Category Archives: Uncategorized

Uncertain

Photo by J. Towner

Our community has experienced wildfires in the past but these are unprecedented times resulting in an unparalleled fire.

We are surrounded by fires on three sides, roads are closed, towns burnt to the ground, and people have lost everything – loved ones, pets, homes, possessions.

People evacuated to safety in the middle of the night with just the clothes on their backs, barefooted, disoriented, and scared. They are trying to make sense of all that is happening, formulate their next step plans, but really how does one do that when your world has been completely turned inside out and then torched.

And even with the best efforts of the firefighters, no end is in sight. The flames continue to lap up the majestic landscape leaving only chard destruction behind.

U. N. P. R. E. C. E. D. E. N. T. E. D. times.

COVID-19, racial unrest, political turmoil, and now – now my sanctuary, the little piece of the world I call home, is engulfed in flames.

I was talking with a friend this week. She is having difficulty wrapping her head around all that is going on. She voiced fear, shared that uncertainty had thrown her off-kilter, confessed that anxiety is settling in, and stated an overwhelming desire to “do something.”

Make unjust things just.

Heal the brokenness of those around her.

End the suffering.

It is frustrating when we can’t just snap our fingers and make all of this go away. But the reality is that these events are fundamentally out of our control, such a difficult concept to accept.

My friend and I share many similarities. But when life gets complicated, when circumstances are about to overcome us, our differences surface.

She is a strong, well-educated, confident woman. And when she begins to feel that need to “do something,” she launches into strategy mode. Researching, contemplating, working to conjure up a plan to mediate the situation. Please don’t get me wrong, doing your research and making plans are not wrong. But in some cases the situation can’t be resolved, peace can’t be found through human efforts.

When life is out of control, you need more than your strategies to address the problem.

I’ve watched this dear woman’s behavior, each time producing more and more anxiety. Each time resulting in an emotional meltdown. Each time leaving family and friends to pick up the pieces. There has to be another way, a better way to face the uncertain.

I am a strong-willed woman, well educated, and confident. Like my friend, I move to “fix-it” mode when faced with life’s difficulties. Unfortunately, I can’t wrestle with a wildfire. But I certainly should be able to solve the homeless problem in our community. I should be able to bring justice to those that have been violated. I should be able to bring peace to women that succumb to the behaviors of their pasts. I should be able to do these things!

And then…

God whispers,

It’s not your job.

When my life is burning around me, leaving my dreams and desires in a pile of ash, when my human efforts result in only frustration and a growing sense of despair, once my “fixing” has failed, I turn to God.

God doesn’t promise to eliminate the challenges but He does faithfully reassure us that He will never leave, never forsake, never fail.

Deuteronomy 31:6 reminds us,

Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.

The Message (MSG)

When life burns and spins out of control, my dear friend relies on her abilities, and if, when, they fail she searches for things to make the hurt go away. To make the situation right.

After my attempts to fix fail, I do the only thing that brings real resolution. I lean into God, the Creator of the universe, the One that lived and died to reconcile my sin for eternity, the focus of my faith. And I am slowly understanding that all I can do, all He wants me to do, is trust Him.

BeLOVED, life is hard and complicated and I can guarantee you that it will not be fair or easy. But I stand confident that I can’t, you can’t, do it alone. Consider, turning your uncertainty, your pain over to the only One that promises to turn it into fullness. – Jesus.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

 Philippians 4:6-7 (MSG)

Blessings,

PREPARE TO FIGHT

By Guest Writer – Jim Lyons

By D. Nolte

I had three seconds to put out the call. “H-341! Officers need help! 11-99!”

As those words were spoken, my partner and I were being attacked by a young man who was under the influence of methamphetamine. Through his drug-induced rage and strength, he was trying to push me off the top of a bridge and get my handgun out of my holster.

I knew at that time I was in the fight of my life. So did my partner. We had to fight to survive.

During the struggle, we were able to get the upper hand and wrestle the violent man to the ground. We were now lying in the middle of the road, traffic passing by at 50 mph, with no one stopping to help. While trying to hold the young man down, I could hear sirens in the distance, piercing the darkness around us. Help was on the way!  We only had to hold on a minute longer and this encounter would be over.

Training and preparation prepared us for this night. Victory would be ours. I knew we would make it through this shift – only to come back and fight again.

That particular incident in my career as a police officer reminded me that as Christians there is a spiritual enemy out there, much like the young man, that is ready to pounce on us to do us harm. It is important to remember that our enemy, the devil, does not take a vacation. He and his fallen angels are relentless, working tirelessly to discourage and deceive. Attempting to lead us away from our Sovereign King. 

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”

1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV)

Victory is already ours in Christ Jesus! We need not be afraid.

Positionally, we are in Christ and delivered from the power of Satan.

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”

Colossians 1:13 (ESV)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

John 10:27-30 (ESV)

Practically, however, we are called to fight. And fight we must!  As ambassadors to Christ, we have a mission. We are called to share God’s saving message – the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 26:18). We are called to be salt in a decaying world (Matthew 5:13). We are called to be light in the darkness, exposing the evil things (Matthew 5:14-16, Ephesians 5:11-17). And by faithfully living out our calling, we will face spiritual opposition. Why?  Because darkness hates light!  We can only overcome our enemy by living for Jesus following His will in holiness and godliness and by dressing appropriately for the fight that will come (1 John 1:5-7). Friends – trust me – the fight will come, and it will come when you least expect it!

Are you ready?

Have you prepared for it?

Have you trained yourself for such an encounter?

The Apostle Paul commands us to be ready for the fight.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against authorities, against cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

Ephesians 6:10-12 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul then lays out the spiritual armor we are to put on daily.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit.”

Ephesians 6:13-18 (ESV)

Before my shift began each day, I had to dress appropriately. I had to put on the right equipment so I could go out into the city and uphold the law, protect its citizens and their property. To forget one item – one piece of equipment – could prove fatal to not only myself but those whom I worked with.

Friends, dress carefully! Put on the full armor of God daily. Remember, on this side of heaven, we remain in a spiritual battle. Be ready to fight. Know God’s word and live it out (James 1:22-25). Train for the encounters that will come. One day the fight will be over, and we will be able to take off our armor in the presence of our one true Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Until then, we must fight!

Blessings to you,

JIM

Noxious Weeds

Photo by N. Buscher

Walking through the neighborhood, I noticed a plant creeping over rocks and squeezing its way through the cracks between wood, brick, and concrete. Dark green foliage covered by delicate yellow flowers, blossoms giving way to orange seedpods.

For months, I walked past these beautiful climbers thinking this would be a great addition to my backyard. They seem to grow well in direct sun and are quite content with minimal water.

During one of the walks, I found a small plant nestled between flowerbed and sidewalk. I scooped it up, stuffed it in my coat pocket, and once I reached home planted it in my backyard.

After a few months, the plant had doubled in size. A month later, it was starting to creep along the dry riverbed that runs nearly the length of our yard. It was doing exactly what I hoped it would do; form a beautiful blanket over what was bare ground.

But something just didn’t seem right. This plant was growing way too fast and behaving like some of the invasive plants I’ve worked hard to keep out of my garden.

Using the garden app on my phone, I identified my fast-growing friend and there was a reason it was growing so quickly. It was a WEED! And not just a simple ordinary weed but a noxious weed banned because of its fast growth and ability to literarily take over the yard, community, the state. The app warned to eliminate the plant immediately.

I put down my phone, grabbed the plant where stem meets ground, and yanked. With the monster weed in hand, I moved to the trashcan and tossed it in.

This plant had been the envy of my eyes for months. I marveled at the beautiful clusters of flowers and admired how quickly it spread. Let’s be real, I evaluated seedlings for weeks to find the perfect one and then planted the thing in my yard. I inadvertently, unknowingly, yet purposefully, planted destruction on my plot of land. I watered and nurtured it, doing all I could to encourage it to grow. And all the while, it waited to sow its seeds in my yard, the neighboring slope, and my neighbors’ yards. Seeds that ultimately would lead to frustration and harm.

If I’m completely honest, I do the same thing in my life. I sow seeds of doubt and fear that grow into monstrous vines, strangling my faith. I allow the world to plant seeds of devastation in my mind, and I unconsciously, yet carefully, water them, fertilizing each lie, and then wonder why my value never measures up or why my life is filled with self-control, pride, and selfishness.

Sisters, we must be careful about what we plant, what we nurture, the things we allow to grow up, and influence our lives. Some of them may look beautiful, they may provide comfort and happiness, but in reality, be the very things that overtake our joy and peace.

Philippians 4:8 reminds us to fill our minds with the things that are true, noble, reputable,

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

The Message (MSG)

I am learning that when I focus on God’s word, tuning out the chatter of the world, my heart is filled. Peace floods my mind, a stillness moves over me, and I am encouraged.

 BeLOVED, we are living in a time where chaos reigns, uncertainty is offered at every turn, and a culture of fear and hate is becoming deeply embedded in our world. I encourage you to be careful about what you are planting in your mind and heart. Be watchful, determined, and alert to those words and thoughts that are noxious weeds to your soul. Cling to what is authentic, compelling, and gracious – focus on the things God uses to cultivate and grow us.

Be Blessed,

What a DIY Project Taught Me About Marriage

Photo by S. Caspersen

In the past, my husband and I have rarely had enough free time to do a fun building project together. But nowadays, we seem to have a little more time on our hands.

We recently repurposed a kitchen cabinet into a free loaning library.

We visited our local Habitat for Humanity thrift store and found an oak cabinet in great condition. We already had a 4X4 post salvaged from a construction site and paint from a recent update of our front door. All that was needed was the brackets to mount the library box to the stand and a piece of plywood to build a base.

Friends provided the plywood, even cutting it to specification but then we realized we needed a roof, a piece of corrugated tin to protect against the rain. Back to Habitat, where we found the perfect piece, the right size, and shape.

So, here is where the marriage lesson comes in.

Just to let you in on a little personal secret, I’m a bit of a control freak. For some reason, I like doing things MY way and I also have a tendency to think My way is the right way – can anyone out there relate to what I’m sharing? These tendencies have worked for me in my professional career but in marriage, not so much. Well actually, if I’m fully transparent, they worked most of the time in my work world.    

But for this DIY project, I am working shoulder to shoulder with this man I love dearly and he is an opinionated person. He comes with life experiences, building experience; let’s just say he knows his way around a tool.

I brought to the project my best plans. They worked great on paper but didn’t quite pan-out in practice. And my man just waited, stood patiently letting me stray down rabbit holes, foxholes, manholes – I think you get the picture. Then he patiently redirected my efforts pointing me to a path that allowed us to be successful.

We had great discussions about anchor screws, bolt directions, one shelf or two, and repeated chats about spots I had missed when painting. The conversations continued until the final library box was installed in our front yard. Books loaded, adult on the top shelf, children’s on the second, and magazines tucked neatly in a basket below. We stepped back, marveled at our work, gave a high-five, and smiled.

I had come with my plans, my way. Yet, it took us working together, communicating, compromising, and flexing for us to reach success.

Mother Teresa reminds us,

You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. Together we can do great things.

Together we can renovate a kitchen cabinet into a lending library.

Together we can face any challenge the world presents.

Together we can challenge perspectives, grow, and build relationship.

Together isn’t only found in marriage.

Together can be found in a best friend or a family member. Someone you can build a deep sustaining relationship. Someone that loves you enough to tell you when your plan won’t work and gently guide you to another way.   

It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, tough!

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 The Message Bible (MSG)

Through a simple building project, I learned a profound lesson – marriage was never meant to do alone. I also learned my husband has some serious carpentry skills – who knew!

Be Blessed,


From kitchen cabinet to loaning library, marriage intact!

IDENTITY THEFT

By Guest Writer Jim Lyons

Photo by J. Lee

Several years ago, I was notified by mail that my personal identity had been stolen.  Identity thieves were able to gain access to my health care provider’s database and steal my name, date of birth, and social security number.  This theft not only affected me but 800,000 others!  A lapse within the provider’s database allowed identity thieves to steal the personal information of thousands to bring personal and financial ruin to those who were scrambling to protect themselves.

Through this incident, I learned two, important truths.

The first was that I cannot control what others do to me.  It’s a part of life.  We live in a broken, sinful world; and people will do evil things.  My only recourse was to pray that God would apprehend these thieves and also protect 800,000 people from becoming victims of criminal activity.

The second truth was more profound.  I had to personally ask myself if I was an ‘identity thief’.  You see, identity theft doesn’t always occur within cyberspace – it can occur within our mouths when there is a security breach within our hearts.  I’m talking about slander.  I had to search my heart and ask myself how often I have allowed a lapse of my tongue to occur in the presence of others to ‘steal’ another person’s good name and character.  Friends, our words matter, and they are a reflection of our hearts.

Jesus said,

“But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, and slander.  These are what defile a person.”

                                                                                                     Matthew 15:19-20 (ESV)

“There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

                                                                                                      Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV)

As these verses show, the LORD hates slander.  And so does the Apostle Paul.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

                                                                                                   Ephesians 4:30-32 (ESV)

Identity theft, through our mouths, is a grievous sin.  It causes physical and spiritual pain to those who become its victims.

Lois Tverberg wisely wrote,

“Lashon hará [slander] doesn’t just include telling lies about others.  In fact, this phrase is more commonly used to describe the practice of telling negative truths about others that are unnecessary and damaging.  Often lashon hara is compared to murder: “A slanderer stands in Damascus, but kills in Rome.”  Defamatory statements are like Patriot missiles, computer-guided bombs programmed to annihilate their targets at long distances.  The victim doesn’t even realize who the cowardly perpetrator is.”[1]

In these difficult times we face, it is easy for us to lash out with our words towards our government leaders and our closest neighbors.  I will admit that this has not been an easy devotional to write.  It’s been painful because I know that I have been participating in lashon hara – the slander of others.  And if we are honest with ourselves, we would all agree that we have done the same.  Slander has no place in the Christian life.  So what can we do to stop this from occurring?  Where do we start?

First, we must CONFESS OUR SIN OF SLANDER.  We are to go to the LORD and call our sin by its name.  We are to make no excuses.  And then know that Jesus Christ gave His life for this sin and that through His blood and sacrifice on the cross, we can find forgiveness, healing, and restoration.  Read 1 John 1:8-9 for encouragement.

Second, we must PRAY FOR A ‘KOSHER’ MOUTH.  These verses can help guard our tongues as we converse with others.  Write them on your hearts so you will have them with you always.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

                                                                                                             Psalm 19:14 (ESV)

“Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

                                                                                                           Proverbs 13:3 (ESV)

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

                                                                                                             James 1:19 (ESV)

By doing these two things daily, our lives will be transformed, our speech will be sweetened, and God will be glorified. 

Blessings to you all.

 JIM


[1] Tverberg, Lois, “Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus”, pages 96-97.

A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT

By Guest Writer – Jim Lyons

Photo by S. Angura

“Christians are like the several flowers in a garden that have the dew of heaven, which, being shaken with the wind, they let fall at each others roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of each other.”

John Bunyan

John Bunyan could not have painted a more perfect picture of what it means for Christians to nourish one another in the faith.  By all appearances, Bunyan was painting within the framework of the Apostle Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

When the Apostle Paul penned these words, the Thessalonians needed some encouragement!  The church in Thessalonica was facing a time of persecution.  The faith of these new believers was being challenged, but Paul was exhorting them to stay the course by continuing to spread the love and hope they shared in Jesus Christ.  Paul knew the body of believers would remain strong as long as they remained unified in faith and continued in doing good deeds towards one another.

The Apostle Paul’s instructions to the believers in Thessalonica are the same for us today:  Encourage one another and build one another up.

Friends, these words are so vital for us to put into practice as we face a growing, global pandemic.  Fellow believers are suffering; physically and spiritually.  The Church is being persecuted in various forms.  Financial ruin is pressing upon many.  But we must not grow weary during a time like this.  We are called to keep our eyes on Jesus and to encourage one another.

“Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”

 Hebrews 12:3 (ESV)

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

  Galatians 6:9-10 (ESV)

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

 Ephesians 2:10 (ESV)

The Bible gives us some examples that we can put into practice to encourage one another and build one another up during these difficult times.

We can encourage those in need by giving or sharing what we have.

Read Acts 4:32-37.  The believers were of one heart and soul and shared the things they had so no one was in need.

“He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD.”

 Proverbs 19:17 (NIV)

We can encourage those who have become fainthearted.

Read Luke 24:13-35.  Sharing and reflecting on our salvation and the eternal hope we have in Christ always offers encouragement!

“In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

1 John 4:10-11 (ESV)

We can encourage others when times are difficult.

As Christians, we are not exempt from the troubles of this life (Job 14:1), but hardships and challenging times can become more manageable to those who are suffering by sharing with them the word of God, faithful prayers, and thoughtful deeds that bring glory to our Father. 

Read Acts 14:19-22.  Despite being stoned and left for dead, the Apostle Paul, along with Barnabas, returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch to strengthen the disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith.

“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

Acts 14:22 (ESV)

We can build each other up by being an example in living out our faith in Jesus Christ.

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

1 Timothy 4:12 (ESV)

Friends, may the Lord open our eyes and ears to those who surround us, and by doing so, give us the wisdom and strength to be an encouragement to others.

Blessings to you,

Jim

Truth in Love…

Photo by Unsplash

I failed at being a good sister last week!

My Sis called with some amazing news and I proceeded to ask a series of questions that squashed her enthusiasm. I wasn’t trying to be negative but I was trying to challenge her to think beyond her immediate emotions.

It all worked out and in the end, she thanked me for my feeble attempt. But in retrospect, I could have approached the situation with a little more grace and a greater desire to see the world through her eyes.

I find that I need more of both, grace and compassion, as I navigate today’s complicated world. Fear and anxiety make people behave in ways they normally would never consider and say things they immediately regret.

I recently saw a video clip of a woman shopping in her local grocery store. She was well dressed, groceries in hand, casually, calmly making her way up and down the aisles. Until one of the store clerks approached her and reminded her, she had to wear a mask. At that moment, she LOST it! All rational behavior flew out the window along with civil speech.

Irrational behavior and thoughtless words can be seen in every walk of life, across all social groups, in our churches, and throughout every age range. Whether the driving force is the pandemic, racial unrest, our current political climate, or the uncertainty in the world, we all can be pushed to the edge where we slide into an outburst or say something hurtful that is hard to retract.

If you’ve ever found yourself wishing you could take it back – take back the outburst, reclaim the hasty words, I have three suggestions for you to consider.

Be Gracious and Sensitive

I recently had an opportunity to watch an interaction between a young woman and what appeared to be her mentor. The young woman was distraught, life had gotten complicated, and she was having difficulty navigating the situation. Her mentor sat directly across from her, cell phone in hand. As the young woman began to explain her situation, the older woman began her lecture. The young woman tried to explain but the mentor continued to control the conversation. About 15 minutes into the tirade, the mentor’s phone chimed. She excused herself to take the call. The young woman wiped her tears, grabbed her bag, and walked out the door.

Colossians 4:5-6 directs us to,

5 … Be wise in all your contacts… 6 Let your conversation be gracious as well as sensible, for then you will have the right answer for everyone.

The Living Bible (TLB)

We are to be gracious and sensible with our words. This requires us to be willing to listen, stop focusing on our well-rehearsed responses, put aside our own needs, and be willing to focus our attention, our hearts on the other person.

Speak Truth in Love

I have an acquaintance that loves to send emotionally charged emails and text messages. He encourages a response, allowing him to keep the conversation brewing. After receiving several of these messages, I had to let him know that I’m not reading the materials. It was a hard message to deliver but I also didn’t want him to continue to take hours composing the commentaries knowing I no longer wanted to read them.

We can and should speak the truth in love, as uncomfortable as that may feel. It is not being confrontational; we all need people to speak into our lives – graciously, patiently, while seeking to understand our motivations and goals.

 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.

Ephesians 4:15, New International Version (NIV)

Control Your Responses

When my Sis shared her news. I was not considering her perspective or her overall goals. In fact, I never asked her about either. I should have controlled my response, giving her time to paint the picture and after careful reflection share my thoughts. I allowed my own emotions to carry me to a place of judgment – a poor communication tool.

Proverbs 18:13 drives home this point,

Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.

The Message (MSG)

A wise woman once told me, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Applying this adage to our conversations with others, talk to others the way you want them to talk to you.

If we strive to practice these simple suggestions, we will better reflect the way Jesus interacts with us. And there is no better interaction strategy we can adopt than His.

Be gracious.

Let love direct.

Take time to see.

Be Blessed,

Our Choices…

Photo by ABC News

We’ve all heard the tragic stories of people losing their battle with COVID-19. We see the images as they flash on TV screens and computer monitors – refrigerator trucks, weary nurses, testing lines that snake for miles. All reminders of the devastation caused by this viral enemy.

I recently heard a story told by a distraught brother. With tears streaming down his face, he shared that his brother contracted the virus, attended a family gathering, and infected eight members of their immediate family. Before he died, he shared his apology through a Facetime encounter from an ICU bed.

The image of the woman clinging to her son’s blanket filled the nightly news feed. Her young child had just died. She shared, “I don’t ever want another family to experience this.” She went on to plea, “take this virus seriously.”

Every day we hear similar stories, actually, we hear them so frequently that we have stopped listening – if for nothing more than the preservation of our minds and hearts.

But each day we are presented with a choice.

Recently, I was confiding in my sister about how people’s decisions or lack of a decision can affect so many lives and she shared this story. I’m certain you’ve heard it before but it is worth repeating.

The Man on the Roof

A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help.

Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.” The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.” So the rowboat went on.

Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.” To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.” So the motorboat went on.

Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.” To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.” So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.

Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”

To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”

(Author unknown)

To this, my sister gently added, “God has equipped us with a brain, just as he provided the man on the roof. We can choose to use it or we can choose to ignore it.”

I don’t believe God wants us to deny the truth about this deadly enemy nor does He want us to use our faith as an excuse to ignore the intelligence He has given each of us. 

Just as God provided the man on the roof warnings and help. He has sent us warning messages – we see the rate of positive cases increasing, the cases of children contracting the virus are increasing, the percentage of young adults contracting the virus is increasing, death rates are increasing – the rowboat has passed, the motorboat is approaching, and we can hear the helicopter in the distance.

Sisters, let us not be people that ignore God’s warnings. Rather, let us be people that courageously weather this viral storm trusting God. Believing that He loves us and will provide for our needs. Resting in His provision as we faithfully make decisions to protect our families, our friends, church families, our community, and ourselves. We each can do our small part.

Our choices make a difference.

Blessings,

Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

James 2:14-26 Message (Msg)

Enough

Photo by J. Beales

Standing in front of the mirror, I can see the faintest line, no maybe it’s a hair; actually, I’m not sure what it is – etched on the left corner of my upper lip.

At 62, I have great distance vision but seeing mid-range, well that’s a challenge. Unfortunately, I don’t own a pair of glasses that allows me to clearly see the distance from the sink to the bathroom mirror.

But my husband, he wears glasses, perhaps they will work! I searched his side of the sink until I found them, slid them over my ears, and peered back into the mirror.

Bifocals and I don’t do well. Yet, I was able to find just the right angle to see out the lower right corner of the lens. There it was a black hair. It was obvious it had been growing for a while, hanging over my lip just a smidge. I started to wonder why no one had said anything – husband, girlfriends, total strangers, anyone. Then it dawned on me, all the people I hang out with are my age or older. They couldn’t see it either!

I found the tweezers, plucked all that I could contort my head and my husband’s glasses to see and checked out the rest of my face. I wanted to make certain I didn’t have any other wayward hairs or hidden embarrassing imperfections.

Life is so funny.

Yesterday I was in my 30s. I exercised 6 – days a week, worked fulltime plus, volunteered, and still had the energy to read in the evening, stay awake long after 9:30 PM, and wake up the next day in a good mood to do it all over again.

Today, I get out of bed, walk my 11-year-old male dog (giving you an idea of how slow we move), prepare breakfast, water the garden, and that pretty much does it for the day.

I think I am one of the few that has appreciated the changes COVID-19 has forced on our world. Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anyone to get sick, lose their job, life, or future. However, I love the pace, the staying put, the slower days.

I just recently came to grip with this reality – I’m not 30!

And what makes this epiphany so profound is that it has allowed me to accept there is nothing magical about being in your 30s, 40s, or 50s. The magic begins when we can love ourselves right where we are.

The spectacular occurs when we can accept God’s beauty radiating through us even with the embarrassing facial hair, declining physical strength, and no more career to define us.

It is that precious space where we are stripped bare. No longer clinging to our definition of who we are but fully embracing God’s design.

In God’s economy, it has never been about what we look like, after all, He created us. He has never been impressed with our skills or abilities; they are all gifts He provided. It has always been about our hearts, our faith in Him, our willingness to trust Him, and those things, dear Sisters, come with age, maturity, and experience.

Psalm 139:14-16 beautifully expresses God’s perspective regarding us,

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you. The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

The Message (MSG)

The world will try to convince us that we are not enough. And that voice will amplify as we mature. But we can stand confident because we are,

A unique creation.

Sculpted by God’s own hands.

Fully known inside and out by the creator of the universe.

Wonderfully marvelously made.

Based on today’s cultural standards and our feelings, we may not be enough but we are loved by a God that is more than enough.

Be blessed His BeLOVED,


~Reflections~

Take a few minutes and reread Psalms 139:14-16. When completed reflect on the following questions.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you. The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.

Psalms 139:14-16 (MSG)

  1. What lies have the world told you that makes you feel less than, not enough?
  2. How does the passage in Psalm help you shift your perspective from doubt to trusting that God is more than enough?
  3. What is one step you can take today that will help you believe that you are wonderfully and marvelously made?  

One of my new favorites, enjoy!

Have My Heart – Maverick City | TRIBL

For Love

Photo by A. Covington

My parents were married in the mid-1940s. My siblings and I are not certain of the exact date. We are learning there are many things we never knew.

They came from the South, Arkansas and Tennessee. And left soon after marrying for the freedom of the West.  

Mixed marriages were not accepted in the South and especially not in 1940. And this is where the story takes an interesting twist. Because until very recently, I was not aware it was a mixed marriage.

For my entire childhood and into my adult life, my mother held a secret close to her heart. She had told her children that she was French Creole, a rich mix of French and Black ancestry, with a little German thrown in. Now we know that Mom was a descendant of an English Mother and a German Father. No French, no African-American – ALL European.

So you may ask, why the deception. Surely, she knew her lineage.

I think it goes back to marrying a black man in the 1940s. I will repeat my initial statement; mixed marriages were not accepted in the South and especially given the climate of the early 1940s.

Life during this time was filtered through the lens of World War II. The prevailing culture was anti-German and anti-Japanese yet, segregation was still enforced. Blacks were given access to serve in the military and to work in the defense industry. Yet, they faced racism, unequal pay, unequal freedom, and death – even death by lynching. For African – Americans separate and unequal was the reality.

When Mom and Dad walked down the aisle, my mother walked away from everything she knew – family, friends, identity, history because of love. She never looked back, but rather committed to a life that would, at times, be lonely, unrelenting, and painful.

From that day forward, she recognized herself as Creole. An identity that was far safer than the one given her at birth. On every critical document (marriage certificate and census status), she checked the box that identified her as black. Her original birth certificate mysteriously burned in a fire. No copy of the document available.

Her love displayed in a selfless cover-up.

She willingly sacrificed all to share life with her husband and give life to her children.

I often wonder if she ever looked back. When life pressed in, did she regret walking away? When her husband broke her heart or her children disappointed, did she long for what had been? I will never know. But I do know that she stood strong, stayed true, and loved despite it all.

The Apostle Paul shared a biblical definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7,

4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

New Living Translation (NLT)

I’ve learned that my Mother practiced this definition, her

Love never gave up,

She never lost faith,

She remained hopeful, and

Endured through every circumstance.

Sisters, we have a Heavenly Father that loves us unconditionally, sacrificially. For love, He sacrificed His only Son, allowing Him to die for our sins.

His love will never give up or lose faith. Instead, He will patiently protect and persevere. He will never stop pursuing you, His BeLoved.

Be Blessed,


For more information about African-American history in the 1940s, please visit the links below.

https://www.pbs.org/thewar/at_home_civil_rights_minorities.htm

https://www.britannica.com/topic/African-American/The-civil-rights-movement

https://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2016/09/02/the-story-of-the-only-known-lynching-on-a-u-s-military-base/