Tag Archives: Tim Keller

Monday Morning Moment – Word for the Year 2023 – Wonder

In the early days of a new year, we give pause to possibilities of what’s ahead. Besides gym memberships, weight loss programs, and aspirations to spend more time with family, we could use a word of encouragement to move us forward. Debbie Macomber‘s One Perfect Word gives a strong case for choosing one word for the whole year. A word to dissect, and meditate on, and to make real in both our thoughts and walks of life. One Perfect Word. For the year.

For the last several days, I’ve been thinking about what word for 2023. Two years ago, I chose “compassion”. This past year, it was joy. Both of those words did inspire both thoughts and actions that elevated my life…and hopefully that of others.

This year, after praying and meditating, I chose the word “wonder”. The definition of this word is to be awe-inspired, to marvel, and to be surprised, even astonished. My little grandchildren have taught me great lessons on wonder as so much around them seems miraculous…and it truly is, when you think about it.

Instead of filling my thoughts and speech on the brokenness of this world, I will choose to wonder at the beauty around us, even in the hard. Wonder won’t be at the expense of responding to those in need, but I will study on how to see the wonder. For example, the wonder of a God who is both merciful and just. The wonder that we can actually come alongside someone and be a help…that we can forgive an offense…that we can give hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

How does one decide on a word to cover a whole year? It might be an intentional decision or completely serendipitous? For me, it was through thinking of what might be lacking in my life and asking God to confirm. I thought the word would be perseverance, but in prayer and a series of rapid-fire circumstances, the word “wonder” came into focus. It seemed I would hear or see the word everywhere.

In the next few days, a friend and I will be studying Tyler Staton‘s book Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer. Another example is how during this Christmas season, the song I Wonder as I Wander stayed with me for days.

Christmas itself saturates us with wonder as we look deeply into what happened with the birth of Christ. What it must have been like for Mary when she realized the full weight of the Angel’s message to her of bearing the Messiah! For the lowly shepherds being the first to receive the good news of his birth. For us having the incredible invitation to be restored to an eternal relationship with the Lord! Whew!

In “O Little Town of Bethlehem” we sing, “O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.” It’s a bold image, but quite right. Every Christian is like Mary. Everyone who puts faith in Christ receives, by the Holy Spirit, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, emphasis mine). We should be just as shocked that God would give us—with all our smallness and flaws—such a mighty gift. And so no Christian should ever be far from this astonishment that “I, I of all people, should be loved and embraced by his grace!” I would go so far as to say that this perennial note of surprise is a mark of anyone who understands the essence of the Gospel. What is Christianity? If you think Christianity is mainly going to church, believing a certain creed, and living a certain kind of life, then there will be no note of wonder and surprise about the fact that you are a believer. If someone asks you, “Are you a Christian?” you will say, “Of course I am! It’s hard work but I’m doing it. Why do you ask?” Christianity is, in this view, something done by you—and so there’s no astonishment about being a Christian. However, if Christianity is something done for you, and to you, and in you, then there is a constant note of surprise and wonder. John Newton wrote the hymn: Let us love and sing and wonder, Let us praise the Savior’s name. He has hushed the law’s loud thunder, He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame. He has washed us with his blood He has brought us nigh to God. See where the love and wonder comes from—because he has done all this and brought us to himself. He has done it. So if someone asks you if you are a Christian, you should not say, “Of course!” There should be no “of course-ness” about it. It would be more appropriate to say, “Yes, I am, and that’s a miracle. Me! A Christian! Who would have ever thought it? Yet he did it, and I’m his.” Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ

I’m thinking God is preparing me for a year full of wonder…with eyes fixed on Him.

How about you? Is there a word…one perfect word you would desire as a focus in 2023?

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Photo Credit: He Reads Truth

Photo Credit: Heartlight
Photo Credit: Godly Ladies

Worship Wednesday – Hark the Herald Angels Sing – the Gospel in a Song

Advent for this year has come and gone with the glorious ending being Christmas Day. I haven’t highlighted very much of this season because we were immersed in the moments. Hopefully, though, writing about this month-long celebration would be a joy…may the words find their place on the screen. Even as I write this Wednesday Worship following Christmas, it is New Year’s Eve…days later, that I will finish.

No rush, right? While many have their Christmas tree down and the trimmings of this Christmas stowed away…we are continuing to squeeze all the delicious good out of this season, now celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas (Christmastide).

The 12 Days of Christmas: the Ultimate Guide to Christmastide – Tai French

In all the activities leading up to Christmas, some of the wonder escaped me…the post-Christmas quiet has been a second blessing…to reflect, not just on this past year, but, on all the beauty of Christ’s coming.

A couple of nights ago, we finally watched A Charlie Brown Christmas – a tradition every year. Charlie Brown expresses (to his friend, Linus) his exasperation in how Christmas has become so commercialized. Wondering at the meaning of Christmas. Linus comes to his aid, quoting from the Scripture, the wondrous account of the Christ child being born “unto you”. Unto you…to the world, but, in particular, to each one of us.

Photo Credit: Imgflip

That short scene in the film is exquisite, cutting through all the clutter never meant for Christmas. Because of Linus delivering truth, dropping his blanket as he spoke, his friend Charlie Brown’s thinking cleared. Clarity was restored…even joy.

The film finishes triumphantly with all the kids singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.

In the intro to his beautiful book Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ, author, theologian Tim Keller‘s writes about this widely familiar song “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

Let’s ask some questions of the famous Christmas carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”…Who is Jesus? He is “everlasting Lord,” who from “highest heaven” comes down to be the “offspring of the virgin’s womb.” What did he come to do? His mission is to see “God and sinners reconciled.” How did he accomplish it? He “lays his glory by,” that we “no more may die.” How can this life be ours? Through an inward, spiritual regeneration so radical that, as we have seen, it can be called “the second birth.” With brilliant economy of style, the carol gives us a summary of the entire Christian teaching…One season a year hundreds of millions of people, if they would take the trouble to ask these kinds of questions, would have this same knowledge available to them. To understand Christmas is to understand basic Christianity, the Gospel….one moment of the year when our secular society and the Christian church are, to a degree, thinking about the same thing.Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ

As we prepare to enter the new year, we take the truth of Christmas along with us. In wonder at how God would draw so near to us…to reveal himself to us in ways we can understand…to demonstrate a love for us wholly unrestrained. Not surprising the angels filled the sky with song that incredible night.

Worship with me to Charles Wesley‘s glorious anthem (verse 5 is included, though rarely sung).

  1. Hark! The herald angels sing,
    “Glory to the newborn King;
    Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
    God and sinners reconciled!”
    Joyful, all ye nations rise,
    Join the triumph of the skies;
    With th’angelic host proclaim,
    “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
    • Refrain:
      Hark! the herald angels sing,
      “Glory to the newborn King!”
  2. Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
    Christ the everlasting Lord;
    Late in time, behold Him come,
    Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
    Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
    Hail th’incarnate Deity,
    Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
    Jesus our Emmanuel.
  3. Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
    Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
    Light and life to all He brings,
    Ris’n with healing in His wings.
    Mild He lays His glory by,
    Born that man no more may die;
    Born to raise the sons of earth,
    Born to give them second birth.
  4. Come, Desire of nations, come,
    Fix in us Thy humble home;
    Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
    Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
    Now display Thy saving pow’r,
    Ruined nature now restore;
    Now in mystic union join
    Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
  5. Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
    Stamp Thine image in its place:
    Second Adam from above,
    Reinstate us in Thy love.
    Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
    Thee, the Life, the inner man:
    Oh, to all Thyself impart,
    Formed in each believing heart.*

*Lyrics to Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Charles Wesley

Bible Verses to Hark the Herald Angels Sing

The Story Behind “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – Josh Longanecker

Advent – Welcoming the Savior at Christmastime – Holding a Place for His Coming – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – Hark the Herald Angels Sing/King of Heaven (Lyric Video) – Paul Baloche [Official]

Not celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you. Ann Weems

Worship Wednesday – The Wonder of God – “So Will I” – Hillsong Worship

[Adapted from the Archives]

Photo Credit: Cedar Ridge Community Church

Christmas time is full of wonder…of a mystery of Jesus’ coming, not just as a man but, as a baby. God drawing near to us, in love and long-suffering. Immanuel – God with us. What a wonder!

Several years ago, I spoke at a homeschooling conference on the role we as parents have in modeling wonder and training worship. Our children are born with this huge sense of wonder, and then as the years go by, it can be dampened by the harder things (or people) in our lives. However, we, as adults, can model our own grown-up wonder. What follows, then, as we remind our children the source of the wonder…is worship.

In preparing for the conference, I was reminded of the apostle Peter’s exclamation below…his own wonder at a question Jesus asked. At that time in Jesus’ ministry on earth, some of his followers fell away. He then asked his closest followers if they would leave him (John 6:67-69):

“Lord, where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

 Where would we go? There’s nowhere…no one…like the Lord. The Creator and Sustainer of this beautiful world…

“When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place— What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings; You crowned him with glory and honor.”Psalm 8:3-5

“Even the darkness is not dark to You, but the night shines like the day, for darkness is as light to You. For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvelous are Your works, and I know this very well.” Psalm 139:12-14

“So if you cannot do such a small thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow: they do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith!”Luke 12:26-28

In thinking of how, as parents, we might protect and nurture our children’s sense of wonder, we rouse up our own sense of wonder.

Why We Must Protect and Nurture Our Children’s Sense of Wonder – Linda Akeson McGurk

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement…I should ask that [a] gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life. If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

What happens to our wonder? How do we pass it along, or keep it flourishing in our kiddos?

It’s helpful to spend a bit of time in reflection on some of what causes us to wonder:

  • Babies. Full-stop.
  • Cracking open a perfectly ripe watermelon – the color, how it smells, how it tastes.
  • Flowers coming from the tiniest of seeds (Dave has gardened in 4 different countries – pots on balconies when necessary).
  • The sky, night or day, and the vastness of space.
  • The water lines on the mountains of the Sinai Desert – no other way they could get there but a world-wide flood.
  • Forgiveness.
  • The wonder of sleep – lights out & alone with our thoughts & God; also sleep interrupted from anxiety but then the wonder of waking in the morning after miraculously falling back to sleep.
  • God’s answering Mom’s prayer – preferring for Him to be glorified in her cancer more than being healed from it, this side of Heaven.
  • The wonder of a virgin birth, of obedience even in death, of a resurrection.
  • the wonder of loving God – and that we are heard, known, understood, and forever received…by Him.

“Does the resurrection mean anything for your life now? Oh my, yes. [Because Jesus is the one bringing the kingdom of God – “shalom – complete healing of all the relationships in creation. We will be reconciled to God; to nature; to one another; and to ourselves…This broken world is not the only world we’re ever going to have…In the resurrection life we will dance perfectly, know perfect love, full satisfaction. The joy of your glory will be that much greater for every scar you bear”.Timothy Keller, Jesus the King

If we aren’t careful we falter in our wonder because of the seeming weight of our responsibilities or the distraction of our differences one with another. God never meant it to be this way.

“In a world full of pragmatic ‘older brothers’ it is easy, even in church, to forget the love that wants to stream between us. Instead we allow our heads and backs to bend under the weight of all that needs to be put right.Teresa McCaffery

“The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. –  C. S. Lewis

This is just a taste of the wonder we will know in Heaven…and what is our response to the wonder that surrounds us…the marvel of God Himself reflected in this world…and in His image-bearers? Gratefulness.

Photo Credit: Alan Chen, Good Free Photos

Gratefulness flows out of wonder and moves us to worship. We parents model wonder for our children & train them to turn their hearts in worship toward God…at Christmas and every “ordinary” day.

Worship with me in wonder as these days unfold toward Christmas – to Hillsong Worship‘s So Will I:

God of creation
There at the start
Before the beginning of time
With no point of reference
You spoke to the dark
And fleshed out the wonder of light

And as You speak
A hundred billion galaxies are born
In the vapor of Your breath the planets form
If the stars were made to worship so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made
Every burning star
A signal fire of grace
If creation sings Your praises so will I

God of Your promise
You don’t speak in vain
No syllable empty or void
For once You have spoken
All nature and science
Follow the sound of Your voice

And as You speak
A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath
Evolving in pursuit of what You said
If it all reveals Your nature so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You say
Every painted sky
A canvas of Your grace
If creation still obeys You so will I

If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

God of salvation
You chased down my heart
Through all of my failure and pride
On a hill You created
The light of the world
Abandoned in darkness to die

And as You speak
A hundred billion failures disappear
Where You lost Your life so I could find it here
If You left the grave behind You so will I
I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done
Every part designed in a work of art called love
If You gladly chose surrender so will I
I can see Your heart
Eight billion different ways
Every precious one
A child You died to save
If You gave Your life to love them so will I

Like You would again a hundred billion times
But what measure could amount to Your desire
You’re the One who never leaves the one behind*

“Lord, what a world you’ve given us! Our senses are full of the wonder of Your creation. Even more than that, the wonder of You. How You love us is beyond our understanding or comprehension. Your provision for our lives…the people You have brought close to love and to be loved by. The work You have given us…we are so privileged. Life eternal and abundant that we have both here and in the Hereafter. We are amazed, Oh God. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.

*Lyrics to So Will I – Songwriters: Joel Houston Benjamin Hastings & Michael Fatkin

YouTube Video – (Star of Wonder) We Three Kings by The Roches

5 Friday Faves – Fortnite Revisited on Classical Guitar, Spring Rain, Habits of Love, Andy Crouch on Shame, and Wonder – Deb Mills Writer

Father, thank You for sending Jesus,
our rescuer, redeemer, and hope.
Fill my mind with wonder and awe
at the deep truths of Christmas.
Help me to celebrate and share the
good news of Your grace with others
whom you bring across my path.C. S. Lewis Institute, Advent Prayer

Worship Wednesday – Remember – Maverick City Music x UPPER ROOM

Photo Credit: Heartlight, Jeremy Taylor

From the mouths of children and infants You have ordained praise on account of Your adversaries, to silence the enemy and avenger. When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place – what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him?Psalm 8:2-4

Let’s just start right here. It’s been difficult for me to write a Worship Wednesday this week because the news has been so distracting and demoralizing, even defeating at times.

How do we let that happen? Given the God we know who also knows us (1 Corinthians 8:3). Nothing in our world right now is a surprise to Him. Is He angry at how sin is abounding? Absolutely. A pure and measured anger. An anger that accompanies His perfect compassion for the suffering of His children.

Gentle and Lowly – the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers – Dane Ortlund – highly recommend this for our comfort in knowing Jesus

In this season of distress, our own compassion is matched by our accompanying anger at the wrongs around us. Our attention is drawn to what’s seen and we forget the glorious unseen.

Author, pastor Tim Keller‘s tweet helped me clear my head.

Photo Credit: Twitter –  @timkellernyc

Oh Lord, help us remember You. You are near and You are wholly and perfectly feeling the pain this world is experiencing. Your plan is in motion…whether we see it or not. You are moving in our lives today. We do not need to fear. Our eyes are on You right now.

Maverick City + UPPER ROOM‘s song Remember applies well to these moments of upheaval and struggle. It reflects Jesus’ command to remember Him through the Lord’s Supper and takes it farther to a daily sacrifice of praise. What He did for us we could not do for ourselves or each other. The Lord Jesus is still our advocate and intercessor. Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy, Get Wallpapers

Worship and remember with me.

We see You on the cross
And You’re beautiful, God
The blood speaks a better word, yeah

The bread, Your body
The wine, Your blood
Sweet communion
You set a table for us
The crucified Jesus
No greater love
Than the bread, Your body
Than the wine, Your blood

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember
Yes, we will, yes, we will
Yeah

The holes in Your hands
And the wounds in Your side
Thirty-nine lashes
Brought me back to life
And before resurrection
There was a grave
In hell, there was a battle
And my life was saved

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Yes, we will, yes, we will (Hey)
Oh, we can see it now
And we can see how (Mmm, yeah)
Oh, Your blood made a way
Your blood made a way
Hey, hey

And this is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, would you look at Him?
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him

And oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him? Look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, look at Him
This is our Savior
Look at Him, would you just look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, won’t you look at Him?
Oh, our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him)
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him, look at Him
Our Christ Redeemer
Look at Him (Look at Him), oh (Hey)

Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (Look at Him, look at Him)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His eyes like fire)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His hair like wool)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (His feet like brass)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him (He’s beautiful)
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him
Would you just look at Him? Look at Him, oh

Oh-oh, we will remember (Oh, hey)
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, hey, we will remember

And how could we forget?
After what we’ve experienced
Oh, it’s unforgettable (Woo)
It’s unforgettable
Oh, how we could forget? (Look at Him)
After what we experienced
Oh, up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Up from the muck and the miry clay
He lifted me (He lifted me)
Oh, I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit (Hey)
I remember, I won’t forget
How He took my life from the pit, oh
We remember, we won’t forget (Yeah, yeah)
How You took our lives from the pit
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where we are now
Look at where we were back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Hey)
Oh, we remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our life from the pit (Yeah)
We remember, we won’t forget
Look at where I am now
Look at where I was back then
We remember, we won’t forget
How You took our lives (From the pit), hey
We remember, we won’t forget
(Look at where we are now)
Lift your voice, lift your voice

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior (Oh, just to know you)
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember

Oh-oh, we will remember
Oh-oh, Jesus, our Savior
Oh, just to know You in Your suffering
Just to get me closer than I’ve ever been
Oh-oh, we will remember*

We are far from unmoved by the news of the day – war, wildfires, abortion battles, soaring prices, drug deaths, and racial divides. Yet, in the midst of being the church in these situations, we turn our eyes to Jesus, fix them on Him…and remember.

*Lyrics to Remember by Maverick City x Upper Room

YouTube Video – Remember (Shortened Version) – Lyric Video

Photo Credit: Timothy Keller, Quote Fancy

Photo Credit: Heartlight, C. S. Lewis

5 Friday Faves – Beyond Grumpiness, the Coming of Spring, Shame as Our Personal Assistant, Vulnerability, and Great Marriage Advice

Friday Faves – Go!

1) Beyond Grumpiness –A friend of mine pointed this blog to me today and it bumped its way to the top of my Faves. English professor Alan Jacobs mused about the grumpiness of old people. I don’t know when it happens and why exactly it happens, but it is something that has happened to me of late…and I don’t think I’m old enough yet for it to happen.

Photo Credit: Stream

Here’s a bit of what Dr. Jacobs says about grumpiness, but you should read his whole piece, especially if you’re finding yourself becoming grumpy (whatever age you are).

“I think the explanation for such widespread grumpiness is fairly simple…It’s not the big foul acts or horribly cruel words that do you in, it’s the slow drip drip drip of little annoyances that become over time a vast sea of frustration. Surely you’ve been there? You become exasperated by someone’s passing comment and when they are genuinely puzzled by your anger over so trivial a matter, you try to explain (apologetically, penitently, I hope) that it wouldn’t be a problem if this thing had happened once but it has happened a thousand times. It’s the repetition that kills you.” [Dr. Jacobs goes on to talk about the divisions on which we’ve taken sides give the sense of being new and revolutionary…and yet they are old divisions revisited.] “You can’t learn from the past if you don’t know what happened in it. So yeah, I’m gradually turning into a grumpy old man. Because nobody learns anything…” [About these things that divide us: We seem to care too much, or too little, or just plain not at all. Dr. Jacobs challenges us to that only truly loving people gives us the right to voice an opinion, and definitely not a shaming one.] “It’s a hard path to walk, this Way of avoiding both indifference and ‘the conscious impotence of rage / At human folly.’ But the hard path is the only real Way. (All the others circle back on themselves.) So I try every day to follow it. I don’t think I could manage even that if I did not have an Advocate to accompany me, to encourage me, and to guide me.” – Alan Jacobs, Beyond Grumpiness

Against Stupidity – Alan Jacobs

The Destructive Power of Grumbling and Complaining – Michael Brown

2) The Coming of Spring –March weather – “In like a lion, out like a lamb”. Of course, we’re only mid-way through March, but we have no more predictions of snow. Daffodils bloomed in snow last week, but the winds of March have blown all the rough weather away for now. I’m not rushing Spring, but it is such a beautiful and refreshing time of the year. Here are some pics of our March so far.

Photo Credit: Kathryn Visneski (East Tennessee; we had this same snow but no captures of red cardinals in it.)

3) Shame as our Personal Assistant – In Dr. Curt Thompson‘s excellent book The Soul of Shame: Retelling Stories We Believe About Ourselves, we find the intriguing term shame assistant.

Imagine having a personal assistant who means us only evil. Whispers in our ear of how we’re not prepared enough, not attractive enough, not smart enough…just not enough.

It’s hard not to believe what seems to be coming out of our own reasoned thinking. Maybe…just maybe…we’re not enough.

To defend ourselves, without consciously being aware, we armor up against those thoughts…protecting ourselves from being too exposed to others. Isolating ourselves. This hiding keeps us from community which we need the most in dealing with shame.

At times, we strike out against the shame. Either by punishing ourselves or by blaming someone else for the pain we feel. Again, this further isolates us from others…leaving us alone with the shame attendant of our lives.

There’s good news, though, Friend. See #4.

Shame: Your Inner Attendant – Katelyn Entz

Toxic Shame Has Its Own Neurobiology. The Gospel Offers a Cure – Werner Mischke

4) Vulnerability – Curt Thompson spends a chapter in his book on the remedy for shame. It is vulnerability. How do we convince ourselves, all armored up against being exposed that the path to healing is dropping the armor? Here’s the thing: armor or no, we are vulnerable. Period. Full stop. We can’t keep shame at a distance. It crouches at our mind’s door, ready at a moment’s notice, to destroy our peace…and diminish our relationships.

Photo Credit: Curt Thompson MD, Instagram

“To be vulnerable is not first something we choose. It is something we are.”* We are vulnerable. It is our state of being. We spend an enormous amount of energy protecting it. We can be free of this.

*Being Known Podcast – Vulnerability – Season 1, Episode 3

You know how we teach little ones to say, “Please” and “Thank you”? These aren’t just practices of good manners. They are actually acknowledgements of our vulnerability from an early age. Little ones have to ask for what they can’t get on their own, and then they express gratitude that their need was seen and responded to.

Our willingness to be openly vulnerable within community moves us toward intimacy. “Vulnerability creates opportunity for connection.” When we don’t avail ourselves to these opportunities, we just stay in our protective armor. Opening up to a trusted friend or small group emboldens us to tell our stories and recognize that the stinging words of shame don’t belong to us. We matter. We are enough. Being able to share such things with people who will NOT leave the room gives us the courage to then be more vulnerable with others – like our boss, or professor, or estranged family member.

Dr. Thompson also talks about the other side of being vulnerable – when we are the ones others are being vulnerable with. We may want to move away from the awkwardness of that kind of disclosure. Or we may want to try to fix it which early on is more to help ourselves dealing with the discomfort than the one sharing. “What they most need from us is our empathic presence…” To lean in, to demonstrate that they are being seen, and to connect with them, and validate what they are feeling, to see them in whatever the hard is for them in being vulnerable. In the end, we may ask how we can be helpful but we don’t go right there in the immediate of their telling their story.

This is vulnerability and it moves us to healing, to community, and to joy.

5) Great Marriage Advice – Marriage…whew! Earlier in my adult life, I always cringed at the observation that marriage is work. It didn’t look like work, and having the opportunity to share life with your special person seemed more joy than labor. Then I got married.

It is joy and it is work…not in the dull, redundant sort of work we may have from time to time…but the challenging, invigorating, problem-solving, “in it to win it” kind of work.

I happened across a sweet thread on Jane Lewis’ Twitter page. She reached out to her followers for marriage wisdom. Lots of response!

Below are just some of them…the ones I especially found valuable:

“No one”……and I mean “no one” can read your mind!

Develop and maintain hobbies independent of each other AND protect the hobbies you do together.

Attack the problem, not the person.

Faith (if you are inclined that way), mutual respect, and honest, loving, open communication are the Big Three that get you through life together.

Don’t take the little things for granted.

There is a challenge to live connected but free with your spouse. I’ve read that your primary job in marriage is to protect your spouse from your control.

My advice is laugh a lot, kiss each other often, and pray for and with each other daily.

Forgive quickly and keep a short memory of the bad. Focus on the good and appreciate him immensely!

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate – not just about money, work, chores, kids or health, but also spirituality, fun, world events. 2. Each of you needs ‘me’ time. 3. Do something fun together every week. 4. Sex is great, but marriage is about more than that. 5. Communicate.

Seek to have a quiet heart each day. Thought today of Mary facing extreme excitement (Luke 1:18,19) and deep coming sorrow (Luke 1:35). The Lord is your Keeper in highs and lows.

Don’t criticize or complain about your spouse in public. Smile at the “husbands be like” jokes, but don’t contribute. Be honest & kind. Talk to each other about your problems, not to friends/family. Keep your own hobbies, bank account & bathroom if possible.

Don’t be easily offended. As John Bevere says in his book, it is “The Bate of Satan.”

Stay curious. Keep flirting. Never forget to tell him you appreciate his hard work…never forget the reasons why you fell in love with each other…never forget that you are on the same team.

Neither of you is the same person you will be in 5 years, 20 years, or 45 years. You’re each committing to the version of the person you love now, but you’re also committing to the many versions they will become.

As much as you love him and he loves you, know that you cannot completely fulfill him, nor he fulfill you…it’s unfair to put that burden on either and will only end in heartache.

Have close girlfriends. Be humble when you fight. Hold healthy boundaries. Learn how he processes. Let him be different than you. Stick. Bad times pass. Glorify God. Forgive. Remember marriage is a picture to help us understand Christ’s love for the church. Let that sink in.

Find ways to laugh together and always have compassion for one another.

Find a reason to laugh, fist bump or high five with your spouse everyday.

Mind who you talk about your marriage with and who you listen to about your marriage. There’s a lot of wisdom to be gained from others who have gone before, but there are also people who you shouldn’t let speak to your marriage.

My advice to a new bride- maintain your friendships.with your girlfriends. He does not want to chit chat, go shopping or do your hair the way your girlfriends do. Keep your girlfriends. He will be happier and so will you.

Hold to your integrity. Trust Jesus w everything. Listen deeply. Celebrate madly. Speak truth in love. Have fun! Pray together. Walk together. Hold hands. Let there be space in your togetherness. Let go & hold on.

Give dignity to your differences. Make adequate space for whatever conversation needs to happen. You’ll both still be there tomorrow, and few things are urgent. Have your own tubes of toothpaste.

An abbreviated quote by Camille Paglia: “Men have sacrificed and crippled themselves physically and emotionally to feed, house, and protect women and children. (But the world) portrays men as oppressive and callous exploiters.” Be understanding of his burden.

Talk through how you deal with money and come up with a budget you both agree on. One spouse can pay the bills but both of you should be aware of the state of your finances and financial goals.

You are the same team. In disagreements, in different skill sets and ways of communicating, you are all on the same team. Argue and forgive like teammates. Notice and applaud like teammates. Work out problems and brainstorm like teammates. We use “same team” as shorthand to stop ourselves when we disagree or misunderstand each other. Take a breath and explain what is going on. Learning to argue well, to listen well and be self-aware enough to give names to things and be heard. And give loads of grace.

@janeelisabethh, you have some wise women (and a couple of guys) in your Twitter world. People (and threads) like this are why I am still on Twitter.

Coming up on 38 years with this guy.

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Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot.

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, Tim Keller

Photo Credit: Instagram, Tim Keller NYC

10 Ways to Live Life to the Fullest After 60 – Rebecca Wilson

5 Friday Faves – A City Tour, Best Organizing Tips, Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, On Being Heard, and Summer Delights

Here we go!

1) A City Tour – Have you ever taken a tour of your city or town? It’s a transformative experience. We toured our city (Richmond, Virginia) this week. No pictures of the James River this time around or any of the actual “tourist sites”…[I did write about our gorgeous Capitol building visit here]. Just neighborhoods this time. What about you? Comment below about your city/town.

2) Best Organizing Tips – OK, full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Marie Kondo (link to my blog on decluttering and relationships). I think what she helps people downsize gets repurchased. So it is a constant cycle. However, I get the stress that clutter can bring to moms of small children. Our children understand that I will downsize until it starts getting painful, and then they can just hire an estate clearing company, for the rest one day.

When I come across an article that shows wisdom in dealing with the strain of stuff, it encourages and empowers. The Pioneer Woman has a list of 76 tips for organizing our households. Some of the tips have affiliate marketing attached which means buying stuff to store your stuff. Still, among the 76 tips, there are great helps for anyone. I love the ideas on beautifying and functionalizing the foyer/entryway of a home. Also, her tips on managing toys and their cleanup were great!

Best Organizing Tips – The Pioneer Woman

Photo Credit: The Pioneer Woman, Tidbits

3) Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – I don’t usually recommend sad things unless it causes such a stir in me, it seems necessary to share. The church doesn’t belong to people. The church belongs to God. He established it, and He will care for it. If judgment is required, He will judge. However, some situations may need to be examined, not to judge, but to avoid going there. We are all vulnerable. It can happen to any of us as collections of people. Power and ego can soil anyone. None of us are immune.

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill Podcasts | Christianity TodayPhoto Credit: Christianity Today

If you don’t know the story of Mars Hill, you can listen to the cataclysmic fall of a mega-church and its pastor, starting here.

The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill

Our small but growing church in Richmond, Virginia, loves God, loves His Word, and loves the world. Hopefully we love each other and our neighbors as well. We will want to do our part in keeping our church on track with God’s mission.

Mission drift can occur to any organization. Watch out for it. Put guardrails around what matters.

4) On Being Heard – Just before doing the city tour above, a documentary focused on our city was recommended to me. The local film company responsible for this Emmy-award-winning gem is Belltower Pictures.

“Heard” – PBS Documentary – “HEARD captures the inspiring stories of five people who grew up in ‘the projects’ (Richmond, Va.), surviving and thriving in spite of, and often because of, the challenges they’ve had to overcome. Now they’re giving back to their home communities, trying to make a better life for those who come behind.”

I watched this documentary after the city tour.

It was an amazing opportunity to listen to residents of Richmond’s subsidized housing who talk about what they loved and hated about their neighborhoods and how they were able to take those foundations to launch into positive futures. So glad I listened. You will be, too.

Heard Discussion Guide

5) Summer Delights – Summer…it sprawls lazily…and yet seemingly overnight, back-to-school ads and products spring up all over!

We will savor summer. And all its goodness. What are some of your summer delights?

Sleeping under the stars upgraded by cool retro campers and sweet technology capturing it.https://scontent.fric1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/fr/cp0/e15/q65/224199211_10222604686818054_2935923857622714896_n.jpg?_nc_cat=100&_nc_rgb565=1&ccb=1-3&_nc_sid=8024bb&efg=eyJpIjoidCJ9&_nc_ohc=Na2pVp6USPsAX_3XgP7&_nc_ht=scontent.fric1-1.fna&oh=a4fed52179684ef263f8fc5153deef8b&oe=61003131Photo Credit: Todd Carey, Facebook

Rainbow hues in all the beautiful flowers:

Fishing with Papa:

Yard Sales back in style:

The yummy “reds” of summer:

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That’s it for this week! Thanks for stopping by. It means a lot!

Bonuses:

Support your small businesses – great post on the challenges of having a sustainable business right now (this being a local restaurant)

Watch Luke Bryan Bring a 7-year-old Girl Onstage for adorable “Down to One” Duet – here’s the quick story. Below is the video.

No photo description available.Photo Credit: Tim Keller, Gospel in Life, Neighborhood Church Facebook page

5 Friday Faves – Romantic Flight on Classical Guitar, Snow Days Turned to Spring, Normal, Relief vs. Rescue, and Carefully Taught

Happy weekend! Hope this finds you well and enjoying the many small miracles of life. I’m a bit behind on posting Friday Faves. Sometimes they are so excellent they still end up in my Friday Faves weeks later…some of these are like that, and others are as fresh as this weekend. These are all for you. Enjoy!

1) Romantic Flight on Classical Guitar – Anyone new to this blog will have the pleasure of experiencing Nathan Mills‘ music, maybe for the first time. He is a classical guitarist whose work is found under the brand Beyond the Guitar. He arranges and performs themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. A heart and body lift on sweet nostalgia. We probably all know the positive impact of music on our minds and bodies. I personally never cared for instrumental music before Nathan’s journey with classical guitar. Now, we always had music in our home. Always. My preference was anything vocal. The thing that’s interesting in Nathan’s music. It feels vocal. He makes the guitar speak to the heart. Maybe the nostalgic familiarity of the tunes is part of it, but there’s something in his expressive playing…just so heartening. Check him out with his latest arrangement: Romantic Flight from the film How to Train Your Dragon. #LikeSubscribeShare

2) Snow Days Turned to Spring – In Central Virginia, our snow days might be past us. Early Spring flowers are popping up and flowering trees are beginning to brighten the gray of our landscape here.

A friend pointed me to the poet Billy Collins and I’d like to present in contrast his “Snow Day” poem and his poem celebrating Spring entitled “Today”. The kids (above) are ours and the flowers (below) are in our yard/neighborhood.

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows
the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.
In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.
But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news
that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—
the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.
So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.
And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

“Today” – Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

3) Normal – What does that even mean? As we come up on a year physical distancing and wearing masks to keep COVID at bay, people don’t even talk anymore about a return to normal. Nor even about a new normal. We are reinventing normal. If we’re wise, we’re also looking “down the road” to where our choices today will lead.

Photo Credit: Old Comic Strip, Bill Watterston, Calvin and Hobbes

One issue for me is my struggle with reckless eating. COVID restrictions have not been my friend in this area. I overeat for about every reason possible – for recreation, out of boredom, when under stress, and even when happy. Food is just such a lovely go-to. Until this last year’s isolation pushed me to the highest weight I’ve ever been…but that’s again in the past.

In October I started seriously looking “down the road” to a life possibly shortened by my casual over-eating. Started using the My Fitness Pal app and asked for a Fitbit for Christmas. The non-Premium app is free and we caught a sale on the Fitbit.

After four months, I’m way below the highest weight I’ve ever been.

Do I miss the reckless eating? Absolutely! I miss McDonald’s double-cheeseburgers and fries. I miss Waffle House. I miss eating all I want. I miss Shyndigz fresh fruit cake and Piccola Italy‘s feta cheese and sausage pizza. One day those things will come back in my life… maybe. What I don’t miss is the normal of too often getting short of breath climbing hills and struggling to get up off the floor after playing with our grands. Also what I hope to miss is a stroke or…(almost hard to write this scary thing) dying from COVID because I put myself at even greater risk.

Now normal is weighing and logging food, eating less than I would before, listening to my brain when I’m actually full, and having only one cookie instead of 3…or 5. It all works out to a beautiful different…a new normal.

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The change in eating is one thing. Way more challenging is how to be in people’s lives with the struggle of physical distancing and Zoom fatigue. That I am still figuring out…but one shot down and one to go and it will become less of a challenge hopefully. And a different normal will emerge.

[Sidebar: There was a time in the not too distant past when I went off sugar for over a year. It happened, there was benefit, but I don’t want to repeat it. As I get more fit, do I miss the chew of a French baquette or a perfect frie? Absolutely. Sugar though is still a part of my daily intake…and there will come a day when I will enjoy my daughter’s birthday cake again and MomMom’s refrigerator coconut cake. Many times over. For now: a Kathy Kaye popcorn ball is enough. Sorry for the long sidebar – like confessing in an Overeaters Anonymous group. 🙂 ]

4) Relief vs. Rescue – Words mean things. The 2020 CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act)  and the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act reflect a difference in meaning and approach. I just want to focus on two words: relief vs. rescue. Relief communicates easing the pain or stress of someone in a difficult situation. Rescue communicates much more. Rescue is to come to the aid of someone who can’t help her/himself. Rescue is freeing or delivering someone from an impossible situation. Both describe a response but one is a greater response and a greater need. Can words be prescriptive? Making us think we have a greater need? Making us think we need a greater response? Making us think we are helpless without the intervention of government?

The power of words is well-known and well-documented.

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic.”Diane Setterfield

We can woo and cajole with words. We can speak with an authority that demands acquiescence. We can speak with such brilliance or passion that we must be believed.

Check out this little TikTok video below (forgive the thumbnail shot of the young woman; it’s the second woman, @thesavvy, you will see that brings the point). Now I haven’t done fact-checking, but she I believe. How about you?

Two educators I’ve discussed before also talk often on the power of words in our world. They are economics professor Glenn Loury and linguistics professor John McWhorter.Photo Credit: The Glenn Show; YouTube

We don’t agree on everything, BUT their authenticity and brilliance in calling out the use of words to move political agendas and change culture is super fascinating. See one of their videos linked below.

YouTube Video – In Defense of Knowledge – The Glenn Show – Blogging Heads – Glenn Loury and John McWhorter

YouTube Video – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Debate in U.S. Senate (C-SPAN) – February 2017 – just another example of the use of words to actually draw differing sides together.

5) Carefully Taught– The food for thought on this fave of the week is the painfully exquisite song from the Rogers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific. Classic movie released in 1958. Remade in 2001. The song You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught relates to an American military officer who has fallen in love with a young woman from the islands during WWII. He struggles with his own prejudice even in the face of his love for her. I saw the first movie sometime in my childhood. It was confusing for me then because I had not been raised to hate people different from me.

We are confronted right now with so much racism and presumed racism, it’s hard to know how to think critically on it or what to do definitively about it. Somehow we must separate the politics (driven to divide) from the persons (being used by those various platforms).
The song speaks to the incredible importance of parenting our children to choose love over hate; understanding over withdrawing. I do wonder if we are born with a bent toward racism…of choosing people who look like us, for whatever reason. Fortunately, if that’s the case, we don’t have to stay there. Parenting matters. Thankfully.

Photo Credit: Norman Rockwell

Six Words: ‘You’ve Got to Be Taught‘ Intolerance – Michele Norris – NPR

Are Racists Born or Raised? If You’re a Racist don’t Blame It on Your DNA – Grace Russo Bullaro

How I Learned to Care About Social Justice Growing Up Southern Baptist in Oklahoma – Mark Wingfield

YouTube Video – James Taylor – You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught

That’s all. Have a great week. Filled with people you love and those you can serve. It means a lot you stopped by.

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Bonuses:

The most extraordinary quote I’ve just discovered:

The question is not whether the things that happen to you are chance things or God’s things because, of course, they are both at once. There is no chance thing through which God cannot speak—even the walk from the house to the garage that you have walked ten thousand times before, even the moments when you cannot believe there is a God who speaks at all anywhere. He speaks, I believe, and the words he speaks are incarnate in the flesh and blood of our selves and of our own footsore and sacred journeys. We cannot live our lives constantly looking back, listening back, lest we be turned to pillars of longing and regret, but to live without listening at all is to live deaf to the fullness of the music. Sometimes we avoid listening for fear of what we may hear, sometimes for fear that we may hear nothing at all but the empty rattle of our own feet on the pavement. But be not affeard, says Caliban, nor is he the only one to say it. “Be not afraid,” says another, “for lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” He says he is with us on our journeys. He says he has been with us since each of our journeys began. Listen for him. Listen to the sweet and bitter airs of your present and your past for the sound of him. – Frederick Buechner, from The Sacred Journey and Listening to Your Life

YouTube Video – Without You – For King & Country – Ft. Courtney [If you’ve ever faced a cancer diagnosis or a critical illness – life and those we love take on an even deeper meeting. This song says it.]

The Hope that Sustained Tim Keller Through 2020 – Matt McCullough

Key takeaways from Atomic Habits by James Clear – Genevieve Deaconos

Just a little bit of James Taylor and Carole King…you’ll be glad you stayed:

Worship Wednesday – the Small Virtue of Humility – the Grand Journey of Self-Forgetfulness

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:3-8

Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”Jeremiah 9:23-24

I’m still making my way through a re-read of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Long over-due. Although the chapters are super short, each contains such a wealth of wisdom to think through and process.

In The Letters, a senior demon, Screwtape, is advising his nephew on how to draw away a young Englishman from his new-found faith in God, whom the demon calls The Enemy. The nephew is given strategies to muddle up “the patient’s” thinking on God and how one is to live, “loving our neighbors as ourselves”.

Chapter 14 (in just 3 pages) dissects the issues of humility, pride, and self-forgetfulness. We may think ourselves that humility is having and expressing a low regard of self, even self-deprecation. That is not humility. In the fullest sense, humility is a right understanding of God, other people and ourselves, in relation to all. God and others.

True humility is a growing awareness of how all things work together, including the hard things in life, and an appreciation of the good and glory in the world. Celebrating God, and His choosing to continue to display His goodness in all of life…in mine and yours, and throughout the natural world.

When we can pull our eyes off our own successes or, on the flip side, our challenges, perspective comes. Not puffing ourselves up or bringing yourselves down, but just seeing God everywhere. He purposefully and beautifully knit each of us together and His purposes are not thwarted.

Focused on God and others, we can live in a place of self-forgetfulness. Satan wants to destroy such peace by pressing us to ever compare, ever put ourselves down, or ever feel envy and longing regarding others’ good works. Or, if he can to even push us into pride, thinking more highly of ourselves, even though we operate out of the gifts and opportunities God gives us.

Here’s a bit of Screwtape’s instruction to Wormwood in the tempting of the young Christian:

“To anticipate the Enemy’s strategy, we must consider His aims. The Enemy wants to bring the man to a state of mind in which he could design the best cathedral in the world, and know it to be the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more (or less) or otherwise glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. The Enemy wants him, in the end, to be so free from any bias in his own favour that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbour’s talents – or in a sunrise, an elephant, or a waterfall.C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 14

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

Let’s worship the God who frees us from self as we turn our eyes each day, and through the day, onto Him. Why this old song? It speaks to troubled hearts. If humility is not where we live, our hearts become troubled – either in some embattled state of self-loathing or self-obsessing. We can live free of all that.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

Chorus:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
Over us sin no more hath dominion—
For more than conquerors we are!

Chorus

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Chorus*

Why did I call humility “a small virtue”? Because it doesn’t draw attention to itself. It points to God and to others. However, it doesn’t leave us out. We also get to be on this grand journey. We are flesh, so when God gives us the opportunity to do something amazing, we naively may say, “Wow, I did that!” Pride rears its head, even for a moment. We can then either beat ourselves for the pride and make ourselves small in some sort of false humility or…we regain perspective. “Wow, I got to do that! Thank You, God!” If it was someone else who “got to do that”, we rejoice the same. It is the beautiful sphere of self-forgetfulness.

The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness – Tim Keller

Room for everyone on the podium in a very real way…because God is at the foundation of every podium we will ever encounter. Actually, forget the podium. The ground is level at the foot of the Cross. We’ve all heard this. Humility is where we live it.

“The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less. Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself…True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings.”– Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness

Hallelujah!

Photo Credit: 2 Chron 714 Network, Facebook

*Lyrics – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Songwriter: Helen Howarth Lemmel

Humble and Kind – Restless Pilgrim Blog & Podcast on The Screwtape Letters – Chapter 14

YouTube Video – Blessed Self-Forgetfulness by Tim Keller – Edited Synopsis – 7 Minutes

YouTube Video – Lyric Video – Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus – Hillsong Worship

5 Friday Faves – Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, Reading, Moving On or Staying In Relationship, Recycling, and Home for the Holidays

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! For some, you may understand Christmas as just a fun, family-oriented holiday. It is so much more than that for many of us. Christmas commemorates the birth of the Messiah – the only son of almighty God. Christmas is huge for those who have experienced God coming close to humanity. Coming close to us in a sinless life, laid down in love for us. If you don’t know Jesus, consider getting to know Him, rather than just making the assumption you do. It (He) might change your life. He did mine.

1) Christmas Eve to Christmas Day – It’s looking somewhat different this year, but the things we hold dearest can still be celebrated.

  • Grandchildren  – bringing joy and wonder into every experience. Super sweet to have their parents around as well.
  • Friends and neighbors who make life fun are not deterred by the need to physically distance.
  • Baking goodies and playing games – still happening. Our grands are big enough that this year we played a new game. “Bring Baby Jesus Home” – we gathered the Jesus figures from all the nativities (I have a collection), and our littles (with help from their parents) “raced” to return them to the proper nativity.

  • Candlelight Christmas Eve Service – Every year at Movement Church, we have this lovely service. The worship center is normally packed with families and friends gathered for Christmas. We sing carols and light the last Advent candle. Then Pastor Cliff brings a Christmas devotional. Finally, we light our candles, passing the light from person to person. So thankful that we still had this worshipful time this week…albeit not quite together. Thanks, you who made it happen.

2) Reading – My husband asked for books for Christmas. Somewhere along the way, he lost his collection of Chronicles of Narnia.

He’s already reading it this afternoon.

The British author of Chronicles, C. S. Lewis, had this to say about reading:Photo Credit: RelicsWorld

“We seek an enlargement of our being. We want to be more than ourselves…Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realize the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors. We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less a self, is in prison. Literary experience heals the wound, without undermining the privilege, of individuality. In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do.”C. S. Lewis

Words: “We Seek an Enlargement of Our Being” – C. S. Lewis

What are you reading these days? Please comment below.

3) Moving On or Staying In Relationship – Holidays can be especially hard when we find ourselves in tough places with family or in a marriage. One writer and marriage counselor who has been instrumental in our married life is Gary L. Thomas. The book we always recommend to folks struggling in marriage is his: Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

Marriage and family rifts are the deepest heartache in life. The ripple effect is wide. Now, there are times, we find ourselves in this situations…not wanting it to be so. Thomas is very candid about these issues. Candid and kind.

He talks a lot about the life-altering decision of leaving a marriage. I was touched at how he described the losses that come at us blind when we divorce. All the history…gone. [Now maybe you hope it will be gone…I can understand that in abuse, for sure.] My mom and dad divorced when I wasn’t quite 6 years old. It was not amicable. In fact, I saw my dad once after that, and never again. I wrote letters to him for 20 years (at his last known address…never got a letter back so I figured he got them). At the birth of his first grandchild, when he didn’t respond even to that announcement, I stopped writing.

Anyway…I have dear friends separated from each other and family members deeply hurt with each other…so I listen, write, and pray…

Below, you’ll find some of what Dr. Thomas has said about marriage and the relationships attached to them.

“A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.”
Gary L. Thomas, A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.”  – Gary Thomas
“Love is not an emotion; it’s a policy and a commitment that we choose to keep in the harshest of circumstances. It’s something that can be learned and that we can grow in. Biblical love is not based on the worthiness of the person being loved—none of us deserves Christ’s sacrifice—but on the worthiness of the One who calls us to love: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).” – Gary L. Thomas, The Sacred Search: What If It’s Not about Who You Marry, But Why?
“Contempt is conceived with expectations. Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude. We can choose which one we will obsess over—expectations, or thanksgivings.”
Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?
“Just when we are most eager to make ourselves understood, we must strive to understand. Just when we seek to air our grievances, we must labor to comprehend an other’s hurt. Just when we want to point out the fallacies and abusive behavior of someone else, we must ruthlessly evaluate our own offensive attitudes and behaviors.”
Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage: What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?

 

4) Recycling – OK, here’s a question. Do you know anyone who works in a recycling plant? Now, I’m not talking about the very kind drivers of the big trucks that pick up our recycling every other week. I’m talking about someone who works, at any level, in the recycling industry. I haven’t. Yet, we have been recycling for a very long time, thinking we were helping the environment…doing what we could.

What if our recycling is ending up in landfills…if not our own but those in another country, China, for example?

The other side of our sacred holiday of Christmas is its full-out consumerism. We buy a lot of merchandise this time of year (less this year because of COVID). All kinds of stuff to give those we love. Besides the commercial packaging of said stuff, we also love to wrap or bag it in festive ways. It’s a heavy week for generating and processing recycling.

Now, like many of you, I love to reuse or repurpose things when possible. Especially, now, that I’m looking at the possibility that recycling may not be offsetting my use of materials. Not sure, but am becoming more suspicious.

So, more than ever, I am reusing whatever gift bags, bows, and boxes are left at my house after Christmas. This isn’t new around here. You can see in the image below a bag with a cut-out angel and a bag with a handsome young man‘s picture on it. We’ve had those bags since these two kids of ours were in high school. Now they are many years married and parents. It’s a small thing, but we’re rocking at the reusing aspect of recycling. How about you? I’m also still putting the recycling bin on the curb next time our neighborhood recycling truck comes around. I will keep believing…for now.

5) Home for the Holidays – Who is your “home for the holidays” person? Several in our family fit the bill, but this COVID year, the one in particular for us is our youngest son. Last night, he spent the night in his own bed at our house for the first time in over 9 months. He is a front-line worker and has his own place. Because of his situation and mine (being more at-risk), we have only visited more from a distance since mid-March. Some back-yard barbecues, and an occasional family dinner. He is so kind about wearing his mask except for eating. We miss him. This Christmas, we decided it would be really good to have him home. So…here’s our youngest, and our joy is full…he’s home. Hope you are able to connect with that person of yours…if not at home, then in as real a way as our modern lives allow.

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Be safe out there and enjoy the moments that make Christmas the best it’s meant to be.

Bonuses:

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man
I would do my part;
Yet what I can, I give him –
Give my heart.* – Christina Rossetti

The Remarkable Woman Behind “In the Bleak Midwinter” – Karen Swallow Prior

Who knew?! The Babylon Bee has a book out. Ever #TongueInCheek

Thankful for organizations who give us paths, all year but especially during the holidays, to give to those in need. Movement Food Drive:

The Christmas Star – the Great Conjunction – Facebook – Best image

Andrea Bocelli Sings ‘Silent Night’ in an Empty Cave, in Haunting Duet with His Own Echo

Monday Morning Moment – Searching Out the Truth in All the Voices

Photo Credit: Dunk, Flickr

I was talking to a friend recently about longing to be in dialogue where I can actually sort out what is true in all the public outcry.

She said, “Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.” It went right to my heart. I would find out later that this quote is credited to social activist Maggie Kuhn.

My shaky voice has kept me from writing, and even speaking on some of the issues we are facing today. Yet, the voices all around us are getting louder and louder.

We are in a season (I’m determined it is a season and not a new normal) where voices on the streets, messages on signs, even on facial masks are persuasive and divisive.

I’m committed to listening and searching out the truth of what people are saying…but.

Here’s the but:

As long as I’m still free to choose, I can’t support an organization or movement that seems to stir up hatred as part of its strategy. That might not be the intent, but…hatred bubbles up. Hatred for those seen as enemy, as culprit, as guilty with no presumption of innocence.

In the last month, my understanding of our society has grown enormously. Too many times, I’ve had to acknowledge: “I didn’t know.”

Watching the documentary 13th was riveting. This feature-length film exposes how after the passing of the 13th amendment on the abolishing of slavery, and then, decade after decade, the governmental and cultural undermining that decision right through to today. [If you aren’t inclined to watch “13th”, then take 10 minutes and watch Ryan DavisThis Is America.]

I have started realizing that the truth is although I wasn’t consciously racist, somehow culturally and spiritually, I have enjoyed privilege and have been indifferent to many in our country who are hurting.

This broke my heart. Even after years of working in a large public hospital in Atlanta, years working in community development, and years of what could be called Christian service. I lacked the compassion and critical thinking that, ironically, should have been clear and obvious in a life of following Jesus.

So where does that leave me…us? Have you struggled with the cultural messages you are hearing…about yourself, in particular, if you’re white? Have you wholeheartedly agreed with the messages? That we are at fault for all the terrible suffering we are seeing now (if we didn’t see it before), and we have to make it right? I don’t have an answer here…only more questions.

Systemic Racism Explained – Ryan Davis

I am so ready for an advancement of good in our country.

Dialogue. Civil discourse. Reasoning together. Searching for solutions…sustainable, dignifying solutions.

Here’s where I am right now. Listening to friends. Asking questions. Watching news reports and reading commentary. Looking for people who are speaking on the problems in our country, without power or profit agendas. People who seem to care, truly care, for the hurting, but who refuse to go the way of hatred.

An example of what helped to clear confusion for me was discovering the operating strategy of cultural Marxism.

“A collectivist application of Marxist class warfare along a far broader spectrum of identities, such as race, gender, and sexuality, as opposed to solely along class lines; intersectionality.
First, Marxism only spoke to the oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, but now men oppress women, whites oppress blacks, heterosexuals oppress homosexuals, the able-bodied oppress the disabled, & cisgendered folk oppress trans folk; WHO you are is irrelevant, all that matters now is WHAT you are, which groups you are a member of, your personhood reduced to your arbitrary characteristics, to that of an object; this is Cultural Marxism. –  Urban Dictionary

That is what I’m seeing in the loud and angry voices in the public arena right now. Class warfare. One group against another group. This is not the disruption that will enlarge any of us as Americans. We are all objectified by this kind of identification/definition. No justice in this. Only destruction and disunity.

The video below by theologian educator Dr. Voddie Baucham was enormously helpful for me to understand cultural Marxism. [I will warn you: he takes issue with the politics of a very popular US president.] His teaching actually gave me hope. Truth sets us free.

Be encouraged.

We can be a part of a redemptive work. Even with shaky voices and shaky knees. Our only recourse is NOT what the loudest voices call for…but we do need to listen to those who genuinely represent the hurting. And, most urgently, the hurting themselves.

Before closing, here are some of the voices that have encouraged and emboldened me in recent days. They are not all alike in their message, but they speak reason, love, and hope.

Rayshawn Graves. Bryan Stevenson. Scott Sauls. Anthony Bradley. Rolland Slade. Glenn Loury. Bevelyn Beatty. Senator Tim Scott. Darrell B. Harrison. Virgil Walker. Karen Swallow Prior. David Lyle. Jackie Hill Perry. Coleman Hughes. Jared Burwell. Tim Keller. Shelby Steele. Michael Catt. Keith Smith. John McWhorter. Voddie Baucham. Just to name a few.

I’d love to close with a few of the lyrics of Andrew Peterson‘s A White Man’s Lament for God’s Beloved:

“…the mercies of the Lord
Will be the chords to every song…
…it begins as I repent
And bow my head as I lament this broken world
‘Cause every victim, every villain
Was a precious little boy or little girl
This is me and this is you
This is the truth, if you believe it or not
You have always been beloved
They have always been beloved

George, Breonna, Ahmaud
All beloved of God

5 Ways Christians Are Getting Swept Into a Secular Worldview in This Cultural Moment – Natasha Crain