Whitewashed Tombs

In the city where I used to live there was a place near the business district that could really use some sprucing up. I was pleasantly surprised when I drove by that location one day and they had installed attractive concrete walls. By the next time I drove by, shrubbery had been added and everything looked very nice. But as time went on when I would drive by I could see all the shrubbery had wilted and died. You see, it had all been built on the remains of an old landfill and there was so much toxicity still in the ground from the buried garbage, that nothing could thrive in the area around it.

This reminded me of a Scripture I read recently. Jesus was addressing the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 23. Actually, he was predicting the woe that would come to them because they were so self-righteous. In Matthew 23:27-28 he says, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are filled with dead men’s bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

Jesus did not pull any punches with the Pharisees when he was speaking about them and in fact, while speaking to the crowds and his disciples, he listed seven woes and called the Pharisees hypocrites several times. Not only did he call them hypocrites, he called them blind fools, snakes and vipers!

I often wonder what Jesus would think of modern day churches and their leaders. I have been reading so many stories about moral failures of church leaders that it makes me heartsick. The fact of the matter is that hidden sin will always be revealed eventually. Whether it is someone nationally known or just someone known in the local community, every time buried sin surfaces, the consequences are damaging to the name of the Lord.

Every time I read about a pastor’s infidelities, his lies to the church, or his financial greed, I cringe. I am grieved, because don’t they realize the harm they are doing to the body of Christ? When a minister throws up his “righteousness” while castigating others, it makes me wince, because doesn’t he (or she) realize that love and humility are greater ways to show the love of Christ?

We as a body of believers need to bring sin to the light and hold people accountable. Whether it is the hidden sins of child pornography, consorting with prostitutes, sexual abuse, or simply self-righteousness, all of those who call themselves Christians need to be held to a higher standard.

Jesus saw the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders. He ended his list of woes with lament, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Matthew 23:37-39

image by Matthew Troke on iStock

Lord, I pray that I am willing to not only be gathered under your mighty wings, but to learn to soar above my earthly desires so that I bring honor to your name. I pray that any hidden sins I have will be shown to me, so that I may repent and glorify the name of Jesus. Lord, help me to be a beacon of light that reflects you, rather than a hypocrite who dishonors your name. I pray for the church and church leaders who get caught up in the self-righteous path and fail to recognize the sin in their lives. Lord, open their eyes and show them your truth and your righteousness. I am so thankful that the day will come for all of us to say “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” Amen

Agnes Dei – Alleluia

Sometimes it is difficult for me to find the words to say to convey a feeling or emotion so that it can be visualized and experienced the way it was originally. That is the difficulty I have now. During a recent time of worship at church we were led to the throne of God through musical praise. As the musicians prepared our hearts for time with our Creator, I found myself picturing what heaven is going to look like. As I sang Agnes Dei (by Michael W. Smith) with hands raised in worship and tears gathering in my eyes, I could only get an infinitesimal glimpse of what is in store when we reach heaven.

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Resilient or Defeated

re·sil·ience/rəˈzilyəns

  1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. “the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

Today I was reading through the book Successful Women Think Differently by Valorie Burton. I sincerely wish I had been able to read a book like this when I was in my twenties (which is way further back than I like!). The chapter I read today was on resilience. As I read through the chapter I realized that resiliency is one key thing that makes all the difference in the world for people who have faced adversity.

Burton defines resilience as “the ability to bounce back from setbacks.” She further notes that “resilient people thrive and grow in the face of adversity, challenges and change.”1

While I was in the Ozarks I noticed that throughout the rocky ground, there was life. Bushes, trees and even weeds managed to thrive and grow despite their less than ideal environment.

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Counting the Cost

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:25-27. (NIV)

These are the words of Jesus to the crowd that was following him. It was not long before this that Jesus had fed loaves and fishes to the crowds. Most them following still anticipated watching him heal someone or waited to be fed. They listened to his words and parables, without fully understanding what he was saying. But when Jesus spoke his words they probably were wondering if he really meant what he said. He did.

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Unexpected Detours

Most people I know type in an address and their car’s navigational system gets them to their destination. I have heard that the GPS even talks. But for some strange reason, mine doesn’t. No matter what we do, no matter what buttons we click, my Google maps does not voice activate. EVER. I have had multiple techie people look at it, and in the store the voice will activate. But as soon as my car starts moving it quits. So I have learned to navigate the old fashioned way, by printing a map before I go anywhere. Or I can bring the map up on my phone, but I need to look at it frequently for directions. Neither solution works well for me since it is hard to drive and look at directions at the same time.

I was in the Branson area and needed to go to Walmart to pick up a few additional items. I was told, “Oh it is easy. Just turn left at the stop sign and turn right at the first light.” Somehow I missed my turn and unexpectedly found myself driving out of town on a small, two-lane highway. At first as I drove the hilly, windy road on my unexpected detour, I was tense, my shoulders were tight, and my jaw was clenched. As a person who sits short and cannot see over the hood of the car, getting to the top of a steep hill and then starting down can be scary because there is a moment when you can only pray that the road will be underneath you as you cross the hill.

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When I Love the Church the Most

I have just returned from church. Yes, I attended in person and it was a wonderful experience to step through the doors this morning and be greeted by friendly faces. It was a great feeling to have my friend ask if it was okay to hug me and I answered in the affirmative (because finally she and I have both received our vaccines). I soaked in the opportunity to participate in praising God and worshiping Him. I listened carefully as our pastor shared God’s Word.

As a church we are reading through the New Testament and each week the sermon is based on something we read during the week. This morning was the story of the Good Samaritan and as our pastor always does, he gave a thought provoking, challenging-me-to-be-better sermon. But then the one thing about the church that always tugs at my heart and makes me realize how much I love the church happened. After the closing song and invitation, our pastor stepped up and asked if we could be seated. You never know what to anticipate when that happens. Did someone resign? Is there an important event coming to talk about? Who knows what it will be.

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The Color Fan

When I built my current home I had my entire villa painted white. I wanted to live in it a while so I could soak up the atmosphere and decide on the personality of each room. When I finally got to the job of choosing colors for some of my rooms, I looked at my paint fan and was overwhelmed with the choices offered. It seemed like every color in the spectrum was presented and they all reflected unique perspectives. Each color had subtle differences, making my choices difficult.

When I was looking at the different options available, I thought about how much this paint fan was like people. People come in all different personalities, made up of different shades that are formed by their innate gifts, culture, experiences and beliefs. When they intersect with our lives, we find some of them we love and instantly connect with, and others take time to grow on us. 

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Worth Something

Recently I ran across a quote that said, “Every kid needs adults who love them in a way that convinces them they are worth something.” I have to admit there was something about that statement that resonated profoundly within me. As I thought about it over the next few days, I had to dig deep to see why it struck such a cord with me.

photo by Gean Montoya on Unsplash

Without going into a ton of detail and lots of history, I realized that one of the reasons it resonated so strongly with me is because I struggled with my own worth as I grew up. Having a mom who was a perfectionist taught me all kinds of things about doing stuff right, but it also placed a lot of unrealistic expectations on me as a child. I always felt no matter what I did, it was never enough. That really did influence my feeling (or lack) of self-worth. To this day, I still struggle with believing I am worth something.

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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. Continue reading

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? Continue reading