty roads and the hill to the cross
How Beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

How Beautiful the heart that bled
That took all my sin and bore it instead
How beautiful the tender eyes
That choose to forgive and never despise
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

And as He lay down His life
We offer this sacrifice
That we will live just as He died
Willing to pay the price
Willing to pay the price

How Beautiful the radiant bride
Who waits for her Groom with His light in her eyes
How Beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure lives so that others may live
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the Body of Christ

How beautiful the feet that bring
The sound of good news and the love of the King
How Beautiful the hands that serve
The wine and the bread and the sons of the Earth
How Beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the Body of Christ*

Photo Credit: QuotesLyfe

*Lyrics to How Beautiful – Twila Paris

YouTube Video – How Beautiful – Twila Paris (talks about the song before she sings it) 1994

Monday Morning Moment – In Disappointment, Peace…and Finally, Joy – a Playlist

Photo Credit: Pixabay

[Adapted from the Archives. I’ve written about disappointment and the journey beyond several times. Here is the search if you want to read more.]

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  Psalm 69:13

Life is such a mix of experiences. All can either take us rapidly one or another direction, turning our emotions this way and that. Our circumstances change. Ups and downs. Hope and disappointment. Most importantly, God does not change.

a couple of friends of mine are in the thick of disappointment. Bewildered by losses they didn’t see coming and were not prepared for. Yet, as we who love them journey through this disorientation with them, we already see a reorientation: Hope is taking deeper root and peace begins to unfold, like a seedling in Spring. God will make a way.Photo Credit: Heartlight

We are not left floundering in our circumstances. God is working His purposes out even through the worst of scenarios life can throw at us. In death (of a vision, of a hope, of a dream), He still brings life, in the here-and-now, to those who believe.

After being tossed about by anger, grief, or disappointment, we can have hope again and peace…that God will show Himself mighty in this as He does in all things:

  • at an acceptable time.
  • In the abundance of His steadfast love.
  • In His saving faithfulness.

Photo Credit: Faith Spilling Over, Betsy de Cruz

I’ve put together a playlist, sort of, on trusting (gleaned from some of the songs highlighted on past blogs). These songs bring me joy as I hope they will you.

Postscript: One of those friends just yesterday, in talking about the hard thing she experienced recently, still reeling from it in a way, ended up calling it “a pretty significant act of grace”. Wow! That’s God working in the heart of one of his children. So thankful.

[If you have “trusting God” songs that calm your heart and restore joy on hard days, would you place them in the Comments below?]

Trusting Playlist

Unfinished – Mandisa

All My Hope – David Crowder & Tauren Wells

Even If – MercyMe

I Know – Big Daddy Weave

Promises (feat. Joe L. Barnes & Naomi Raine) – Maverick City/TRIBL

We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

In the Eye of the Storm – Ryan Stevenson

My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Shoulders – For King & Country

I Will Rise (Life) – Chris Tomlin

It is Well With My Soul – Guy Penrod

Through It All – It is Well With My Soul – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

When God Closes a Door – Betsy de Cruz

Monday Morning Moment – Confronting and Overcoming Disappointment – Deb Mills

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Restores the Temple to a House of Prayer

[Adapted from the Archives]

On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”Mark 11:12-14

When Jesus woke on Monday morning, after that glorious Sunday entering Jerusalem…I wonder what he thought. Did he know that, in just four days, he would be crucified? Whew…

Back to Monday:

During that week in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the nights with friends in Bethany, two miles outside of the city. Each morning, they would walk into Jerusalem. On that Monday morning, just four days prior to his crucifixion, Jesus became hungry on the walk in. Seeing a leafy fig tree, he looked for fruit. With fig trees, where there are leaves, there should be figs. Since green figs are edible, and it wasn’t yet harvest season, there should still be some fruit on the tree.

When he found no figs, Jesus cursed the tree. This seems out of character for Jesus, until his action is put in the context of his culture and community. Throughout his public ministry, especially as he became more known and revered, the Jewish religious leaders held him in contempt. Jesus’ teaching of our dependence on God’s righteousness and not our own flew in the face of the Pharisaical teaching of the day – that of strict adherence to Jewish law as the only hope of finding favor with God. For Jesus, the leafy barren fig tree must have been a picture of religious Jews of that day, all flash and finery but no fruit of faith.

“Christ’s single miracle of Destruction, the withering of the fig-tree, has proved troublesome to some people, but I think its significance is plain enough. The miracle is an acted parable, a symbol of God’s sentence on all that is ‘fruitless’ and specially, no doubt, on the official Judaism of that age. That is its moral significance.”C. S. Lewis

Jesus was left still physically hungry. He remained spiritually hungry  as well – for this people of the Book to receive the good news that the Messiah had come.

Finally, arriving back in Jerusalem, Jesus was deeply troubled by what he found inside the Temple. The crowds of Passover pilgrims did not disturb him, but temple grounds turned marketplace did. In this sanctified place, meant only for worship, there were money-changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, right in the Court of the Gentiles – in the only place where non-Jewish God-believers could worship. Photo Credit: Bible Universe

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”Matthew 21:12-13

Often in film depictions of Jesus cleansing the temple, he appears a crazed individual, flailing about, throwing tables and flinging pigeons into the air. I can’t even imagine him that way. We can’t know how it happened except that in Jesus’ anger, he did not sin. He would not sin. I know the Jesus Film is a director’s rendering of the Biblical account, but in this scene, Jesus showed considerable restraint. Disturbed at the buying and selling that actually kept believing Gentiles from worshiping, he moved to correct the situation. He was unafraid of the temple officials, burning with zeal for his Father to be truly worshiped in that place.

Zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.Psalm 69:9

Later in the week, he himself would be the one for sale – sold for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed by one of his own disciples, to satisfy the wrath of the religious leaders. That story is for another day.

This Holy Monday, we are drawn again to this Messiah who teaches us that the way we live our lives matters but not more than the way we relate to God. He makes space for us…room for all of us to receive Him. He is holy, and in His righteousness, we stand…on solid ground.

Photo Credit: KLove, Experience Easter Series

Holy Week – Day 2: Monday Jesus Clears the Temple – Mary Fairchild

Holy Week Devotions – Mission Lakewood

Spotify Playlist – From Palm Sunday to the Resurrection – Beth Wayland

Experience Easter – From Genesis to Revelation – K-Love

YouTube Video with Lyrics of In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree – Sam Shamoun

Monday of Holy Week

How Can We Be Angry and Not Sin? – Jon Bloom

Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles – Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Jesus Film Media – website & app to watch videos

Preparing for Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings From C. S. Lewis – C. S. Lewis