Tell Me Something Good

Yesterday I declared it to be “Tell Me Something Good” day on my Facebook feed.

I must confess. It has been a while since I have posted on my blog. Honestly, I, like many others, have been discouraged by everything that is going on in the world around me. Every time I open my computer I am bombarded with media. Real news, fake news, liberal views, right wing views, and hate filled posts from individuals I never anticipated. I have snoozed more Facebook friends (liberal and conservative) than I can count right now because of their prejudiced, ill-thought out, memes and comments. I have been dismayed by the posts of some individuals whom I thought were Bible believing, loving, kind Christians, after reading their hate filled rhetoric. I took a break from writing anything lest I become one of those ranting individuals.

Yesterday, I decided I was tired of hearing all the negativity and having to skip half of my Facebook posts because I can no longer tolerate the nonsense I see spouted as truth. I asked my Facebook friends to tell me something good that is happening in their lives.

I was pleasantly surprised by the myriad of responses I received. My niece is getting her driver’s permit, my husband’s friend retired after 37 years at the same job, another friend’s husband starts a new and better job on Monday. Another friend was finally visiting with her children and grandchildren after a few hard weeks away from them (plus reading her account of sanitizing everything in sight was entertaining!).

My conclusion is there are many good things still happening in the world around us. We just need to look for it, focus on it, and make it something we are grateful to experience. It reminds me of one of my favorite verses in Philippians. “Brothers and sisters think about the things that are good and worthy of praise. Think about the things that are true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.” (Phil. 4:8 NCV)

What a world we will have if we just not only think about these things but live them out daily. Be good, be kind, be honorable, be loving. Tell me something good.

God Cares About Justice

I have been trying to write this blog post for two weeks and yet, here I am, still struggling with what to say. When I saw the news about Ahmad Arbery being shot by two prejudiced vigilantes, I cringed and was heartbroken. When I saw the video of George Floyd as a policeman kneeled on his neck and indifferently snuffed out his life for the world to see, I was appalled and heartbroken. When I watched as a delivery driver was trying to leave after a delivery and got blocked because of the color of his skin, I cheered him on for videoing the encounter, but was heartbroken because I know that when he finally left and had time to breathe, he probably broke down and cried. And when I watched the video of a white woman screaming and calling for the police when a black birdwatcher asked her to put her dog on a leash (which was required in the park where she was) I was angry and heartbroken. I watched and cried as Archie Williams, who was wrongfully accused, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison for a crime he did not commit, took the stage on America’s Got Talent and gave a whole new meaning on the song, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”

And yet, a part of me feels like I am complicit in these crimes. I know the biases and prejudices that exist against someone who has been born with skin a different color than my white (actually beige with freckles) skin. And yet, I have been largely complacent while seeing deeply imbedded prejudices, and systemic values continue in the conversation about racism.

As a Christian, I am compelled to remember that God cares about justice. I think the black community has been crying out for justice for a long time, and we have ignored their plea. We have allowed the injustices that are meted out to blacks to continue. And we are now seeing the consequences of that indifference and negligence.

Justice. Such a small word with such huge significance in our world today and throughout history. God cares about justice for all and as a Christian, so should I. Yes, there should be justice for those who have vandalized and looted during this time. But God will also mete out judgment on us as we have sat on the sidelines and allowed justice to be bypassed in favor of our prejudices.

It is time. Time for all of us who bear the name of Christians, to cry out for justice for those who are disenfranchised, beaten down by society, and told that they have no value. It is time for us to remember that Christ came to this earth to die for us so that we can live. ALL OF US, no matter what our skin color. It is time to remember that God values justice for all.

16 And I saw something else under the sun:

In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
    in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

17 I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment
    both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
    a time to judge every deed.”

Ecclesiastes 3:16-17 New International Version (NIV)

“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, and plead the widow’s cause,” (Isaiah 1:17).

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

More scriptures about justice: Proverbs 24:24-25, Luke 18:1-8, Psalm 106:3, Proverbs 29:7, Leviticus 19:5, Psalm 33:5

The God Who Sees

This morning I listened to a song my friend had posted online and it reminded me that sometimes we women really do struggle with who we are and our circumstances. This is especially true right now during this COVID-19 outbreak and social isolation. Today I looked at some women in the Bible who seemed to reach the end of their rope as they faced trials and struggles. Let’s take a look at some of them.

She was a handmaiden, given to her master by his wife and finally felt of some worth. But then when she became pregnant, she was despised by her master’s wife, treated cruelly, and ran away to wander in the desert. Alone and afraid she wondered what would become of her and her unborn child. Did anyone really care?

She was a young widow in a place that no longer felt like home to her, even though it was where she had grown up. She followed her widowed mother-in-law to a new land, a new culture, a new religion, and a new way of life. They had so little. She gleaned in the fields after harvest so that she and her mother-in-law would have bread to eat. Did anyone care that she and her mother-in-law lived in poverty?

She was desperate to change her life. She had spent all that she had on doctors, hoping that just one of them could offer her hope of healing. And yet, her bleeding still persisted. Considered unclean, she was tired, anemic, and feeling hopeless. She had lost hope of having a normal life. 

She was so tired of feeling normal one moment and then saying and doing things she had no control over the next. She was an outcast, full of demons. There was no one to hug her, no one to touch her, no one to care. People deliberately walked around her, ensuring they weren’t close enough to be exposed to her, this woman so demon possessed. She lived a life filled with despair.

She came to gather water in the heat of the day. While all the other women came in the coolness of the morning, she was despised and looked down on. Her life was a shattered dream, and she looked for love in all the wrong places, hoping against hope that someone would just cherish her and love her. Why couldn’t someone just love her and stay in her life? Instead she found herself going from one husband to the next husband.

She was in a bad marriage and found someone who told her he cared about her, even though he was someone else’s husband. She was caught in adultery. Dragged into the village, surrounded by men and judged guilty and deserving of death. But the man she was with? Where was he? Why wasn’t he there? She stood silently and fearfully waiting for the first stone to be thrown. Who cared about her?

How about you? Are you feeling tired and anxious, unworthy and rejected, lonely and afraid? Have the persistent trials of life finally overcome your sense of optimism and hope? Have your chronic health issues become so overwhelming that you can no longer see the joy of life? Have your relationships failed you over and over again in your search to be loved?

Be encouraged. GOD SEES YOU. He knows your heart. He knows your needs. He has your name written on the palm of His hand. He knows the number of hairs on your head.

He delivered Hagar from the desert and promised that a nation would rise from the son she carried. (Genesis 16)

He provided a loving and faithful husband for Ruth, one who would also care for Naomi, her mother-in-law. Not only that but Jesus was a descendant of Boaz and Ruth. (The book of Ruth)

He healed the woman who was desperate enough to touch the hem of his garment, hoping to find healing there. (Mark 5:24-34)

He cast out seven demons from the woman who later is referred to as Mary Magdalene. She was one of the first to be told of Jesus’ resurrection. (Luke 8:2)

He listened to the woman at the well and reassured her that her life was worth more than she thought. He helped her recognize her need for God.  (John 4:4-42)

He reminded the men, who were crying out to stone the woman caught in adultery, of their own sin. He showed mercy to the woman, admonishing her to go and sin no more. (John 8:1-11)

We live in a world right now that is full of heartache, anxiety, and stress. Social isolation has managed to create anxiety in people who are normally easy-going and emotionally balanced. And in those who are already struggling, this time has increased the battles. But take heart. God sees you. He sees your needs and can meet you where you are.

This song by Nicole Mullin is a beautiful example of how God sees us. Take a minute and listen to is if you have time. And the next time you think you are forgotten, remember that GOD SEES YOU.

Choosing Joy

jux·ta·po·si·tion

–the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect. “the juxtaposition of these two images”

This morning was a perfect example of this word. As I opened my computer, I was reminded that today is the day for our annual writer’s retreat—something we look forward to for an entire year. My writer’s group is a group of six core women who have been together for years now. Sometimes we are joined by others, but mostly it is the core group who come together.

We write all day (or all night, depending on your proclivity) and only come together for an evening meal. It is during that time that we share our successes or our frustrations, our plot lines, our hopes and our dreams. We write blogs, books, devotions, and even quilting patterns. We set our BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goals) and smaller goals for the week. We talk about eating frogs (in other words tackling the hard things) and taking small bites. We laugh together, cry together, and share life with one another. We talk about our sorrows and our joys, our screw-ups and our accomplishments.

I am the only extrovert in the whole group. The rest of them fall into the introvert persuasion and love the time of isolating themselves and getting down to business. But I am the one who likes to talk about ideas, get feedback from others, and procrastinate the most. And they all put up with me, because they love meJ.

But this year is different. We canceled our writer’s retreat because of the COVID-19 isolation guidelines, and it made all of us sad. I thought about all the things we have given up during this season, not just our writer’s retreat, but everyday life situations that have become challenges for each of us. It is overwhelming sometimes.

And then I opened my computer this morning and saw the juxtaposition. The reminder of the writer’s retreat and the scripture verse that reminds me “Today I Choose Joy.”  I put that on my computer to remind me that how I react to my circumstances are a choice. No matter how bleak and grim life can get, I get to choose how I am going to respond. James 1:2-4 says, “ Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (NLT)

For today, I am going to choose joy. I choose joy not because I am ignorant of the crises the world is experiencing, but because I have control over my own responses. I choose joy because I know that what I am experiencing now will develop my faith. I choose joy because, despite sometimes wondering what God is doing to allow this to happen, His ways are not my ways. I CHOOSE.

It is okay to feel confused, depressed, angry, and sad. But ultimately your choice in how your respond to those feelings is yours. How will you choose to respond today? Choosing joy can make all the difference. 

What My Life Is Really Like

We are living in a society that makes it easy to put our thoughts out into the cyber world. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, TicToc, Twitch, and more are out there for anyone to see. We (and by we, I include me) frequently share the things that make us look good. The latest house project, the newest crafts, the fun make-up tips, the cute family photo; these are all things we tend to post. But the reality is those things are just a dot in the line of life.

I frequently look at some of my friend’s posts and envy their ability to be creative or to have the perfectly put together wardrobe or make the perfect dessert. That is one of the dangers of social media. It is way too easy to find ourselves in the comparison game. We buy into the lie that their life is better than ours and they have it more together than we do. The fact is, there is not one of my friends on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter (sorry, friends) who has a perfect life, despite the fact that it may seem like it!

One of my goals this year is to be a more real and authentic with the people around me. The fact is, sometimes my life is just a mess! My self-confident persona is frequently plagued with self-doubt and insecurity. As a social person, I tend to share quite a bit, but there is always a part of me that I withhold from most people. While I am cautious about “laying it all out there” for the world to see, I do want people to understand that no one’s life is perfect–not mine for sure. As far as I know, Jesus was the only sinless person to ever walk this earth. The rest of us . . .  well, we just aren’t.

The cyber world is like any other venue we use to communicate. It needs to be used thoughtfully, with integrity, and with good common sense. Being vulnerable is hard. And it leaves us open to the judgment of others. Sharing that we have a messy life is difficult, but if we are real and honest about it, we will find that others are frequently in the same place. So here is to a year of honestly sharing–messy kitchen islands and all.

God Loves the People You Hate

I was sitting in church when I glanced at the row behind me. I noticed a woman wearing a t-shirt that said “God loves the people you hate.” I have to confess, I was pretty distracted during the rest of the service thinking about the saying on that shirt. In reality it is hard to love the people we “hate” or “dislike” or “find irritating.” But if I have learned anything in studying Scripture, it is that Jesus wants us to love the unlovable. Continue reading

Facebook Politics and Fruit of the Spirit

I have started this post at least twenty different times this morning. On my Facebook feed I have read SO many political posts from friends on both the right and left side of politics. But this post is for my friends who are also my Christian family. My heart aches that I am seeing memes and comments that are extremely bitter against people who do not hold the same beliefs and values you do. My heart aches when I see Christians who hold Donald Trump up as America’s Savior.  We Christians have one Savior and one Lord–Jesus Christ. I frequently wonder why we are not promoting Jesus Christ and who he is, above politics.

I cannot help but think that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is saddened to see where many of his followers are today. Instead of being loving and kind, we are divisive and judgmental. Instead of praying for ALL of our leaders and elected officials, we are picking and choosing who we are praying for. Hate/love Nancy Pelosi? Pray for her daily. Hate/love Donald Trump? Pray for him daily. Love Jesus? Then act like it and develop fruit of the spirit in your life. Continue reading

Go Home, Beth Moore

Most Christians, especially women, are aware of the prolific Bible studies and speaking ministry of Beth Moore. I, along with thousands of other women (and men), have heard Beth speak on multiple occasions. She is a gifted speaker and has a passion for Jesus and God’s word that is evident in all of her studies. The first Bible study of hers I ever did was on the Tabernacle and I learned more about the tabernacle and how it pointed to Christ, than during any other tabernacle study I had done before (even in Bible college).  I am always challenged by her studies, not to emulate her, but to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior.

Recently John MacArthur, a well-known Evangelical who has written multiple commentaries, literally skewered Beth Moore and went off on a tangent about female pastors, the “#Me Too” movement, liberalism, and the downfall of the church when it listens to culture. After hearing the actual tape and reading many of the comments following his diatribe I have to say, I am really disheartened that he felt not only free to make his comments, but seemed proud of himself for making them.

I did not have a problem with his stance of only male preachers, and although I hold a different opinion, he is entitled to his conviction on what he believes to be an accurate interpretation of Scripture. I am not even in disagreement that Scriptural interpretation should not be dictated by culture (although I think we have different views on what that means). I was, however, stunned by his blatant self-righteousness and petty spirit in making the comment that Beth should “go home,” and the laughter from his cronies following that comment.

So here are some of my thoughts on lessons we can learn from this encounter. Continue reading

Dare to Dream

I debated on posting this because I do not want to seem to be bragging or patting myself on the back. I am posting it because God is SO good and has used something on my heart to make a difference for others.

Photo by Esther Tuttle on Unsplash

When I went to graduate school to get my master’s in Christian Education, things were pretty rough. I worked full time, went to school full time, and still had two children at home. My husband, Tom, was super supportive, but it was still a challenge.

Financially it was difficult because I had been out of college for over 30 years. There were several grants and scholarships for those who just completed their undergraduate work, but not for someone who had been out of school as long as I had. I did find some scholarships for degrees outside of my field, but the only scholarships I found in my field were from denominations I was not a part of. The only financial aid I had available to me was student loans. So I paid for my graduate degree on my own. It was not easy, but I did it.

I wondered how many other older women found themselves in the same circumstances I experienced–longing to go back to school and hon her ministry skills, but barely able to afford it. Continue reading