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

Photo Credit: Flickr

[Adapted from the Archives]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Deb Mills, Mission BBQ

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

“Why can’t we all just get along?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examples?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Friday Faves – Classical Guitar and Billie Eilish, Moms-in-law, Duets & Collaborations, Hair Love, and Ethnic Foods

The weekend blows by sometimes, doesn’t it?! We have enjoyed more than usual family time over the last two weeks with the visit of Dave’s mom/my sweet mom-in-law. Not much time for thinking deeply about things with all the people time. Tried to stay in the moment. So these Faves are more for your entertainment and encouragement. Enjoy!

1) Classical Guitar and Billie Eilish – She is only 18 years old, but Singer, songwriter Billie Eilish has already won five Grammy awards. She and her brother Finneas O’Connell write and perform their music together. They co-wrote the soulful song No Time to Die which is the film theme for the latest James Bond movie of the same name (coming out March/April 2020). Nathan Mills (of Beyond the Guitar) has arranged this beautiful piece for classical guitar and here he is:

2) Moms-in-law – I have never experienced a mother-in-law that would be the brunt of a joke or complaint. My husband’s mom is one of the toughest, loveliest women I know. She grew up on a farm. The Ram Truck TV commercial below is a salute to farmers, and I can see her in this message. Hard working, creative, gentle, grateful, and persevering. She is a blessing to our family…and especially to me. Her servant heart beats strong, and she has taught me a lot about serving my family.

Between my mom-in-law Julia and my own mom, our extended family has a strong foundation for loving God and others.

[If you haven’t seen the video, don’t miss it – it’s the kind of heritage my mom-in-law experienced. You’ll hear the late storyteller Paul Harvey which is reason alone to watch.]

3) Duets & Collaborations – Valentine’s Day was last week, but it is still hanging in the air with all the songs we revisited. So many great love songs…made even better with duets and collaborations. One of my newer favorites is the collaboration between Malinda Kathleen Reese, Andrew Huang, and Nathan Mills – the song? Dodie‘s “Would You Be So Kind”.

Photo Credit: YouTube, Malinda Kathleen Reese

Here are some of my other favorite love song duets and collaborations:

YouTube Video – I Only Have Eyes for You – The Flamingos – Not a duet and probably not a collaboration but it has to go here because this is Dave’s and my song…a classic before us but still special to us.

YouTube Video – Patti LaBelle – On My Own – Ft. Michael McDonald

YouTube Video – Endless Love – Luther Vandross ft. Mariah Carey also the version with Lionel Richie ft. Shania Twain

YouTube Video – Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes (Officer and a Gentleman & Top Gun)

YouTube Video – Fleetwood Mac – Landslide – Stevie Nicks & Lindsey Buckingham – OK, maybe not a love song…or was it? So beautiful.

What are some of your favorites?

4) Hair Love – The lovely Oscar-winning animated short this year is Hair Love. Matthew A. Cherry, football player turned filmmaker, wrote, produced, and directed this film.  The illustrator of this touching story is Vashti Harrison. Hair Love is funny and deeply meaningful showcasing an African-American dad and daughter and her larger-than life natural hair. I came across this short before the 2020 Oscars and was enthralled. Bought the book immediately.

Don’t move onto the fifth Friday Fave until you watch this 7-minute film. So endearing…it’s about hair, but so much more!

YouTube Video – Hair Love Accepts the Oscar for Animated Short – you want to hear the speech.

The CROWN Act – stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” – a law that prohibits discrimination based on hair style and hair texture.

YouTube Video – Top 10 Must-Know Facts About Hair Love

[Sidebar on Vashti Harrison – I have fallen in love with her illustrated story-telling. Just bought her boxed set on Little Leaders. She and Matthew A. Cherry are just beginning to bring culture-transforming stories to us…they are now on my watch-list for sure.]

5) Ethnic Foods– Food takes us places… Sometimes it takes us home…other times it takes us to the table of friends, down the street or around the world. Street food. Food truck food. Fancy uptown restaurants serving up an international cuisine. Authentic foods cooked in tiny ethnic restaurants tucked into strip malls. I miss the places we have lived in other seasons of life – North Africa. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foods. We have forever friend and food memories from those days. Since coming back to the US, we’ve discovered other delicious ethic offerings – partly thanks to our foodie son, Daniel. Here are just a few food memories. How about you – any ethnic food delights you want to share with us?

[OK, the last picture is a Southern breakfast – ethnic to some; Home for me.]

Hope your week coming up is beautiful and blessed. It can be no matter the shape of the world. The beauty is there…thanks for reading.

Bonuses:

How to Fight Back Against Self-Doubt Ron Carucci

A “Million Word Gap” for Children Who Aren’t Read To at Home – Jeff Grabmeier

The Maddening Contradictions of Our Current Moment – Trevin Wax

Bread Mold Science Project – Anna Lee Skates – Twitter – Pic

Photo Credit: Facebook, 2 Chron 714 network

Worship Wednesday – Way Maker – Mandisa

Photo Credit: Flickr

It is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose. – Philippians 2:13

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways.” This is the Lord’s declaration. “For as heaven is higher than earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

 In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27

Just days into walking out the lesson on going a different way through anger, I’m experiencing the strength of God…in choosing His ways over mine. Days will come when my resolve will weaken and my flesh will rise up in wanting to react against some injustice or wrong needing righting. God still has a way through that…His ways are not ours, until we make it so through obedience and love. Love for Him and love for others. Where and how He leads me to make things right, for instance, He will give me the wisdom and grace to put myself in the equation. In situations larger, harder, or beyond my reach, they are not so with Him. I want to and aspire to remembering that…and find His way through it.

He is able.

Years ago, songwriter Don Moens gave us a shoulder-squaring little worship song by the title of God Will Make a Way (he also brought us Give Thanks but that’s for another day). When we look at Scripture, we see on every page the mighty hand of God. No wonder we sing about it. We are emboldened by the great promises of God working out His purposes…His ways…in our frail-hearted, shaking-knees situations.

Singer worshiper Mandisa knows God in the heartaches of life – when she prayed and prayed, and it didn’t go the way she wanted. Yet God was there, all the time…and her faith was galvanized like never before. She sings a  great little song on this theme. Way Maker.Photo Credit: Mandisa, Music Row

Worship with me:

You are here,
Moving in our midst
I worship You,
I worship You
You are here,
Working in this place
I worship You,
I worship You
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are here, touching every heart
I worship You,
I worship You
You are here,
Healing every life
I worship You,
I worship You, oh-oh
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
You are
Way maker,
Miracle worker
Promise keeper,
Light in the darkness
My God,
That is who You are
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
That is who You are
(That is who You are)
Oh-oh-oh,
That is…*

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

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what Jesus said about anger:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movement Church – Sermon on the Mount Series – on Anger

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

Worship Wednesday – Love Notes – How Mom Encouraged Her Faraway Family

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Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 18 of them now passed since she died. This blog adapted from the Archives. Using #WorshipWednesday today to showcase how we can share the love of Jesus with those He places in our lives.]

Our little family never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I did live close to home, and my mom was my best friend. She died several years ago, and I often say to people who knew her that “when I grow up, I want to be just like her.” Still working on that.

Mom and I shared a weakness for words…they are probably excessively important to us, delivering both positive and (sometimes) negative weight. She was an amazing encourager. She rarely missed an opportunity to lift another’s spirit or to speak loving truth to someone desperate for God’s touch.

When I moved away to take a teaching job, she and my dad helped me with the move. New Haven, Connecticut would be a 2-day drive from Georgia. It was the farthest I had ever wandered from home. She stayed a week to help me settle in.  While there, she was such great company. We explored the city together and laughed over a new culture and cried at the missing that was ahead for us.

She filled my freezer with her baking, and, while I was at work, she wrote notes. Then she hid them everywhere. After she flew home, I began finding them. In my coffee mug. Under my pillow. In the pocket of my coat. Among my reference books. Behind my music books on the piano. She was with me in the love notes she left, and it made the distance between us…less.IMAG2720 (2)

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I kept every one of her notes. These from that move over 30 years ago are fading…red ink on pink paper. There is a lifetime of notes between my mom and me. The tradition she started on that first move has become a life-long tradition for our family. Our visits back and forth, across the US and then the globe, have been papered by these little notes.

Our children, from the time they could write, entered into this tradition much to the joy of their grandparents. Before we would leave again from visits with them, these three young ones would write of their affection for their grandparents and hide them all over their houses. I delighted in their cooperation in this conspiracy of love.

Mom always wrote notes…not just to us but to so many. She and her Sunday School Class ladies would send cards every week to the sick ones or the sad ones. She had a special burden for the elderly, for widows (including functional widows, deserted by husbands) and for fatherless children (again including those “orphaned” by still-living fathers). She inspired me by her humble ambition .

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world. – James 1:27

I am so thankful for my mom’s bits of paper…for her love…and for her perseverance in encouraging and serving others. Her generation is sadly almost gone, and it is for us to pick up these traditions and pass them on somehow to the next generations…Maybe there won’t be bits of paper or love notes like in the past. I do hope we still take the time to write. Definitely, the call to serve and to encourage is as current as ever. My life continues to be rich with those, young and old, who reach out to those around them with words of affirmation and kindness. Written or not, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. Thank God for you.

Mom pictures for website 012

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Memory-of-Mildred Byrd McAdams

Monday Morning Moment – Don’t Mess with my Facebook – a Cautionary Tale

Photo Credit: Pexels

I didn’t want to write this…but it had to be done so I could move on. Fortunately, waiting a day, some of the fire has died down.  Smoldering into reason.

Yesterday was a church gathering for us. At the start of the sermon, I had my journal open and my pen ready. Being a visual learner, it helps me to retain information if I “see” it by taking notes.

The pastor began with a long and pointed rant on social media – the time-sink it is and the fakery it showcases. The particular target was Facebook and Facebook users. I love our pastor-teacher guy, so it surprised me how mad I got listening to him showering putdowns on Facebook, Twitter and the like. Especially knowing Facebook is a key communication tool we use as a church.

What was causing all the anger inside of me? So silly especially related to social media…Facebook, of all things.

Later in the evening, I realized…the spent anger probably related to the fact that my Facebook usage could equate to an addiction. Not like pornography. Nor alcohol/drugs. Not even that of food or shopping. Facebook is something I have grown dependent on… accustomed to… comfortable with.

It is useful to me.

It is nothing like face-to-face communication or staying in touch by phone or mail with people I love. It’s nothing like getting in the car and driving across town (or country) to see the actual people I love, not just love seeing on Facebook.

Especially those I can’t easily get to…friends in Morocco, for instance. Facebook allows me to chat with them and see into their lives when reality prevents the same for me…although I have tried to get there…and will continue to do so.

I will share with my pastor the impact of this part of his sermon had on me… Not in anger but in understanding now that some time and reason have done their work…and most probably God.

For those of you, my Facebook friends, who have left Facebook because it’s less cool since us older ones are present, or it is all fakery and foolishness, or it’s an election year and the comments will cut like a knife…I understand and I will miss you.

Why don’t I leave?

  • Joining in 2007, Facebook gave me glimpses of the world that my college-aged children were entering – leaving home almost 4000 miles away. It helped make the distance not so achingly far.
  • It facilitated my finding some of the dearest college friends whom I’d lost track of. Now we see each other at least once a year in real time, but Facebook helps us catch snatches of each other’s lives in between.
  • Facebook picks the news it shows me, and I wish I had more of a say. Still that news of those friends helps me know when reaching out needs to happen – sooner than it might if I waited for a birthday or a passing memory or fleeting thought.
  • It doesn’t just display happy, healthy babies, engagements or weddings, or the new look of a friend having lost weight or on a new skin regime. It doesn’t just showcase where friends hang together on weekends and what fun they’re having… That’s cool and doesn’t bother me usually. Facebook especially helps when the news is hard and it’s broadcasted without hurting so much because it’s less personal to do it this way. We don’t have to call so many, because Facebook sends out the hard news past our immediate families and circle of friends and associates. The cancer diagnosis. The job opportunity that didn’t happen. The miscarriage. The breakup. The election lost. The death of a dear old one. All the harder things of life. Facebook gives us a place to send that out to the wind to carry it where we don’t have the strength to go.
  • Especially in an election year, Facebook gives us a platform to state our highest hopes and our darkest dreads regarding the possible outcomes. We can use the posts of our friends and families to gauge what we talk about…and how to…when we are actually face-to-face. Right? I have learned so much from this public venue that seems to feel safe to folks who post.

I could go on and on but will stop here. How about you? Any why’s or why not’s on Facebook, or social media, in general? Some of the dearest people in my life are minimal social media users. What’s your story? How do you stay in touch with people in your periphery…or it doesn’t matter?

Facebook has nothing on real flesh-and-blood encounters. It is better than nothing…or nearly nothing. I have 1,330 friends on Facebook right now. Some of them I see in real life, of course. Probably only see a tiny fraction of them in my Facebook newsfeed… but those (as a personal for instance) make my real life happier and my relational load lighter. They give hints about their lives – that they are there, engaged in life, and they see me sometimes (even on social media, it means a lot). They also get the same back from me hopefully…a “love”, a bit of encouragement, a private message reminding them of more love. This “almost reach” is a small but considerable thing in a polarized world and fast-paced life.

The cautionary tale is that Facebook can usurp our privacy, devour our precious time, market to us without our blessing, and choose what friends we see. Beware.

Also, if we wake at night, and instead of praying, pick up our phones and scroll away, we miss out on the most real person available to any of us. The One who is the most worthy of our following. If we pull up Facebook during the day, and never pull up in front of that friend’s house…or pull up her number in our phone directory…we have forgotten what Facebook is not. If we chat up our dearest causes or fight our political battles with social media posts and not with real skin in the game, then we miss out on the best of life…the rest of life. The #LoveYourNeighbor possibilities out there.

OK…I’m done.

Don’t mess with my Facebook, Pastor Friend. Putting my feet to the fire won’t change my social media usage (yet), but you caused me to think. Thanks.

Sunday Short – God’s Day, Groundhog Day, and Superbowl Sunday

February 2, 2020

This is a big day around here!

02-02-2020

First, it’s another God’s Day. Church gathering this morning. Pastor Cliff preached on the “salt” and “light” passages from Matthew 5:13-16. Great start of today. You can catch the service/sermon on Movement Church Facebook page.

Then, being it’s also Groundhog Day, we got the news that an early Spring is expected. Yay!

Photo Credit: Needpix

The Fascinating and Bizarre Stories of Groundhog Days in Virginia – Nicole Kappatos

As for groundhogs, my husband doesn’t care for them. When we lived in East Tennessee, groundhogs wreaked havoc on his garden every year. He was relentless in trying to stave them off, but I think the groundhogs won more than not.

Still one of his absolute favorite movies is the Bill Murray classic (1993) Groundhog Day. The story revolves around Bill Murray’s character, a TV weather guy, who had to keep repeating Groundhog Day. The upside was his being able to get to know the beautiful news producer better and better, until she fell in love with him.

‘Groundhog Day’ Movie Taught Me These Ten Incredible Life Lessons – Paul Batura – great list of life lessons!

Watch the movie sometime…but probably no time today.

…because it’s Super Bowl Sunday!!!

Many of you know more about football than I do. So…I will defer.

Besides the great championship game, Super Bowl commercials are phenomenal. Since today’s game is on Groundhog Dog, it’s not surprising that one of the commercials is a reprieve of that old great movie with dear Bill Murray. Enjoy!

Have a great rest of your day…and if you’re not a football fan, catch this old movie if you can.

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar’s Mad World, Kobe and Multiple Losses, Great Acting/Great Scripts, Coronavirus Panic, and Troubling Ideals

1) Nathan’s Mad World – You know that experience when you are transfixed – so moved, without even knowing the extent of it, that your heart slows, your body quietens, your thoughts settle on the moment. That was my experience listening to Nathan‘s (Beyond the Guitar) arrangement of the Tears for Fears song Mad World (the Gary Jules version for the film Donnie Darko). Here you go:

2) Kobe and Multiple Losses – I wrote earlier this week about the precious nature of life and its brevity. The sudden and tragic loss of philanthropist and basketball great Kobe Bryant, daughter, and friends inspired that. We have watched all the news this week of the huge impact Kobe has had on so many people, young and old. Then to see the articles on the others lost in the accident – daughter, friends and colleagues. All gone too quickly for the many who loved them, separate from Kobe. Grieving their own and grieving Kobe, too. It’s been a week of reflection for sure.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Teenage Girls and Beloved Coaches Were Among the 9 Victims of the Helicopter Crash that Killed Kobe Bryant

God Didn’t Need Kobe and Gigi in Heaven – Holly Erickson

3) The Coronavirus Panic– As health agencies around the world keep surveillance of victims, and airlines make decisions to stop service to and from China, our knowledge and concern builds regarding the Coronavirus health crisis. How bad is it? This one article below was so helpful to me on the risks as well as the rapid response in gene typing, diagnosis and global response to this new outbreak. Definitely worth the read:

The Wuhan coronavirus seems to have a low fatality rate, and most patients make full recoveries. Experts reveal why it’s causing panic anyway. – Holly Secon

The greatest at-risk population has to be the Chinese nationals and others quarantined in-country – and the risk may be less about the virus and more about access to food and services should the quarantine continue.

Photo Credit: AFP Factcheck

4) Great Acting/Great Scripts – OK, so I’m partial to TV shows and films majoring on the law and courtroom drama. Much of my knowledge of US laws has come through a TV or film rendition of them (could be a problem) . For a brief two seasons – 20 episodes – the TV show For the People (2018 TV series) was my favorite classroom for learning about the law. – Why was it cancelled? I have no idea. There was one sub-plot with a sexual relationship as the focus, but other than that, the show was pretty much clean viewing. The show followed various legal cases, with the team of prosecutors and the team of public defenders sparring over whether the accused was guilty and whether they deserved the verdict coming. The writers dealt with many of our culture’s hot legal topics: mandatory sentences, race, juvenile detention, drugs, mental illness, law enforcement, the role of the internet/gaming/social media in the law.

Every single episode left me thinking and researching and thinking some more about the legal dilemmas posed in these stories and how they affect our neighbors…and us. Below are videos of just a few of the unforgettable monologues/dialogues from this show:

5) Troubling Ideals – This Fave title comes from an article written by research fellow Erika Bachiochi. Her piece is The Troubling Ideals at the Heart of Abortion Rights. She writes about some of the history (from 1870) of women’s fight for equal rights, equal citizenship with men, and her sovereign rights over her own body. The problem – the troubling ideal – is when that battle infringes on the rights of another. Whatever your leaning, this article is crucial reading. Here’s a bit:

Victoria Woodhull, a leading suffragist and radical, and the first woman to run for president of the United States, nominated by the Equal Rights Party in 1872. With her peers in the 19th-century women’s movement, she asserted, among a host of other rights, the right to be free of the common-law sexual prerogative that husbands then enjoyed over their wives. Understanding the asymmetrical consequences of sexual intercourse for women, Woodhull anticipated a time “when woman rises from sexual slavery to sexual freedom into the ownership and control of her sexual organs, and man is obliged to respect this freedom.”

But owning and controlling one’s body did not extend, for Woodhull and other advocates of “voluntary motherhood,” to doing what one willed with the body of another. Rather, these women sought sovereignty over their own bodies in part because they could claim no legitimate authority to engage, in Woodhull’s words, in “antenatal murder of undesired children.” An outspoken advocate of constitutional equality for women, Woodhull also championed the rights of children—rights that “begin while yet they remain the fetus.” In 1870, she wrote:

Many women who would be shocked at the very thought of killing their children after birth, deliberately destroy them previously. If there is any difference in the actual crime we should be glad to have those who practice the latter, point it out. The truth of the matter is that it is just as much a murder to destroy life in its embryonic condition, as it is to destroy it after the fully developed form is attained, for it is the self-same life that is taken.

from the piece by Erika Bachiochi

Is there recourse for us who fight for women to have place in society equal to men as well as protecting the rights of the marginalized – those who can’t fight for themselves?

Another clip from the above mentioned TV show gives a window to the experience of being on a jury. Judge Byrne reflected on the exhilarating encounter he had with 11 other jurors in this weighty and leveling experience of working together, across values, opinions, and biases.

We fight and ridicule each other on issues that seem so critical but don’t look to the root of those issues…the problems that if we tackled them with each other, the surface issues might also be addressed…but with more sustainable, more compassionate solutions.

What are some of these issues we disagree bitterly on? What is the root problem? I’m going to propose possibles, but please help me here. Comment below. Proposing the possible root problem still doesn’t fix it or the surface ones. Still, couldn’t we try to work on them together?

Choice vs. abortion – root issue: sanctity of life (of both the woman and the child – with access to contraception; access to health care/support; access to concrete and timely services in a crisis pregnancy)

61 Million Babies Have Died in Abortions, a Death Toll That’s the Population of Italy

In a future blog, I’d like to add health care, the opioid epidemic, race, and immigration…but for now, just the huge issue of choice and abortion. I know it is a deep heart issue…trying to determine what would make a difference if we did revisit this issue as a panel of peers.

I am so very thankful for friends and acquaintances who stay in my life although our political and ideological views are very different. I learn so much from them, and appreciate them so very much. That kind of love – love across differences – is the kind of love that our nation and world need. The kind of love that could put policies in place for all of us to thrive in this place.

Bonuses:

What Is Attention Management and How It Can Help You – Maura Thomas

Director of Powerful New Clarence Thomas Documentary Opens Up: ‘He Just Got Tired of Having His Story Distorted’ – Emily Jashinsky