Worship Wednesday – On This Ash Wednesday – Scandal of Grace – Hillsong

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[Blog first posted on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent 2023 – as we look toward the Cross of Christ.]

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:8

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.Philippians 2:6-8

Hold with me while we work through the concept of scandal involving grace. We usually think of scandal as a negative, to-be-avoided word, but the first definition that popped up is this:

“A publicized incident that brings about disgrace or offends the moral sensibilities of society”

Just a few days ago, I heard the song Scandal of Grace for the first time. The lyrics are striking and so moving. As defined above, what Jesus did for us on the day of his crucifixion was scandalous. He suffered false testimony, public humiliation, torturous treatment, the unimaginable weight of our sin on himself, and the horrific aloneness as God the Father seemed to turn His face away…even for a moment.

The Day God Turned His Face Away – Colin Smith

Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent, counting down to Easter, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Christ. Whether or not we commemorate Ash Wednesday, it is a good day to marvel at the Savior we have in Jesus, and the scandalous grace He showed to us on the cross.

Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Salt and Light Blog

John Piper describes (in 2 1/2 minutes) this history-shaking act of God – this death of a sinless Savior for us hopeless sinners. Take the time to watch this and wonder with me at the extravagant love of God.

Worship with me:

Grace, what have You done?
Murdered* for me on that cross
Accused in absence of wrong
My sin washed away in Your blood

*[Only word I struggle with in this song. Jesus gave His life; it was not taken from Him…What seemed like murder was a shocking, wholly loving, definitive, complete and merciful work of God.]

Too much to make sense of it all
I know that Your love breaks my fall
The scandal of grace, You died in my place
So my soul will live

Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart

Death, where is your sting?
Your power is as dead as my sin
The cross has taught me to live
And mercy, my heart now to sing

The day and its trouble shall come
I know that Your strength is enough
The scandal of grace, You died in my place
So my soul will live

Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart

Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart

And it’s all because of You, Jesus
It’s all because of You, Jesus
It’s all because of Your love that my soul will live

Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart

Oh to be like You
Give all I have just to know You
Jesus, there’s no one besides You
Forever the hope in my heart*

*Lyrics to Scandal of Grace – Songwriters:

YouTube Video – Scandal of Grace Song Story (story begins about 1 minute in)

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

Worship Wednesday – Ash Wednesday – A Lenten Devotional by Jim Denison – Deb Mills

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Photo Credit: Heartlight

Monday Morning Moment – Reject Passivity

Photo Credit: Libquotes

When a father dies he leaves a legacy. Yesterday, the three sons of our friend Mike Pineda, stood on the platform, at his funeral, and spoke beautifully about their hero of a dad.

[Their tributes for their dad can be found here. Worth your time.]

Mike Pineda had faithfully walked alongside his sons all their lives. Teaching, mentoring, and modeling. One of the lessons their dad had taught them (by word and action) was to reject passivity.

That stuck with me. What is it to resist, in fact, reject passivity? Where does the temptation to be passive come from?

We can go all the way back to the first man who lived – Adam. When the Evil One tempted him and Eve to question the goodness of God, and even though Eve seemed to take lead in sinning against God (Genesis 3:6), Adam was physically present, right there with her. [This isn’t to cast greater judgment on Adam, or Eve, for that matter. It is a declarative statement of what can result from passivity.]

Men have been living in Adam’s shadow ever since. Rather than being strong dads, men often just stand there. Rather than being loving husbands, men often just stand there. Why is it that so many men are so decisive, focused, and effective in areas of life that don’t really matter, but tentative, uninspiring, and passive in some of the areas that matter most? It’s as if passivity is in our DNA. And that if we don’t actively fight it, we’ll default to being passive.

Where does passivity reign in your life? Is it at home? Or with your finances? Or in your career? Or with your wife or girlfriend? Where are you doing nothing when you should be doing something? Where are you being silent when you should be speaking up? Authentic men reject passivity. They refuse to live in the shadow of Adam and instead choose to fight for what truly matters most. They find their strength in the grace of Jesus and follow His example of rejecting passivity—ultimately by coming to earth to rescue us.Authentic Manhood

Now, please don’t get me wrong here. I’m not trying to bash men for being passive. No way! Maybe like Eve, we as women, hold some measure of complicity in this whole issue of passivity. Do we make it difficult for the men in our lives to act decisively? Do we act in ways that prove to be passive-aggressive and pose for men a lose-lose outcome…that either way, they will pay for “manning up”?

Even as I write, it’s a little uncomfortable having grown up in the era of women’s liberation, ERA, and feminism. Hard battles have been fought for and by women to fare well in the workplace. In the home as well. Yet, is it possible that one of the fruits of this movement has been men just stepping aside and letting us have our way? Even when that’s not the case, what could it have been with both men and women working better together?

Of course, we know this whole issue of passivity didn’t start a few decades ago (go back to Adam and Eve). So what do we do about it?

I’m going to talk to my sons right now…all the way to the end of this piece [You’re welcome to read along].

“It’s so easy…too easy…to let others make the decisions. When others make the decision, you may think you don’t have to accept the consequences of those decisions. You can, in many cases, let those others live with the outcomes. You can elect to go along with the decisions, or (if not required) you can step back, and let the chips fall where they may. Now if it’s work, and you’re held to a standard requiring you to go along with the decision once made, you have little recourse. You didn’t speak into it, therefore you must to some extent abide by the decision. How much better if you had entered into the decision-making yourself?

What about the larger community? Your circles of potential influence outside your work. Are you willing to sit silently…to offer nothing of your giftings, your intellect, your experience to those conversations?

What about your family? Your wife, your children? Are you willing to let others speak into their lives and you take a quieter, more disengaged space? You will find the years will go by…and the voice in their ears and hearts…is not yours. Is that really what you want?

Passivity is like a weak link in a chain…compromising the strength of that chain. In relationships, passivity is something we can correct, if we’re willing to take the perceived risk to do so.

Photo Credit: Life Going Through Some Day
Photo Credit: AllAuthor

In Lay Aside the Weight of Passivity by Jon Bloom, we are reminded of how our expectations and resultant emotions shape our engagement with struggle:

What we expect shapes how we respond. If we expect peace, we will resent having to fight. If we expect rest, we will resent having to endure. If we expect leisure, we will resent having to work hard.

This is why it’s so important for us to prepare our minds for action.

We lose perspective and forget that in this age war, not peace, is the norm; vigilant self-control, not indulgent rest, is the norm; difficult cultivation, not easy picking, is the norm.

Our emotions typically tell us what our mind-sets are; our responses reveal our expectations. So, when weariness, disappointment, disillusionment, and resentment set in, we need to examine what’s fueling those feelings.

Our emotions springing from misplaced expectations of peace, rest, and leisure ask to be coddled. Jon Bloom

Passivity is sometimes born out of exhaustion from battling for too long a season. Or a lack of hope when looking at the opposition. As Bloom states in his article: as we choose to stay in the battle, with a mindset to act, we resist passivity and the false sense of safety it projects.

In thinking back to our friend Mike’s funeral, his sons talked about both his rejection of passivity and his pursuit of a quiet life. He aspired “to live quietly, and to mind [his] own affairs, and to work with [his] hands (1 Thess. 4:11). This is not passive living. It takes focus, prioritizing, and hard work…out of which is the great harvest of those in your sphere of influence learning the tools of fruitful and faithful lives. By your example.

So my loves, I’ll let you get back to your lives. I see you resisting passivity. Keep nurturing that habit of life.

Stand with or stand against, but don’t allow yourselves to stand aside.

Fatherhood.gov

Fathering Practices in Twenty-six Intact Families and the Implications for Child Contact – Jane Lewis & Elaine Welsh

YouTube Video – Purging Passivity – an interesting video on a martial arts training approach with children (Christian perspective – fascinating – whether you agree or not)

Reject Passivity (1 of 5) – Stephen T. Messenger

YouTube Video – Passivity Is Not an Option! – Dave Ramsey – EntreLeadership

YouTube Video – The Problem Of Passivity | Paul Tripp’s 1 Peter Study (Episode 012)

Sunday Remembrance – Mike Pineda – Friend and Brother

Photo Credit: Facebook, Julie Pineda

A friend of ours died this past week.

Mike Pineda. In his sleep. February 14. 65 years old. Healthy.

It’s been a couple of years or more since we’ve seen him, but his sudden and early passing has left us stunned and clinging to God for comfort and hope.

I didn’t know Mike (or Julie, the love of his life) until 2016. There was an email of mine, in 2009, that got forwarded to him for counsel about a TCK (third culture kid) issue (we were living in North Africa at the time). Just found that email today…don’t remember the situation now.

Dave had actually met him years before. At a pivotal time in Mike’s (and Julie’s) life. Mike then showed up in our lives at another pivotal time.

In 2015, he asked Dave to work on a leadership project with him and a small group of other professionals. In 2016, I, too, entered the story. Mike was inclusive of spouses, and it was a super satisfying experience for me to be a part of these conversations. It was then I got to also meet Julie.

Sometimes, you don’t really get to fully know a person (married at least) until you see them engage with their spouse. They clearly loved and enjoyed each other. When Mike told stories, Julie would add her own color to it. Both of them, telling and listening, showed pure delight with each other’s adds…even with stories you know they have shared for years. Sweet.

Mike is one of the wisest men I know. It was a joy for us that he, Dave, and others got to put their heads together for a larger cause. In fact, until a book is written, here is something that Mike said about teaming:

“There were seven of us on the most effective team I’ve ever been on.

I had been asked to do something that I could not do. It was above and beyond me. I didn’t really even understand the problem, much less have a clue about the solution. What could I do, except to surround myself with people smarter and more gifted than me?

We were as different as any seven people you could find. We fought and we challenged, and yet together we were a team. We developed something that was good.

The Body of Christ is made up of many parts. 1 Corinthians 12:14-20 tells us this:

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as He chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

It is natural to desire all the gifts, to need no one, to overcome challenges alone. That is not the way the Body works, though. Yes, the Lord has gifted you, but He hasn’t given you all the gifts needed to accomplish what He has given you to do. He has put others in the Body with the gifts you lack.

It is also natural to seek comfort by working with people just like you. And yet, what do you gain by working with people who know what you know, act like you act and have gifts that you already have?

You need others who are not like you. You introverts need extroverts. You task-oriented folks need the people-oriented. Jethro Leroy Gibbs needs Ducky, Jean Valjean needs Cosette, the Skipper needs Gilligan, Reddington needs Keen, Andy needs Barney, and Paul needs Barnabas.

The Lord has put around you those you need to accomplish the task He has given you. You will have vastly different passions, gifts and callings. Cast aside the temptation to follow only your ideas and processes. Listen to others. Develop something together with people who are nothing like you. Work with others in a diverse Body of Christ. And rejoice.” – Mike Pineda, Facebook, November 21, 2020

I hope a book is written one day. Mike was much more about relationships and not renown. He was an excellent story-teller. What a way with words! Each year, he published an April Fools’ email. We only started receiving them in 2016, but they are funny, biting, and brilliant. I hope they are published…so fun just to think about reading every single one.

The most beautiful writing he completed was daily emails to his sons for 15 1/2 years. Every single day.

When his oldest son, Sam, went off to college, Mike began writing him. He would share what he was reading in the Bible that day, and what he gained from the Scripture, a prayer for his son, and a bit of news from his and Julie’s life. Every single day. In Mike’s funeral, Sam shared how many emails over the years – 5662. Every day.

In fact, this is exactly how the family knew something was wrong the morning of February 14. Julie was out of town, so she didn’t know yet that Mike had died sometime early morning. The email that had arrived every single day for the past over 15 years…didn’t arrive. That sounded the alarm for the kids… something was terribly wrong.

I hope the video of the funeral service for Mike stays published. We were able to watch from Virginia, unable to make it down to Tennessee for the service. It was beautiful. So God-honoring…and so like Mike’s family and friends – telling stories about him and about his faith, wisdom, and humility. His priorities of his wife, his family, and the Lord. His determination to major on what matters and let go of the rest. His joy in the simplest things in life.

If I had been there, my story would point to Mike’s courage in the face of adversity. We knew him best during a very difficult time. You know those times when things seem so muddled up that you start wondering if you’re really understanding what’s going on. Something so wrong, but it’s like the Emperor with No Clothes. Where you see something but it seems others do not (blind spots of a sort), so are you crazy or what? Without malice, Mike could name the what of what’s wrong, and did not flinch when confronting the what’s wrong. Whew! He was a modern day Daniel and we were blessed to know him.

Funeral Service for Mike Pineda – Stuart Heights Baptist Church, Chattanooga, Tennessee

I would have loved to hear all the stories told around the room before and after the funeral. All the stories of this week, since Mike’s Homegoing, told to comfort and reassure each other.

Mike would have enjoyed those stories, and especially the ones about his Jesus. He wouldn’t have chosen to leave his wife, kids, and grandkids so young (65, so young). However, he was one who chose to obey God in every circumstance of his life. He knew his family would be ok…in fact, better than ok.

So for us, his death seemed so early, and yet for Mike, he had finished his days…and his life’s work.

…in Your book were written All the days that were ordained for me.Psalm 139:6

When Jacob finished charging his sons, he drew his feet into the bed and breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.Genesis 49:33

We will glean from the stories he has told us through the years, and those told in his funeral – especially those from his three sons. Thank you, Sam, Ben, and Caleb. Also Mike’s old friends, Daryl and Elbert. You helped us get through what could have been a very hard day.

It is not too late for us to set our eyes on Christ and love well and live large… like Mike did.

Obituary – Michael Stuart Pineda – January 31, 1958 – February 14, 2023

Worship Wednesday – When Life Is Disrupted and We Feel Shaken – Same God – Elevation Worship

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Look to the right and see: no one stands up for me;
there is no refuge for me; no one cares about me.

I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my shelter,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry, for I am very weak.

The righteous will gather around me
because you deal generously with me.
Psalm 142:4-6a, 7b

Protect me, God, for I take refuge in you.
I said to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have nothing good besides you.”

Lord, you are my portion and my cup of blessing; you hold my future.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I will bless the Lord who counsels me—even at night when my thoughts trouble me.
I always let the Lord guide me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my whole being rejoices; my body also rests securely.
You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy;
at your right hand are eternal pleasures.
Psalm 16:1-2, 5-6, 7-9, 11

Terrible trials happen in this broken world. Yet, we do not face them alone.

Our whole world has been rocked by the earthquake last week with shockwaves leveling parts of Turkey and Syria. Tens of thousands dead so far. A natural disaster? Horribly unnatural really. The weight of a messed up world comes crashing down sometimes, and we can NOT explain it. Only grieve…and hope.

What Does It Mean that All Creation Groans (Romans 8:22)

You may be suffering yourself in ways not as devastating as the earthquake above, but deeply significant to you personally. We seek the Lord for refuge…for shelter…and we find it.

We have dear friends and loved ones experiencing their own losses right now…heavy ones. Financial devastation. A betrayal in marriage. Drug addiction. Metastatic cancer. Sudden death of a spouse and father.

Grieving but not without hope.

Just this past week, I was checking Twitter and someone I follow retweeted an update on Jacob & Rachel Hale. Jacob is a pastor and his wife has metastatic cancer. Their faith, courage, and even joy in the wake of this situation are the attributes of those who know God, and know Him to be good.

Photo Credit: GriefPeaceJoy

We just watched the season finale of The Chosen (Episodes 7 & 8, Season 3) – Remember this TV show is a story of Jesus and his disciples. Much of it is Biblical and it has never strayed, in these three seasons, from the character of Christ and the recorded obedience of the apostles. Within the story in this episode, we have a situation where Simon Peter is angry at the Lord for not healing his wife. He doesn’t doubt who Jesus is (the Messiah, Savior, Son of God), but he doubts His actions. [This episode includes the feeding of the five thousand…very powerful.] In the final scene, the disciples are in a boat in a terrible storm. Jesus comes to them, walking on water. Simon Peter gets out of the boat, in faith, and begins walking towards Him, like Jesus, on the water. Then he takes his eyes off Christ and begins sinking, overwhelmed by the height of the waves and the terror of the storm. Jesus rescues him and gets him back into the boat. You can hear Peter saying over and over, as he clings to Jesus, “Don’t let me go!” As he is murmuring these words, another scene reveals Peter’s wife, without knowing his situation but knowing his heart, praying in the same way: “Don’t let him go.” Jesus said to Simon Peter [this is not taken from Scripture per se but is taken from the whole of His messages to us]: “I’ve got you. I have much planned for you, Simon. Including hard things. Just keep your eyes on Me. I promise. I’m here. I’m always here. I let people go hungry, and I feed them.”

Throughout Scripture, we can see His comfort, His promises, and His affirmations that He is our refuge, our shelter from the storm. No matter what happens, even when it feels so and seems so, we are NOT shaken. He is the same God as He has always been.

Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Heartlight

Worship with me.

I’m calling on the God of Jacob
Whose love endures through generations
I know that You will keep Your covenant
I’m calling on the God of Moses
The One who opened up the ocean
I need You now to do the same thing for me
For me, for me

O God, my God, I need You
O God, my God, I need You now
How I need You now
O Rock, O Rock of Ages
I’m standing on Your faithfulness
On Your faithfulness

I’m calling on the God of Mary
Whose favor rests upon the lowly
I know with You all things are possible
I’m calling on the God of David
Who made a shepherd boy courageous
I may not face Goliath but I’ve got my own giants!

O God, my God, I need You
O God, my God, I need You now
How I need You now, yes
O Rock, O Rock of Ages
I’m standing on Your faithfulness
On Your faithfulness
O God, my God, I need You (I need You, Lord)
O God, my God, I need You now
How I need You now, yeah
O Rock, O Rock of Ages
I’m standing on Your faithfulness
On Your faithfulness

It’s Your faithfulness I’m standing on
Never changes, never changes

You heard Your children then, You hear Your children now
You are the same God, You are the same God
You answered prayers back then and You will answer now
You are the same God, You are the same God
You were providing then, You are providing now
You are the same God (You are the same), You are the same God (Yeah)
You moved in power then, God, move in power now
You are the same God, You are the same God
You were a healer then, You are a healer now
You are the same God, You are the same God
You were a Savior then, You are a Savior now
You are the same God, You are the same God

O God, my God, I need You (Lifted up)
O God, my God, I need You now (How we need You now)
How I need You now (We stand in faithfulness)
O Rock, O Rock of Ages
I’m standing on Your faithfulness
Oh, on Your faithfulness
O God, my God, I need You
O God, my God, I need You now
How I need You now (Oh-oh)
O Rock, O Rock of Ages
I’m standing on Your faithfulness
It’s Your faithfulness

You’re the same God (Yes, You are)
You’re the same God
This is who we worship tonight, yeah
He’s the same, He’s the same
O God, how I need You
How I need You now

You freed the captives then, You’re freeing hearts right now
You are the same God, You are the same God
You touched the lepers then, I feel Your touch right now
You are the same God, You are the same God

Never changes, oh forever
We feel You now
You are the same God, You are the same God, yeah
How we need You now, yeah

I’m calling on the Holy Spirit
Almighty river, come and fill me again
(Let that be your prayer tonight)
Come and fill me again
(Come and fill me)
Come and fill me again*

*Lyrics to Same God – Songwriters: Patrick Barrett, Steven Furtick, Christopher Joel Brown, Brandon Lake

Photo Credit: John Bunyan, Heartlight

Psalm 77 – Confidence in a Time of Crisis

Monday Morning Moment – Valentine’s Day – Making It Ours

Blog - Valentine's Day & Love

[Adapted from the Archives]

Valentine’s Day, as a holiday, is ripe with all sorts of possibilities… and potential frustrations. It’s a day that picks at our contentment and whispers in our ears, “Is this enough? this love I have? these loves I have?” I say we take this holiday, turn it on its head, and totally own it.

What do you love about Valentine’s Day? Most probably, you are women reading this blog, because men seriously don’t want any more information on how to celebrate this day. My assumption could be wrong. We women have this totally lovely day thrust upon us once a year to do with it how we want…so let’s get after it.

Here’s what I love about this day:

1) I can be as effusive and gushy as I want on this one day of the year. It’s allowed…tolerated…appreciated even. Cards, phone calls, and social media shouting out to those we love…there’s a lot of relational muscle pumped on this day…wouldn’t hurt to keep this going through the rest of the year. Words. Are. Powerful.

2) It’s a golden opportunity to hang with our best buddies. Not just husbands or boyfriends, but moms, grandmoms, the widow neighbor down the street. Those glorious women in our lives… Valentine’s Day is a fine excuse to have lunch together, cake together, movie night together. Whatever. How thankful I am for the great women in my life…from lots of places in the world.

3) This day lends itself to a total indulgence (guilt deferred) of sugary delights. Valentine’s Day blesses all excesses. I don’t eat chocolate these days, but Hershey’s Kisses still speak. Whether I eat those foil-wrapped happy little candies or not, they still generate lovely thoughts for me on this day…as do the other treats that come out especially on this day of the year.

Blog - Valentine Hearts
2013 Feb Valentine's Day 004

4) I love how cheery people are toward each other related to Valentine’s Day (kind of back to the gushy/effusive side of this day). Decorating a colleague’s cubicle wall, making a card for a friend, lavishing gifts on your child’s teacher, or having special playtimes with grandchildren…it can make for a sweet day. Whether there’s a dear man in our lives or not, we can use this day to bless others…just for the fun of it (for them AND for us).

Photo Credit: Cublical Decorating – Heather Teater

 5) Last thing I love about Valentine’s Day is its celebration of love itself. The history of Valentine’s Day is far from the romance and roses we expect today. Yet, if there is something worthy of setting aside a day, it is love – real, deep, sacrificial and satisfying love. Maybe it’s a stretch to consider that sort of love on a day that’s been riddled with commercialism, but that’s where I would like to end. Today, more than anything I celebrate the God of love who teaches us best how to love. First loving Him and then, because of Him, loving each other as we love ourselves.

A Valentine’s Day Reflection on the Deep, Deep Love of God – Deb Mills

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”Matthew 22:37-39

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;   does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;   bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Happy Valentine’s Day, Friends.

The Single Way to do Valentine’s Day – Mandisa

A Tribute to Charlotte Ray – Cal Thomas

This guy…I do realize what a blessing to have him alongside for every day…don’t take it for granted.

Sunday Reflection – My Mom – a Lifetime Full of Love Notes – Her Birthday Just Ahead of Valentine’s Day

[Today is Mom’s birthday – 20 of them now in Heaven. This blog adapted from the Archives. ]

Our little family has never lived close to the grandparents. This was not easy…for any of us. Before I married, I lived close to home, and Mom was my best friend. She died 20 years ago, and I still miss her every day. To people who knew her well, I would often say  “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.

Mom pictures for website 012

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. At that time, it was the farthest I had ever lived 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.

My mom and I also had a weakness for bits of paper. I have 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 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 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, or traditions like them. Passing 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 with words of kindness and encouragement. Written or spoken, they are love notes to the heart.

Thanks, Mom. After twenty years, many may have forgotten you for now. Many more won’t know of you this side of Heaven. Your life may have seemed small, but it was larger than life to me. Thank God for you.

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

The 59 “One Anothers” of the New Testament

Sunday Grace – A Valentine’s Day Reflection of the Deep, Deep Love of God – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Use Your Words

Photo Credit: Writing Quotes, C. S. Lewis

What does the mommy say to the little one, screaming, angry tears, head flung back, and arms swinging?

“Use your words.”

Great counsel for all ages.

Words are not always easy to come by. In fact, they can become all jumbled in response to the large emotions that demand an answer. This is the right brain/left brain challenge. Our emotions come just ahead of our determination of what they mean…and our “putting into words” that meaning.

Reason and emotion: A Note on Plato, Darwin, and Damasio – Joachim I Krueger Ph.D.

As adults, we have also used silence in place of words, either intentionally to punish or unintentionally because we just did not know what to say.

Using our words is a healthy habit in relationships because it forces us to think through our emotions and process how they apply to any action we take in dealing with them. For example, someone significant to me says I hurt them or didn’t value their effort. I can respond in so many ways. Yet, what if I decided to “take the criticism” as a gift (this is graduate level relationship stuff) and use it to enhance my understanding of that significant other? What if I determined then to hear their pain or disappointment as true? It was definitely true for them.

Is it possible for me to humble myself and first respond to their hurt? Maybe seeking more clarification as to just what happened? Even if it means I sort out my part in that breach between us, confess my part, and offer an apology. Possibly even some sort of restitution. Would that open a path forward? It may very well be that we didn’t intend to hurt but a sincere acknowledgement of their pain (even an apology) is exactly what is needed for the moment.

Whew! A lot to process. If you’re still with me…

Use your words. What matters more than being right? Being in relationship…in community.

Author, pastor Scott Sauls wrote a beautiful endorsement of the book Humility: The Joy of Self-Forgetfulness by Gavin Ortlund. Below are 10 practices that Dr. Ortlund presents as means to both grow and express humility in our relationships [In Sauls’ endorsement above, you’ll find commentary on how to work these out in our lives – helping us to use our words well]:

  1. Work at listening.
  2. Practice gratitude.
  3. Learn from criticism.
  4. Cultivate the enjoyment of life.
  5. Embrace weakness.
  6. Laugh at yourself.
  7. Visit a cemetery.
  8. Study the universe.
  9. Meditate on heavenly worship.
  10. Bathe everything else in humility. – Gavin Ortlund, Humility: The Joy of Self-Forgetfulness

These 10 practices are far from a trite handling of relationship woes. Take the time to go back to Dr. Sauls’ endorsement of Dr. Ortlund’s study of humility. This is the foundation of using our words well.

Words can injure or heal. We all know this. If we want some sort of vindication or revenge, maybe using our words needs schooling. Silence isn’t the answer…it can last far too long. Too long.

Photo Image: Heartlight, John Greenleaf Whittier

If we truly want to restore a relationship or mend a fence with another, taking steps toward that person with true humility and a sincere desire to understand is where we start.

Coming to terms with our own story helps us use our words for healing. Perspective can lessen the sting from painful encounters. When we do the work of sorting out our own emotions related to conflict, then we can hear the other without triggering our own emotions from the past.

In Tyler Staton‘s book, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, he talks about the role of confession in relationship building and rebuilding. Taking responsibility for our part in the conflict, saying it out loud, and asking forgiveness. When we keep silent or we don’t use our words in positive ways, we hide ourselves from the very exposure and vulnerability that confession frees us from. Again, this requires enormous humility…or, at the very least, a willingness to humble ourselves.

Confession is “to excavate down into the layers of your own life, uncovering not just what’s obvious on the surface but the layers of personal history underneath that continue to inform your present.”Tyler Staton, Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools

None of this is for the frail of heart…we can keep hiding behind pride, entitlement, hurt, and offense. Our various screens (social media, computers, phones, TVs) have taken our voice. We have, too often, become spectators of relationships, rather than deep in the beauty of being known by and truly knowing the people across the room from us.

Put your phone down, and use your words. Or…pick up that phone, and make the call…begin the process of reconnecting…which could lead to healing.

What are you waiting for?

Photo Credit: 3-Word Wisdom