Category Archives: Redeeming & Restoring

Monday Morning Moment – The Tyranny of Sensitiveness – C. S. Lewis

Photo Credit: QuickMeme

Years ago, my best friend and I went on a cross-country sight-seeing trip. Our plan was to camp out a couple of nights and then stay in a hotel for the third, and continue in that rhythm for the two weeks we were on our adventure. It didn’t always go well. I loved camping; she preferred the hotel. Our food preferences were more different than we realized. We did, fortunately, agree on the “not to be missed” aspects of our journey across America.

Along with all the great memories made, we had some humdinger disagreements through the course of our time away and returned home even better friends as an outcome. However, it didn’t come easily for either of us.

It turns out I could majorly stomp on her feelings without even knowing that was happening. We have both matured greatly since then so this can encourage you…it has for me in the times in recent years when I find myself in similar situations.

First, you must know I never intended to plow through her preferences to race toward my own. She was my dearest friend. It gave me joy to see her happy. Still…somewhere I crossed a line. In our responses to one another, as friends, family, colleagues, (even strangers on social media) we can discover things both about ourselves and about the other.

Emotions are different from feelings. I’m not going into the physiological pathways or mental habit formation of all this, but the quote below by Debbie Hampton is very helpful:

“Feelings and emotions are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected but are two very different things…Emotions originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes. Emotions precede feelings, are physical, and instinctual. Feelings are sparked by emotions and colored by the thoughts, memories, and images that have become subconsciously linked with that particular emotion for you. But it works the other way around too. For example, just thinking about something threatening can trigger an emotional fear response. While individual emotions are temporary, the feelings they evoke may persist and grow over a lifetime…In the gaps between emotion, feeling, and acting, we all have the power to change and direct our lives for the better. “Debbie Hampton

In the milliseconds between any stimulus and our response to it, we can choose how we will respond emotionally. However, because we have set a course “over a lifetime” of responding certain ways, emotional patterns (feelings) are formed and put into practice. We can change these, if we find them detrimental to our physical, emotional, and relational lives.

That happened between my friend and me. In close proximity, for two weeks, our daily experience very dependent on the other, we found we could irritate each other. The statements “That hurt my feelings” or “You hurt my feelings” became her lament…this from an accomplished teacher and successful manager of a classroom of tiny children. Somehow, on this trip, I had the capacity, regularly, of stealing her joy.

For me…inconceivable. I loved her and had no desire to hurt her, ever. Still, it happened.

[By the way, this expression of sensitiveness using the word “feelings” may be more encountered in women, but men have some similar experience – you know you do – but call it different things. “Offended”, maybe? “Annoyed”? Is that where sarcasm or cynicism is birthed?]

Back to the story: In some way, my behavior set off for my friend emotions that were tagged by past feelings of being discounted, not considered, not favored. It wasn’t pretty…for either of us.

Fast forward, decades later.

We live in a culture of lofty sensitiveness. The measure for political correctness in our speech continues to get moved upward. We are a nation so easily offended that we can’t even discern what is truly intentionally offensive from what is just true.

Have you ever been in a season with a friend or colleague that feels emotionally murky? You don’t really know what’s going on, but you sense something is. Then…you step on the landmine – and you say something or do something or your face shows something – that explodes all kinds of feelings in the other person, from what seems a life-time of storing up.

This is what has now been popularized as weaponizing feelings or emotions. The outcome? Guilt, shame, wounding, and (for some) returning fire.

It will make me sad if this post “hurts feelings”, especially of those friends of mine who read my stuff. The thing is, just like my friend and me, we can go deeper in our relationships when we refuse to let feelings define our friendships. When we refuse to think ill of others we grow a spiritual maturity and neuroplasticity that impacts our emotional responses and our relational resilience.

What got me thinking about all this, this week was actually a Lenten reading from British scholar C. S. LewisPreparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis.

He talks about the danger of weaponizing sensitiveness long before it became the cultural phenomenon it is today:

“‘Did you fight fair?’ Or did we not quite unknowingly falsify the whole issue? Did we pretend to be angry about one thing when we knew, or could have known, that our anger had a different and much less presentable cause? Did we pretend to be ‘hurt’ in our sensitive and tender feelings…when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us but because they have long known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused, that skeleton brought out of its cupboard, only at the cost of imperilling their whole relationship with us. It needs surgery which they know we will never face. And so we win; by cheating. But the unfairness is very deeply felt. Indeed what is commonly called ‘sensitiveness’ is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless to its first appearances in ourselves.C. S. Lewis

After being an atheist, Lewis did not come to faith in Christ until his mid-thirties. His intense study of the Bible, relationship with God, and deep, gut-honest conversations with a circle of intimate friends moved him to such understanding of people and life…and our responses to both. Any thoughts on this? Please comment below.Photo Credit: Flickr

Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis

What Is the Difference Between Feelings and Emotions? – Debbie Hampton

The “Weaponizing” of Emotions Wade Trimmer

The A-Z Guide to Feelings and Emotions – Sebastian Gendry

Monday Morning Moment – Neuroplasticity – Resetting Your Brain for Success at Work and Life – Deb Mills

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

Invisible Wounds of the Sensitive, Empathic and Emotionally Intense Child – Imi Lo – this is a sobering, emotionally charged article. I resonated with it in preparing for the blog above and include it because it might be helpful for some to read. Just a warning that it is hard to read because it honestly did not give much place for hope. [If I missed it, please illuminate me in the Comments below.] Maybe the hope comes in recognizing what we as parents might be doing that’s hurtful to an emotionally intense child and correct course.

Worship Wednesday – Kara Tippetts – Suffering as an Instrument of Love and Worship

Photo Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.2 Timothy 4:6-7

Kara Tippetts is one of the loveliest women I’ve never met. She died of cancer four years ago this month. Although cancer sharpened her experience of life, it did not define her life. She was a Christ-follower, pastor’s wife, mom of 4, writer, and amazing sister and friend. How I know her is through the cancer she battled, through her faith, and through her writing…this is how I know her and how I love her (from my earlier blog on her life).

On March 22, the documentary The Long Goodbye is released. Directed by Jay Lyons, it is an intimate story of Kara’s last months of life here on earth. It is a story of deep love, crazy humor, hard yet sweet moments, and forever faith. [See trailer here.]Photo Credit: Hallels

Some of my friends here in Richmond are joining with me for a premier party to watch the documentary together. I am excited to introduce them to Kara. It will be sad but also funny and supremely victorious.

Premiere THE LONG GOODBYE with your Friends! — Limited Time Offer

Over the course of Kara’s cancer, she wrote three books (with the help of friend Jill Lynn Buteyn). I remember the blog she wrote about signing contracts for the two last books just weeks before she died. Her determination to leave this legacy was buoyed by a husband, family, and friends who helped her keep living the life she loved until the end. These books are so beautiful. I spent a couple of decades doing cancer nursing and those experiences forged an understanding of the rare and beautiful gifts found in suffering. Walking through it with God. Kara has captured so much of that and shares it with us in these sweet, sometimes hard stories.

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard – Kara Tippetts

Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together – Kara Tippetts & Jill Lynn Buteyn

And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-bye – Kara Tippetts

By the way, there is way more joy than sorrow in her story. Her love for her family and friends. Her joy in the beauty that surrounded her. Her confidence in the God who loved her. It’s all there.

In her last book, And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-bye, she writes a brief letter to the cancer:

“…So here we are. The truth is that now you are in my bones, my bone marrow, my blood-making place. I did not want you there. I asked you not to go there. But you did it anyway. But here’s something. You will never separate me from the Holy Spirit. He’s watching you, every single cell of you. He’s the One giving me all this peace that confounds you. You won’t take my joy, cancer. You won’t keep me from living as close as I can to my people. And I know you think you are killing me with all your fast-growing cell business, but you are not the boss. The day I breathe my last is exactly numbered. You don’t have a say in that, sorry. And when that day comes, and it will come, my people will be kept safe in God’s beautiful arms…I do hate you, and I’m still here.”Kara

Photo Credit: Deb Mills Writer from Mundane Faithfulness

This year during Lent, I’m reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s 40-Day Journey. He writes beautifully about what it is to be a true disciple of Jesus. Here is one excerpt:

Luther translates the Greek word for what is blessed with “to bear suffering.” The important part is the bearing. The community of disciples does not shake off suffering, as if they had nothing to do with it. Instead they bear it. In doing so, they give witness to their connection with the people around them. At the same time this indicates that they do not arbitrarily seek suffering, that they do not withdraw into willful contempt for the world. Instead, they bear what is laid upon them and what happens to them in discipleship for the sake of Jesus Christ. Finally, disciples will not be weakened by suffering, worn down, and embittered until they are broken. Instead, they bear suffering, by the power of him who supports them. The disciples bear the suffering laid on them only by the power of him who bears all suffering on the cross. As bearers of suffering, they stand in communion with the Crucified. They stand as strangers in the power of him who was so alien to the world that it crucified him. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalm 30:11-12

Kara, in your living and your dying, you taught me so much about being a disciple of Jesus. You knew/know Him so well. Thank you. Photo Credit: Life News

My Other Blogs on Kara – Here, Here, Here & Here

**Memorial – Mundane Faithfulness – read Kara’s blog – her story and her God will change your life.

5 Friday Faves – International Women’s Day, “Sunflower” on Classical Guitar, Recycling in Peril, Understanding Whiteness, and Great Teachers

Welcome to your Friday and my favorite finds of this week:

1) International Women’s Day – When there is an international day of celebration, it’s worth a pause. Especially International Women’s Day. I had an amazing mom – who grew up poor during the Great Depression and then raised four kids pretty much on her own. She lived during an era where work situations did not favor women at all but she bore up under it with dignity and grace. Just glad to have a job. I love her so much. She was and is my hero.

My mom-in-law, Julia, is that same kind of strong, faithful, loving woman.

There are so many other women in my life who deserve celebrating, although none of them look for such a thing. They just live and love fully, doing what they can for others…I am better for knowing them.

So on this International Women’s Day, I salute you older ones and younger ones…you women out there, mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.

On International Women’s Day, Rise Like a Deborah – Cassia Glass

2) “Sunflower” on Classical Guitar – Rappers Post Malone and Swae Lee perform this amazing song “Sunflower” on the movie Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse. Written by Post Malone, the song is just plain fun. Nathan Mills arranged it for classical guitar and brings all the happy over from the original. Check out the Beyond the Guitar version below:

3) Recycling in Peril – We generate an enormous amount of solid waste in this country. So much packaging, so many disposables. I remember as a child when we carried garbage to a burn-dump. Recycling as a solution to some of the solid waste burden was very new. This week I read a sobering article on how our current recycling solutions won’t be able to keep up. Please take the time to read Alana Semuels‘ piece Is This the End of Recycling?

We recycle as much as we can in our household. I am guilty at times of still using plastic grocery bags when I forget to bring my own – even though those bags are banned in some countries. As they should be. When we lived in Egypt and had the occasion of snorkeling in the beautiful Red Sea, we could not imagine the problem of garbage sullying those waters. It happened.Photo Credit: UN Environment

In Semuels’ article she talked about the familiar adage: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Except that she added a fourth imperative: Refuse. Consider how we can use less…refuse to buy products with over-packaging; stay away from disposables or single-use items if possible. It’s something to think about.

We are All Accumulating Mountains of Things – Alana Semuels

YouTube Video – America’s Dopamine-Fueled Shopping Addiction

San Francisco’s Race to Zero Waste Has One Last Major Hurdle – Anne Poirot

A Brief History of Solid Waste Management in the US, 1950-2000 – Part 5a – H. Lanier Hickman Jr.

4) Understanding Whiteness – OK, so I’m white. It’s not something I have thought much about in the past. Even in filling out questionnaires or applications that ask for race, I check “Caucasian or white” because it is what I am…but the implications of being white haven’t really driven much thought for me…until lately. Now, when we lived in North Africa, it was my first experience of being a minority. Even in the most awkward situations, when I was the only “white person” in the room, it wasn’t “white” that I felt so much as being “American”. The privilege came from that identity.

Writer, thought leader Jackie Hill Perry tweeted the following this week and it really got me thinking. In fact, if you click on her tweet, it will take you to a long thread of opinions about the issue of “whiteness” with a diverse crowd of folks giving their take on it.

To be honest, I was a tench offended by the tweet at first. Because I don’t see myself as “being shaped by being [white]. However, it is important to me not to be ignorant about things that shape culture and especially the stuff that divides people. So…I’m thinking about it now.

Writer Kesiena Boom posted an article last year on 100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating for People of Color. Again, at first, I was put off by it momentarily, and then decided to read those 100 ways. It was illuminating. Not as instructional as I had hoped but illuminating.

“Remember: Being an ally is a verb, not a noun. You can’t just magically be an ally to people of color because you say you’re one, it’s something that you must continually work on.” – Kesiena Boom

I do want to be an ally of others…including persons of color. Very definitely. So Jackie Hill Perry and Kesiena Boom have both given me a window to see through this week.

Also Darrell B. Harrison, a politically conservative reformed theologian who is also a black man, gives much food for thought as well…from a different stance…

I don’t want my whiteness to be a barrier…nor do I want to be blind to any privilege it gives me. There is just so much bias in our culture today, it’s difficult to know how to maneuver. Any thoughts?

100 Ways White People Can Make Life Less Frustrating for People of Color – Kesiena Boom

The Glorious Love of God as Our GPS – Trevin Wax

5) Great Teachers – If you’re like me, you remember all your teachers through elementary and high school. If there are gaps in our memory, there’s probably a good reason. I’ve had some teachers that were just to be endured, but for the most part, they were good teachers. Some were even great.

A friend of ours, Jeff Maxey, has been named the  2019 Teacher of the Year in South Carolina.

Now, we have another friend Jamie Sherwood who is also among those being considered for Teacher of the Year in our county. This week he is the #HeartofHenrico.

So proud to know these and other great teachers who are not only content experts but also genuinely care for their students and their futures.

That was my favorite finds for the week. Any you would be willing to share with us in Comments below? Have a great weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

Bonuses:

The Long Goodbye – Think about having a launch party March 22:

Premiere THE LONG GOODBYE with your Friends! — Limited Time Offer

Photo Credit: Hallels

Daylight Savings Time Is Actually a Good Thing – Dan Nosowitz

Photo Credit: The Colorful Cottage, Facebook

Alex Trebek Announces He Has Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer – Alex Trebek, host of TV show Jeopardy, is determined to beat the statistics on this disease. If anyone can, I believe it can be this much-loved celebrity.

 

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

Blog - Lent - Ash Wednesday - from article by Jim DenisonPhoto Credit: Jennifer Balaska via en.wikipedia.org

[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. In fact, years later, when I signed up for a World Religions course as a college freshman, I 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.]

My first experience with Lent, for instance, 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 on Lent – 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.

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 (or if I should) 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.

Ash Wednesday and Lent as Means of Grace – Ryan J. Pelton

Bible Gateway extends a free invitation to receive devotionals daily until Lent from 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 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, I will be reading A 40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer; referring back to the book-marked portions of The Unlocking; reflecting on God and the goodness and wisdom He displays through Jesus’ life and teachingresisting (fasting from) those money- and time-stealers that distract me from larger issues; repenting of the sins of neglect and indifference; and remembering 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…

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

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

Lent Resource Guide – Calvin Institute for Christian Worship

Evangelicals Embracing (and Rejecting) Lent by Trevin Wax

Monday Morning Moment – the Cultural Phenomenon of Decluttering Stuff and Disposing of Relationships – the Marie Kondo Effect

Photo Credit: Lucy and Claudia

[Starting with Marie Kondo but not staying there, so for those not a fan, hang with me a few minutes.]

Marie Kondo is a petite and lovely Japanese decluttering guru. Her book and Netflix TV show Tidying Up are based on her KonMarie method of organizing one’s home. Such that joy is sparked. She ascribes to the Shinto belief that cleanliness is essential to a good life. In Kondo’s thinking, disposing of everything in your home that doesn’t spark joy brings an order and spiritual calm you wouldn’t have otherwise.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing  – Marie Kondo

YouTube Video – 10 Amazing Tips for Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (the KonMarie Method)

Shintoism: How It Influenced the Lives of the Japanese – Saki Yoshida

The Hidden Religious Promise Behind Marie Kondo’s Decluttering ‘Magic’ – Karen Swallow Prior

Because of the popularity of the KonMarie decluttering method (and other similar approaches), homes (in the West anyway) have less stuff and more open spaces. These are great days to shop in thrift stores because they are full of higher end clothing, antiques, memorabilia, and the nearly new impulse buys of the minimizing upper middle class.

This decluttering can be a good thing because it is visually refreshing and potentially allows for a greater enjoyment of the stuff we do have in our home. The problem comes when we indiscriminately toss items just because they don’t spark joy (joy being a tall order coming from material things). It sets in motion a wider worldview on what is disposable in life. What should be cut out of our lives (possessions) or cut off from our lives (people)?

In this culture of trending decluttering and downsizing, we must beware that the freedom we feel in letting go of things can transfer into an ease in letting go of people. Intentionally, ruthlessly letting go of people…maybe without even being aware we’ve changed along with our homes.

– Cutting off family and friends in the insatiable pursuit of joy –

There are always consequences in decluttering, disposing, letting go …and for sure in cutting off relationships with people.Photo Credit: Haiku Deck

You might say that some people don’t deserve further access to your life – they are complicated or difficult (even abusive). [I am all for getting help and setting boundaries when necessary…especially in the face of abuse.] It’s the cutting off of relationships that feels like it alters who we are as people, set in families, in particular.

My older brother, Robert, experienced enormous loss in his life. Because of all the losses and setbacks, he developed thick skin and a tough heart. He was hard on all of us who loved him. Brutally hard sometimes. There were plenty of occasions I could have walked away from him and not looked back. Fortunately, we had a mom who loved us all well, even when her oldest treated her as he treated us. Also, fortunately, I had two friends who kept counseling me to look beyond the contentiousness and mean words to what was going on inside him. “Hurt people hurt people” they would tell me. I finally came to the place where I didn’t react when he tried to push emotional buttons that would always end in sibling fights and walk-outs. My two younger brothers and I determined together not to get baited and to try to lean in, in love. It wasn’t long at all until he changed – almost as if he woke out of a long and terrible dream. He remembered he loved us and that we loved him.

I thank God that I didn’t cut him off. He died at a young 61, and those last years of being his sister were sweet. Those years were full of joy actually. Worth the wait…and the willingness to give up my own way.

We have all probably had the experience of drifting from relationships, of neglecting friendships, of just not showing up emotionally or physically.

This is part of the imperfect nature of life. What bears examination is the very intentional, thought-out cutting off people from our lives.

“Does it spark joy?” is the question Marie Kondo asks the person deciding whether to keep something or dispose of it.

“Make sure everything you keep sparks joy.” “Unless something makes you happy in your life, why would you hang onto it?”Tidying Up

“Does it spark joy?” Is the Wrong Decluttering Question – Joshua Becker

Beware of the worldview that decluttering leads to joy, because where, then, does it stop?

One writer goes as far as saying out right: “When you are confronted with people who do not bring joy to your life… it’s 100% okay to toss them out of it.”

There is so much being written about how to “Marie Kondo” relationships we perceive as toxic or at the least annoying and joyless. I chose not to link to those in today’s piece.

One really helpful article, though, about the reasons we cut off family members can bring real insight into why we rationalize such a decision:

10 Reasons Why People Get Cut Off From Their Family Dr. Barbara Greenberg

Click on the link and read Dr. Greenberg’s analysis on cutting off family and why we should think it through again. In brief, here are her 10 reasons people make this choice:

  1. Modeling
  2. Power and Control
  3. Exhaustion
  4. Rewriting Narratives
  5. Loyalty
  6. Perceived Slights
  7. Money
  8. Caring for Elderly or Sick Parents
  9. Abuse
  10. Lack of Elasticity

It’s just something I’m thinking about this Monday morning.

People are not stuff. They are made in the image of God. They matter, even with all their cluttered baggage, this side of Heaven. They aren’t disposable. Who we become across our lifetime is framed by those in our family and among our friends…who don’t always spark joy…nor do we.

I welcome your thoughts…in the Comments below.

The Hidden Religious Promise Behind Marie Kondo’s Decluttering ‘Magic’ – Karen Swallow Prior

Our Disposable Culture Means We Toss Relationships As Quickly as We Throw Away Objects – Charlie Sorrel

The Real Reason Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic Doesn’t Work for Parents – Tanya C. Snyder

‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” Isn’t Really a Make-0ver Show – Sarah Archer

Clean House, Full Thrift Stores: How Marie Kondo Inspired Mass Decluttering and Donating – Mary Ellen Wright

What Japan Can Teach America About Family Caregiving – Barry J. Jacobs

350 Family Quotes – Wisdom Quotes

5 Friday Faves – Marvel vs. DC Comics, Answering Your Email, Healing After Divorce, Recognizing Domestic Violence, and a Life Well-lived

Friday has come and gone this week…and as you read, you will see how it might have taken longer to wrap my mind around these.  Hope you’re doing well and taking each day as the colossal gift it is.

1) Marvel vs. DC Comics – This week, classical guitarist Nathan Mills arranged and performed a mashup/medley of movie themes from the Marvel  and DC Comics  franchises. The melodies are beautiful and powerfully reminiscent of the superheroes they bring to mind.

Beyond the Guitar

2) Answering Your Email –My favorite organizational psychologist, Adam Grant, wrote an excellent piece on timely response to email: “No You Can’t Ignore Email. It’s Rude.”

Photo Credit: Flickr

Email can be overwhelming and time-consuming, but not answering it communicates a lack of care for the person on the other end…and could also reveal something about one’s character overall.

“When researchers compiled a huge database of the digital habits of teams at Microsoft, they found that the clearest warning sign of an ineffective manager was being slow to answer emails. Responding in a timely manner shows that you are conscientious — organized, dependable and hardworking. And that matters. In a comprehensive analysis of people in hundreds of occupations, conscientiousness was the single best personality predictor of job performance. (It turns out that people who are rude online tend to be rude offline, too.)” – Adam Grant

“Email is not household clutter and you’re not Marie Kondo. Ping!” – Adam Grant

3) Healing after Divorce – I’ve known Sarah since she was just a little girl. She was in a class I taught at church when she was 9. That little dreamy sparkling girl was always a delight. When she was still a teen, we moved away. She finished school and got married.

Two sweet children later, her Facebook page revealed the sad news of divorce. I was shocked. How could anyone walk away from this one? [Even after all these years, and too many divorces of people I love, it was still unbelievable to me.]

Sarah has always been one of these guileless, gloriously goofy girls who just lays life out there…and she did on Facebook. The goofy faded a bit…with the single mom reality of her life. Still I was glad to have news of her, even just on Facebook.

The deep hurt of betrayal and divorce no longer defines at least her public face. She is beautiful and joyful. I’m sure there is still hard but it seems outweighed by what’s good in her life now. Wonderful to see for those of us who love her.

With her permission, the following Facebook post tells a poignant and tender and hopeful part of her journey. Yay, Sarah!

With time comes reflection, with reflection comes growth. Today I am reminded of a time in my life that I honestly do not like to talk to many people about. A time I was my most broken. A time I never thought I would survive. When I was first divorced I felt so empty and hopeless. Trivial thoughts would run through my mind that would cripple me with depression. One specific thought that crippled me was, “I will never receive flowers ever again.” Looking back I laugh at such a trivial thing being so important to me at the time, but for some unknown reason this broke my heart. I remember the self-loathing and the self-hate talk I poured out onto myself as I told myself how much I was truly alone.
At this time I was allowing a single mom and kids use my bathroom, shower, and laundry when I was at work or whenever, because they had no bathroom that worked in their home.
Nightly, I would come home and fall on my face at the front door and lay there crying and mourning a lost relationship. I was so tired of the daily dance of faking being the upbeat Sarah that was o.k. (which I honestly sucked at). Many a night I remember lying there at the front door with snot, tears, and hiccups, wiping my eyes, feeling sorry for myself about flowers. One night I remember looking up and noticing a dozen roses in a gorgeous vase sitting on my kitchen table. I then began to hysterically laugh at the irony of the situation.Photo Credit: Flickr
In my most brokenness God chose to show me in a funny way that He was real and present and the only constant in my life. No one had known I had these thoughts of never receiving flowers, and I did not know the single mom I allowed to use my bathroom was a florist.
Looking back now a few years later I see how God had me in His hands all along. I would not trade these experiences in my life with anyone because stories like this one and many others are what makes me who I am.Sarah Morgan LaDuke

4) Recognizing Domestic Violence – This has been a tough week. On Wednesday, we lost Dave’s father (after a massive stroke following years with Parkinson’s). Also on Wednesday, a woman, very dear to many in a community we still call home, died…killed at her workplace by her estranged husband.

I have known both Kelly and her husband for around 30 years. Now, most of those years, we lived overseas. Still, thanks to social media, occasional visits, and keeping up through mutual friends…we thought we knew them…as happily married with a beautiful family and adorable grandchildren being added.

The “happily married” is hard to know for any of us…but to come to the place that one spouse would kill the other…devastating all those children…those grands…a whole community of people…how does that happen?

Unseen.Photo Credit: Kelly Sterling, Facebook

My early childhood years were marked by a neglectful father, but not an abusive one. As an adult there were times that I suspected abuse in the lives of people I loved. It’s very risky to get to the heart of such a situation. You can lose a friend. You could possibly escalate the situation. You could be wrong. Or terribly, horribly right.

I have no answers here for myself or others. Just sadness over Kelly and all who love her. Sadness also for those in-laws who are living this nightmare too…for the friends and coworkers tormented by “Could we have done more?”

That question is never satisfied… The one thing we can do for sure is be a safe place for that person…After that, we can keep learning about domestic violence, keep listening to those in our lives, and lean in wherever we can…wherever we are allowed.

Kelly, you are so loved and we will do what we can to help your family heal and to learn from your life.

Domestic Violence Against Women; Recognizing Patterns, Seek Help – Mayo Clinic

Support a Friend or Family Member Experiencing Domestic Abuse

5) A Life Well-Lived – John Mills is my husband’s dad. For the last several years, he has battled with Parkinson’s. Julia, his wife of over 60 years, was his wingman and first mate. Over quite some time, she and he have lived faithfully “in sickness and in health”.

This week, as I mentioned above, John died. Not of Parkinson’s as we had feared he would…but of a massive stroke. He lived one week after the stroke. Julia brought him home and we all cared for him with her. Just for those days, after she had done the caring for much longer. It was hard seeing him so helpless after knowing him strong for all the years before Parkinson’s.

We all hope to finish strong…to live a life worthy of the years we’re given. John lived well. He didn’t require a lot. He worked hard for his family because it was what men are to do. He was a quiet man; an elegant man; a gentle man. He cared deeply about things. God. His family. His country. He had no ambition for center stage or the head of the table. His integrity, dependability, and goodness placed him in leadership, but he never strove to be a leader. He would be just as happy out in the woods with his rabbit dogs, or fishing on the Chesapeake Bay, or picking summer vegetables or flowers for Julia.

Marrying into the family, I learned something of these simple pleasures from John…as well as how to love long over a lifetime, and how to wait patiently for what comes next…To be honest, I’m still learning. He, however, has finished…well.

How can some of these be my faves for the week? Well…they are here because I wanted to mark them…those hard passings shaped this week more than anything else…and will for some time to come. They are where my head and heart are today. Hope your weekend was a sweet one…lean in whenever you can.

Bonuses [Because I missed last week’s Friday Faves because of travel, you will find bonuses also on the NFL and on abortion from previous weeks]:

Photo Credit: Gregg Swanson, Facebook

Starting Your Day on the Internet Is Damaging Your Brain – Srinivas Rao

Dr. Ross Greene, Educating Kids Who Haven Been Traumatized – Cissy White

Patrick Mahomes’ MVP Highlights the NFL Honors Awards – James Brady

Black History Month

Photo Credit: Facebook, Tymm Hoffman

Article in Harvard Law Journal concludes: The preborn child is a constitutional person

 

 

Photo Credit: Kirsten Hill Schueler, GSBC Women [Phone Lockscreen]

Monday Morning Moment – Confronting and Overcoming Disappointment

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Disappointment is a common experience for all of us. We can’t have expectations low enough to avoid it. Patterns, in dealing with disappointment, begin in early childhood. We have both experiences of either disappointing someone or being disappointed ourselves, and we lock in on a way to prevent or minimize it in the future.

With our children, I remember an occasion with each when disappointment stormed in hard. Our quiet oldest and only daughter had disappointments to overcome of too many hellos and goodbyes in our overseas life. However, the disappointment that comes to mind was a high school birthday party when I pretty much ruined it by including someone who could go all “mean girl” when she deemed it advantageous. She came to the party, and it happened. I was wrong to include her and our daughter suffered from my decision.

Our older son’s 8th grade disappointment was not getting on his school’s soccer team. At the time, he loved soccer and this was a unique opportunity that should have yielded success for him. It didn’t and he was devastated. Sitting by him, while he cried the most heart-broken tears in his pillow, I was so angry and sad…trying to figure out what to say…feeling like such a failure and having hate-filled thoughts for that coach who so flippantly capped his team, leaving just two students without a place on it. You hear the emotion still with me at my son’s disappointment so many years ago?!

Our youngest, who is adopted, has probably had the most adjustments through his life, of all three of the kids. He has weathered them well, for the most part, or as far as we can tell. There was a time when he was very small that he suffered some sort of disappointment. I can’t even remember what it was, but I will never forget his anguish. At one point, through his tears, he cried out, “I miss my mommy”.

Now, he had never known his birth mother. It’s possible he was missing his foster mother who cared for him until he was 14 months old. Even that seemed doubtful…that he would remember her at that point. The missing, I believe, came from a deep place of longing…an expectation that some mommy…some mommy he no longer had could have kept him from the pain he was having at that moment.

I missed that mommy, too. Metaphorically speaking.

Photo Credit: AF.mil

Disappointment happens when our desires get thwarted. These desires can be very temporal and superficial or they can be deep full-on longings. When we disappoint ourselves or others, we want to hide. That’s when sadness or anger roll in which takes our response to disappointment to a darker place.

Overcoming disappointment begins when we recognize how common a human experience it is. Those of us who struggle with disappointment do not have targets on our backs. Even those who seem never to show disappointment, it just speaks to their own deceptively well-developed pattern of communicating or not communicating it.

My mom was our sole provider in the early years of our childhood. She was my hero and I never wanted to add to her stress. The goal was to be good. Full-stop. My little-girl “being good” could not take away all the difficulty of Mom’s life. The sitting by her, as a little girl, when she was crying over some disappointment, very naturally carried over into my own mothering of our children.

If I could be good (enough) maybe I could fend off the disappointment of those I loved…it does not always work out that way.

Once we reckon with our knee-jerk responses to disappointment, when our desires or goals in life get blocked, then we can moderate those responses. Again, that doesn’t mean we drop our expectations or hopes as low as possible. Nor does it mean we try to control every possible outcome. Or create a hard shell to protect ourselves.

Overcoming disappointment is to “check our hearts” regarding the cause of the disappointment and “set our minds” to put it into perspective. In that, we determine ways to deal with the loss or failure such that we can diminish the amount of time we spend sad and hopeless. We can reason together with others in the equation (family, friends, coworkers), but this is ultimately a private process through which we will wrestle on our own. We need to be patient with ourselves and with  others near us dealing with disappointment. It will not become our permanent address. Disappointment is best written with pencil to move forward.

I came to grips with the fact that my “being good” didn’t solve all my mom’s troubles, and that had to be ok. It was a worthy goal and cost me little really not to add to Mom’s load. When I got to that place, her disappointments were not because I wasn’t “good enough”, and her quick emotional recovery didn’t have to be an outcome of my coming close and showing care. It was simply a loving thing to do. We both grew together in responding to and overcoming disappointment.

As for my kiddos. Our daughter notes “mean girl” behavior but doesn’t let it define her or steal her joy; she is also aware that she could fall into the same patterns and has put accountability safeguards in her life to avoid that. Our older son played soccer for a county youth league and learned a lot about just having fun with other kids who didn’t make the school team. We have watched him mature so much, using his disappointments to fuel change and resilience. Our youngest has leaned into the “mommy” he has, and the life he has now. He, too, has learned to roll with his disappointments and to re-calibrate when things don’t go as he hoped.

Disappointment is a mean experience. However, if we can identify the deeper why (that longing or desire) that ignites disappointment, we can put out its fire. The fire that prompts us to loathe ourselves and our failings or moves us to punish or distance ourselves from those who disappoint. The fire is just best put out.

Life has so much more joy and meaning for us than our sinking down into the sackcloth and ashes of disappointment. It is possible to not even be aware of disappointment because some of us have put such controls into our lives so as NOT to feel it or ever be the cause of it for someone else. If this is you, consider what you are missing in the busyness of all the work of managing and deflecting disappointment. Join the rest of us, and let’s learn together how to overcome it and how to comfort others going through it.

[Below are helpful links – two are devotional; two are clinical; and the last is a list of to-do’s. Blessings.]

Worship Wednesday – In Disappointment, Peace…and Finally, Joy – a Playlist – Deb Mills Writer

Disappointment with God – the Root of Our Frustration – Dodie Smith

Expectation, Disappointment, and Sadness – Mary Lamia Ph.D.

Dealing with Disappointment – Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries

11 Ways Emotionally Intelligent People Overcome Disappointment – Laurie Sue Brockway

5 Friday Faves – Kingdom Hearts, Truth, Artist Karen Burnette Garner, On Reading Well, and Best Movie Scenes

What a week! So much stirred up around here…on what it means, at the deepest level, to be American…with issues both private and public. Not a lot of grace being demonstrated…but below you will find some of the beauty and thought that remind us of how privileged we are to live in America. It is far from perfect, but it is home. For now. At a spiritual level, this, our homeland (at its best and at its worst) is not our home forever. So, for now, I am so grateful to be an American and still hopeful, looking to the future…hopeful in God, for sure.

5 favorite finds of this week:

  1. Kingdom Hearts – Just this week, the role-playing, action video game Kingdom Hearts III was launched worldwide. Its breathtaking score was composed by Yoko Shimomura. This game has been around since 2002 so its music has been with its fans for a long time. Nathan Mills, of Beyond the Guitar, has arranged the “Dearly Beloved” theme from the game. I can tell you, it has “all the feels”, as described by the many who have commented on the YouTube video. Without any tug of nostalgia, not having played the game, it is beautiful. Listen here.Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

By the way, as supporters of Nathan’s music via Patreon, we get to watch him live stream bits of his process in arranging these songs. Now, many of you know that I am his mom…but put that aside, and let me marvel at the extraordinary music he has introduced us through the years. One day he may compose more himself as well, but his covers of songs, many unknown to me (themes from movies, TV shows, and video games) lift the heart…so welcome these days.

YouTube Video – Kingdom Hearts – Dearly Beloved – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

2) Truth – The last two weeks in America, we have had a barrage of news related to state legislatures updating their abortion bills. The division over this issue has deepened across our country. It gives pause for us to determine what is political rhetoric and what is truth. What is factual and what is simply posed as fact, with questionable or mixed-motive intent? [See my bit on unmasking evil from last week.]

As we wade through all the social media and op-ed pieces on cultural issues (whatever they are), and think through what the truth is, often our thinking moderates to a larger and more peaceful place. I’m not saying to a place of inaction or dullness but a place where truth can set us free.  [Whatever your religion or spiritual inclination, take a moment to think about this from a different place.]

On the issue of abortion, we are bombarded by the thoughts and unfettered verbiage of legislators, celebrities, newscasters. As if their opinions would be our own if we were enlightened enough. I began searching for the stories of those most impacted by abortion.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

Photo Credit: Michael Catt, Twitter

These are just two of the many I found. Also searching for stories by women who had abortions, I realized that these might be harder to find because of the private nature of this issue. The one below came through Facebook. Her story speaks volumes of how difficult and poignant the decision to abort is. Politicians (and religious leaders) should take note.

Post Credit: Shawna Downs, Facebook

A high elected official in our state has been very vocal in support of reproductive rights for women (particularly related to abortion). He speaks with authority on this subject. This week something was exposed from his past (not related to abortion but to another hot and hateful issue). His voice was tempered if not silenced, at least for this news cycle. Because of facts coming to light, he has been humbled in a very different, very unforgiving modern culture. Facts that may not necessarily represent who he is today will most probably alter the course of his career. Something to think about… Facts can lead to discovering the truth (the whole meaning of a thing), and they can also color the truth. We must search truth out.

The Difference Between Facts and Truth – Matt Moody PhD

You Will Know the Truth, and the Truth Will Set You Free – John Piper

What Does It Mean that “the Truth Will Set You Free” (John 8:32)?

When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense – Frederica Mathews-Green

3) Karen Burnette Garner – Artist – I have this friend who paints. Well, she is also a poet and a jewelry maker. Just as I am compelled to write, Karen is compelled to create. It has been a joy for me, over these many years, to watch her grow and mature in her craft.

In the beginning, she painted seascapes. Boats at anchor in tiny New England harbors. Her flower-strewn backyard. The fish popping up out of the water of her pond at home. Karen takes inspiration from whatever is before her. We see a world through her eyes that charms us. We are drawn in.

I didn’t discover Karen’s art this week, obviously, but I wanted to give her a shout-out and send-off. She is closing down her Georgia studio and making plans to relocate to Pennsylvania in the Spring.

This acclaimed local artist of Georgia who I thought would never leave her beloved Southern home is moving!

I can’t wait to see how the cornfields, sunsets behind the hills, and snowy winters of Pennsylvania will inspire her. We will see the fruit of that inspiration before too long.

Karen Burnette Garner – Fine Art

Karen Burnette Garner – Fine Art (Facebook page)

4) On Reading WellKaren Swallow Prior, a professor of English at Liberty University, came to my awareness during the #MeToo, and #ChurchToo, movement. She has a brilliant, reasoned voice in the issues we are grappling with in America right now. An unlikely champion really but one I’m thankful to know. We agree on most things, and I can count on her to help me think well on the others.Photo Credit: AnnaClaire Schmeidel, Karen Swallow Prior website

Her latest book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books is my current read. In this easy-to-engage text, she tackles twelve virtues and writes about them in the context of great novels where they are found. Like diligence in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Hope in The Road by Cormac McCarthy. [Unlike Pilgrim’s Progress which I’ve read a couple of times; The Road was new to me. Not being familiar with the text as of yet did not hamper me from seeing the theme of hope in a post-apocalyptic novel, thanks to Dr. Prior’s thoughtful interpretation.

10 more virtues await, and I’m excited about seeing them, both in the novels reviewed, as well as through Prior’s commentary. I was nervous about the book at first, thinking it the stuff that only English majors could wrap their minds around. It’s a book that invites us to what we can learn about life in the great books withstanding the test of time and history. I’m reading the chapter on justice, next, as seen in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, with Karen Swallow Prior as a trusted guide.Photo Credit: Nate Claiborne

5) Best Movie Scenes – We all have our favorite movies. Even within some lesser movies there are scenes that become part of our treasured lexicon of movie lines.

Family Lexicon – Words that Grow Up With Us – Deb Mills Writer

Or our emotions are so caught up in the scene – whether it is the dialog, the action, the music, whatever – it becomes unforgettable.  Reading the following article got me nostalgic.Not for the horror movies – never for them – but for the others.

The 25 Most Influential Movies Scenes of the Past 25 Years – Richard Lawson and K. Austin Collins

What are some of your favorite movie scenes? Please share them in the Comments below. For me, just a few follow in the links.

YouTube Video – Sully scene “Can we get serious now?” Tom Hanks scene part l – [Watch Parts 3-5 also.] One of my all-time favorite movies and real life stories.

YouTube Video – Pride & Prejudice – Elizabeth’s Pride – still get chills watching them fight in that cold rain. Such great lines!

YouTube Video – Crimson Tide – Mutiny Scene – apart from the F-word, this scene was edge-of-the-seat gripping. Whew!

YouTube Video – Coach Carter – Not the Storybook Ending – love coach speeches in film.

YouTube Video – The Other Woman – Closing scene with Britt Nicole’s song The Sun Is Rising – love that song.

YouTube Video – The Replacements – I Will Survive – the dance scene!

YouTube Video – The Judge – Best Scene – love these two actors!

YouTube Video – The Chariots of Fire – He Who Honors God – everything about it…and this story.

These are just a few…so many more.

I’ve taken enough of your time. Have a sweet weekend. Carve out time to spend with those who love and those who love you. Thank you for reading this and trying to understand my ramblings. It means more than I can say.

Bonuses:

As Recipe Cards Disappear, Families Scramble to Preserve Cherished Memories – Ellen Byron

 

Photo Credit: Frugal Fun For Boys & Girls, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – Hold On to Jesus – Steven Curtis Chapman

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“For I am the LORD your God, who holds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’”  Isaiah 41:13

I follow close to You; Your right hand holds on to me. – Psalm 63:8

A recent episode of the ABC TV show The Good Doctor was striking in the portrayal of the doctors’ lives outside of work. The connect and disconnect of their relationships. In the last scene, the viewer was touched by the hopeful awkwardness of relationship, but more so the aloneness of the characters.  The final scene of this episode is poignant, both in the images of the various characters as well as the song chosen to highlight the background. British singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs‘ song Hold On caused me to hit rewind a few times.

There is a Gospel choir feel to the song itself…but no Gospel.

“We hold on together” is the message. If you are unfamiliar with the TV show, then you don’t know the various story lines knitted together in that final scene. It depicted a running theme of “holding on” – through complicated relationships, harrowing work situations, diseases and disorders, and grief and loneliness.

The question came to me: “What exactly are they holding onto… together?” Like most TV shows these days, the narrative is completely secular. The characters are beautiful and brilliant…it is just completely unclear what they are holding on…to…

Turning the TV off, my mind went to friends all over this city with their own challenging life situations…and family members in other states, the same. Much of life isn’t hard…but when it is, we pull ourselves together, and we hold on.

To each other, for sure. What a beautiful thing it is to be a part of a community that surrounds those struggling. The church has its frailties, but when it operates as God intends, “holding on together” can be a true picture of the love Jesus called us to… “loving one another as He loves us” (John 13:34).

Our “holding on together” extends beyond our relationships with one another. We can’t always be there for each other, even when we wish we could…BUT we can hold onto God who holds onto us.

He holds on to us even when our grip slips.

Songwriter/singer Steven Curtis Chapman describes what I’m talking about way better:

On God giving him songs of worship after a time of terrible loss: “These songs have come out of my own journey, particularly of the last seven years of learning the life-giving power of hearing my own voice and the voice of other believers around me declare what is most true and most real,” he says. “What God says is true — even when pain, doubt, grief and confusion are very real as well. There’s an incredible power in agreeing with each other, and especially with God.

Worship with me to Chapman’s song “Hold On to Jesus“:

I have come to this ocean
And the waves of fear are starting to grow
The doubts and questions are rising with the tide
So I’m clinging to the one sure thing I know

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

I’ve tried to hold many treasures
They just keep slipping through my fingers like sand
But there’s one treasure that means more than breath itself
So I’m clinging to it with everything I am

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

Like a child holding on to a promise
I will cling to His word and believe
As I press on to take hold of that
For which Christ Jesus took hold of me

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

Hold on for life*

My older brother lived with our parents for a season, after a series of losses that could have crushed him. Mom, in her wisdom, had placed a painting by Alan Grant on his bedroom wall. It was this one:

Photo Credit: Alan Grant, Amazon

The God of the universe extends His hand to us. All we have to do is take hold. He then will never let us go. So we hold on…we hold on together.

*Lyrics to Hold On to Jesus – Steven Curtis Chapman

YouTube Video – Word of God Speak – Mercy Me

YouTube Video – Redeemed – Big Daddy Weave

Worship Wednesday – Do It Again – Elevation Worship

Photo Credit: Church Front

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord you God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.Isaiah 43:1-3

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. – Psalm 46:1-3

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him! – Exodus 15:2

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” – Jesus – John 14:27

We have times when the hard thing belongs to another. We want to help but are left with little to say and less to do in the face of someone else’s struggle. Someone we love. Someone we desperately want to help…but fall short.

God’s arms are not too short (Isaiah 59:1). He tells us not to be afraid. He reminds us we are His. He brings strength and peace and victory.

When we read Scripture verses like those above, we are reminded of so much good we receive from God. We are also reminded of how His good is applied to hard. We are not kept from it, but we don’t go through it alone.

One of my favorite little books from our homeschooling days is The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli. There is a line in it that has stayed with me all these years:

“Follow the wall far enough and there will be a door in it.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

This is a week when the hardness of life is much on my heart with the loss of a dear friend and another friend going through chemotherapy that seems without effect. Cancer is a wall…with no certainty beyond where we are facing it. Walls are a real part of our lives – sometimes protecting us from what lies beyond and other times keeping us from the knowledge of what exactly is on the other side.

In the hard of life…we walk alongside those walls not sure what is ahead. In de Angeli’s little story, there is always a door. In our faith, the same. God makes a way through for us.

If you are the one walking along that rough stone wall…or the friend, like me right now…don’t be afraid. Receive all of God’s promises…He is with you. He won’t fail you. Whatever comes, He will make a way for us.

Worship with me to the Elevation Worship song Do It Again.

Walking around these walls
I thought by now they’d fall
But You have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle’s won
For You have never failed me yet

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You’ve never failed me yet

I know the night won’t last
Your Word will come to pass
My heart will sing Your praise again
Jesus You’re still enough
Keep me within Your love
My heart will sing Your praise again

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

I’ve seen You move, You move the mountains
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again
You made a way, where there was no way
And I believe, I’ll see You do it again

[x3]
I’ll see You do it again

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence, You never failed me yet

And You never failed me yet
I never will forget
You never failed me yet
I never will forget.*

*Lyrics to Do It Again – Songwriters: Mack Brock, Christopher Brown, Steven Furtick, Matthew James Redman

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart – Babbie Mason