Should We Forget?

Earlier this month the Shaw 54th Regiment Memorial was defaced by rioters. Ironically enough, this memorial was in honor of the first all-Black regiment who fought during the Civil War. They were heroes and those who dishonored their memory probably would not have done so had they known history.

I am pondering this movement to sanitize our history. Civil War monuments are being removed or defaced; street names are being changed; the Confederate flag is coming down. It is a paradox. On the one hand, I see why the Black populace is offended by any amount of honor and recognition given to their oppressors, and I agree with them. On the other hand, we are called to remember the pain and the providence of the past; if we do not remember, how can we learn?

Great need and great wrong-doing pave the way for great provision and great courage. If we attempt to forget the past because of its darkness, we will also forget the beacons of light that shone brightly in the midst of it. And if we remove all markers of the past because they remind us of injustice, how can we chart our change for the better? Perhaps we should view these monuments, not as symbols of honor but as warnings to not repeat the travesties of the past. And next to them display monuments of history’s hidden heroes- those who, with courage and conviction, countered the evil surrounding them.

In Joshua 4, God commanded that memorial stones be set up so that children would inquire about them. Parents could then explain how God caused them to cross the Jordan River on dry ground. Why did they need to remember? “...so that all the people of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.” All of history is an interweaving of evil and good, despair and hope, depravity and redemption. God allows us to experience the weight of our sin so we are confronted with our need for a Savior. American history is one example of this and our need for Jesus has not changed.

When we attempt to deny the darkness of yesterday, we will also forget those who held up their lanterns to reveal a better way forward.

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My Place in this Racial Discourse

I’m trying to find my place in this world of chaos and confusion. I have had frank conversations with dear friends whose lives and experiences have been entirely different from mine due to discrimination, and my eyes are opening to the travesty of racism in our land. My inclination has been to shrink back in shame because of the color of my skin; to feel like I am part of the problem, that no matter how hard I try to be kind or how carefully I choose my words, I will be seen as part of the problem race. And then I realized that that is probably how my fellow citizens have always felt- from the time they were brought to this country in chains until now. I have formulated all sorts of opinions and defenses for those of us who don’t see color in our friends and fellow Americans in an attempt to diffuse the situation, but my meager attempts for peace can do nothing to remove the scars of sin that have marred our country for centuries. Sin leads to death and is passed down generation after generation after generation.

The issues prompting today’s headlines are not going away anytime soon because there are no quick fixes or simple solutions for them. Racism is a sin that joins the bleak ranks of adultery, murder, theft, gossip, hatred, deception, abortion (of which Black babies have the highest death rate) and every other vile thought, word and deed that is conceived in the heart of man. Our country is reeling from the devastation of drug addiction, sex trafficking, child pornography, domestic violence, and broken homes. The recent protests and riots have opened our eyes to the deep wounds of sin that have compounded across generations. The problem is that we are broken people trying to fix broken people. It can’t be done.

Thankfully, I don’t need to have an opinion about all of this nor do I have to come up with solutions to this tidal wave of problems devastating our nation. I simply need to turn to Christ and His Word. 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 gives a template for the Christian life: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands…so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” This doesn’t mean ignore injustice because it’s not happening to me. 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18 goes on to explain how we should engage with others: “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Collectively, I believe these verses mean to spend my time ensuring that I’m being a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to me, and in doing so I can influence others. He has given me this life for a reason. I don’t want to squander it or belittle it. How do I put feet to my faith in a time like this? Here are a few specific actions I am going to take as I make it my ambition to lead a quiet life and mind my own business:

  • Use my voice to speak (and write) the words God puts on my heart.
  • Raise my children to see the intricacy of God’s image reflected in the diversity of mankind.
  • Respect the lives and experiences of those around me.
  • Be willing to listen without already preparing a comeback response.
  • Not feel ashamed for being the person God created me to be.
  • Live gratefully and humbly.
  • Read God’s Word.
  • Memorize God’s Word.
  • Obey God’s Word.

Psalm 130 declares: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
This passage is a prayer for my personal life and for my country. Each of us is a sinner, whether we have been accessories to racial tension or not. We are rebels against God and that is the source of the mortal wounds in our nation. We can advocate, educate and plead for change but those are simply bandaids. Repentance is what will bring the healing we crave. Let us repent of our sins against God and each other. And then let us move forward.

Imperfect human beings cannot create a perfect solution to the problems we are facing. The only thing we can do is bring God back into the equation.

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Intrinsically

In just a few short months we have been confronted with the terms of essential and nonessential; we have witnessed the murder of a citizen by law enforcement; we have seen women’s abuse being dismissed by the influential. And now we are hearing the voices of a weary people crying out. But what are they actually saying?

From ME TOO! to BLACK LIVES MATTER! to masked sign wavers declaring ALL WORK IS ESSENTIAL! citizens are desperate to be considered important. We have created a culture where a person’s worth is determined by someone else. The factors that are taken into consideration are social status, wealth, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity and religion. This results in favor being shown to whoever checks the correct boxes or the most boxes. In an attempt to balance the discrimination that runs rampant in our land, the pendulum usually swings violently in the opposite direction. Special access and unique privileges are now granted to the groups that experience the most discrimination. Is this the solution?

We seem to be of the opinion that peace will come when we are all the same. Perhaps when all men behave like women or when the wealthy give all their money away or when white citizens no longer hold positions of power things will be better. Maybe when we level out the playing field fairness will return to the game. This, however, is simply a reversal of the current problem. It continues the trend of declaring some more valuable than others. It avoids the real issue: the heart.

We seem to have forgotten that no two people are exactly the same. Each of us is unique in some way and is designed with a particular purpose. Men shouldn’t have to hang their heads in shame for not being women. Citizens shouldn’t feel like they need to apologize because of the color of their skin. What needs to happen is a recognition of Who placed us all here on this planet in the first place. Earth’s citizens are consumed with themselves, their wants, and their needs and are avoiding the truth that they are accountable to God for the posture of their hearts. We are experiencing the consequences of this sin crisis.

Unity in our nation will only come when our society chooses to set aside the labels that divide in order to celebrate the differences that make us stronger. We need to recognize the intrinsic worth of every beating heart in our land, beginning with the unborn. We make a mockery of justice when we wave signs calling for equality for all and then defend the slaughter of millions of babies because of the circumstances of their conception. Ultimately, we must individually repent for how we have devalued life and minimized our Creator’s sovereignty; we must step down from our thrones and bow before His instead.

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#5 Turns #1

I remember envisioning God’s hand guiding you through the birth canal and into my arms as I labored through the intensity of transition. And then there you were! Our tiniest boy! I wondered what it would be like to raise a third son. Your older brothers are each distinct in their own ways; would you be like them or different?

This past year with you has proven that you are uniquely yourself. You have completely stolen the heart of every member of our family as we all fight over whose turn it is to cuddle you, feed you, play with you or fetch your favorite blanket for you. In spite of being such a petite little fellow, you bellow and scream with the best of them, staunchly defending your personal space and property.

In just the last few weeks you figured out how to propel your little body with your arms from one end of the room to the other; your two bottom teeth popped out and you learned how to clap! Every accomplishment causes you to beam with such pride; it’s almost as adorable as your cheery “Hi!” paired with an eager opening and closing of your tiny raised hand.

Simeon, as delighted as I am by your growth and development, and as eager as I am to have conversations with you and to learn life through your eyes, I am content to keep you small for the time being. Burying my face in your fuzzy, strawberry blond hair, snuggling you in my arms, and soaking in your baby giggles are things I look forward to every day. It seems like your babyhood has been the most savored one to date- perhaps because I am sharing it with so many other people. More than once this week I have heard your siblings comment to one other: “I can’t believe his birthday is coming! He is growing up! He is going to be one!”

Tomorrow on your birthday I am going to study you even more; I am going to snuggle you even longer; and I am going to cherish even deeper how you pop your thumb in your mouth when I scoop you up, smirk just a little and then lay your head sideways on my shoulder. Being one doesn’t have to change everything just yet.

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A Walk with Jane Austen by Lori Smith

This is a winning read for anyone who adores Jane Austen and descriptions of a walk through England, has wrestled with singleness or had debilitating health issues that led to serious depression.

The candor with which the author writes is refreshing and heartwarming. It stirs the reader to compassion and also introspection. Her faithful accounts of emotional ups and downs from one day to the next can leave the reader encouraged because God’s constancy was present no matter how the author was feeling.

After reading this book the reader will also feel more connected to Jane Austen by better understanding why she wrote the way she did and how she managed to leave such an impact in spite of living a simple and relatively brief life so long ago.

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Disconnected to be Reconnected

2020 was one of the first years that I felt nervous about beginning (as if I had a choice). I found it difficult to settle on resolutions because 2019 repeatedly taught me that “man makes his plans but the Lord directs his steps,” although in my case it often felt like my children were the ones changing my plans. I didn’t want to set myself up for more frustration.

I also didn’t feel prepared. We were blessed with an abundance of beloved company from October through January, but all good intentions about maintaining routines are usually set aside for the sake of memory-making with visitors. Over Christmas, Jared and I didn’t get the time to sit and plan and discuss our personal and shared visions for the new year. In some ways, I felt like I was entering this brand new decade blind except for knowing of certain challenges ahead – which didn’t serve to help me feel peaceful.

Thanks to a dear friend wanting to do Cultivate’s Powersheets with me this year, I am doing them for a third year in a row. Through the prepatory work, I settled on CONTENTMENT as my word for the year. As I pondered how to strive to live out this word, I realized that the steps towards being content could become my resolutions. I would like to reduce the amount of cravings in my life: sugar cravings, material cravings, and approval cravings. I desire to increase my appreciation for what I have: relationships with family and friends, the beautiful outdoors, a home filled with lovely items, a personal library stocked with books beckoning to be read, a tea hutch with a rich selection of inviting tea. Finally, I hope to cultivate simplicity which will offer me the time to savor what I have rather than fighting the frenzy that can easily overtake me when my expectations are all too high.

My “plan” for the new year involves two main steps: disconnect from social media and reconnect with Jesus. When my thumb is scrolling, I can feel my mind buzzing with unnecessary noise and my heart growing restless. I start viewing my person, my home, my children, and my life with a critical eye as I compare it to the perfect squares on my screen. That quickly spirals into extra spending, bitterness, and frustration as I frantically try to make my life meet social media standards.  What I really need to do is fill my spare moments with intentional prayer, refreshing reading, and focused time reveling in the bounty within my home.

This doesn’t mean I will never hop on Facebook or check on Instagram – I enjoy sneaking a peek here and there. But it does mean that it will no longer be my priority. I want to be connected with the things that mean the most to me when I am eighty-years old and by that time I highly doubt that I’ll be counting ‘Likes’ on my posts.

How do you feel about this brand new decade?

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Let’s Talk About It (Part 2)

In my previous post I delved into the looming topic of depression and promised to promptly provide a part two. However, the sequel was delayed because shortly after writing my post I plummeted into a difficult time and it has been a slow climb out of it. I hesitated to write a post with answers to depression when I myself was struggling with their implementation. A couple of close friends urged me to write anyway, as my thoughts could still help someone else; not long after, I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit that the time had come to write the second part.

In my experience and comparing notes with others regarding theirs, I have discovered that living through a cycle of depression requires an eclectic collection of strategies. For some that collection might include counseling or medication; mine consists of the pursuit of:

  • Acceptance. Depression in and of itself is not bad. It is our mind’s way of telling us that something in our life or body is not well. Change is required and we must make time to find out what that is. The longer we deny the depression, thinking it’s wrong, the deeper it settles in because we then add guilt to our already burdened minds. It’s much better to acknowledge our situation and then work towards finding a solution.
  • Beauty. The other night I made time for a candlelit bubble bath. In the flickering candlelight I couldn’t see the dust on my shutters or the clutter of bath toys around me. An aura of serenity surrounded me and I was peaceful. I realized how important it is to focus on the beautiful- and it can always be found. Perhaps it’s in a laughter-filled conversation with a friend or a multi-colored nourishing meal arrayed on your plate or a dance party with your children or a walk at a sunset. Beauty prompts our minds to see the other side of life that depression’s darkness tries to cover up from our view.
  • The good. As a Christ-follower I know that all things work together for my good and God’s glory- even depression. In the midst of the turmoil I strive to acknowledge the good I can see coming from it: the solidarity between me and fellow sufferers is one; the lifestyle changes I make to lessen my stress is another. I find myself clinging to simple blessings and I am more aware of the sorrow that others are experiencing. I have been convicted of how quick I am to judge others when I know so little of the struggles they might be having in their own minds. As a Christian, I know that depression is not wasted.
  • Jesus. Sometimes during depression we feel like our spiritual health is also plummeting. We wonder why God seems so distant or assume that if He was close we wouldn’t be so afflicted. But I am coming to the conclusion that He is never more ready to hold us closer than when we are depressed. It simply takes us asking. Half the battle of depression lies in turning on the worship song or reading that first verse in the Bible or in breathing out the words, “save me, Jesus!” From there the process of healing begins.

I am always adding to my collection, but these have been helpful to me of late. They aren’t curing me once and for all; I don’t know if I’ll ever be depression-free. The point isn’t so much in reaching that happy place of no difficulty in life as it is in being willing to learn and grow and rejoice in the midst of the hardship.

If you are in a time of darkness right now please don’t hesitate to reach out to someone, especially to Jesus.

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God IS in the Details

For the past couple of months I’ve been doing a study of Psalms with a lovely group of young ladies. Each day the leader of the study sends out the Psalm of the day via text and each group member reads it and shares her reflections (via text). This has been a rich study for me because it has brought me back to Psalms, a book whose relevance I’ve somewhat overlooked.

Throughout my reading I have noted a transparency between the psalmist and the Almighty. In the midst of immense affliction the psalmist does not hesitate to cry out, to despair, to plead for mercy or even revenge; the psalmist also always returns to the character of God: His goodness, His provision, His power, and His awareness of the human plight.

In a recent conversation with my mom, she and I considered the pandemic and the tumult surrounding it. I told her that I wish the politics of the issue wouldn’t overshadow the genuine threat of the disease itself. It is all too easy for citizens to make this a political issue and thus minimize the suffering of those who have been directly harmed by this hidden enemy. I believe Christians need to be the first to set politics and personal opinions aside and reach out to the hurting with the sincerest compassion. How do we do this?

By recognizing the constancy of God in the swirling chaos of the planet. We can practice compassion and selflessness by remembering Christ’s example as He traversed the cities and countryside of Rome-controlled Israel. We can keep politics in its proper place by keeping God in His: sovereign even over the actions and plans of the worst of men. And we can be transparent before our Creator as we acknowledge our emotions and then acknowledge that He is even more real than they.

Personally, I can see much good coming to my family through all the COVID-19 related disruption. I also see the devastation and loss others are experiencing all around me (including the death of a neighbor from the virus). Can both the good and the bad be simultaneously true? Absolutely. Because God, in His sovereignty, is enacting His will at a universal, international, national, community, church, family and individual level simultaneously. We can catch a glimpse of this through the study of world history, but only a glimpse. It will take an eternity of sitting at His feet to even begin to grasp His mind, but at least then we will have all the time in the world.

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A Mother’s Day Reflection

Recently I was thinking about all the things I’ve done in the past and all the things I would like to do in the future. I asked my husband if all of my accomplishments really mattered after all. Were they having an impact on my life now? And in the midst of it all I wondered how to describe myself just as me, separate from my roles in other people’s lives.

As I sit outside soaking in the evening sun glimmering on the ripples of the lake, savoring the light breeze as it plays with the leaves and carries butterflies toward our flowers, and listening to my children shriek with delight while they swing and play, I conclude that my identity is not entirely lost. I continue to find delight in absorbing the outdoors or getting lost in a good book. I still prefer tea over coffee and try to sneak in a bite of chocolate in the late afternoon. I love the thrill of an amazing find while thrifting and am convinced that dragonflies are truly fairy steeds. And I’m starting to see these idiosyncrasies popping up in the little people around me.

I smile as the children and I create detailed imaginings about the fairy world; when we go on walks someone is always commenting on the beautiful flowers we pass or listening for birdcalls. Books are forever being hid under bedcovers for late night reading and the letter-writing tradition is being received with pen-eager fingers. It leads me to believe that the past helped shape who I am presently and bits of me are being imprinted in the hearts and minds of my children. And all the while, their raising is shaping who I will be tomorrow.

I suppose that’s what it means to be a mother: a continual giving and receiving of all we hold most dear.

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The Cross and Corona

During this season of being still, being advised to stay home and learning what is essential, I’ve wondered where the Cross comes into the picture. I’ve pondered what the best approach is: faith or preparedness; concern or nonchalance; soul-searching, finger-pointing, or conspiracy-theorizing. What does Christ desire of me? Does a heavenly focus change earthly circumstances?

It’s very easy to need to know the latest headline or to become consumed with buying extra while you can and then worrying if you forgot something. There’s the fear that causes doors to be shut and distances kept. But then I read my Bible and am reminded that His truths never change. There is still gospel seed to be sown; there are still people to love; and God is still faithful to provide.

This morning I walked outside for a bit of fresh, cool air. It was a stressful morning of slow moving, cranky kids and mountains of laundry. The sky was overcast and I felt ragged before the day had even started. I was also aware of the Cross and wanting that to mold my perspective today. The thought came to me that in this meta narrative of Time, God’s sovereignty works on a universal scale as well as in intricately personal ways. And overall the gospel stands supreme.

Just as in times of crises hundreds of years ago, God guided and moved and changed the structure of civilization to achieve His will and He is doing the same today. He also sanctifies His people in the midst of all of it. He calls us to pray, to read more of His word, to remember the overlooked, to rejoice in Him always, to be grateful and to think more highly of others than ourselves (especially the ones within our walls). Those things remain the same, virus or no virus.

Personally, my sanctification involves:

  • An increased time of devotions and training our children to do the same.
  • Seeing afresh that my children are amazing individuals and I want to really get to know them.
  • Appreciating the opportunity to be resourceful and creative.
  • Delighting in an open schedule with no pressing obligations outside the home.
  • Practicing patience, patience, and a little more patience.
  • Respecting historical figures SO much more because of all they endured.
  • Being willing to be selfless when I most want to be selfish.
  • Recognizing that my husband is his own person with a set amount of time God has entrusted to him. It is not correct of me to dictate or judge how he spends his time; it is between him and God. I am excited to see how God shapes him during this season.

In conclusion, I don’t know how or why all of this is happening or when it will all conclude. I don’t know what God is planning for the Church or even for individuals outside of my home. But I do know that being surrendered to His purposes is the safest and most peaceful place to be in the storm.

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