Jesus, life

With God as our Father.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Remember when we were allowed to sing songs like that in school?

My tone-deaf, little elementary school heart would sing every word with gusto.

I thought back to those tender days this morning, curled up on my sofa with the first snow of the season falling, scrolling facebook with one hand and holding a hot cup of coffee (cream, cinnamon and the slightest drizzle of maple syrup) in the other.

Someone posted this:

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I smiled.

Hard to do when they are in your face, I thought as I scrolled by, but amen.

Then came this, posted by the same woman:

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And I smiled at her second offering of peace and goodwill.

Yes, I thought, it’s not a matter of whether you are a democrat or a republican, it’s not a matter of how you voted, it’s a matter of whether or not you have the love of God in your heart. People in each camp do, people in each camp don’t.

And then my heart grew heavy.

“Nope. None of that,” her own daughter wrote. “Racist, misogynist or xenophobe, and/or vote for people who are intolerant of diversity? I don’t need you in my life. I especially don’t need you in my children’s lives. I will not normalize intolerance. Hate does not get a seat at the table.”

Wait, where’s your tolerance for diversity of opinion?

Isn’t normalizing intolerance exactly what you’re doing, exactly what you’re modeling for your children?

Does this mean your mom doesn’t get a seat at your table?

It sounds like she hates her mom, who likely didn’t vote as she did.

Yet I know her mom would not deny her a seat at her table.

Which brought my thoughts back to Mother Teresa.

I felt achingly sad:

For the mom whose Shalom and was met with anger.

For me.

For all of us.

I kept scrolling.

Another lovely woman posted this:

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Lots of people are getting an “F” these days.

I’m not getting an “F”,” I can hear you huff, “because mine is the morally superior view.”

It’s not about views, it’s about behavior.

It’s about a lack of respect for others; it’s about hate for those you deem morally inferior; it’s about the unforgiveness you harbor in your heart.  There’s no “A” in that.

Resist the urge to tell me about anyone else’s heart (which you cannot possibly know), and exam yours.  Take the log out of your eye so you can see clearly.

Loving your enemy is the high road.  That’s where love travels.

There is no love in prideful claims of moral superiority.

There is no peace in them either.

I would love for there to be peace on earth, and there will be.

But first there will be increasing strife.

In telling His disciples about the end times, Jesus said:

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:12

I would love for it to begin with me, but it won’t, it didn’t.

It began with a humble birth in a barn and it ended with a humble death on a cross.

Jesus won our peace – quietly, humbly, respectfully.

As I was pondering all this, my heart grew much heavier.

My daughter called.

She didn’t want me to be alarmed if I checked “Find My Friends” and saw her at the hospital.

She left work and was on her way there because someone close to her attempted suicide this morning, is on life support and is not expected to make it.

I hung up the phone and sobbed.

The ache in my heart became almost unbearable.

There are people who are hurting so much that they attempt to take their own lives and there are people huddled in hospital waiting rooms with broken hearts and there are people who take their morally superior attitudes online and post angry comments.

Shalom.

I recently learned a richer meaning of the word “shalom”.   It’s more than an absence of hostility, it’s a state of wellness.  In A Life Beyond Amazing, Dr. David Jeremiah wrote, “Its basic meaning is ‘to be whole, or safe, or sound.’ Shalom designates a condition in which life can best be lived. It is the concept of integrity; body, soul and spirit are in alignment. In shalom, you have more than the absence of hostility. You have a quality of life that nurtures peace.

Oh that we would all have a quality of life that nurtures peace.

Ever since I read that definition, I’ve been praying shalom over everything – the election, Dixie’s belly…

Just now I am praying shalom over the young man on life support: a miraculous recovery, solid ground going forward, wellness of body, soul and spirit.

I’m praying safe and sound over his shattered parents, siblings, children and all who love him. I’m asking for the peace that is beyond our understanding; that seems so impossible at times like these.

I’m praying shalom over my own heavy heart.

I’m praying His kingdom come, His will be done here on this messed up earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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faith, life

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

There’s not much to do when the heat index is 105 degrees so we went to a movie, a documentary, actually, about Fred Rogers.  

I loved Mr. Rogers when I was a kid, I watched him everyday.  I credit him for shaping me into the kindhearted individual I am – or at least was. 

To quote Ouiser Boudreaux (Steel Magnolias), “I’m not as sweet as I used to be.”

I loved Mr. Rogers as a kid, but I didn’t realize his brilliance until I sat in that air conditioned movie theater on Saturday.

Mr. Rogers planted a seed deep in my heart which sprouted into a belief that God loves me,  even though he never mentioned God.  In fact, I didn’t know that he was an ordained minister until I was an adult.

All I knew as a kid was that a kind man who cared about kids, who cared about me, was out there and my little-kid brain extrapolated that into believing a kind God, who cares about kids, who cares about me, is out there, too.

We evangelicals of the 80’s and 90’s had it wrong.

Back when I was a fully indoctrinated evangelical, I was taught that God’s name had to be blatantly emblazoned upon a thing in order for it to be “Christian.”

Christian music had to mention His name, repeatedly.

Christian authors were suspect if their writings didn’t include doctrinally approved Christianese.

But then I started to listen to God more closely.  He said He is Love.  He said He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  My adult brain began to extrapolate that to all that is loving, true and life-giving.

A song about forgiveness is a song about God.

A writing that is noble, pure and true is a writing about God.

A movie that spurs me on toward love and good deeds is a movie about God.

On the way home my daughter said, “My favorite part of the movie was when the minister said Fred’s show preached a better sermon than anything you hear from a pulpit.”

Amen.

“Fred’s work,” he said, “was love your neighbor and love yourself. It was a communication right into their hearts.”

Right into my heart.

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

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family, love, the friends

Sacrificial Gifts

A few weeks before Christmas my daughter texted me a picture of Sorel Slimpack II Waterproof Boots – in case I needed a gift idea.

I had already bought her gifts but I was tempted to buy just one more.  Except the hub said we needed to scale back this year due to all the vet bills.  So I resisted.

The Monday before Christmas I stood at the pharmacy counter with a prescription for a colonoscopy prep kit – the same kind my husband used back in October when he had his colonoscopy.  The kind that is a lot easier to take than the Golytely jug I’ve used in the past.

“Your insurance doesn’t cover this one,” the pharmacist said, “it will be $100.”

“What?” “Is that how much my husband paid back in October?”

She checked her computer.

“He paid $86, he had a coupon. I’ll try applying that same coupon code to yours.”

With the coupon it would be $91.  The price must have gone up she said.

“Is there another kind that my insurance will cover?”

She advised me to call the doc’s office and ask them to authorize a switch.

Golytely. The dreaded 4 litre jug.

Dreaded but 100% covered.

I texted the hub.  He said go ahead and pay the $91.

But then I remembered the boots. I was willing to suffer for the boots.

So I took home the jug.

The day after the colonoscopy I went to Nordstrom to purchase the boots – for $145.

“I thought I saw them on sale on your website for $114,” I said, as the clerk rang them up.

Apparently not.

As I was leaving the mall I spotted the same boots at another store – on sale for $109.

Back to Nordstrom to return, then back to Journeys to buy.

Those 8 hours of gut-wrenching misery – literally – paid for all but $18 of the boots.  The hub could live with it.

Sacrificial Giving

As we were heading to the theater to see the matinee showing of La La Land the day after Christmas, I told my daughter the story of the boots – my own small version of the Gift of the Magi.  Not because I wanted a medal or anything, but because I wanted her to know the depth of my love. And because giving a sacrificial gift felt so good, I thought receiving one might feel good, too.  Judging by the expression on her face at the end of my story, I think it did.

Same Love, Different Scenario

That evening, after dinner, I said, “Time for family goodness.” (“Family goodness” = all of us taking the friends for a walk.  One of us takes the hound, another takes the beagle and the third is on bag duty…”)

“It’s almost dark,” the hub said, sitting comfortably on the sofa watching some sort of sport on tv.

“Bring a flashlight,” I replied.

My daughter didn’t say anything, but the look she flashed revealed that she wasn’t thrilled either.

It was a rare 50 degree day in December and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to walk the little beagle. She cannot tolerate the cold anymore and getting oxygen to her lungs is so important.  I had been waiting all day for the rain to stop so we could take her.  It was still drizzling when I made my announcement, but it was getting dark and the window was closing.

“Come on,” I said.

As my daughter put on her coat she said, “You’re never going to be satisfied with the manner in which I parent your granddogs.”

“I just won’t come over,” I replied.

She continued, “Because I’m going to treat my dogs just like the rest of the country does.”

It snowed 8 inches the weekend before Christmas.  I bundled the beagle up and took her for a walk a few days later when the temp rose to 32 degrees.  She begged to romp through the woods.  “Sorry, little Be,” I said, “but your legs are too short, your belly will drag through the snow and you’ll get too cold.” I promised her that once the snow diminished enough we would take a walk through the woods.

And on that rainy, 50 degree day after Christmas when the snow was just about gone, we did.

The five of us took a walk through the woods, the hub carrying a flashlight and me using the flashlight on my iPhone.

It felt good to keep a promise.

It felt good to take my friends for a damp, drizzly, sacrificial walk in the woods.

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It’s all the same.

I thought about my daughter’s comments as I was unloading the dishwasher the next morning.

It’s all the same love, baby girl, I thought.  The same quality of love that bought your boots kept its promise to the Be.

It’s that way with God, too.  The quality of His love is always the same  – whether He is extending it to the saint or the sinner.

It isn’t about how lovable we are, it’s about how able to love He is.

And I so love Him. ❤

#nomoping

 

 

 

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life

Killing It

I was there the day my dad shut the door of his vacated apartment for the last time. He had moved from one floor of the Riverside Presbyterian Apartments, Jacksonville Florida, to another.  Before he turned in his key, he wanted to do just a few final chores.

I helped him. He was meticulously clean and tidy so scrubbing out his tub would be a piece of cake. Except, back then, for me, nothing  was a piece of cake. So even though the tub wasn’t dirty,  I scrubbed it as though it was.

As I worked an old toothbrush into every clean crevice, my dad walked past and casually laid down a sentence that felt like a punch in the gut. A casual sentence that made my life a whole lot easier. Eventually.

“Don’t get all alcoholic about it.”

What?  My thoughts reeled, I’m not all alcoholic.

I backed off on my scrubbing and gave the tub a rinse.

It took a few years, but those 6 expertly placed wounding words cured me of my perfectionism.

Before those words I took pride in perfection.

But my brilliant dad paired my perfectionism with his disease.

Perfectionism suddenly became imperfection.

And I certainly did not want to be lumped with imperfection.

Like I said, it took some years.

I still have the occasional relapse, and when I do, I see my young self bent over that bathtub scrubbing alcoholically and I hear those wounding, healing words.

“Don’t get all alcoholic about it.”

Thanks, dad, for killing it.

#perfection

For more about my dad and his disease: Concerning Hope

 

 

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family, love

Tender little Hearts

I’m still thinking about the girl from Thursday.

And I’m wondering whether she overheard an adult blithely say of her older brothers, “They’re probably dead by now.”

Not stopping to think about how those words would affect a young heart.

Where else would she have gotten the notion?

Adults may think, She’s adopted now, she is being provided a good life.

And leave it at that.

But her life didn’t begin with the adoption. There were already people residing in her tender little heart when she arrived. People she cannot forget. People to whom her heart is still connected.

And thank God she cannot forget them.

Thank God her heart is still soft.

But I saw a budding hardness in her pleading eyes.

And I’m praying that it will dawn on someone.

That children are not mini adults.

That they need answers and reassurances.

That no information is worse than unfortunate information.

And that we will all be better at respecting and protecting childhood.

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Food, Jesus, love

Love in the Shape of Cookies

My daughter tutors children in an elementary school by day, goes to grad school by night.

Tuesday night she made the dough for her favorite cookies, which must chill for 24 hours before baking.

Last night at 10 pm she returned home from class and, instead of going straight to bed as she often does on a Wednesday night, she retrieved the bowl of dough from the downstairs fridge and spent the next hour and a half shaping it into spheres the size of tennis balls, baking, cooling and packaging.

She texted a picture of the cooling cookies to the young man she’s dating.

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“Any of those for me?,” he texted back.

Love.

On the counter this morning sat three packages:

A large, rectangular Rubbermaid tub full of cookies for her students – a special treat for their last day before Easter break.

A small purple box containing three cookies for the sender of the text.

And a small chinet plate, covered in foil. The two cookies beneath the foil saved for the hub and me – re-wrapped now and in the freezer until after Lent.

Three packages of cookies and all of them shaped like love.

This morning I read a beautifully written article that set my mind on Jesus’s ongoing humanity. I had never thought of the Holy Spirit living in us as Jesus’s ongoing humanity, and I like it. I like that He didn’t just come and go and will come again. He stayed. He stayed in the form of His Spirit. He stayed in the form of us.

He continues to dwell among us as He lives in us.

That thought is blowing my mind today.

Last night He was a baker, standing in my kitchen sacrificing sleep to transform dough into love for children who so readily embrace it.

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Light

Rushing Wind

Wally over at Truth in Palmyra wrote a devotion on revival today. It brought to mind a story I sometimes share when I speak to middle and high school students. The story is from a book entitled Innocence Lost, Hope Regained, by Richie Lambeth (with Scott Tompkins).

The book is a collection of true stories gathered from Richie’s years as a youth pastor.

The story I share with the kids is about a high school boy – a gifted ballplayer – who disappoints himself and his parents by slipping into sin. It’s a good story and the kids – especially the boys – seem to identify with it.

Here’s the part that came to mind this morning:

          I got up and walked to the front of the church. I asked the pastor if I could share something. He knew God was doing something special in me so he said yes. I had always been so concerned about what people thought of me, that it had ruled much of my life. But right now I simply didn’t care. I just wanted to be right with God.

          I went to the pulpit and took the microphone, “I have to ask you all to forgive me for I have sinned a terrible sin. I have betrayed my family, my friends, myself, and most of all, God. I have committed fornication, and I am so sorry. Will you please forgive me?” I didn’t know what to do next as this had never happened in our church, so I started to walk back to my seat. Everything was real quiet and I started to think I had made a big mistake. But then the pastor called me back and put his arm around me.

          “That took a lot of guts Eric,” he said, “And I’d like to give the church a chance to respond.”

          What happened next blew my mind. Some people started speaking out and saying, “We forgive you Eric.”  Some people started crying and some people started softly singing, “Amazing Grace.” God seemed to fill the room. I had never felt His presence like this.

          Then another teenager came up and handed the pastor a bag of weed and confessed that he had been smoking pot. Then an old man came up and confessed to being cruel to his wife. All of a sudden there was a line up to the pulpit and one after another began to confess sin and we prayed for each other. It was the beginning of something incredible at our church. People were being real with each other like they had never done. The love at our church was so thick you could almost cut it…

Scripture says judgment will begin with the house of God, so I’m thinking that until we get it right, there will be no hope for anyone else.

Revival, to me, means removing the log from my own Christian eyes, speaking the truth (about myself and God) in bold, clear, humble, redemptive love and, thereby, unleashing the Rushing Wind.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Then maybe others will want clean hearts, too.

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life

It’s the Little Things

The wind has died down, the sun has finally come out and the hub has gone fishing.  But before he left he read to me.  From the Bible.

“Read some of Jesus’ words,” I said.  “I’ve heard enough from Paul.  Not that he didn’t have some good things to say, but he’s not God.”

You all know how I feel about that.

Anyway, with me still on crutches, that was our church today.

And then the hub hightailed it to the lake, leaving me here on the sofa, with a beagle snoring gently beside me, continuing worship by recalling some of the things for which I was grateful this week.

On Tuesday my cleaning lady came.  (Don’t judge me, she only comes EVERY OTHER week.)  She is a huge Slurpee fan and she often tells me about her latest favorite flavor.  This time it was Vernors.  I am not a Slurpee fan – brain freeze – but, what proper Detroit girl doesn’t love Vernors?

As she was leaving, she mentioned that she might stop for a Vernors Slurpee on her way home.

“Hey,” I said, “why don’t you stop at the 7-11 here, near me?  That way, if they have Vernors today, you can text me and  I’ll have the hub stop and get me one on his way home.”

Her eyes brightened and her mouth formed a smile.  She was clearly pleased and heartily agreed to do so.

About ten minutes later the garage door opened.

What’s the hub doing home so soon?

It wasn’t the hub, it was Becky.  Bearing a gift.

Yes, that's a Christmas coaster in June.

Yes, that’s a Christmas coaster in June.

Thanks God, for the little kindnesses that make life wonderful.

P.S.  My brain only froze once.  So that was good.   Momentarily very painful, but good.

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faith, Jesus, Light

Stacking Stones: My Cousin Jim

In uncertain times it helps to remember Jim. I did not see him often because he grew up in Florida and I grew up in Michigan.  My family visited his family each year, but he was a few years older, and a boy, so we didn’t interact much.

When Jim was 19 his face was smashed in a bad automobile accident.  His father – an oral surgeon – and a team of plastic surgeons put his face back together.

And then he dove into a gravel pit to help his girlfriend, who was tangled in a branch, and he broke his neck.

In the hospital, on life support, my cousin Jim kept asking his mom to make sure the machines keeping him alive were securely plugged in to the wall sockets.  He worried that someone might trip over the cords and pull them loose.

And then one morning, as my aunt entered his hospital room, she saw peace on her son’s face.  He told her that an angel had visited him.  He was going to die and it was okay.  He was not afraid.

Jim died that afternoon.

But that morning an angel gave a gift to him, to his mom, to me and now to you.  I treasure that gift in my heart and pull it out whenever I need a reminder.

Fear not.

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