For the love…

It’s all about Peter this spring. Peter, the hot headed follower of Jesus. The one who chopped off a guys ear. Jesus put it back on FYI and I have some questions about what that looked like in real time…no…slo-mo!

I would really like to see that in slo-mo.

I have expectations for heaven and one of them is slo-mo video recaps. It’s going to be so much better than the best tiktoks, right?!

So, Peter. I get Peter’s personality at times. I want quick fixes, zaps that would put everything to rights. Maybe not lightening but that would be cool sometimes. Expedient.

Peter got it wrong a lot with Jesus and Jesus doesn’t make sense to me sometimes either. He goes against all we think should be true about life and our world sometimes.

Like suffering, that makes no sense to me at all sometimes. The concept of suffering having meaning and experiencing joy in suffering just really stumps me. I avoid suffering unnecessarily. If I can be comfortable, I choose that path. Peter was suffering avoidant, too, and Jesus really called him out on that.

I mean really called him out! Jesus used the word Satan as I recall.

In 1 Peter, though, there’s a real change. Peter, the quick-fix, suffering avoidant snob is a different man. Now he’s telling Christians that were driven from their homes to rest secure as they suffer for their faith.

Old Peter wanted to call down lightening to resolve problems. New Peter is saying wait, hope, let suffering do its work removing the bloat and impurities from our lives.

Contrary to the positivity all around us today–Peter owns the suffering they experience, we experience. It’s real. He owns that its hard. He acknowledges that we cannot afford to be passive in suffering but we must be sober and alert and it matters what we do when we suffer. But just thinking positive thoughts doesn’t make it go away.

And more surprising, all this suffering and waiting and hoping results in something otherworldly–greater love. When we submit to the trials and the suffering, the goal is not that we become more with-it, disciplined, and productive people.

Peter says we become more sincere lovers of other people.

So, if you, like me, are chaffing under the weight of the things that are not right, under the displacement we feel in the world, Peter has got a lot to say to you too.

Old Peter is pretty fun to read about but new Peter. New Peter is the one I want to spend time with. He’s the one that gives the true filling of courage for hard times.

He has lived it. He loves. He became the shepherd Jesus charged him to become when Peter was coming out of his greatest failure.

So, as we live it too. As we face all our avoidant, quick-fix tendencies and live under our circumstances with that living hope inheritance with Jesus, we will be changed too.

And we will love. And won’t the world be better for it? And won’t Jesus shine?

My 4 Holiday Best Practices

I’d love for my holidays to be magical and nostalgic this year like a Hallmark commercial but, in reality, I’m pretty wiped out and its still a few weeks until Thanksgiving break.

College students I talk with face longer than normal school breaks too. So many of us are home so much more, its come up that we’re a little nervous about more together time.

I’m not sure where you are as you anticipate the holiday break, but I’m already thinking through what might help my break feel restorative…or maybe just not totally suck.

So, here are a few lifelines I’m holding on to over the holidays in this very tumultous year.

#1: Read.

Fiction is always important to me. I read fiction every night. Lining up a few really good books for the holidays is a high priority on vacations and holidays. Good fiction helps me put worries and to-do lists aside at the end of a day and mentally unwind.

And when I say good fiction, I’m saying all fiction is not created equal. Remember that episode on Friends where Joey reads Rachel’s novel? He’s spot on. There’s plenty of good books out there that satisfy our God-given hunger for good stories.

Check out my top ten all time favorites!

#2: Ritual.

Ok, that sounds weird. I’m not into empty or evil rituals. I am into grounding patterns for my day that can reset my world a little bit. This is especially helpful when there is no outside schedule I laid out for me to follow, like during holidays when school and work are on a back burner.

One ritual I plan to keep is waking before my kids to a cup of coffee and reading my Bible. Another is taking a walk before it gets dark each day. These activities are not new and carrying them on helps me process through my days or prepare for them.



#3: Relax.

For the past few years, I’ve set aside one day of personal vacation before my kids are released on holiday break. On that day, my focus is to do indulgent things like watch a movie at 9am, wrap presents in the living room, and eat what I want to eat from a restaraunt even if I already have a sensible meal in the fridge.

Last year I assured my husband I loved and liked him and politely asked him to make himself scarce that day. He is so gracious and made himself scarce that day. It is a wonderful day. I’m looking forward to it this year so much!

Its my version of Treat Yo’self.

#4: Review.

I always spend the early hours of January 1st engaging my soul with some reflection on the past year. This year is one for the books, literally! If there was ever a year to reflect on, this is surely at the top of the list.

I know there are a few ways to do this so pick one that works for you. My favorite is Michael Hyatt’s Seven Questions to Ask About Last Year. Something about sitting in the quiet, remembering, grieving, celebrating, and recording my thoughts on my year helps me face the new one.

If you haven’t tried an exercise like this, consider setting aside some time to reflect and record.


Will more time at home be a gift after so many months of more time at home? I’m trusting that God always has more good in store for all of us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

I’ve enjoyed the Lord in each of these practices in different ways and I’m all about sharing the wealth! So let me know if you adopt one. I’d love to hear how it went for you.

We don’t know what to do but…

I encounter more people now as our community stumbles forward and we try to feel each other out. How close is it ok to approach a person on a neighborhood walk? What criteria do I use to decide if I go back to church in-person or watch online? What level of risk is appropriate to be with people and for what purpose?

Figuring out this new world, learning how to live in it as we hold in tension so many competing realities is a weight we are all learning to carry.

The other times in my life that I remember talking this much about how to interact with people on a daily basis was when we first moved overseas. My husband and I experienced an onslaught of new our first few years overseas that left us speechless, staring at our McDonald’s cheeseburgers.

We are now back in the country we grew up in. But, with the sudden shift of culture caused by this pandemic, it again feels like we are learning a new world. We are in the same place physically as last year but doing so many things so differently adding to the strangeness of it all.

It’s like the world tilted and I’m left again grasping for firmer ground.

A passage of the Bible that captured my attention this past week was the story of Jehoshaphat (yes, like in Great Jehoshaphat!). He was one of the good kings in the Bible. He went around to the whole kingdom to talk to the judges and tell them, look guys, you’re working for God and He’s not a God of injustice, bribery or partiality so let the fear of God guide you.

Wow! I really appreciate that kind of leadership.

A lot of times you read these stories about the good kings and generally things go better for them, but not Jehoshophat. He soon learns a huge army is coming for them and they’re pretty powerless to stop it. He prays this great long prayer but at the end he says, We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on You. 

So then, another guy stands up and says he’s got something to say from God. He basically says, don’t be afraid or discouraged. Go out to the battle but you will not need to fight in this one. Stand firm and hold your position. God ends up routing the enemy before they even get to Israel’s army.

There is something beatiful and right in determining you’re up against something bigger than you can deal with and saying I don’t know what to do. And, then, still showing up to the battle even when it’s not clear how it will all play out, just that God will be there.

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In all this upheaval, I’m realizing the importance of showing up to see what God will do. When I say show up, I mean open up opportunities, be available and trust that God can do something no matter how meager and anemic the method feels.

Somehow, he’s not limited by our physicality. I can tell you, God shows up on video calls, phone calls (they’re back in again–just give younger folks a pre-call text), and conference calls.

I guess that’s where I am today, I don’t know what to do often. I feel overwhelmed some days. But I want my eyes to be on Him.

Sometimes its more that I don’t know how to do it this way, but I am trying to take the step and trust Him to be there in the middle of it with me.

Each time, as I look back I can see that He’s never deserted me.

 

What if…

So much news predicts such a grim future. Life as we know it gone. Futures forever changed. This generation will suffer the worst.

I’m glad I don’t know the future. Anticipating the unknown has usually proved more awful than actually walking through it for me.

But, what if all the adversity predicted is the severe road to a better future, a different life lived from a different source, for us and our kids?

Along those lines, I wrote the following lines…

What if all the losses taught us to mourn?

What if all the mourning taught us to empathize?

What if all the empathy taught us humility?

What if all the humility taught us our poverty of soul?

What if our poverty taught us to search?

What if in our searching we found God? Who knows loss. Who mourns. Who empathizes. Who endured poverty. Who meets our needs?

Our need for Him to restore our dignity. Forgive our wrong. Heal our wound. Feed our mouth. Guide our path… Replace our heart.

With a new heart. A heart warm, not cold. A heart alive, not dead. A heart that feels, not numb. A hear not sick anymore.

What if our hope was not on the stock market, the cure, the vaccine, the vindication, the political party, the back to normal?

But in Christ

Who makes all things new

Even this broken world

Even we broken people

Would we then welcome the losses that taught us to mourn?

The mourning that taught us empathy?

The empathy that taught us our poverty?

The poverty that taught our need?

And the need that taught us to search?

And the search that brought us to the heart of God?

To me, the stairs are the adversity and the joyful girl at the top, my daughter, like the joy of finding God along a hard steep, path in life.

Being Still

I expected Easter weekend to be full of far flung friends gathered for a special wedding celebration—a dear friend united in marriage in the witness of many other dear friends.

A big celebration surrounded by many other little celebrations of a community separated and once again united for a weekend.

As shut downs and shelter-in-places spread across the world, the celebrations are delayed, the wedding postponed as we all wait for the unknown.

Our plans all yielded…

We may never be so closely linked in experience or feeling with the followers of Christ this Easter season. The joys of Spring Break in early March feel like Palm Sunday when life seemed like it was going well. An expectation of wonderful Spring!

The snowball of our restrictions parallel the turn of events during Holy Week as Jesus went from a heralded king to a hunted and betrayed man. Life turned upside down for Jesus’ followers.

A much anticipated celebration season flipped to unexpected mourning.

As they witnessed Jesus’ procession with His cross, this man they had followed everywhere for three years, did they think what we think now about our plans…this should not to be? I never saw this coming?

And, when Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb and the Sabbath began, and they sat in their homes did they sit stunned like we do now?

I don’t know what is next? Life as I know it is flipped upside down. What happens when this is over? When we emerge from our homes to a new reality? The ones passed over and not taken by this pandemic.

We wonder about our jobs, whether our kids will go back to school, what our community will suffer. The disciples also worried about their jobs and their lives… what they would suffer when those in power came looking for them the first chance they could leave their home.

Our world, with so many people, has never been so still as on this Passover, this Easter weekend. I have never experienced alongside so many others such uncertainty about what is next.

With all the unexpected quiet and stillness in my home right now, all the itching eagerness to escape and do something, anything else…I identify with Jesus’ followers in a new way this weekend.

Unlike them, I have the hope of knowing the next part of the story for us as followers of Jesus. The joy of the resurrection. The assurance of redemption and the security of a new purpose as His follower that the disciples would soon discover.

But, this weekend, I can identify with them…a party weekend upset and turned into a weekend of wondering quiet waiting for a new, uncertain day.

Truth and Morality

I like to peruse the Nextdoor app, well, daily. It’s fun to see what’s happening in the hood…sometimes its just entertaining. Other times its downright chilling to see how people respond to events in our community.

People are posting pictures of folks they don’t know who aren’t following the law of social distancing. They’re sharing some pretty extreme hostilities towards those who are stockpiling toilet paper. We don’t even know who’s stockpiling it, but someone is because there’s no toilet paper!

By the way, you can use this handy toilet paper calculator to assess how long your stash is going to last you. The advanced feature is pretty awesome. If its going to last you til September, well, you might be the one people don’t like very much right now.

But its really struck me how morality is at an all time high. There is a right and a wrong way to act during this crisis according to many, some of them actual scientists and doctors. The right way has to do with protecting others, looking out for others, and not thinking just about yourself.

And, its based on truth. This itty, bitty, tiny, little organism we can’t even see with our naked eye is passing between us, killing people, and bringing the entire world to its knees. The closer we stand and the more we interact, the worse it will get.

Facts. Math. They support this reality.

We cannot escape the truth though we act sometimes like it doesn’t apply to us. Acting like it doesn’t apply doesn’t make it not true. The reality of “the curve” will show us how well we are aligning with truth as a whole community.

Right now, it don’t look so good. And why should it? Morality and truth have been situational for so long that when we are backed up into this kind of wall, its so confusing! At the grocery store or neighborhood park, its not ok anymore that “you do you.” It means someone you may not even know will pay the price. The noblest act of love in the era of Covid-19 is to deny yourself for others.

And truth has never been so valued as it seems to be at press conferences right now. What people say and what they have said and done matters deeply. Did elected officials trade on inside information? There is a very significant and important judgement to be made that depends on what is true in that situation.

Do we want to elect such people to make decisions for our society. Most people, I think, would say no. So truth matters. We want people to follow a code that is fair and considers others, not just ourselves. We must judge these matters fairly in an age when not being judged is pretty popular.

Right now, there is a ban on elective surgeries where I am. The central basis is to look out for the life of others by conserving beds, medical supplies, and limiting risks for exposure. This week, my mother’s doctor had to defend, document in detail, and be prepared to explain the surgery my mom needed in ways he didn’t have to before. Waiting on her surgery would certainly mean an urgent risk to her life in the coming weeks when beds, supplies, and exposure will be much worse.

We hear of cancer patients facing different and limited decisions for treatment based on these factors. What a month ago would have been the best plan is now not because of risks of exposure. What a tough position to be in. Yet, there are law cases advocating for surgeries for non-life threatening, but very deeply difficult issues, like unwanted pregnancy.

Our society has to face these very moral questions now. Does one person get to use up medical resources to deal with a non-life threatening (but very physically and emotionally difficult) issue while another person with a life threatening issue cannot receive surgery?

When the main code for most behavior as it relates to our interconnected society is to preserve the lives of many we do not even know, our culture is inconsistent. We still want what we want and we still don’t really want to look out for others in key ways.

So, what are we to do with all our inconsistency? What do we do when we are backed up against a wall of morality and truth? When the issues don’t seem like life and death, its easier to squirm away.

My hope in all this upheaval and chaos is that we, as a world, will acknowledge that we all have an innate sense to some degree of morality and truth and it is a good thing. But it also leads us down a path we must follow to the end.

Where does this moral code and truth come from? Why do we have it? Why does everyone seem to agree worldwide that lives matter enough to shut down everything to save 1-2% of our population?

If you’re an atheist, it doesn’t make sense. You should welcome the culling of our weaker population. It is more consistent with an atheistic position it seems to me. No need to socially distance. Of course, I would think that the atheist must hope they are not considered in the 1-2%.

If you’re agnostic, the universal morality and desire for truth must mean something. If you can’t abide the atheistic mindset, its no longer the time to sit on the fence. If life matters, then its time to really decide who God really is. If God’s a God that values life and has fashioned us with a similar innate mind…to value life as well…wouldn’t life be better lived aligned with Him?

If so, who is God? The search must begin and be carried out in earnest.

To the Christian, this really exposes us. Do we care about lives as much as we say we do? As much as God does? Do we love like God loves? Do we know His love enough to trust Him with our futures economically, in matters of life and death, to talk about how much He loves people and doesn’t want anyone to die without knowing Him and His forgiveness of our incredible selfishness?

With the world at its knees, its time to talk. Or if we don’t really know His love for us, to dig deeper and get to know the trinitarian God of the Bible more deeply. My experience is that drawing closer to the God of the Bible has driven me towards His love and towards loving others.

Many will say God does not love the world. That He does not even exist or things wouldn’t be like this. That He is judging the world and He’s being really unfair and harsh.

Love like God’s love is not to be trifled with, true. It is pure and rejecting His gift does leave people in the cold. But it is fair and it should compel us to urgently invite everyone in to sit at His table.

But what is true about God—whether He exists, whether He has the right to say what is true and what is not, what is right and what is not—it matters whether we live by it or not.

Ultimately, at the end of life, there is no squirming away. If its true that God is the source of truth and morality, we will be at His mercy.

If its not true, what does it matter how we live our lives right now? There’s really not many people that would say that out loud right now. They’d be relegated to the depths of social hell for the rest of their lives for acting in their own interests.

So, Covid-19 puts us up against the wall. It’s time for us to decide about God, who He is and what it means for our life and the lives of those around us.

Spoiler alert, it’s not so bad, in fact, its so, so good to be at peace with God.