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 Lies Beneath

Over Thanksgiving I ventured to Dallas to see my son and his family and my car was rear ended as I was sitting at a stop light waiting for the green light. I was hit hard enough to hit my head against the head rest rather forcefully, but when I got out and looked at the bumper of my car I was pleasantly surprised that it did not seem so bad. The car that hit me did not fare quite as well and had to be towed because the radiator was rapidly losing coolant.

On Monday I took my car to the repair shop anticipating being able to pick it up in a few days. Today I called and was dismayed to hear that there was way more damage to the car than initially estimated. When they took the bumper cover off, the damage was easily seen. I knew the trunk had big gaps on both sides, but the trunk and the steel body on both back panels had significant bends in them. So I wait while the insurance adjuster comes to take a look at the final damage and negotiates a new price for the repairs.

After I hung up from talking with the owner of the body shop, I thought how much like life this incident was. Sometimes we do not recognize the untreated wounds that are lying beneath the outside facade, until we peel back the protective layers we have used. Continue reading

Welcome Home

October  27 is a bittersweet day for me. It is a day that leaves me kind of weepy, sad, and nostalgic all at the same time. It is also a day that reminds me of the joy of having Christ as my Savior and the hope of heaven. Eight years ago today my husband of 28 years woke up in a glorious new place, and sometimes I envy him for getting to experience what I long for someday. Then five years later to the day, and almost to the same minute, my Mom silently drew her last breath and was welcomed into heaven.

Tom & LindaI miss them both, and selfishly, I would love to still have them here by my side. But the reality is that life goes on without them. I have had bad days and good days, but the good ones outnumber the bad ones. I have learned I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have grown a little wiser and I have learned some lessons about life.

Here are some of the lessons I learned: Continue reading

Four Things I Learned from Failure*

youre-fired-300x241When my husband and I were dating  and just getting to know one another, we shared about the various jobs we had in our past.  My husband told me that he was fired from his very first job.  He thought everyone should be fired at least once in their life because you learn many lessons from it.

This past week I had a conversation with someone who is graduating from college soon.  She is anxious about stepping out into a new world and having to make it on her own.  Her biggest question to me was, “What if I fail?”  My reply was, “What if you do? Most people fail at something.  It’s how you handle failure that’s important.”  Failure happens to most of us at one time or another and in our culture we consider failure as something to be avoided at all cost.

My contention is that we need failure in our lives occasionally.  It is through failure that we learn. When a baby is learning to walk she doesn’t automatically take off.  She fails a few times first.  She takes a step and falls down, but as she learns to take the next steps she figures out what works and what doesn’t.  She may learn so well that she may eventually even learn to run.

There are many things we can learn from our failures, but here are four key things I have learned from mine.

  1. Humility

Sometimes we fail because we are unwilling to listen and learn from others.  I have seen this play out on multiple occasions.  It is pretty humbling when we fail, especially if we have neglected to let the wisdom of others guide us.  I have to tell you, I have “eaten crow” on more than one occasion.  But if we learn humility we are far more likely to succeed in our endeavors.

  1. Perseverance

When I was learning to drive, I was ready to quit after my first time behind the wheel.  It was a disaster.  But with encouragement from my instructor, I persevered and eventually was able to drive on my own.

Henry Ford said, “Perseverance is a positive attribute we need to learn as we mature. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Sometimes we initially fail in our attempts, but with practice can succeed. The saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is apt for most of us.

  1. Adaptation

Sometimes we experience a huge failure, such as a failed marriage, a failed career, or any other of a myriad of things.  But we learn that even though we fail, our life goes forward.  We may experience the pain of failure for a while, but to survive we must make adjustments and adapt to our new environment.  Individuals who have learned to adapt to new circumstances thrive more quickly than those who can’t get past their moment of failure.

  1. Courage

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  It takes courage to get back on our feet after a failure.  When we can get up and try again, we grow stronger.

Peter had a colossal failure when he denied Christ three times prior to Christ’s crucifixion (John 18:15-27).  Yet he grew to be a key figure in helping spread the gospel in the world around him.  While the source of his courage was the Lord, the fact is that his failure taught him a valuable lesson about faithfulness.

There is no doubt that I have failed many times in my life.  And, to be perfectly honest, there will probably be times in the future that I also fail.  But I can’t let my failures define who I am and what I do.  When I fail, I try to put everything in the proper perspective, learn from my failure, and find the courage to move on.

How do you handle failure in your life?  Do you let it define who you are?  Do you become so bogged down by failure that you can’t move forward in your life?  When we put our failures in God’s hands, it’s amazing what He can do with us.  I want to be like Peter, who after a huge failure, regrouped and let God use Him in mighty ways.  What about you?

*This article was originally published on August 30, 2011 on my cwrn blog.

 

Heartaches and Hope

If you have lived any time at all, you already know that in this life bad things happen.  No matter who you are, or where you live, or what you do, at some point pain and heartache will touch your life. Whether you are rich or poor, young or old, male or female, you are not exempt from this thing we call life.

sorrow 1Sometimes days are just hard. The heartache that comes seems unbearable. Continue reading

Sometimes Life Is Hard

tearsSometimes life is just hard. My heart has been full of sadness for some of my friends and family lately. I cannot tell you how many of them have been going through crisis mode.  The loss of a family member, the loss of a job, the loss of a child, the heartbreak of a broken marriage, the pain of broken confidences, a diagnosis of cancer, and the list goes on.  Each one of them are precious individuals who are reeling from their hurt and pain. I wish I could fix it for them. But I can’t. Continue reading

Being Enough

Sometimes I struggle in life with the futility of being enough.  I want to stop being “ordinary” and do something special with my life. You may know what I mean. I think if I am just a better person, or if I work just a little harder, or if I do just a little more, or if I am just a little smarter–I can be loved more, recognized more, rewarded more, respected more . . . and, you get the picture.  In all honesty, that kind of thinking is futile and leads to discouragement and disappointment.  Because I am searching for significance in the wrong things and the wrong people.

That’s why I love God’s grace. Continue reading