Saturday, January 9, 2021

Take Heart!

It was December 30th, 1944—just days from the New Year when Corrie ten Boom was released from Ravensbruck. Released from a Nazi concentration camp which stole from her her beloved sister, Betsie, and subjected her to horrors unparalleled. Corrie lived through perhaps the darkest time of humanity and walking out of this death camp she might have been quick to claim the New Year as her New Hope. She might have been sure 1945 would be better than 1944. But Corrie walked away—more likely, limped away — with her eyes fixed firmly on Jesus and the New Life only He can bring.

I know we are all feeling the weight of the world right now -- And it’s only the first week of January. This was my concern when I kept seeing the barrage of verbal hope being placed on the flip of our calendar year. Goodbye 2020, here’s to a New Year in 2021!
But, here we are: The start of a new year and yet so heartbroken and heavy for our nation. For our children. For our future. For ourselves. Whether it’s been the miserable covid or the continued mayhem of our country. Here we are.
Last week, on the eve of this New Year, my cousin buried her husband and my dad got news of his best friend’s passing. Heavy days for my family, but I’m sure we weren’t alone in these sad events. My guess is that even one week in and many of you have already been handed diagnoses, disappointments or, are right now, dealing with some kind of incredible burden.
Dear ones, we’ve got to stop looking to ourselves or our circumstances or our leaders … OR even to our new calendar year. They are not enough. They won’t be. They can’t be. These things will always fall short. Always.
Corrie’s sister, Betsie, died just two weeks before her freedom. In her final words in the final month of a horrific 1944, Betsie, eloquently encouraged her sister,
“we must tell them what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”
I know things are rough right now. I know we are all angry, outraged and, frankly, tired of the chaos and the constant issues.
But as Corrie said so beautifully, “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But TAKE HEART! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

[if you'd like to read more of Corrie's story, I encourage you to read her book, The Hiding Place. It is one of my all time favorites].

Friday, January 1, 2021

It Will All Be Okay

a church in Aurora, where I was staying this week

I just wanted to share a little story on this New Year’s Day. A story of something good. A story of something I hope encourages you. 

This past Tuesday I flew into Cleveland for a family funeral. Not a planned trip and definitely not the best of circumstances. After landing in Cleveland, I was standing in line at Hertz when, to my horror, I realized my wallet wasn’t in my purse or my bag or anywhere. I had a rental car waiting for me, but I had to get back on the shuttle and return to the terminal and to the Delta desk. Of course I was frantic. I couldn’t remember seeing my wallet since I had checked into the airport hours earlier in Atlanta. All of my identification, credit cards and money were gone—apparently somewhere between Atlanta and Cleveland. Here I was coming into town to “help out,” and I found myself, instead, totally helpless. And let me just admit, I don’t like to be helpless. Not one bit. I like to be the one helping. I like to be the one who swoops in and takes care … and takes over. But there I was stuck in the airport with no immediate options but to rely completely on others.


The driver of the shuttle saw me return and kindly asked if anything was wrong. I suppose my distress was pretty evident. I explained my predicament, saying I’d need to return to the terminal and find a Delta agent. He quickly reloaded my bag onto the bus and knowing I was probably near tears kept saying, “It’s okay miss, it’s going to be okay. These things have a way of working themselves out.” All the way back to the terminal he encouraged me with gentle words. As I jumped back off the shuttle, he shouted after me one more time, “I’m going to pray you find your wallet!” 



I didn't get his name. I sure wish I had, he was such a kind soul and I was so grateful for his words. In addition to the shuttle driver, I also need to give a sincere shout out to Delta Airlines. We have always loved this organization, but they were amazing as well. I guess it happens all the time, but it’s the first time it had happened to me. The people at the desk did everything in their power. They called the gate and checked the plane. One agent personally took off running to the departure gate and removed seat cushions as the plane was about to leave. He came back and told me how the new passengers were all helping search, some even holding their iPhone flashlights for him to see better. The Delta agents assisted me with the correct numbers to call and the websites to visit. In today’s fully automated world, this is not exactly an easy process to navigate. The Cleveland police were close by and they sent word to the other side of the airport to have someone check the restroom. On and on it went … all the while the Delta agents encouraged me “it would be okay.” 


Finally after an hour of communicating with Atlanta, my wallet was located. They assured me it was in a safe and secure location— albeit in a different city. Praise the Lord. The agents all celebrated with me. So sweet. Later that night, after checking into my hotel, another Delta agent called from Atlanta “just to check on me” and, one more time, assured me the wallet was secure. She repeated that same phrase, “don’t worry, we have it and it’s going to be okay.”



How many times in a long couple of hours had I been told those same words — it’s going to be okay.  Amazing. And sweet.  And much needed. Not only were these strangers wonderful, but I also have to acknowledge all the other people who came to my rescue—My sister Jess who had to make the unplanned hour drive to the airport to retrieve her big sister who, now without a license, was unable to rent a car. No fun for her as she was in town busily helping my parents ... as well as just having dropped off a meal for our extended family dealing with funeral arrangements and loss. What a can of worms I opened, right? What drama I had caused. But Jess gave me a ride and a credit card and my cousins gave me an extra car to use for the week and my kids helped me get Apple Pay and a credit card loaded on my phone and they sent me photos of my passport and when I got to the hotel, the people at the sweet little Aurora Inn were so kind — they even had a golden retriever behind the bar for me to pet!  While ordering food (and petting the dog) the gal taking my order heard a tiny bit of my story and responded with, you guessed it: “oh, I’m so sorry, but it’s going to be okay.” 


All that to say, I was well cared for—From Delta to my family to complete strangers. I ended up feeling greatly blessed in my need. I guess it’s true: Sometimes we have to become needy to receive certain blessings. 


All week long, I have been giving thanks for all the little things which had to come together to get me out of my pickle and allow me to love my family best I could. Today flying home my brother and niece dropped me off at the Cleveland airport not knowing exactly how that would work going through TSA with no identification except for my passport on my phone and my Delta app. Knowing the tricky situation, I had family members praying for me. And again, Delta was awesome. They gave me zero problem. Cleveland just opened up “Clear” and I was able to go right through security with just my eye print and fingerprint for identification, never needing the license. And it was, indeed, all okay.


I’m quickly pounding out my little story while up in the air headed back to Atlanta. The weather conditions are less than ideal. The plane is shaking and dipping something fierce.The (Delta) pilot, like everyone else this week, keeps assuring us from the cockpit, “don't worry folks, everything will be okay.” Seems almost impossible how many times I’ve heard that phrase this week. But these words of encouragement and all the acts of kindness from this week have me feeling overwhelmed today as I head back south. Staring out my airplane window I can hardly hold back the tears. Lots of emotions coursing through me thinking over the events of this week—Mostly, the tragedy in my cousin’s life burying her husband on the final day of 2020. The image of her four boys lined up in their suits at the funeral saying goodbye to their father. The extended family I saw and hugged this week. The family that had to stay home because of Covid precautions and distance. Spending New Year’s Eve last night with my parents who are aging and not leaving their home much  these days. My little mishap and all the caring people who helped. Even just being back home in Ohio (which always gets me). And here we all are in this New Year with all of our hopes for something better. Everyone’s hopes and wishes and words for a better year. Everyone’s prayers that it truly will “all be okay.” All of it. So much. It feels like so much.


Friends, I have to be honest, I don’t know if 2021 is going to bring something much better than 2020.
I don’t know that. I do know we are putting a whole lot of stock in the flipping of a calendar year. And I'm a little worried about this. I worry that we think all the hard and tragic things will miraculously come to an end because 2020 is behind us. I guess I’m not much of a realist, but even I think we have to be careful in what we place our hope. It’s not a new year. It won’t ever be a new year. If that’s the case, I’m afraid we are setting ourselves up for some great, great disappointment. No, our hope has nothing to do with January, it has everything to do with Jesus. And even Jesus doesn't promise perfect days ahead. In fact, He tells us "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. but take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33


And ...when we do encounter hard things in this next year--as I am certain we will--like my many new friends told me this week, I want to truly remember “it will all be okay.” 







Friday, December 4, 2020

what are you waiting for?

this year, we started our december with a few cases of positive covid in our home. i assure you, not an ideal start to the most wonderful time of the year. as i sit here and type this afternoon, i'm feeling a little weepy  my daughter calls it the covid cries.  weepy, but also wondering. i wonder if we are better or worse this year stepping into our final month of 2020.

has the covid world totally wrecked us? or, has it possibly awakened us?


has it given us over to anger or has it grabbed hold our attention?


has it brought forth our deepest fears or deepened our weakest faith?


it is the first week of advent — a time when the busy world begins to wind down--to be still. for many years, that “stillness” in early december felt almost laughable. as a mom of many, nothing ever felt very quiet or serene about my december. i hardly ever sat still and i could only long for an occasional silent night or two. but this year is decidedly different. 


regardless of confirmed covid or not, here we all are in a world where we’ve been told to stay home and schedule less. for the most part we aren’t planning much of anything. there are no big holiday gatherings or christmas concerts to attend. we aren’t packing ourselves into shopping places or meeting up with girlfriends at crammed coffee shops. the hustle and bustle looks quite different as we scroll websites and click on links promising perfect gifts. but is there any such thing to even be found in this world which feels as if it is quickly falling apart? can a fuzzy sweater or shiny new phone really do it for us this year? i’m guessing no.


but, like good christmas soldiers, we march on in our own way. we are trying.


i was in the grocery store before thanksgiving and wanted to applaud them for their valiant attempt: fake tinsel trees and bright displays everywhere, even some cheery christmas music interrupted with an occasional PSA kindly asking everyone to “do their part, wear their mask and remain six feet apart.”  but the masked shoppers with eyes averted scrambling up and down aisles just didn’t fit the fake festive. our happy holiday smiles a thing of last year. 


perhaps december looks different, but it makes me wonder if it's at least possible to be better this year at least in our being still? are we using this forced slow to better prepare our hearts and homes in expectancy for the One Perfect Gift … or are we just holed up in our homes at a loss, fearful and feeling the great angst and anxiety of these trying times? 


are we using this season to underscore our frustration or to understand better our need for Faith in a true Savior?  


we hang words like “hope” and “peace” and “joy” on our christmas trees desperately wanting to believe them. we set up our jolly santas and deck our halls with heartfelt desire. clearly, our world is seeking. seeking joy. seeking light. seeking comfort. seeking answers. maybe like never before. 


hopefully like never before.


our family has been cooped up since thanksgiving as covid has run through a few of us here. while i felt fine, but quarantined due to exposure, i was home so much these past couple of weeks. there’s hardly a square inch of our house which hasn’t been christmas-tized. all surfaces fair game for a little greenery or a bright string of lights. it’s like i’m forcing the light in. as if i alone can control the darkness of our current world adding one more flimsy 100 count of bright bulbs. 


but, like the perfect gifts promised on amazon, these christmas lights will never be enough. they simply cannot be. first off, they never seem to make it from one year to the next. i don’t know what happens up in our attic when i put them carefully away each year, but they return the next season not working. [if you have any tricks, i’m all ears]. have you ever completed an entire tree our a row of bushes only for them to all burn out just a day or two later? because that’s what temporary decorations do. because, dear ones, pretty baubles and boxed lights will never be enough. they remain only window dressing to a world which is in great need of something so much more. those trees or bushes with burnt out lights remind me of us when we attempt to deck ourselves with our earthly decor. we are seeking something the temporary cannot ever give us. seeking something which will always leave us afraid and anxious. it might appear shiny and bright for a time, but it, will dim like those utterly frustrating light strands up in my attic. 


if you’ve never done advent before, i encourage you to begin this year.  this is the first week and it’s not too late. advent means “to wait with expectancy.” it’s a time when our eyes and hearts turn forward to the birth of baby Jesus. a time when we fill our homes with extra light and we do our best to become still in the presence of His coming — the Holy Child. the Perfect Gift. the one who didn't leave us alone in our isolated houses and in our many fears, but who came down from heaven for covid, for cancer, for catastrophes, for a world crashing hard. who came for us. you. me. all of us. any of us. no matter what.


i know some of us are waiting for the vaccine. some of us (me!) are waiting to feel better. some are waiting for the year to just be the heck over. but all of this waiting points only to our true longing — the wait for a holy baby laying in a manger. we can  convince ourselves otherwise. we can busy ourselves with other things. we can even wrap ourselves up in the world's empty answers. but until we place Jesus at the center of our quest, we will always come  up short.


this year has been hard for so many. i hear the stories daily. it’s not just covid, it’s a world faltering in so many other ways as well. can we even deny it? we are burning down. burning out. burning through our weak attempts. and like those temporal strings of light, the answer is found elsewhere. 


see the Baby Jesus. 

seek the Love come down. 

unwrap the only Real Gift.

let the True Light come in.   


what are you waiting for? 

“I am the Light of the World, 

he who follows me shall not walk in darkness,but will have the light of life.”  john 8:12          


two advent devotionals i have used and love ---- 

1. the greatest gift: unwrapping the full love story of christmas - ann voskamp

2. come, let us adore Him - a daily advent devotional - paul tripp

Friday, November 20, 2020

Rescue. Rejoice. and Forget.


Last week our pastor, Jeff Norris, delivered a powerful sermon on remembering and forgetting. He asked the question: “Are we remembering the right things or are we forgetting what we should remember?” 


The text was based on Exodus 15, the story of the Israelites who were rescued out of Egypt and from under the bondage of Pharaoh. the Israelites for whom God parted the Red Sea and then closed it over the Egyptians in the their pursuit. Can you imagine the miraculous rescue? Can you imagine being one of those dusty-sandaled, well-saddled people fleeing for their lives only to have God show up in such an inconceivable way. Surely, if it that had been us, we'd never forget all God had done for us. Surely. 


As a little girl, I remember watching that scene in the TV movie The Ten Commandments. The networks started airing it yearly in the middle of my childhood and I have many memories sitting enthralled before it with my bowl of popcorn and my siblings. I not only watched it on TV countless times, but have probably read it in the Bible at least 100 times.  Even this past month, Bella has been studying it in school and we’ve been discussing with her. I'm fascinated with the story.


The scene itself is dramatic and moving, but the storyline of the Israelite people is what impacts me most these days in my adulthood. There they are — backed into a corner with no place to turn and God opens the Red Sea for them. They enter, cross, and are safe on the other side when God closes the water wall and they watch their enemies swiftly disappear into its depths. 


They are rescued miraculously … and they rejoice abundantly. 


They praise God, singing, "Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?"  Exodus 15:11


But, then … they forget


Within just 3 days of the sea opening for their redemption they begin again to grumble against God. And this repeats many times in their story. 


They forget. 


It’s this rescue, redemption, rejoicing … and then quickly forgetting pattern in the wilderness which I identify with most. As Jeff said from the pulpit: “They forget … and the Lord reminds … and they rejoice … and they forget … and the Lord reminds … and they rejoice … and they forget." It’s the rhythm of the human heart.”  Unfortunately, it’s the rhythm of THIS human’s heart. 


I want to remember the gospel and God’s glory, but, so often I find myself forgetting. And it’s the forgetting which leads to the grumbling. It’s the forgetting of His glory and our need to express gratitude which, just as it did with the Israelites, brings with it a great complaining spirit.  Jeff went on to preach, “God keeps providing to a people who keep forgetting.”


Yes, indeed, the rhythm of the human heart.


We are a forgetful people. We remember the things we shouldn't and forget the things we should. 


For those of you who like outlines, Jeff had two main points to his message ---

  1. The redeemed of the Lord rejoice when they remember the gospel. Saying, "gospel remembrance is a muscle we must exercise every single day.”
  2. The redeemed of the Lord grumble as they question the goodness of God. 
He ended last Sunday's sermon sharing his personal grief as he sees what is happening across America, in churches, and even in our church as people are forgetting — Forgetting who God is and what the gospel message is all about. He wasn't making any kind of political statement, but he shared the deep sadness in his pastor's heart as he witnesses those who are at such odds. He points us to 1 Peter 2:17, "Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor."  He points also to 1 Peter 3:15, "But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." 

What beautiful encouragement as we continue to work through our country's problems, positions and complexities —
Remember the gospel.
Remember God's goodness.
Remember to be grateful.
Remember to give response to the hope that is within us in gentleness and respect. 

Remember to remember. 


I invite you to listen. My words don’t begin to do justice to his message. It’s an important one as we continue to muck our way through 2020. It’s an encouraging one as we enter into this week of Thanksgiving. Israelites or Americans let us not forget the gospel and God’s goodness, and let’s not forget our response of gratitude. 


LINK: Jeff's message: The Glorious Power of Gospel Memory - Nov. 15th 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

{giving} thanks - in everything

in my 52 years of thanksgivings, i'm pretty sure this holiday has never been as important to celebrate as it is this year. 

seven years ago i did a little blog series called "30 days of {thanks}giving" for the entire month of november. each day i shared a photo and a few words of gratitude. i wish i had started that again this november in this 2020 year. but for a million reasons i missed that boat altogether. but in this past week or so,  i've found myself feeling a bit unanchored … untethered. like i knew there was something i was supposed to be doing, but just wasn't. i felt like i had walked into a room, but had forgotten the item for which i came — by the way, thanks to middle age,  that's happening a lot these days. it occurred to me this week that i'm smack dab in middle of november, but i've almost completely forgotten to give thanks. it's just not been on my mind as it usually has been in recent years. the truth is, 2020 has me a little distracted, dismayed and discouraged. 

but because i am a big believer in the philosophy of "it's-never-too-late-to-start," i am going to go ahead and kick off this idea for the next 10 days leading up to this year's thanksgiving. join me! write your own list this week. keep writing your gratitude down. keep saying it out loud. i learned long ago there is something specific about saying it out loud, writing it on paper or sharing it with friends. it just sticks better. 

i thought i really needed to improve my gratitude game in 2013 when i first did this series, but i had no idea how much more i would need it come 2020. could any of us ever have imagined a year quite like this? 

but here we are. and here we must be. and here we must choose to make of it what we can. 

if you're like me, the thought of thanksgiving this year and the christmas holiday which follows, has you feeling a little bit unsettled. this wonderful november day which has always been about gathering together,  holding close our loved ones, and being elbow to elbow and tight at the table. well, it pretty much feels shot to heck this year.  at least at first thought it sure does.

and it's like the rug has been pulled right out from underneath all of us. all across america. everywhere in the world. we are left grasping and groping in the dark of this country whether it be because of political stress or pandemic uncertainty. we are off kilter like never before. doesn't matter how we feel about the election results, we are all a bit weary just from watching the circus itself. and where normally we welcome the cooler winter days and the time tucked tight in our homes, this year, we fear what's ahead in these months of shorter days and more social distance. 

we can't plan well. we can't anticipate greatly. we can't execute easily. 

so what do we do? 

well, as much as i'd like to, i can't have you all over for dinner next week—truth is, we aren't having anyone over for dinner next week— but i can invite you all to the table of daily thanksgiving in these next ten days. 

from wherever you are — come and gather at the table of gratitude. 

even this year. even in this inconceivable 2020, there are blessings to be found, treasure to be unearthed and gifts to be received. i love how one local church here in atlanta has this phrase on their website: "socially distant, but spiritually close." 

yes, even in a pandemic and even in an unstable political climate, there are blessings to be brought forth if we are willing to go looking. and all of it stems from this word —THANKSGIVING. giving and thanking. thanking and giving. what a beautiful combination which cannot help but lead to a more hopeful heart.

"How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter into His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can't I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy- and seeing shows the way in.”  ~ Ann Voskamp
what is it to give thanks to God for the good, sweet, wonderful gifts of everyday living? for the little things. for the big things. for the obvious things. but, even more, what is it to give thanks for the hurting things and for the hard things. for the lonely things and for the things we've lost.  GIVE THANKS for all of it. everything.

it is a privilege and a blessing. it is life. 

because it's giving thanks for all things which turns the holy key and let's us, as ann voskamp said above, "enter the gates of glory."

we must see it.
we must seek it.
uncover the treasure locked up in everything.
not just the obvious beauty ...
                              ----- but {sometimes} the hidden blessing of the extremely hard.

do you believe we can give God thanks for all of it?

"in everything give thanks; 
for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." ~ 1 thessalonians 5:18

when i wrote this 7 years ago we were coming out of a hard place — a cancer diagnosis and treatment and a cross country move for our family. God took us through some crazy hard things to give us a glimpse of His glory. maybe that's what's happening for you today in 2020. what has He taken you and your family through? what hard place are you living in right now? 

when life feels ugly and we feel broken and beat up we don't always first think of THANKSGIVING. of course we don't. but everything in me wants to enter those gates of glory ... and if it takes a spirit of gratitude, than Lord, make me MORE grateful. make me see. give me a glimpse of your glory in a time such as this. even this. especially this. 

i won't tell you that thanking God for the hard is easy, because usually it isn't -- but it's good. always good.

i can tell you it's good because i've walked a little way down that particular path. i know it in the big things like my journey with cancer, but i know it also in the small things as well. i know it when the sink is piled high with dirty dishes and the toddler has his 5th ear infection and there's no milk in the fridge and the laundry stinks and the husband is travels and the bills pile up and the woman is worn down. i know giving thanks is good even in those every day, draining, ordinary, overwhelming kinds of things. i know it even when all i want to do is go to bed early and escape the ever continuing of the same old same old. 

giving thanks doesn't always change our circumstances,  but it always changes us.
yes, read it again:
giving thanks doesn't always change our circumstances,  but it always changes us.

i remember a moment, years ago — i was helping my little guy with some homework. it was hard for him. he wasn't getting it. defeated, we sat together at the kitchen table with our tears, frustrated words and bad attitudes. both of us. why couldn't he get this math? why did it have to be so hard? what was wrong? why him? why me? ever been there? i got up from the table to take a break and to go find myself a little piece of patience. i made myself a cup of tea and wandered off into the office where i had a note card sitting out on the desk. there it was in bold print staring at me: "in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." yep. there it was. in my own handwriting. black and white and convicting. and the tears began to fall. 

really, Lord?

give thanks in this? in third grade math? really?

i looked again at the words. IN EVERYTHING ...

i tried to find a loop hole. a way out. IN EVERYTHING ...

i tried ignore the card and focus elsewhere. IN EVERYTHING ...

i even tried to hide the card in a book close-by.  IN EVERYTHING ...

so with my head bowed low on that desk i gave thanks for this difficult math and for this struggling boy and for this frustrating hour at the kitchen table. i gave thanks. and as the words began to come -begrudgingly and falteringly at first -- finally, the thanksgiving began to pour forth. and the more i gave thanks the easier it became to see something good in this ordinary--but hard--mothering moment.

it's not magic. it's not a mystery. it's meeting Jesus.
Jesus gets the glory when we give the thanks ... but we get the gift when we see His glory revealed  --- even in the hard, small, bitter bites of life.
so, my challenge in these next ten days ahead --

let's not race around as we head for the table. let's take our time. let's treat it like treasure. let's hunt together for the gifts that God has so richly given even in 2020. let's look at our minutes and our hours and our tasks and our trials with new eyes. eyes that are willing and wanting to see ... to really see every good thing God has provided … even in this time of pandemic and political unrest.

let's be mindful. prayerful. grateful. thankful. in all things. every thing. even the things which cause us to put our heads down on the desk and cry. give Him thanks. 


"praise the Lord! 
GIVE THANKS 
TO THE LORD, 
for He is good! 
His faithful love endures forever." ~ psalm 106:1 

"all that we behold is full of blessings."  ~william wordsworth

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

decision 2020: honor, dignity, compassion + peace

i spent time today working on our school’s veterans day program which will be held next week. it’s a program which for the past 25 years has been honoring those who have given service to the protection of our great country. each year it honors hundreds and hundreds of men and women. it is one of the best days of the year. i don’t have words to explain the beauty of veterans day at perimeter school, but it will be live-streamed next week and i promise to invite you all to watch.

as i worked on program elements today, i couldn't help but think about so many of the men and women i've had the privilege to meet over the many years of directing. so many faces and stories. and i'm heartbroken wondering what they must be feeling lately if they’ve paid even a bit of attention to what is going on in our country — all the anger and angst. all the ugliness.

these men and women who have been willing to sacrifice their lives for this great nation, for freedom, for you, for me. what must they be feeling to read and hear some of the anti-american rant and the negativity which surrounds. perhaps you haven’t had the opportunity to sit at the feet of someone who has served and sacrificed or the chance to be in the presence of someone who watched their brother or best friend lay down his life. maybe there hasn't ever been a chance to stare into the eyes of an 85 year old man who had to leave his home at 18 and grow up fast. it might change the way we use our words and the attitude of our lack of appreciation.

regardless of your opinion on the issues, regardless of the candidate for whom you cast your vote, regardless of your convictions, regardless of your desire for change, regardless of what happens this evening, regardless of your party … please, friends, let us do our part. each one of us. we can each be responsible for ourselves.

there is a certain dignity, respect and compassion which is missing from so many on both sides of our political fence. i refuse to see it as one person or one party’s fault, but as the collective downfall of our out-of-control culture. and, unless, we change the direction of our words and the destructiveness of our ways, down we will certainly fall. down and down and down. and, i'm afraid to say, this will have little do with who wins the race at the end of the day. we will all—each one of us—lose. 

but let us, instead, walk into this evening in a spirit of humility. let us check our pride and all opportunities for provocation at the door. let us, instead, honor those who have gone before us. honor those who are figuring it out with us. honor those who are doing their best for us. honor those who have come to different conclusions. honor those we can’t completely understand. honor those who are like us and those who are not. honor the one who created and sustains each one of us — honor God.

honor. dignity. compassion and peace. respect. encouragement. grace. mercy and humility. let these be the words we write in our personal narrative tonight. 


Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, havingthe same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

philippians 2:1-11



may God bless America!


Thursday, October 29, 2020

hurricane rain

i woke this morning at 4am to the sounds of hurricane rain. all these years in atlanta, and, still, i struggle to wrap my brain around the fact that even this far inland ocean storms can impact us so dramatically.

with that first weighty clunk of mysterious debris hard against our bedroom wall, i was wide awake. when things are flying around outside your window in the dark hours of early morning your attention is easily captured. 


coffee in hand and fireplace cranked high i sat down to watch it unfold.

 
nature is something grand and beautiful to behold …  breathtaking … especially with the option to look out from safely within. 


i suppose i’m a strange type of storm-chaser. though i prefer a gentler rain, i still love even the sound of rain coming heavy against the house. it’s more than just feeling cozy with my coffee and fire. no, it’s not a promise of full protection, but an assurance of shelter and a reminder to give thanks for the walls and roof and foundation. 

a reminder to give thanks. 


brick and mortar aren’t everything. they too have chinks and gaps and holes. they too can be brought down hard in a hurricane. 


like all of us. 


all of us with our weak spots and our worn out places. all of us with our host of vulnerabilities and our human fragilities. ultimately, it comes down to our foundation. 


on what have we built our lives?


more importantly, on Whom?



i am reminded this morning of the words of Jesus in matthew 7 —


“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”  


i don’t know about you, but my guess is no matter what your weather forecast today you know full well what it means to feel the “blew and beat” of strong winds on your house. 


HOW we build our house and WHERE we build it matters. 

but on WHOM we build it matters most.


not its size, but its solidity.

not its frills, but its firm foundation.

not its decor, but its depth.


“unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”  psalm 127:1


the storms come crazy and shake loose all things left unhinged and un-footed. anything unanchored is fair game for a storm of this magnitude. as the windows rattle and the trees bend low, i am certain in these hurricane times, more than ever before, our firm foundation is of dire importance -- it is a matter of life and death. do we build on our created selves or on the One who created?


lately with everything going on in our country — the fear of covid, the failure of politics, the frustration of friends and family —we are all feeling more than a little unhitched and unsteady in our steps. even in our bold claims and public certainty, most of us remain privately unsure because our world proves itself a gigantic pot of the great unknown. a pot stirring an anxious soup of no solid and sure answers.


we won’t get into all that, but what i am reminded of this stormy morning is the need, more than ever, to place our trust in the Solid and the Sure   the Rock which is Jesus. a life built on Him steadies and beautifully fills in the gaps, flaws, deficiencies, and shortcomings of our humanity. no, it doesn't promise a perfect life, it promises something even better --- eternal life. 


it is Jesus, alone, who provides a firm footing for our tenuous steps in tempest-type storms. 


He is the Rock — the Cornerstone which the builders rejected. the only sure thing our lives can be built upon. not platform or policies or politicians or programs or people with grand promises … only Jesus. 

Jesus, The Rock of our Salvation. 


“for no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”  1 corinthians 3:11

 

“from the end of the earth i call to you when my heart is faint. lead me to the ROCK that is higher than i.” psalm 61:2


these words pour out this morning completely unplanned, but if you hear a note of pleading, you hear correctly. politics absolutely aside, i fear we chase the empty promises this world wants to whisper into our wide-open and hard-wishing, hope-wanting souls. 


whispers empty, but damaging, as the wind outside my window this morning. 


dear ones, let us not chase wind, but let us cling to rock.


i invite you to listen to louie giglio's unshakable sermon series from last week. it goes right along with what i've written today. but, i promise you, he says it all a million times better! here's the link!   "a chip off the old block"