Tag Archives: Monday morning

Monday Morning Moment – Healing from Sorrow and Grief – with Adam Young, Francis Weller, Curt Thompson, & Jesus

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis, Allume

So much sorrow and grief in the world…if you clicked on this blog at all, with such a sober title, then you are facing what is true for you, and for all of us.

Take a moment more and let’s sit together over this. Or if you have 2-3 friends or family members you deeply trust, gather them for a talk that will begin the healing of both a current grief or a distant sorrow. Losses, whatever they are, endure in our minds and bodies. If we leave them unshared, we still attend to them, either by the work of keeping them buried or by numbing them with the aid of our idols or addictions.

“When I stopped trying to block my sadness and let it move me instead, it led me to a bridge with people on the other side.” … I learned that sadness does not sink a person; it is the energy a person spends trying to avoid sadness that does that.”Barbara Brown Taylor

When you think about a sorrow, grief, or loss in your own life (current or past), what comes to mind? Something always comes. We are all experiencing a global sorrow in the war brewing in the Middle East. Here in my town, a young widow and an older one are daily finding their way forward through grief. For you, maybe it is a past loss of great import…or even one you think is only important to you. If it’s important to you, it matters to those who care about you. We self-edit and compare our sorrows, but they stay strong and real in our own life experience.

What can we do to heal the ache of these sadnesses? To refuse to isolate ourselves and our losses from community? To experience hope again?

Just today I came across the incredibly helpful series of podcasts on sorrow and grief by the therapist Adam Young.

How to Heal from Sorrow and Grief – Part 1 of 5 – Adam Young Counseling – Podcasts 132-124, 137, & 138

Adam Young describes the four conditions needed to allow us to work with sorrow and grief:

  1. We own that our sorrows and griefs matter and should be taken seriously.
  2. We need to gradually move from a posture of contempt toward our sorrow and grief to a posture of compassion and kindness and welcome.
  3. We need to find a few people who can be the village for us… allowing us to risk sharing our sorrow and grief with other people.
  4. We need to move our bodies in a way that allows for the integration and release of our sorrow and grief. Adam Young

We can be very hard on ourselves regarding our sorrow and grief, because somehow we think we should get over it or not care so much or ___________________________ (fill in the blank). Even when we push our grief into the deep interior of our minds, or we try to forget through our “drugs” of choice, it is present. Closer to the surface than we imagine.

Photo Credit: Francis Weller, Pilates Embodied, Pinterest

In the above podcasts, Adam Young quotes psychotherapist Francis Weller extensively, which is a huge help for those of us who have yet to read Weller’s book The Wild Edge of Sorrow. Weller emphasizes the impact of grief over time, on our minds and bodies and relationships. He encourages community as the place, or people with whom, to release our sorrow.

Francis Weller Quotes from his book The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief

I’ve been reading The Deepest Place by Dr. Curt Thompson (the fourth book he has written and the fourth book of his I have devoured!). Thompson talks about the common nature of suffering in all our lives. Once we embrace that fact, then we can be more open and honest with “villages” of people who are there for us…and we for them. This has been so healing for me as I’ve opened up about my own sadness regarding the rupture of my extended family and the pain we have all suffered from it.

A group of us just today were hearing an update from a friend who has endured through a chronic illness for which her doctors have found no solution…yet. She is tired and struggling. Reading Thompson’s chapter on perseverance reminded me of her ordeal. Her faith in God and her determination to keep open and close to her community have given us all hope that the future will be brighter for her…and we will be there with her for it.

Healing from Trauma: the Power of “Being With” – Parts 1 & 2 (Podcasts episodes 141-142) – With Curt Thompson MD and Adam Young

That new landscape that C. S. Lewis talks about (in first image above)? It’s one we have the privilege of seeing together when we show up for one another…especially in sorrow and grief.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Being Known Podcast – Season 7 – Confessional Communities – Curt Thompson MD

Monday Morning Moment – My Take on “Braving the Wilderness” with Brené Brown

Some books you happen upon by chance. Author and researcher Brené Brown‘s Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone was just such a book. I pulled it off a used book shelf at my favorite thrift shop recently and have read it twice over the last couple of weeks. Having heard her speak many years ago, and, since then, quoting her often on this blog, she has been a definite influence in my thinking. Then our culture took us all on a mad roller coaster ride, and her voice became one I stopped attending.

Until this book, published in 2017, and just now read.

Brené Brown has much studied wisdom on who we are in relationship to others. I’d like to share some of my takeaways from this little treasure of a book. [Sidebar: Not in lockstep with all her conclusions, but some are so rich and needful, I want to offer them to those of you who might not read them yourselves.]

1) Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Brown talks about the crucial work of valuing who you are and what you bring to any community, family, or workplace.

“Even in the context of suffering—poverty, violence, human rights violations—not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break our heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth. It broke all three for me. And when those things break, there are only three outcomes, something I’ve borne witness to in my life and in my work: 1. You live in constant pain and seek relief by numbing it and/or inflicting it on others; 2. You deny your pain, and your denial ensures that you pass it on to those around you and down to your children; or 3. You find the courage to own the pain and develop a level of empathy and compassion for yourself and others that allows you to spot hurt in the world in a unique way. I certainly tried the first two. Only through sheer grace did I make my way to the third.”Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, p. 14

2) There are at least four elements of true belonging.

a. People are hard to hate close up. Move in.

b. Speak truth to bullsh*t. Be civil.

c. Hold hands. With strangers.

d. Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.

These are chapter headings in Brown’s book Braving the Wilderness. Each could stand alone as inspiring to us in embracing how we are meant to live life. To truly belong. In community that is honoring to those around us, ourselves, and our Creator.

In a capsule, each element (or practice) speaks to the choices we make in leaning in to those both like us and not at all like us. In fact, we can see how we are doing in “braving the wilderness” – dealing with the strange and isolating sides of life – as we examine our daily habits. Am I willing to be in proximity with those different from me, those who think, speak, or act in opposition to me? With those who clearly communicate that I don’t belong. We collude with such opinions if we pull ourselves away, believing we don’t belong. We silence ourselves. We don’t show up. [I’m choosing not to hate as a daily practice and not to be counted out. Full stop.]

We can be civil. If we find ourselves in conversations filled with belittling, loathing, sarcasm, one-up-manship, then it is a sign we have bought into someone’s bullsh*t. Maybe even our own unchecked attitudes or opinions. Do we need boundaries sometimes? Sure…but if we can practice civility (even love) toward someone acting in ways that exclude or diminish us, maybe we can find a place of belonging to meet. To live with that person instead of forever without them.

The courage to take hold of strangers’ hands can open a whole new world of belonging and meaning to us. Concerts, sporting events, volunteering to aid people in need. People who link arms over something larger than themselves. Our children need us to belong and bring them along. I’m not sure if it was 9/11 or COVID or what has moved us to gather in small, tight circles. We miss out on a larger life in this way. A life full of purpose.

Brown uses the acronym “braving” in how to maneuver through whatever wilderness we find ourselves. You can see it in the image below.

Photo Credit: Brene Brown, Lanre Dahunsi

3) Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart. I want to return to this element.

Brown closed her book “Braving the Wilderness” with challenge and encouragement. We can have strong backs as opposed to rigid backs. A strong back is one that is capable of carrying burdens, ours and others, without becoming rigid with unmet expectations or misunderstanding. We strengthen our backs with showing up and growing capacity for caring. The soft front comes not from looking for the negative of rejection, exclusion, or insecurity. It comes from honoring what we each bring and what we each need. A soft front encourages, empowers, and elevates. We refuse to diminish our own place at the table, nor do we push others away, because they are not like us. Something to think about. And that wild heart Brown talks about? It’s that heart we can have when we don’t believe lies or attitudes that make us feel small or overlooked or outside the circle.

“The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives. It’s the ability to be tough and tender, excited and scared, brave and afraid—all in the same moment. It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind.”Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: the Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, p. 155

The heart becomes wild, free if you will, because we believe what is truest and most beautiful about ourselves, about others, and especially about God. The world is still a wilderness, but we don’t have to be afraid.

So…those are my takeaways from this special little book, and its author’s wild heart!

Photo Credit: Anatomy Worksheets

Braving the Wilderness Companion Worksheet

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Trauma and an Early Morning Exercise Toward Flourishing

Photo Credit: Medical News Today

Early riser here. In fact, I rarely need an alarm.

In other seasons of life, the morning came with joy. For some time now, I have struggled with negative thoughts…not so much anxiety or depression as much as a certain sense of feeling undone.

Since reading Tyler Staton’s Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools, my morning routine has changed some. No more mindless scrolling through various social media on my phone. It is no longer within reach. Once up, I make my bed. That lifelong routine continues. However, while still in bed, just barely awake, I now do two things to clear my head and set my heart for the day.

1) I recite the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). This is actually the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked him to teach them how to pray. Whether you have a relationship with Jesus or not, if you believe in God, this prayer is one you can embrace. A friend, younger than me, said to a small group of women recently in a study on prayer, “We should memorize the Lord’s Prayer”. It struck me as odd because, in my generation, we learned the Lord’s Prayer in school. Led by our teacher, we recited it as a whole class every day along with the Pledge of Allegiance. Whatever our religion or lack thereof. Until 1962, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled school prayer (led by teachers) unconstitutional.

This prayer helps me to turn my thoughts to God and the creeping uneasiness changes more to hopefulness.

Photo Credit: Lutheran Homeschool

2) I recite Psalm 23. This psalm, often referred to by its first line “The Lord is my Shepherd”, was written by David, a shepherd himself before he became king. In meditating on this psalm, I’m reminded of God’s care of his sheep. No matter what happens, he keeps his eye on us. He provides for us, anticipating our every need, and welcomes us Home to be with Him at the end of our lives.

Photo Credit: ChristArt

These two passages are easy to memorize and even easier to make part of a morning routine They have done wonders for my waking to a new day.

So what does this have to do with generational trauma? I’ve written often about this previously (and strongly recommend reading these pieces if you haven’t already).

Monday Morning Moment – Generational Sin and Trauma – Don’t Trip Over What’s Behind You – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Sins of the Fathers – Neglect and Abandonment – It Stops Here. – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Abuse – Where Does It Begin and How Do We Respond? – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Jennifer Nurick

We have all experienced some sort of trauma through our families, across generations. Some (including in my own family) would rather not “go there”, and I understand. However, it is in recognizing our trauma and taking steps toward healing that helps us to avoid continuing the trauma in our children and grandchildren.

As adults, we want the same things our children need – to be safe (no “bracing for impact” in relationships), to be seen (truly known by those most significant in our lives), to be soothed (our emotions understood and acknowledged, without judgment, even when they are big and out of proportion), and secure (that no matter what, we are loved. Our persons are NOT leaving the room).

Whatever we may have experienced as children, we can alter our present. Whatever we did as young and overwhelmed parents, we can move, with love and insight, to a better situation with our kids. The past is just that…the past. We can be truly with each other, in the here and now…if we are brave and willing to be humble.” – Deb Mills

The major component of trauma in my own life was abandonment. I don’t know about my grandparents’ childhood, but from my grandparents’ adulthood through the present, my family has felt the sting of abandonment. It is generational and can not only affect us but our children as well. Abandonment is a very real source of trauma and can actually find its way back up the family tree, if we don’t do the work of rooting it out. [The longer stories are in my blogs above.]

What better way to start each day praying to and meditating on a Father who will NEVER abandon his children!

[Below you will find further resources on generational trauma and a helpful graphic on the power of showing up.]

Photo Credit: Dr. Dan Siegel & Dr. Tina Payne Bryson

Breaking the Chains of Generational Trauma: We Don’t Have to Pass Down Everything We Inherit – Elizabeth Dixon

Monday Morning Moment – Righting Ourselves After Betrayal – Deb Mills

How does trauma spill from one generation to the next? – Rachel Zimmerman

Generational Trauma: Breaking the Cycle of Adverse Childhood Experiences

Jakob’s Family: The Psychology of Generational Trauma

Monday Morning Moment – A Place for You

Photo Credit: Quotes Gram

I know I’m not the only one. The experience of feeling alone (or invisible) in a crowded room. OK, for introverts this may be a welcome experience. I say, however, that maybe we have different experiences of social anxiety – introverts and extroverts.

It happens to me in the church lobby of all places after the Sunday morning service. If I didn’t walk out into the lobby with someone, it is like I could walk straight through without being seen. Skirting around various little circles – backs to me. Sometimes, I engage with a set of eyes, not wanting to break in or interfere with a conversation, but too often, it’s eyes forward with the exit door in view.

You might be thinking “How weird”. I agree with you. My aim on Sunday gatherings is to watch for loners, new people, those outside of the small group conversations. Dr. Curt Thompson puts it this way: when we come into the world, we are looking for someone looking for us. We have that need for attachment throughout our lives. I want to be that person looking for the someone looking for someone looking for them (was that understandable?).

However…there are days, not just on Sundays but at work and definitely in any large group setting, that my default is awkwardness which is even odd for me. This has not always been my modus operandi. It seems to have crept up on me later in life…but I fight against it!

Just a few days ago, I read a piece and heard a song that have both encouraged and fortified me.

Have you ever read something or heard a piece of music that went right to your core? This:

Story Behind the Song: Faithful’s “A Place for You” – Savannah Locke

and this:

Singer/songwriter Savannah Locke authored the article and co-wrote the song. She talks about how we can feel orphaned in life for various reasons. Those orphaned especially need to know they have a place – a real belonging somewhere (Psalm 68:4-8). We can take comfort in close friends and family, but the confidence of knowing we always have a place, Locke writes, comes from experiencing the love and care of God.

Abiding in God slowly heals the part of me that is convinced I am on the outside; slowly thaws the part of me that has iced over in hyper-vigilance. Savannah Locke

It’s been decades since my college years, but there is one book I kept from those days. Through all the moves and all the pain of downsizing our book collections, Paul Tournier‘s A Place for You has remained.

Tournier writes “What we are looking for is not someone who will cut through our dilemmas for us, but someone who will try to understand them. Not someone who will impose his will upon us, but someone who will help us to use our own will. Someone who, instead of dictating to us what we must do, will listen to us with respect. Not someone who will reduce everything to an academic argument, but someone who will understand our personal motives, our feelings, and even our weakness and our mistakes. Someone who will give us confidence in ourselves because he has unshakeable confidence in us…The ideal support, then, is a presence, a vigilant, unshakeable, indefectible presence, but one that is discreet, gentle, silent, and respectful…All [people] are looking, in fact, for God’s support. It is an absolute support that men and women are looking for, a support without limit – and it obviously can come only from God.”

This is the place we need…this place that bolsters us in times of stress, fear, betrayal. This place, this Person, where our own struggle can point us to those with similar struggles and we can make room for them as well…see them as we are seen.

As I was sharing all the above with a friend, she pointed to a similar point of connection from a podcast she watched. Lysa Terkeurst was speaking about her own social anxiety, entering a room full of people alone. During a quiet moment after such an experience, she sensed a word from God in the following:

“You were walking in that room desperate for acceptance and approval. Instead of walking into that room bringing My acceptance, bringing My love into that room, bringing My peace into that room. Every single person in there is desperate for that same kind of acceptance, approval, and love. I don’t want you walking into any more of those rooms begging others for scraps of all that. Live from the place that I have accepted you; I love you. You are a conduit of My peace, My acceptance, and My love to other people. You walk into that room bringing that with you and the atmosphere will change for you…Doing that practice of walking into rooms eager to give that [peace, acceptance, love] to other people (will) change something in you. Live from a place of love, acceptance, not desperate for it from other people.”Lysa TerKeurst, YouTube podcast with Louie Giglio, Minute 33:30+

Such a great word for me, too.

So…if you see me in a crowd of people, not engaging, and you also are trying to make a quick get-away, I’m looking for you. You have a place. We can all hold space for each other, especially when we trust in the One who is doing the same for us, and making a place for us…forever.

Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: RainbowToken

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing – Deb Mills

Quotes from Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less That, Left Out, and Lonely – Lysa TerKeurst Feel

The Brains of Lonely People Reveal Why You Can Feel Alone in a Crowded Room – Emma Betuel

Photo Credit: Eternally Minded Mamas, Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Turning of One’s Attention

MomMom praying.

This week we have a special guest in our home. Dave’s mom. I don’t know about your relationship with your mother-in-law. Hopefully it is a good one. If not, I’m genuinely sorry. If there is any chance at all, don’t miss her…you never know what she would bring to your life if invited (back) in.

My mom-in-law prays. Her life has been one of serving others. Now, she is somewhat slowed down, but her devotion to God and others is still very much alive. Some might say hers is a small life…as my own mom’s appeared to be…to outsiders. This is not so for either of them. Where they lacked ambition to be known or powerful, there was/is no lack of love and wisdom. On the things that matter most.

When she comes to visit, we scramble to find the tv programming that she’s used to…encouraging to her. It’s nothing we watch really when she isn’t here, but when she is here, we catch some of the great music, teaching and reporting she listens to regularly.

Here’s an example. Tonight she was watching Kirk Cameron‘s Takeaways. He had two entertainers on his interview docket for this show. Mark Lowery and Zach Williams. I joined her for the Zach Williams’ interview. I’ve written about his music a couple of times. Gritty lyrics, great deep voice. He knows how to connect with his audiences – whether an arena of church folks or a prison cafeteria. He has stories to tell that touch people – a life going one direction with success as a musician, including drugs, fast living, and a marriage unraveling. Then his life turned quite a different direction.

The Takeaways interview isn’t linked yet, but below are two videos of Zach’s story.

We don’t have to keep going down a road leading nowhere good. I have that in my own life story. It’s for another day, but I’m thankful for my sweet mother-in-law who points us to life-giving attention-getters.

Prayer, focus on truth, and sacrificial love are three great gifts she gives us, whether sitting in our family room, or operating out of her own home.

Who or what helps you to shake off the doldrums and points you to a life of greater purpose and joy? Tonight my attention is captured by a a musician’s experience of a God who was never far from him. When Zach Williams was shaken in his tracks and turned his attention…God was there.

Thankful for a praying mom, mom-in-law, and grandmothers who remind us of a way to live that gives hope, joy, and real confidence. Enjoy some of Zach’s music below…and one piece by Brandon Lake about a praying grandma.

Monday Morning Moment – Righting Ourselves After Betrayal

Photo Credit: Gecko and Fly

When prolific writer and reader Karen Swallow Prior points folks to a TED talk on betrayal, you watch it.

Now, betrayal is not something I have thought much about. Then a few minutes into this TED talk, and a light goes off for me. Therapist Holli Kenley brilliantly describes betrayal, its terrible impact on our lives, and how it affects our sense of self. Different from grief where our loss is another person or thing. Betrayal initiates a loss of self – what we believed about ourselves, in relationship with another person or persons. It can be devastating, and yet, there is a way forward. Always, a way forward.

Photo Credit: Doom and Gloom, Poem Hunter

Often we think of betrayal as applying to infidelity in marriage, but betrayal can include many more situations. Kenley offers 4 definitions of betrayal:

  • an investment into someone or something that is met with rejection or abandonment
  • a profound trust that is profoundly violated
  • a belief that is shattered or a truth that becomes a lie
  • when someone who is important to us but is unable, unwilling, or incapable of showing up in the role they have been given and to carry out the responsibilities of that role (parent, spouse, mentor)

Betrayal is a broken trust. When trust is violated, it brings waves of shame and guilt. Why?

We don’t expect it. We especially aren’t prepared by the assault betrayal perpetrates on who we are as people.

Kenley describes 3 states of being that occur with betrayal:

  • Confusion – we lose our balance. “Why did this happen?” “I didn’t deserve this.” “It’s not supposed to be this way.”
  • Worthlessness – The confusion then spirals into a sense of worthlessness. “It must be me.” We question our own worth [which is a terrible consequence of betrayal].
  • Powerlessness – Lastly, as we try to correct the situation by pushing for someone else to make it right or fix it, we find no path forward…or more pain than healing.

Healing is possible, but it won’t be from the outside. We have to right ourselves, Kenley observes. I love how she points us toward the opportunity for healing within the betrayal…through the betrayal.

  • With the confusion, we reinstate what we know to be true.
  • When worthlessness washes over us, we redefine who we are.
  • When powerlessness paralyzes us, we do what we need to do to reclaim our voice and recover our power.

I get that all this sounds too simple when it is extremely complicated…but doesn’t it resonate?! For me, it was a huge encouragement.

If we were having coffee together, we would be able to recall betrayals. Some may not have capsized us. Praise God for that. However, there are those betrayals that require us to right ourselves. To choose not to live under the cover of shame (or denial if it’s too painful) when someone rejects us or destroys our dreams. If we believe the only way we can have healing is if that person makes things right, we put way too much power into their hands. Also, it is a mindset that keeps us powerless.

I’m very thankful for Karen Swallow Prior’s own handling of her life betrayals. If you read her story, she takes a wrong and works something beautiful out of it. The healing isn’t complete but it gives me great hope. As for Holli Kenley’s helps, it’s like being in a wise and kind therapist’s office. It’s a beginning.

Don’t let betrayal have the last word. You matter. Your life. Your worth. Your legacy to next generations. Generational trauma in the family, in the workplace, and in culture can be confronted and stopped…with us. We may not be able to correct betrayals in our past, but we can right ourselves…and demonstrate to our children and grandchildren how beauty can indeed come out of ashes.

[Many of the notes above were captured from the Holli Kenley TED Talk above and the video below.]

Breaking Through Betrayal: and Recovering the Peace Within – Holli Kenley

Psalm 28: Righting Ourselves IN a Storm – TerryOCasey

Have You Ever Been Betrayed? – Frank Sonnenberg

Photo Credit: Steve Thomason, Walter Brueggemann, A Doodle for Psalms

Monday Morning Moment – “It’s a Wonder” – Altering Perspective

What a wonder the beauty that surrounds us! We miss it when we aren’t looking. Let’s take a moment.

Wonder is my word for this year. It is defined as “a splendid or conspicuous work, a miracle, a marvel”. We are surrounded by wonderful, beautiful, tangible objects, processes, and people. And wonders beyond our reach that cause us to pause and…well, wonder.

Our short-sightedness at such things can be an effect of where we settle our gaze, or hearing, or thoughts. Screens can either point us to wondrous things beyond our experience or shrink our worlds to the size of a phone, tablet, or computer/TV.

Look up. Get close. Be quiet a moment and listen.

Let’s never lose the wonder of the beauty that surrounds us. The beauty we experience…even in hard places. Even in suffering.”

Deb Mills Writer

I get lost sometimes in the woes of this world – our national debt, the unnoticed poverty of our neighbors, the myriad ways people find to destroy life and relationships.

It’s a wonder we haven’t already completely annihilated ourselves and that actually speaks to the wonder of God. The fact that we are still here, that Spring comes, and babies are born…all a miracle really.

We take such things for granted and continue to brood over the world’s “going to Hell in a handbasket” condition. Doom’s Day thinking will change nothing.

Today, I choose to be lost in the wonder of God’s provision of all the good in the world – of grace in suffering, of the possibility of finishing life well and dying beautifully. What is our place in all the world’s woes? It isn’t to be so enraptured in the wonder that we don’t wade into the hard.

Wonder takes me to a more hopeful place – of seeing the worst of this world with eyes wide open and holding place with God in ways, small and large, to lighten the load. Leaning into the painful realities of those around us, knowing God is at work everywhere… He doesn’t need me to help…but just maybe He calls us to enter in and discover He’s there, and His presence illuminated through us to those in need.

If you want a quick study on the mercy of God and how He bears with a forgetful and rebellious people, read Psalm 78. Are there consequences of our going our own way and disregarding a loving and holy God? Absolutely. Yet, He is always ready to restore us and to redeem our situations, when we repent and remember Him. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Photo Credit: James Houston, Heartlight
Photo Credit: Godly Ladies

Postscript: The wonder of God in the circumstances of our lives – including when we lean in to the lives of others. What if Wintley Phipps hadn’t responded in comfort to that distressed person (see video below)? – What if the Horatio Spafford, writer of the poem “It is Well with My Soul”, had grown bitter in his grief instead of clinging to God? So much wonder!

Monday Morning Moment – How We View Jesus Matters

Photo Credit: Westminster Presbyterian Church

On Sunday, before launching into a great teaching on Revelation 2, our pastor settled into a wee rant. On “the blond-haired, blue-eyed Malibu Jesus” represented too often in the images of our Bible Belt childhoods in America. I was taken aback by his passion, and then wondered if I had a blindspot in this area.

Does my own Scottish heritage make me comfortable with this view of Jesus? Being fair-skinned, with brownish-green eyes and brown-hair-turned gray, was my view biased?

Exiting the auditorium after an excellent sermon, I checked out our own stained-glass images of Christ. They seemed true enough to the Middle Eastern Jewish heritage of Jesus. Brown eyes, darker complexion, curly hair (albeit lighter than appropriate?). Stained glass windows have been a favorite art form for me. These did not disappoint, but are they adequate for all who are part of our church? Or offensive to some?

[This window is actually in the women’s handicapped bathroom – after an expansion of facilities required incorporating one of the outside windows into the design. The men of our church miss this one.]

On the way home, I was still distracted by my pastor’s statement: How We View Jesus Matters. Wondering at my own lack of appreciation of how Jesus’ appearance might affect the rest of the world’s humanity.

Race and Appearance of Jesus

Something to think about.

Finally, it dawned on me what mattered more than our view of Jesus…His view of himself.

The Bible says very little about Jesus’ appearance. He sounded an average sort of man. Nothing that drew attention to him as far as physical characteristics. “Hidden in plain sight”.

How Does the Bible Describe Jesus Christ’s Appearance? – Daniel Isaiah Joseph

What Jesus said about himself – who he was and why he came – those statements (and view) are monumental (see image at top and article below).

What Did Jesus Mean When He Said “I AM”?

I will say that my favorite interpretation of his physical appearance, personality, and character is found in the TV show The Chosen. Gentle, loving, fearless, funny, serious, welcoming, truth-filled, good.

Photo Credit: The Chosen, American Family Radio

Lion and Lamb – throughout history, Jesus has been interpreted in art as both lion and lamb (as he is also described in the Scriptures.

Photo Credit: Darrow Miller

“Recently, I saw an image of a lion and a lamb lying together in the clouds and was reminded of the cosmic truth of history that in Jesus Christ, God’s love and justice meet, His mercy and His authority come together.

J.R.R. Tolkein speaks of the incarnation of Christ as the “euchatastrophe* of Man’s history.” About the incarnation, and especially its climax in the resurrection, he says, “There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true.” The greatest fantasy is in fact history.” The Lion and the Lamb – Darrow Miller

*Eucatastrophe: Tolkien’s Word for the “Anti-Doomsday” – Richard Fisher

My view of Jesus? The John Hunter poem below is a good starting place.

For This, I Have Jesus – Connectedness – A Brush with the Life of John Hunter – Deb Mills

Throughout His public ministry, Jesus made two explicit claims concerning Himself: He claimed to be the Messiah of Israel (the Christ), and He claimed to be God come in the flesh (Matthew 16:16John 11:27; Mark 14:61). This two-fold claim is the essence of the message which Jesus challenged men to believe concerning Himself (John 20:31).Hidden in Plain Sight, Doug Bookman

Our view of Jesus matters…especially as it relates to his view of himself, in relation to God the Father and to us.

Hidden in Plain Sight: What Did Jesus Say About Himself? – Doug Bookman

Jesus Wasn’t White: He Was a Brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew. Here’s Why That Matters – Robyn J. Whitaker

What Did Jesus Look Like? – Sarah Pruitt

Why Is the World Filled with Depictions of a White Jesus When the History Says Otherwise? – Richard Stockton [Read the Comments as well – fascinating opinions]

Monday Morning Moment – No Going Back – a Bit of My Story

[As I write, it is the day before Independence Day in the US. The 4th of July. Parades, barbecues, gatherings of friends and family, and fireworks gloriously finishing off the day. Our fridge is filled with summer-sweet watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, and chicken ready for the grill. Today is quiet and full of introspection. Here’s what’s on my mind.]

I wasn’t born into a Christian family. We weren’t in church until I was 7 or 8. My mom had a church experience as a child and was saved and baptized but had stopped attending church years before I was born. She would say she stopped seeking God somewhere along the way in a difficult marriage. Not sure at all whether my biological father had any sort of faith. To this day, I’m thankful for Christian neighbors who loved us and invited us into their church family.

When I was 9, during a summer Bible school week, the message of God’s love and His deliverance from our self-serving, sinful hearts was immensely beautiful to me. Even as a little girl, I had unsuccessfully tried my hardest to be good for my mama. She worked so hard to keep food on the table for us (with no help from anyone), and I didn’t want to add to her burden. Still, like I said, being good wasn’t always my path forward. Then hearing that God was not put off by that, and, in fact, had made a way for me to be covered by His own righteousness through Jesus…well, it was the most amazing thing I had ever heard.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

This wasn’t just a tickling-the-ears sort of experience. Not just a relief-generating tale for troubled child. It resonated with my heart and mind. It sounded truer than anything I had known before. Understanding, even as a child, that God had made a way for me to be free of the burden of my sin was really good news.

Photo Credit: My God and My Dog

My pursuit of God actually followed His pursuit of me. He has never let go of me…even in seasons of my rebellion as a young adult. The shiny things of the world can be mesmerizing – popularity, higher education, professional favor, the stuff and experiences that work affords us.

In my 20s, I had a divided mind and allegiance. To some, it may not have seemed so, but I knew my own heart, and it was, for a time, lured back to old ways – a heart that could be both deceived and deceitful. However, by God’s grace, I did NOT stay in that place forever. He drew me back to Himself.

Reminded of the passage late in Jesus’ public ministry, when some of His followers fell away, He asked the apostle Peter if he would leave, too. Peter answered Him with the question that always brings me back to the reality of life: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” There is simply no one else…nowhere else to go. Period. Full-stop.

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Well…that’s a bit of my story. Your story may look very different from mine. Since my 30s, as winding as the path may be, or as imperfectly as I follow it…there is no going back.

As we celebrate our freedoms as a nation, freedoms hard-won by those who sacrificed their lives for our sake, I also celebrate the freedom won by Christ whose own ultimate sacrifice won us back to Himself. Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Pixabay

Independence Day in the USA – Celebrating the 4th of July and Remembering that Freedom is Not Free – Deb Mills

Independence Day Montage – Family, Food, Fireworks, and the American Flag – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – Independence Day Reflection – You Say I Am Free – Lauren Daigle’s How Can It Be – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Steps Forward in “We the People” Becoming True for All Americans – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – On Fathering

Photo Credit: Heartlight

Fathering…it’s an intriguing topic for me, and I’ve written a lot on it [see here].

My biological father was fairly absent from my life. Even before he and my mom divorced. Our father’s own abandonment of us had an impact on us kids developmentally (even possibly affecting how we parent today).

[My brothers and me when we were younger]

Fortunately I had a kind and loving step-father. Sadly missed by his first family as he poured himself into my siblings and me. He tried to love them well, too…but…

My mom’s dad was an alcoholic who dealt poorly with the Great Depression and his inability to provide well for his family… isolating himself from his children. I remember as a child following him around the woods when we visited. Wish I could have known him better.

The father of my own children was and is a present, loving dad to our bunch. I hope they feel how much he loves them…still and always.

[These four, Morocco]

You have your own fathering stories.

Fathering matters.

“Fathering, like mothering, is not an easy job. So much dying to self. So much responsibility. What a delight for us when the men in our lives take fathering on their shoulders as they might a sleeping child. Surrendering themselves to the serving of those younger than them. I thank God for men who humble themselves in prayer for their children and who go to work every day to support their families. Working, studying, and life-long learning passed on to their children and others.

These dads are too-often taken for granted in the shadow of fathering that falls short. The absent, neglectful and downright abusive fathers cut wounds so deep that decent fathers are sometimes judged by the same measure. We watch for “the sins of the fathers to be revisited on their children” (Numbers 14:18).

Today, let’s reflect on the good fathers. Those who were present at our births, or those who came later in life to us, or those who father us out of their own great hearts. Imperfect, sure. All of us are. Yet, there are those men who go many more than second miles for us, and we are grateful.”Deb Mills

In thinking about fathers, with the approach of Father’s Day here in the US, I pulled all the books on fathering from my bookshelves. There weren’t many (more on parenting, but just these few on fathering itself). Maybe we miss the crucial nature of this role in children’s lives, such that we don’t feel training is needed. I don’t know.

Dr. Danny Huerta, with Focus on the Family, has written a short and important book on 7 Traits of Effective Parenting which especially touches on how weighty the presence of fathers is in the lives of their children. These traits, he extols, are:

  • Adaptability means you handle stress and what is coming at you as a dad in healthy and effective ways. It also means you have the mental flexibility to help your child feel understood and noticed by you.
  • Respect brings you fully present to your family. Through respect, you model looking inward and managing yourself well so you can listen, see, effectively respond to, and love all image bearers of Christ that surround you each day.  
  • Intentionality helps you create goals and focus on what you’re building in your children’s lives. Intentional affection, instruction, conversations, mealtimes, playtimes, and encouraging words can all have life-giving impacts on your family.
  • Steadfast love allows you to love deeply and give your family the strength that stems from a father’s unconditional love.  
  • Boundaries allow you to model and teach healthy ways to engage with opportunities, relationships, and interests.
  • Grace and forgiveness present the ministry of reconciliation that Jesus began through his death and resurrection. A dad can truly make his home debt-free and spiritually strengthened by modeling grace and forgiveness.
  • Gratitude provides a father with a loving and humble perspective that helps him lead his family well. 
Photo Credit: Calvin & Hobbs from the blog of Kenneth Reeds

Parenting is challenging for sure. Through all the seasons and stages of life. From the birth of our children through when they are grown…really until we are gone. Challenging, but also a beautiful work of the heart and mind, as we seek to win the challenge. For our children’s sake, and for our own. If we weren’t fathered well, we can determine to take the steps for it not to continue in our own parenting. The resources we have available to parent well today are plentiful.

We can be grateful for good fathers and hopeful for those overwhelmed by (or unfortunately unaware of) the challenge of parenting well.

…Let’s live in hope that those fathers who struggle to be present or loving may one day gather themselves together, awaken to what was left behind, and reach out to the treasures they missed along the way…and may they find us within reach.” Deb Mills

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t – Deb Mills

Saturday Short – Fathers and Father’s Day – Deb Mills

Fathers (and Mothers), Do Not Provoke Your Children – Tim Challies

7 Ways Parents Unfairly Provoke Their Children – Tim Challies

Christian Books on Fatherhood – Top Books for Fathers

Biblical Fathering – 4-part Series on Being Fair, Flexible, Firm and Forthright – Don Strand

The Significance of a Father’s Influence

50 Best Christian Fathers Day Messages and Bible Verses

“As to my children, you are now to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a Father who will never fail you.”Rev. Jonathan Edwards, his last words to his children, as he lay dying.

Slow to Chide, and Quick to Bless: Vision for Earthly Fathers – David Mathis – excellent article for any dad

Train Them Up in Jesus: The One-Verse Vision for Dads – David Mathis – excellent article, by the same author above, for any dad but especially Christian dads

Lastly, one powerful little Tweet:

The Audacity of Calling God “Father” If I call God “God” I speak truthfully. If I call God “Lord” I speak submissively. If I call God “King” I speak servilely.

But if I dare to call God “my Father,” I speak with a brassy audacity, chutzpah, that is shockingly familiar and intimate. So it seems anyway.

You dare to call the Master of the Universe “Father”? You dare to call the One who controls heaven and hell “Father”? You call the Omnipotent one “Father”?

Who do you think you are? It is difficult to imagine a more audacious act than to stand before the Creator of the world and to name him “Father.” And mean it. And not only to mean it, but to act and speak as a child acts and speaks before a loving and doting Dad.

It’s shocking. It’s exhilarating. And it’s beautiful beyond words.

But here’s a secret: it’s not really chutzpah. It’s not some brassy boldness that we work ourselves into, nor it is gained by swallowing a bottle of liquid spiritual courage, as it were.

To call God “Father” is simply to live in the space which Jesus created. To move from residing far from God as his enemy; or on the other side of town from him as a stranger; or down the street as an acquaintance; or in an adjoining house as a servant; and to move into our own bedroom as a child in his family. To wake up in the morning and see our Father sipping a cup of coffee and saying, “Good morning, my child,” as we respond, “Good morning, Father.”

You see, when we live in this house, when we move into the room built by Jesus, we inhabit the home not merely of a Master or Lord or King, but the one who’s given us his name and made us his own, now and forever.

“Our Father”: two of the most amazing words ever uttered.Chad Bird

Photo Credit: Tim Challies, Charles Spurgeon