Category Archives: Grace

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.

Monday Morning Moment – Grumpy Begets Grumpy – Understanding It, Not Reacting, and Turning It Around

Photo Credit: Grant Wood, Wikipedia

My poor husband. The last month has been fairly brutal. His father had a massive stroke and died a week later. Between travel to be with his dad in his last days and travel for the funeral, Dave had a packed work schedule. In the midst of that, a friend died. After PopPop’s funeral and our friend’s funeral, we settled back into another busy work week. Interrupted for me by a vicious stomach bug. Interrupted for Dave by a vigilant attempt to avoid said stomach bug. We saw little of each other as he slept in the guest room and tried to stay clear of my germs, except for kindly offering me provisions. The day that I was for sure well, he got the same bug, even harder hit than I was.

So sick, he was forced to miss the majority of a week of meetings he had helped plan and was looking forward to. Such is life when sick.

At some point in all this, I began to get grumpy.

Don’t get me wrong…there was grace upon grace for all we experienced this month. Grace upon grace.

Still, in strain, stress, and suffering we can discover a measure of what’s going on inside our hearts by what comes out of our mouths (Matthew 12:34, Proverbs 8:13 ).

Standing Up Under Pressure – Tom Macartney

My grumpiness was a product of assumptions about how life should go and arrogance that it should always go well for me. Right?

I was frustrated that Dave had to get sick after all our safeguards against it. Also frustrated that he had to miss meetings he should have been able to attend.

With both of us recovering from heart grief and grumbling tummies, grumpiness came as a default reaction. Sadly, toward each other. [I have asked his forgiveness already, by the way., and he mine].

This happens with grumpiness. Whether we are prone to it in our closest relationships or in more casual work or friend situations, grumpy begets grumpy.

As a teenager, our middle child, Nathan, had waves of grumpiness easily turned around with some cheese or a sandwich. The quicker I assessed he was hungry (“hangry” before that became a word), the faster he returned to his usual, more fun self…once his blood sugar was on the rise.

Health Check: the Science of ‘Hangry’  or Why Some People Get Grumpy When They’re Hungry – Amanda Salis

When we have chronically grumpy coworkers, they can bring a whole team down, unless we are proactive in responding to them.

Writer and entrepreneur Will Jeakle gives us a humorous and insightful read on Three Tips for Dealing with a Grumpy Employee:

1. Recognize analysis paralysis.

2. Change the subject.

3. Put Eeyore in charge of a project. – Will Jeakle

Photo Credit: pngimg

[Click on the link above for Jeakle’s fascinating commentary on the subject. Helpful also if you are the grumpy coworker.]

One author actually talked about how being grumpy and bad-tempered can have a positive impact on your career – but I’m not sure it’s worth the risk. [So, Nathan, keep popping that protein when your grumpiness comes on.]

Why It Pays to Be Grumpy and Bad-Tempered – Zaria Gorvett

Grumpy begets grumpy if it goes unchecked. When we are grumpy to others, over and over, it is almost impossible not to react in kind. And I don’t mean kindly.

Habits can develop that lead to us isolate ourselves…especially as we age.Photo Credit: QuoteFancy

Canadian writer Ian Fortey wrote  a somewhat coarse and humorous (unless you’re its subject) piece on getting older. When he covered the general grumpiness of today’s older people, he made this observation:

“It doesn’t help that today’s old-folks were raised at a time when it wasn’t considered cool to talk about your problems in any kind of constructive way. You sucked it up and lived with it….Well, if you “suck it up” for 80 years it eventually just overflows onto everyone who walks past your house.”

Realtor and writer Gary Woltal also speaks with understanding on this same topic: The negativity [in old age] comes from regrets they harbor about missteps in their judgment, hard feelings about words inflicted upon them along the way, omissions of things they should have said and done, and just life’s disappointments…Unfortunately, I think they also believe they will have no good legacy. The fact is starting TODAY we ALL can have a great legacy if we work at it. We all should not go through life with hard hearts.

Check yourself in the mirror today and use a few role models I have used on how you want to exit stage left someday. Women or men, think of these great celebrities who left us with nary a discouraging word said about them. Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Stewart, Fred Rogers, Red Skelton, Mother Teresa. Gary Woltal

Some Day You Won’t Have Me to Kick Around Anymore – Gary Woltal

Previously I wrote on negativism and its cost and cure which you might also find helpful if you missed it first time around.

Dave and I are off to a new week…all forgiven…and hopefully not too wounded or wary from the brushes with grumpiness of the weeks prior. If you’re finding yourself in a season of grumpiness, my hope is that you can turn that ship around before grumpy begins to define you.

We all don’t have to be saints, but we can leave behind people feeling like this about us: “When you were born, you were crying and everyone around you was smiling. Live your life so that when you die, you’re the one smiling, and everyone around you is crying.”Gary Woltal

Three Tips for Dealing with a Grumpy EmployeeWill Jeakle

Health Check: the Science of ‘Hangry’  or Why Some People Get Grumpy When They’re Hungry – Amanda Salis

Monday Morning Moment – Negativism – Its Cost and Cure – Deb Mills Writer

How to Raise Happy Teenagers – Michael Odell

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

Worship Wednesday – Though You Slay Me – Shane & Shane

Photo Credit: Beth Taylor

The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.  Job 1:21

 Therefore we do not give up. Even though our outer person is being destroyed, our inner person is being renewed day by day.  For our momentary light affliction is producing for us an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.  So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.2 Corinthians 4:16-18

We make assumptions about life, don’t we? We assume we will live long and healthy.  We assume “speed kills” only if someone else is driving. We assume if we eat healthy we won’t get cancer. We assume we will make it home after Happy Hour. We assume if we pray our hearts out, cancer won’t take our loved one. We assumed we will have time to “do the right thing” how ever we define that. We assume our children will outlive us. We assume we will have our beloved spouses with us into old age.

Sobering, I know…It has been for me this week. Still, it’s helpful to reflect on our assumptions… especially in a season when they might still hold up. We are in a season of loss around here. Dave’s dad died a week ago, and since then two more friends have died in shocking and bewildering situations. They are both believers and are with the Lord now. No more details here.

When we lose someone in a way that shakes our foundations, we look to God for answers… They don’t always come. Then we look to God for comfort…He is faithful to come Himself, bringing comfort with Him.

Shane Barnard of the singing duo Shane & Shane talks about the his father’s too-soon, too-quick death. [Watch the whole of his back story linked above and below.] His mother railed against his father’s passing, shaken to the core at the stark reality of it. As Shane held her, she finally quieted in her crying over the loss of her husband. In the smallest of voices, broken in tears, she sang bits of a song. A song God brought to her mind in that dark moment. “He gives…he takes away…blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Only God gives us “songs in the night”…even in the night (referencing Job 35:10). He alone is faithfully and thoroughly with us through the losses…He will see us through. I know this because He promised it. I know this because it is my experience of Him.

Songs in the Night – Sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon

As we are confronted with assumptions blown, with incomprehensible losses…we find a God who is true… Our spiritual work is to turn to Him…and not away… as Shane Barnard’s beautiful and poignant song speaks from his heart to ours…from His heart to ours.

Worship with me…the God who brings a song to us, even in our darkest nights.

I come, God, I come
Return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You struck down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I’ll know every tear was worth it all

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still all that I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

Though You slay me
Yet I will praise You
Though You take from me
I will bless Your name
Though You ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need*

Josh Pinkard was one of the victims of a workplace shooting this past week. Here is one of the Facebook posts his wife, Terra, wrote afterward:

“Friday afternoon, the day after Valentine’s Day, was a literal nightmare. I received a text at 1:24 from my precious husband that said I love you, I’ve been shot at work…I lost the love of my life yesterday in a tragic workplace shooting. The world is darker and more sad now. A huge bright light has left this world. But God. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. I am lost and devastated beyond words. Things that mattered yesterday do not matter today. I will praise the Lord for giving me this mountain of a man. I will praise the Lord for the children we have together. And I will cry out to God during this immense time of sadness and need. Please remember us in the coming days, months, and years. We are scared and are trying to catch our breath and just putting one foot in front of the other.”Terra Pinkard, February 16 & 17, 2019

‘I Will Praise the Lord’: Wife of Aurora Shooting Victim Pens Heartbreaking Tribute – Will Maule

We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. – Hebrews 6:19

You know that expression “It’s all good.”? I’ve never cared for it.  Because it’s not true. Everything that happens to us is not necessarily good. God, however, is good, and He works out all things for our good (Romans 8:26-28). We have the choice of walking away from God in our heartache or clinging to Him through our healing.

Praying right now for those grappling with that choice… He is near.

*Lyrics to Though You Slay Me – Songwriters: Joshua David Moore, Bethany Joy Barnard, Shane Barnard, Lauren Walker Chandler, Brian Woods

Shane & Shane (Shane Barnard and Shane Everett)

YouTube Video – Though You Slay Me – Shane & Shane – featuring John Piper

YouTube Video – The Story Behind “Though You Slay Me”

A Song for the Suffering (with John Piper) – Marshall Segal

YouTube Video – None of Our Misery Is Meaningless – John Piper

Songs in the Night – Sermon by Charles H. Spurgeon

Worship Wednesday – Oh God, You’re Near – Citizens

Blog - Romans 8 - Love of god - Franklin Rodriguez TwitterPhoto Credit: Franklin Rodriguez

[Adapted from the Archive]

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”Romans 8:37-39

“I don’t know how anyone can get through____________ without God.”

What fills that blank in your life right now?

A couple of years ago, a huge storm came through Richmond, Virginia, with thousands of us losing power for four days. That first night, when the lights went out, it was weirdly quiet. Then, one by one, generators clicked on throughout our neighborhood. For days, we had this post-apocalyptic buzzing sound all around us.

Finally we got power back, and it was quiet again. Beautiful ordinary quiet.

I’ve become more and more thankful how we can sense God’s presence both in the noise and in the quiet…

On Sunday, our worship team led us in singing the Citizens & Saints song, Oh God. It was a quieter version than the Citizens band does, but I recognized the deep heart-cry to God. Those lyrics resounded what we have experienced lately of the nearness of God.

These days are full of the graces and mercies of God. In that storm that took out our lights, in the journey to a cancer diagnosis and treatment, in the birth of new grandchildren, in the loss of old friends, and in the difficult journey of loved ones going through health issues, job loss, miscarriage or divorce…we have seen and experienced the nearness of God. How else could we go through?

“I don’t know how anyone can get through____________ without God.”

We don’t have to….

Worship this great and loving God with me – to this song by  Zach Bolen inspired by Romans 8:

In the valley, Oh God, You’re near
In the quiet, Oh God, You’re near
In the shadow, Oh God, You’re near
At my breaking, Oh God, You’re near
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
In my searching, Oh God, You’re near
In my wandering, Oh God, You’re near
When I feel alone, Oh God, You’re near
At my lowest, Oh God, You’re near
Height nor depth nor anything else
Could pull us apart
We are joined as one by Your blood
Hope will rise as we become more
Than conquerors through
The One who loved the world
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life
Oh God, You never leave my side
Your love will stand firm for all my life*
Blog - God will never leave you - bibleinspirationsPhoto Credit: Bible Inspirations
This morning, the Lord reminded me all over again of how no matter our situation, He is with us. It wasn’t much past the time of the picture below that my mom gave up on her first marriage. The stress and strain of my biological father’s neglect and the weight of responsibility on a young working mother pushed her to make the decision to finally leave him. My earliest memory was my big brother Robert (who couldn’t have been more than 9 or maybe 10) placing our infant brother on my lap in the backseat of the car. Our toddler brother was already beside me, and Robert finished helping mom pack the car. We drove away into the dark unknown.
It was not long, maybe a year, maybe less, that neighbors invited us to attend church with them…and we found the love of God in Jesus. We didn’t have words for it before then, but His love had kept us through those difficult early days…
…and has ever since.

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

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

Worship Wednesday – More Than You Think I Am – Danny Gokey

Photo Credit: Pinterest

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)

You reveal the path of life to me;
in Your presence is abundant joy;
at Your right hand are eternal pleasures.Psalm 16:11

Knowing Jesus is the most life-changing, transformative experience of my whole life.

He is thought of as a religion, when, in fact, He is all relationship. We throw up this religion thing like a wall around Him. He loves us and desires for us to know Him as fully as it is possible for us as broken and flawed humans. He removes the barriers between us.

Jesus…do you know Him?

Singer/song-writer Danny Gokey raises an anthem on who Jesus is in the song More Than You Think I Am. It’s written in first-person as if Jesus Himself is speaking to us.

The lyrics call to mind so many verses in Scripture that describe the heart of God that we see in Jesus.

Worship with me.

You always think I’m somewhere on a mountain top
But never think behind bars (Psalm 139:7-8)
You’d be amazed the places that I’d go to be with you (Romans 8:38-39)
Where you are
So forget what you’ve heard
What you think that you know
There’s a lot about me
That’s never been told (John 21:25)
I’m more than you dreamed
More than you understand
Your days and your times
Were destined for our dance (Psalm 31:15)
I catch all your tears (Psalm 56:8)
Burn your name on my heart
Be still and trust my plan (Psalm 46:10)
I’m more than you think I am (am, am, oh)
More than you think I am (am, am, oh)
Rumor has it there’s a gavel in my hand [Jesus is our righteous judge, and he has already taken our sin on Himself. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8]
I’m only here to condemn (Romans 8:1-2)
But let me tell you secrets you would’ve never known
I think of you as my best friend (John 15:15)
So much has been said
Even doubted my name
But I’m showing you now
Who I really am
I’m more than you dreamed
More than you understand
Your days and your times
Were destined for our dance
I catch all your tears
Burn your name on my heart
Be still and trust my plan
I’m more than you think I am (am, am, oh)
More than you think I am (am, am, oh)
Let me open your eyes to see the heart of me, differently, oh
Come closer than you’ve ever been
Let me in like never before (Revelation 3:20)
Bring me every broken part
The wounds and scars of who you are
And hide in me and you will see (Psalm 27:5)
I’m more than you dreamed
More than you understand
Your days and your times
Were destined for our dance
I catch all your tears
Burn your name on my heart
Be still and trust my plan
I’m more than you think I am (am, am, oh)
I’m more than you think I am (am, am, oh)
More than you think I am (oh, oh, oh, oh)
More than you think I am
I’m more than you think I am*
That song calls for a response, right?
The three songs below are all responses we could offer…or just a prayer lifted to the God of this universe who came so close to us in His Son, the Savior Jesus.
Do you know Jesus? Oh, I hope so.

YouTube Video – More Than You Think I Am – Danny Gokey – Live at K-Love

YouTube Video – That’s My King – Dr. S. M. Lockridge – don’t miss this!

The Four Most Important Questions You Will Ever Ask Yourself – Speech by Dr. S. M. Lockridge – That’s My King Sermon – Brian Cimins