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! 
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" 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

the year i didn't vote

Save money at local restaurants with an 'I voted' sticker | The Wichita  Eaglei didn’t vote in the last presidential election. i couldn’t. physically i showed up and even stood in line for a bit, but unable to make myself enter the building, i, instead, climbed back into my car heavy-hearted, tearful and under a thick blanket of shame. 

and for days, weeks, even months … i felt pretty embarrassed that i had failed to accomplish what those before me had fought for with such passion. voting is not just a right, it’s a privilege. and, what’s more, it’s my civic responsibility. 

if my lessons in history serve me correctly, it’s a right women didn’t possess until exactly 100 years ago when in 1920 the women’s suffrage movement resulted in the 19th amendment. 

i felt like a disappointment to my womanhood, to my country and, mostly, to myself.

our country’s freedom is rooted in this constitutional right. we live in a free country. no, it is not free from problems. it is not free from division. it is not free from injustice. it is not free from disagreements or bad decisions. it is not free from strife or ugliness or atrocities.

but, friends, let us never forget it is FREE. 

and voting is one thing all of us can do to protect that freedom. 

all the way home from that polling place four years ago i kept thinking about the phrase which is so popular in the month of november when we celebrate our veterans —“freedom is not free.” i believe that. i believe it deeply. i believe that there is a cost and a price to pay for the things we so easily and quickly take for granted. and if men and women are willing to risk their lives and fight for our country, why wasn’t i able to make myself enter a makeshift polling booth and check a simple box? 

it was ridiculous. inconceivable. embarrassing.

i was asked to cast my vote, not lay my life on the line and yet, i couldn’t. the battle within me felt so great that year. i struggled prodigiously with both candidates. without going into all the details, it came down to the fact that i didn’t agree with hillary clinton’s platform, and i didn’t like donald trump’s person. there. there it is. i said it. 

yes, it’s a very simplistic version of what i was wrestling with, but too simple or not, it’s where i was that year. and i’m writing this today because i believe i wasn’t alone 4 years ago and i am not alone today. 

but that shameful moment in the last election, has compelled me to spend more time researching, listening, reading and watching in this current presidential race. 

and because God works in such amazing ways, just this past week i received a gift in an unlikely place—my youngest daughter’s history class. i was helping her study for a big test on ancient history. they’ve been spending a good deal of time making connections between ancient history and the old testament in the bible. one of the essay questions that students were to prepare for asked “what kind of people does God use to accomplish His glory?” 

when i asked bella the question she quickly answered, “God doesn’t use perfect people, He uses messy people. He uses broken people and people who do and say dumb things and make bad decisions sometimes.” in this essay question she was going to have to give three examples of people that demonstrated this and so we went on to discuss the different people her class had been studying. 

[abraham] the father of many nations, was childless and old as dirt when God approached him with His plan. abraham grew up worshipping man-made idols and yet he was the one with whom God chose to make His covenant and bring forth the line Israel and, ultimately, Jesus. when God first presented abraham with this promise of a great nation, the bible says abraham and his wife laughed at God. an ideal candidate? absolutely not.

[joseph] we know the story of joseph: one of the youngest of the 12 sons of jacob. his brothers threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery. as a slave in egypt he found himself imprisoned and yet rose to a position of importance and power. and yet it was joseph who ultimately set the stage for the story of the israelites and their exodus out of egypt with moses.

bella didn’t mention moses in her essay, but he was another one. a man who began his life with a death warrant and had to be abandoned by his family in a woven basket floating down the nile river. a man who in anger murdered an eqyptian and hid the body in sand. a man who had problems with his speech and probably his confidence, but a humble man whom God mightily used to lead the israelites out of egypt and to the promised land.

[david] a king who got his start as a mere shepherd boy. a boy who defeated the giant goliath with a rough stone and sling. the boy who grew into a man who made the mistake of sleeping with bathsheba, killing her husband and tangling himself up in a web of lies. david, a pretty messy man, but who, in his brokenness and sin, penned many of the psalms that sum up our own internal struggles today. david an earthly king who was called  “a man after God’s own heart.” 

are you kidding me? none of these men of faith had pristine backgrounds or perfect track records. not one of them would have been voted as "most likely to succeed" in their senior year of high school. in fact, they probably wouldn't have been voted on for anything. the list of their mistakes and problems is egregious. and the list of people God uses in the bible that are just like them is even greater. God loves to use the sinner for His purposes of salvation. that is the story of the bible in its essence—God bringing redemption in a rogue world overflowing with rebellious people. and it's good news for us today! the only perfect, sinless person to walk this earth was His own son, Jesus. the rest of us … well, forget about it. none of us are without blemish and blame. and yet God in His goodness rescues us and offers to replace our ugliness with His beautiful work of redemption. and, regardless our track record, He gives us the gift of freedom in Him. not because we deserve it, but because He has decreed it. He is God.

my hope is not placed with a candidate on the ballot, it is with Christ who died on the cross for my sins. my security doesn’t rest in the one who ultimately sits in the oval office, but is resolute in the One who sits Holy on His throne in heaven. yes, the election matters. it matters deeply, but, loved ones, take heart: God is in control. He will use the broken person He allows to be called president. 

what’s more, we don’t have to fear it. our days will not be one more or one less than what God has ordained and written in His book. clearly, fear is running rampant in our country right now. gosh, so much of what i’m hearing feels desperate. but let our desperation, dear ones, lead us not to scrutinize the candidates, but let it first lead us to the scrutiny of our own hearts. this world will come to a crashing end and not because of any president’s poor decisions but because of our Holy God’s promise. 

our rescue won’t come in making our country “right.” i'm afraid no man or woman in office can make it so. rescue comes when we become right with God. not perfect, not sinless, but right.    

i will vote for donald trump in this election. and, again, not because i like how he always conducts himself or communicates. in my opinion, he can be unpleasant, even unpalatable. if you aren’t a trump fan, gosh, i get it. he has made some major mistakes. he offends and he frustrates. but after spending time digging deeper into what is behind this man and his crass exterior, i have arrived at a peace because it is not about him. my research has led me to feel confident that he is surrounding himself with people who are, by no means perfect, but humbly pursuing more biblical values. and, at the end of the day,  these are the values which matter most to me. 

that doesn’t mean i don’t see the unsightly chinks in his armor, friends. no need to give me a long list of his faults and unseemly behaviors. i promise, i’ve done my research, i’ve listened to both sides, i know what they are.  i know i am not voting for a perfect president, i am resting in the fact that my perfect God uses imperfect people to accomplish His plan and His glory. 

i’m pretty sure the people of israel also found great fault with moses as he led them out of egypt and david as he ruled them from his throne in jerusalem. our hope is not--and has never beenin mere man, but in the Maker of all men.

maybe you aren't worried about what the bible has to say. and if that's the case, i'm quite sure what i've written here is nothing but nonsense to you. if you aren't following God why would His Word shape your views? it wouldn't. it won't. it can't. the two go hand-in-hand. if you follow God, you follow His Word. if you follow His Word, it is because you are following God. outside of that, all bets are off. i couldn't agree more--none of this can make a bit of sense if that's not the case. even the bible says "the message of the cross is foolishness" to those who don't believe. (1 corinthians 1:18).

i haven't ever been very vocal about my voting choices or my politics partly because i don't want to turn off or away those who people who think differently. i want my friends and family on all sides of the issues to know i'm squarely in their corner. even if we don't line up on who we follow or what we believe, it doesn't change my love for them … not even my respect. in a spirit of humility, i'll say it once and i'll it a thousand times: as a Christ follower i care far more who you LIVE FOR than who you choose to VOTE FOR.  making the God of heaven known to you is far more important to me than making known the man of earth for whom i will vote. 

if you've read this this far, thank you. thank you for giving me a chance to express my thoughts and share my feelings. i want to assure you, whatever you choose to do on election day, i will not sit in judgment of you and i have no animosity toward you. none whatsoever. 

this year, with the beautiful reminder that my God brings victory in broken and very unlikely places — like in this world and like in me — this year, this year i will vote. 

"but the Lord sits enthroned forever; He has established His throne for justice."  - psalm 9:7

Monday, October 5, 2020

going to church together

we grew up going to church with our grandparents. i don't know about my siblings, but i can say with absolute certainty that, as a child, it was something i completely took for granted. we were always there together — siblings, parents and grandparents and sometimes even my aunt, uncle and cousins. my grandpa often lead prayer or bible readings from the pulpit and my grandmother was the church organist for as long as i can remember. it was a small church and so our big family all played an essential part. i’m pretty sure, at one point, my siblings and i made up over half the youth group. it was the church where i got to be mary in the christmas program and so did my younger sister the following year. there wasn’t a lot of competition. i can’t sing worth a lick, but, yep, it was this church which granted me the chance to sing a solo and, more than once, a duet with my sister or friend beth (she and her brother were the other half of our youth group ... and i'm sure she got to be mary in the christmas program at least one year too).

growing up, that was church for me. 

today the way we attend church in our family looks different. it’s great and we love it dearly, but it doesn’t include grandparents or extended family for us. not ever. we attend a big church in atlanta about 700 miles away from my parents. we haven’t gone to church with them regularly in over 20 years. and sometimes that makes me incredibly sad. there’s something about the gift of worshipping with family — grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. like when i was growing up — generations piled into a pew.

i have no one to blame but myself. we were the ones to move away. 

we came south two decades ago with the plan to stay only a little while and here we still are. and sometimes i look around and see big extended families at church together or brunch together or holidays together and i physically grieve for the fact that my own is so scattered across the united states — north, south, east and west.

i’ll sometimes send my family sermons or encourage them to listen to something inspirational, but it’s not the same. 

however, this weekend it occurred to me that 2020 has given me a gift where church and family are concerned. 

i’ve heard many descriptions of this infamous year. i’ve seen the memes and the t-shirts and the social media posts. people want to skip it. end it. abolish it altogether. they want to put up the christmas tree and call it a year. fast forward the remaining calendar months and move on to 2021. i get it. i feel similar. it’s been one for the record books. and, october or not, it doesn't feel close to being over. 

i don’t disagree with all the frustration and negative feelings, but i do think this year has been a good teacher of how to look for silver linings. and this past weekend one of them became clear to me. 

because of covid-19 and churches closing down for a bit we’ve been watching our perimeter church online and many sundays my parents have chosen to listen to our atlanta church as well. even though they are up in ohio we’ve had the chance to experience the same preaching because of online church. this past sunday, after the service was over, my dad texted me something from the sermon and i about burst into tears. there’s something to be said for sharing worship and God’s word with loved ones. near … or far. 

i don’t have a lot of good to say about the year 2020, but i do know that if we look hard enough we can find some blessings in all of this craziness. and finding those just might be key to making it through. 

i woke this morning with new resolve to be more open to what God will do with the hard things in this year. what gifts does He have for us? what good things can be unearthed when hearts are willing to see? He has shown Himself faithful in hard places before. Hard can, and often does, become Holy when we are willing to see it through the lens of our Holy God. 

i think of that verse in genesis when joseph had an exceptionally bad year — many years, actually. you know, the year when his brothers sold him into slavery and completely turned their backs on him. the year that while a slave in egypt, he found himself framed for a crime he didn’t commit. the year he was thrown unjustly into prison. yes, it’s pretty safe to say, it was his worst year ever. but when he finally came through it and came face to face with his brothers, he rejected all bitterness and, instead, saw it through the lens of his Holy God and embraced his family with these words:

“you intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” genesis 50:20

i know things are hard. i know 2020 has been an absolute mess. i know there’s fear and frustration and anxiety and anger all rampant and on the rise. but even now, 7 months in, let’s keep our eyes and hearts open to finding something worth celebrating. 

and let’s worship … together …  the One who can and will make it good.