Even When I Whisper

The Dominican Republic coast. Courtesy Mallory Wright.

Do you need something to drink? 

Silence

Hey. I’m getting some lunch. Do you need something? More medicine? Anything?  

Crickets. 

Todd walked in the room where I was lying down, crutches beside me, hip in a brace, apologizing for forgetting that I had lost my voice after the second surgery. He leaned in close to listen. 

My voice strained to speak even a whisper, to ask for what I needed to make me more comfortable, to ask for help. 

It sure feels vulnerable when you don’t have a voice, when you can’t speak loud enough for someone to hear you, when you can’t answer the questions being asked from the next room, when you can’t vocalize your needs, when you can’t speak above a whisper. 

As I laid there thinking about this, I was thankful that I had a husband who remembered, came up close to listen. 

What about God? Does He hear my whispers? Does He hear when I feel vulnerable and unable to voice my needs? Does He care? 

I believe He does.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

The writer of Psalm 116 has found himself overcome by trouble and sorrow. (v3NIV) He was greatly afflicted and in dismay. (v10-11NIVHis soul was in dire need of rest. 

Maybe you can relate. We live in a world that is troubling and brings much heartache. There is much to be anxious about as we are bombarded with 24/7 news reels telling us all that is wrong in this chaotic world. 

Politics. Pandemics. People.

Riots. Rumbling. Razing. 

Voices. Vitriol. Violence. 

Death. Divorce. Damage. 

Need I go on? 

Fortunately for us the Bible doesn’t claim to lift us out of real life, a life in which trouble and sorrow and pain are so pervasive that, at times, that’s all we can think about. The Bible doesn’t sugar coat a softer life if we simply believe in Jesus. It doesn’t minimize or negate adversity. 

In fact, Jesus Himself told us that in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows…but we can have peace as we rest in Him because He has conquered the world. (John 16:33TPT)  

We don’t have a Father who sits “up there” while we struggle “down here”.

The prophet Isaiah tells us this is what the Lord says…when you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. (Isaiah 43: 1, 2NLT) 

When. Not if. 

Where is God when you feel like you’re drowning in those deep waters of despair or trying not to get burned by whatever life has thrown at you. He’s right there with you! Sometimes He allows us to go through tough seasons for reasons our finite minds can’t fathom but He never leaves us to our own devices because you and I are His beloved daughters and sons. (Isaiah 43:1NIV) 

Our Father is not distant but endearing. Even when…especially when…all we can do is whisper a prayer in the darkest of nights. The Psalmist tells us he loves the Lord because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen…(Psalms 116:1-2NLT bold is mine)

King James tells us God inclines His ear. Inclines is to stretch out, to extend, to pay attention. I love to picture a Father who stretches out beside His daughter at night when the thoughts don’t stop rolling and worry walks through her mind, setting up camp like an old friend who’s going to stay awhile. An Abba Father who extends His arms and wraps me in the biggest bear hug ever. An El Shama Father who pays attention and listens as I whisper my worries, wants and woes.  

Only a Father as great as Jehovah God can hear the voices of millions of His children who are praying to Him at the same time and yet stoop down, lean in and listen to one single whisper in the middle of the night. In the middle of the deepest waters. In the middle of a rushing river. In the middle of trying to get the smell of smoke out of your clothes. 

He hears you because He’s near you. 

Kim Wright

Not far away, somewhere “out there” in the cosmos or even in the next room. He doesn’t forget because He got distracted. 

We live in a world that roars making us feel vulnerable and voiceless.  Rest assured we have a Father who can rise above the noise and lean in to listen. Even when all you can do is whisper. 

May we remember this so then we can say as David does in Psalm 116:7Let my soul be at rest again, for the Lord has been good to me. (NLT) 

Yes and amen. 

kw  

Breaking Up Is…

There’s an old song from 1960 sang by Neil Sedaka that has the title, Breaking Up Is Hard to Do. The song finds Sedaka pleading with a girl, asking her to remember the good times, as he knows he’ll be in misery if she leaves. I wonder how she answered his plea. Good times are great, but it takes an overall look at the relationship to decide whether or not it’s worth the time and energy to continue. 

I’m ten days in to breaking up, not with my man (whom I adore!) but with social media which in turn gives me space from my phone. Did you know there is a phobia of not having your phone? It’s called nomophobia. According to dictionary.com it’s “a term that first appeared in the results of a 2008 UK Post Office study which contracted UK research agency YouGov to study anxiety in mobile phone users. The term is a portmanteau of no, mobile, phone, and phobia.”

There’s also a phenomenon called phantom vibration syndrome which occurs when a person thinks his or her phone is ringing, dinging or vibrating when it actually isn’t. I have a friend whose arm had been amputated as a child and she talked about phantom pain or itching where her forearm was supposed to be. Same kind of thing. Only we’re talking about a phone not a limb. We’ve become so “attached” that it becomes a part of us, an extension of who we are, so much so that we find ourselves hearing or feeling things that didn’t happen. Often times it’s the reason why we are constantly checking our phone, and we don’t even realize we’re doing it. 

Bet you didn’t find those fun facts out on any of your social media sites! 

So, how AM I doing ten days into this break up?  

To quote Dave Ramsey, Better than I deserve! No really! 

The night before I was headed to the dark side of the moon, I went to bed with a sick-to-my-stomach feeling. How ridiculous is that? I went to bed wondering how I would stay connected, as if I had never had a social life prior to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

I have a friend, Lysa, who is traveling this road with me and shared some thoughts she wrote in her journal the night before catapulting herself into disconnection: 

Tonight I’m a little nervous.

Will I be able to let it all go cold turkey? 

How will I connect with people? 

What will I miss out on? 

How much extra time will I have? 

So, I’m not the only one. 

There are things I miss a bit like the convenience of groups and communicating or finding out things that are going on. But then my friends have actually texted or called…you know…what a phone was originally used for. And would you believe I’ve had more face to face conversations in the past ten days then I have in a long time. Porch swinging and problem solving go hand in hand. Conversations with real people tend to make you not think in black and white but in shades of grey (and more than 50!) 

I wonder if anyone misses me…which sounds so asinine to think that a grown woman would wonder this about her cyber-space friends…but I told you I’d be honest! (Cue the Pink Floyd song Is There Anybody Out There?)

I miss sharing my ordinary days because today life is anything but ordinary and I think people appreciate (and need) the simpler things. So, here are a few pics around the farm: 

There are things I don’t miss. Political agendas. Keyboard warriors. Useless bickering. Watching hamsters run on a wheel and get nowhere…but keep running little fella…you’ll win your argument eventually. Sarcasm (ahem). Hatred. Comparison. Just to name a few. 

I found that I’d developed the bad habit of waking up, rolling over and grabbing my phone to check emails, Facebook and Instagram “real quick” before my feet even hit the floor. Now I wake up, stretch and say a quick prayer to start the day. I’ve turned off my notifications (for email) at night and don’t check anything until after I’ve had some coffee and quiet time. What a difference that has made! 

The first couple of days I found myself reaching for my phone for a perfunctory peek through the land of make believe that is social media only to realize the reason was either boredom or comfort. Let’s talk about those two things for a second. 

Bored was a word we NEVER used around my Granny because she would find our behinds something to do if we dared speak the words I’m bored within her earshot and it was NEVER anything fun. So, being a “Granny” myself now, that’s exactly what I do…find myself something to do. I no longer have the excuse: I don’t have time. So much more gets done when you don’t get lost in the roll of the scroll. I read more, write more, swing more, garden more, talk with friends more.

Then there’s the comfort factor. If you read anything at all about technology addiction there is a chemical messenger called dopamine that your brain sends along a reward pathway which makes you feel good. Dopamine is comfort. Comfort (dopamine) comes when you get a like or comment or heart eyes or share or any social media notification, it’s like a validation that you’re okay, because, see how many people “like” you. Geesh. 

Now whenever I need comfort, I reach for the gallon of Chocolate Coconut Almond ice cream…oh wait…that’s a whole other level of issue…

But seriously, I’ve had to remind myself that staying connected to the Vine (John 15) is enough validation for me. I am who God says I am not because He sent a heart emoji to a Facebook post but because He sent His One and Only. We are all made in the image of God not the images we scroll through and sigh because somehow, we don’t measure up. 

Maybe that’s something you need reminded of as well.

I’m ten days in and I’ve already learned a lot about myself. And my friend Lysa? She’s doing beautifully and is surprised how little she misses it and how much she’s gotten done! Lots of good stuff that I’ll share more of after another ten days. 

Now I don’t want to paint a false picture. I love the time it frees up and it’s great to get off the dopamine roller coaster of need for likes, but when you’re a writer whose main readership comes from social media, you do tend to hum along with Pink Floyd quite a bit. IS there anybody out there? 

Breaking up isn’t as hard to do as I thought but I’m a work in progress.  

kw

Cyber-Space: the Behavior, the Bull, the Bully

Once I was let down into a deep well into which chokedamp had settled, and nearly lost my life. The deeper I was immersed in the invisible poison, the less capable I became of willing measures of escape from it. And in just this condition are those who toil or dawdle or dissipate in crowded towns, in the sinks of commerce or pleasure. (John Muir) 

Our use of technology, looking at screens and social media has been around long enough now that study results are beginning to come in, and the results do not bode well for us canaries in the coal mine. Gas is leaking and we are clueless. 

Hours of scrolling through other people’s picture-perfect lives (thank you (?) Pinterest!), being available 24/7(iPhone or iCrazy?), and round the clock news, feeding us images of war, waste and want, leaves us depleted and confused emotionally, physically and spiritually. We hear and see so much information that it’s impossible to process it all. 

And yet, still we try. We don’t shut it off even though the deeper we immerse ourselves the less capable we become of escaping it. Maybe we can’t. Maybe we’re drowning in an invisible poison we can’t see, feel or smell. We have no idea, the damage we’re doing to ourselves, our brains and dare I say, even our souls. 

Perhaps that sounds a bit dramatic but is it really?

 The Behavior

From Dr. Eva’s File

Fred sat in my office looking for help with stress management. It wasn’t his idea; it was his wife’s. She had threatened to leave him if he didn’t seek help. During the one-hour visit, Fred checked his incoming text messages five times and answered two of the four phone calls, saying first, “Do you mind? This is important.”

Does this sound familiar? Oh, we might think to ourselves, we would never do that in a doctor’s office!  Except for that one lady who had to be asked to put her phone away as she walked down the hall to her room and the gynecologists office. Maybe that’s not you but they are out there. What about when you’re out to dinner with friends or coffee with a girlfriend or at your kids soccer game or at the family dinner table? Are we more worried about getting the perfect picture of our plate than the company we’re with? Has being available to everyone else via text messaging become more important than watching your daughter play basketball or your son’s piano recital? 

Trust me, I’m guilty too. That invisible poison can’t be seen but it can sure show up in our behavior. 

Back to our friend Fred: 

From the history I was able to get, it turned out Fred, who had an “important” job, spent 12 hours a day working, including during his hour-long commute, allowing little time for exercise, self-care or downtime. 

I asked him, “What do you think you would have done if you were in this office 20 years ago when smartphones, e-mail and such did not exist?” He thought for a minute before answering, “Probably pay attention and learn how to relax!”

I then explained to Fred the consequences of an overactivated stress response system that does not have the chance to get a break, rest or relax: depression and anxiety, heart disease and hypertension, inflammatory disorders, musculoskeletal problems, memory loss, immune compromise…”Shall I continue?” I asked. (Your Brain on Nature by Dr. Eva M. Selhub pg 49) 

Bottom line? Don’t be a Fred.  Put down your phone. 

We lose valuable IQ points through the act of texting and email. The ping of notices on our phones destroy creativity, leading us down a dead-end road, blank canvas and blinking cursor. We lose profitable performance at work, treasured time with family and our recall ability is cut by half. 

Fear Fred’s future. Put down your device. 

The Bull

Scroll through any social media medium and it doesn’t take long to get the sense that everyone else’s lives are spot on. You often walk away feeling as if your kids are the only ones who mess up, your husband is the only one who snores, and you are the only one with baby fat from your last pregnancy. Did I mention my youngest is 16? 

Flipping through social media can cause problems you didn’t even know you needed to have. You’re happy with your life until you’re not because of what you think is someone else’s picture perfect. Don’t always believe what you see. 

Take for example Rachel Hollis of Girl, Wash Your Face New York Times best seller fame. She posted this picture of her and her husband on Instagram with the caption: Today on the podcast @mrdavehollis and I are talking about how quarantine has affected our, ahem, “make out sessions.” Yes. We went there. If you’re in a relationship the RISE Together podcast is just for you. 

That was on April 30th

Then, on June 8th, just 39 days later, same pic, much different message: 

Don’t think I’m picking on the Hollis’. It’s very sad that their marriage is ending. I’m not saying to put all your business out on social media for all to see and have an opinion on. But for the love, don’t talk about a “make out sesh” when the reality is your marriage is the Titanic and has been sinking for quite some time. Warning: Iceberg straight ahead!

People’s comments went from sad to mad, grieved to deceived, feeling duped and having wasted their money and time on the books, retreats and podcasts that was meant to show people how to be just like them because they are normal people just like us. 

Do no harm, but you can keep your bull.  (And using the same pic? That’s just weird.)

This is just the one example I happened to notice on Instagram. There are so many more. I’m not sure who is more foolish, the ones who think they can keep all the plates spinning or the ones who are in awe of all the spinning plates. 

And the poison just keeps seeping. 

The Bullying

Have you noticed lately how many more experts we currently have living in the United States? A pandemic happens and suddenly everyone has M.D. after their name. Racial tensions are high and presto, people have a degree in sociology: the study and explanation of society and human interaction. 

Who knew? Social media is filled with doctors, lawyers, PhD’s in sociology and anthropology, and authorities on race relations. All manner of opinions. All opinions are, of course, based on solid facts from Facebook finds. Wait. What? Facebook isn’t the best resource for fact finding?

When really all they have is a Bachelor’s in Bullying. 

Keyboard Warriors who can rip apart a person they don’t even know faster than Superman can fly. That speeding bullet kills relationships, friendships and families; leaving them beaten, bloodied and bruised. All in the name of thinking you’re right about something you may have no idea about. And yet, they click their keys, spew their venom, close their computer and care not the damage they’ve done. 

Warrior indeed. Whimp more like it. 

According to Dr. Eva SelhubSocial media was supposed to link us together. Yet, for all the talk of connectivity via gadgets, it does not seem to be translating into a more caring world, at least not in North America. The ability to exhibit an emotional response to someone else’s distress have dropped 49 percent since 1980. Perspective taking, an intellectual understanding of another person’s situational and individual circumstances, has declined by 34 percent. (Your Brain on Nature pg 43) 

In other words, we stop caring about people and care more about our personal perspective, purview, and productivity. 

Compassion be damned. I’ll show them because I know I’m right! Who cares if I don’t know you! You’re an idiot, obviously!!

What a sad existence it must be to be a keyboard warrior, an internet bully, always pushing people around in a pretend world. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

How do I even wrap this up? None of us control the bull or the bullying. But we can control the behavior. It may not be as easy as you think. According the Dr. Eva…

Although not official diagnoses yet, “Internet addiction” and “digital-device addiction” are terms batted around by the medical community. Currently, (this book was published in 2012 so I imagine this number is higher) 42 percent of Americans flat-out agree with the statement that they “cannot live without” their mobile phones and more than half of adults also state that both they and their kids spend too much time online. (Your Brain on Nature pg 48) 

Addicted? I’m not addicted. You’re addicted! 

So, the behavior is to not be like Fred and instead put down my phone. If Facebook makes me furious, why not give myself the freedom to take some time and spend it with real family and friends instead of virtual ones? If Instagram feels more like Image-gram, then why keep scrolling when I can be strolling through nature instead? 

Control the behavior. It’s what I’ll be doing in the month of July as I take a respite from all things social media. I’ll be writing about the experience of the experiment as honestly as I can. No one likes to think they’re addicted to something, especially the pings on a phone from a message or the likes or the comments….they say it’s like a hit of dopamine. Maybe that’s the invisible gas of our day. Sigh…

Finding sacred in the simple. It’s been my mantra for quite some time. That’s where I’ll be if you need me.

And making sure the canary still sings. 

kw

I Love a Good Syllabus!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I walked into room 204, the smell of fresh paint and newly waxed floors lingered from the hard work of the janitors over summer break. Mixed with it was the sense of excitement, a pinch of dread and a tinge of nervous sweat. Some students looked bored. Some apprehensive. Some sat as close to the teacher as they possibly could. Others sat as close to the exit for a quick get-away. 

With my new books, a new backpack, fresh hair and the perfect first-day-of-school outfit, I was the nerd in the front row, ready to absorb all the professor had for me that day. I still am that person. I love to learn! 

It had been a long time since I’d sat at a desk in a classroom ready to learn. Five years to be exact. In those years, I’d graduated from high school, gotten married, moved hundreds of miles from home and back again and had a baby who was now in kindergarten experiencing his own classroom for the first time. 

My brain felt rusty and I wondered how in the world I would keep my 18-credit hour load figured out. Would I be able to keep up? Would I remember what was due when? Would I miss assignments? It was all a bit overwhelming. 

Enter the syllabus. 

Each professor handed one out. On it were things like professor information, course description, goals and objectives, required materials, grade breakdown, course policies, helpful resources and the mother of it all: the daily schedule. I knew exactly what was due and when it was due. There was no mistaking the expectations of what was required of us for the entire semester. It was all laid out in a neat and tidy word document. Thank you, Ms. Professor!

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would hand us a syllabus for the semester of life we’re in? 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’ve been reading a Psalm each morning and ran across this one that says, I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go…(32:8NKJV)

I’ve already told you I love to learn so I say YES! instruct and teach away! I’m also a planner and would love it if God would lay out the syllabus, listing the course description, goals and objectives, grade breakdown, and of course, the daily schedule. Line by line, look ahead, get ahead, know the precise way I should go because it’s all laid out in a neat word document. 

But God doesn’t use a word document with tidy dates, rows and columns spotlighting what you need to do next. He uses His Word which is more like lamplight than spotlight. (Psalm 119:105) He likes to give us just enough light to see the step we’re on. Anybody else out there wishing He would ditch the lamp and shine a spotlight down the way you should go so you would know how to plan your life? (Should I take a parka or a bathing suit? Right?) Heck, I would even settle for the next semester! 

That’s not how this Teacher conducts class. Sigh…

Psalm 32:8 goes on to say, I will guide you with My eye. (NKJV) 

His eye. It sees from a different angle, through a different lens. He can see ahead and know exactly how and when to answer my prayers. Like a blind person I have to learn to trust the Guide, hanging on to His arm as He leads me step by step down the path He has for me. 

That’s not easy for a syllabus loving, learner like me. I want to know what’s ahead, what’s expected, what to expect, every step of the way. Bottom line is, do I trust Him to teach me, to instruct me, to guide me, to show me the next step and not the entire year? Using a dang lamp for a light. 

That in itself is a lesson to be learned. It takes a lifetime of practice because like the real classroom, each semester is different. 

In the meantime…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

What can I do? What can I do while I wait for the next step to be revealed? For my prayer to be answered? While I wait for instructions? 

During a time of persecution and facing the unknown, Paul tells what the will of God is (the syllabus, if you will) for the people of Thessalonica. It’s found in 1Thessalonians 5:16-18…

Be joyful always; 

Pray continually;

Give thanks in all circumstances, 

For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

Really? I know what you’re thinking, I want to know what direction I’m headed, what my future is. I need to know what I’m supposed to be doing and you tell be to smile, pray and be grateful. Are you serious? 

Yes. Yes I am. 

Be joyful always. We aren’t talking about plaster-a-smile-while-I’m-hanging-on-for-dear-life but rather a deep sense of peace knowing my Father’s got this and He will show me the next step, open the next door, light the path brighter when it’s time. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. If I can be joyful always, maybe it will ripen the fruit and will help in the maturity of my faith. It’s not joy in my circumstance but in the Lord that gives me the strength to carry on. (Nehemiah 8:10)

Be prayerful continually. Keep talking to God, even when. Be persistent like the woman in Luke 18 who drove the judge crazy until he answered her. Let your voice be heard then listen. Trust that He hears you and is working things out on your behalf. But keep having conversations. I’ve prayed for things that have happened almost immediately and I have things that I’ve prayed and am still praying about for years. Don’t stop. 

Be grateful. Gratitude is the thing that allows me to receive the gift of God’s blessings every single day. Even when. It’s what opens my eyes to see through a God lens and not my own. It’s what lets me know He’s here. He’s in the sunrise each morning and the flowers that are blooming. He’s in the shadows that are cast by the sunlight coming in the back windows. He’s in the smell of jasmine as I swing on the front porch. I’m with you. I’ve got this. Do you trust me? 

It’s not always easy. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is be joyful, prayerful and grateful in the midst of being lost and not knowing what to do. But if those three things put you in the middle of God’s will, then you’re not really lost at all, are you?

It’s a simple syllabus. Perhaps too simple and I’ve filed it away as silly. But what if it works? What if it helps light up the next step. Are you willing to try?  

This was a great reminder for me. I hope it was for you too. 

kw 

I’m tired, boss.

I’m tired, boss. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world every day. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. (John Coffey…like the drink but not spelled the same. From The Green Mile movie.) 

Ditto John.

I’ve been doing a lot of conversing with my Boss too. It looks something like this: 

What in the world is going on, Lord? First the pandemic had everyone in a panic, knocking each other over to get that last roll of toilet paper. Loving our neighbor looked like “hey, can you spare a square in case of an emergency?” We’ve been in isolation for weeks now. I miss faces. I miss real hugs. I miss connection outside of a Zoom screen. When will this be over? 

Everyone has an opinion. Open back up. No, stay closed. It’s a conspiracy. It’s dangerous out there. Wear masks. I’m not wearing a mask and you can’t make me! Churches should stay open. Where’s your faith? How dare churches stay open! Don’t you care about people? It’s political. It’s those darn Democrats. It’s the rude Republicans. I love how our governor is handling things. Are you kidding me? He’s an idiot. Speaking of idiots, did you see Trump on the news? MAGA all day long. 

People post article after article and meme after meme, supporting their side, their cause, their opinion. Suddenly everyone’s an expert. Sound bites and snake bites spew the same venom.

Going places is strange. People are afraid. I get weird looks when I have my mask on and horrified looks if I don’t. What is going on? What are you up to Lord? 

I’m already tired from it all, my thumb calloused from scrolling past the thoughts and theories. What happened to pictures of grandbabies and gourmet meals? 

I had no idea that was only the beginning. 

George Floyd. God help us. Why? Just why? 

There are big feelings. Help me to understand. Help me to reach out. I’m a middle-aged white woman. What can I do? Show me, Lord.

Everyone has opinions…again. Black lives matter. All lives matter. Blue lives matter. All black men are suspect. All black men are not bad. All cops are pigs. Not all cops are bad. Riots are happening because people need to be heard. What happened to social distancing? Peaceful protests are what it’s all about. Destruction of property is about making a statement. I’m a black man, your brother, why are you destroying my business that I’ve worked so hard to build? 

Pieces of glass indeed, John Coffey. 

Do black lives matter? Absolutely and wholeheartedly YES!! To some it’s a statement of truth and to others it’s an organization that causes trouble. To some you can’t be a person of faith and believe in the BLM’s cause and to others you aren’t a person of faith if you don’t.

God help us!

Lord, I have friends who are Mommas of black young men who are scared for their boys. I have friends who are Mommas of men (and women) that are police officers who are scared for their loved ones. Wives and husbands who fear for their spouses because of the color of their skin or the career path they took. 

I’m not for one or the other but both. Is that even allowed? 

It’s been said that to be silent is to be an oppressor. I don’t want to oppress anyone nor offend…therein lies the problem. We’ve created a world that is so politically correct that I simply can’t keep up; a world so easily offended that if I use a word that was okay last week but not this week, I’m obviously a racist. 

It’s exhausting. 

A few years ago, I could use the term black and it wasn’t offensive, until it was. Then African American was used to embrace the heritage from which people came, until it wasn’t because all black people are not from Africa. People of color is now offensive because it includes those who are not black but simply a different color. 

I mean no disrespect but fear saying the wrong thing. In the silence of me trying not to offend, I offend. I don’t want to simply black out my screen on social media and change nothing. I want to listen to learn. But I can’t hear anything if all everyone’s doing is screaming at each other. I want to listen to hear and not be heard. I want to listen, not mentally preparing my rebuttal because I know I’m right but to simply try to understand a different viewpoint, a different perspective. What if we listened and then said, “That’s interesting, tell me more.”  

God help me! I just want to love You and love people! 

I’m tired, Boss. 

But none of this surprises You does it? 

You told us that “many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another….. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Matthew 24:10-12NKJV)

Has our love grown cold? Do we look at each other and see enemies instead of human beings made in the image of You?

We are broken Lord. Bind up our wounds like You say You will in Psalm 147:3. 

Be close to those who are brokenhearted and save those whose spirts are crushed like You promise in Psalm 34:18. 

Help heal our hearts. 

Help us to see others as you see them. 

Help us, Lord, I pray. Amen.

kw

A Simple Principle

Peas. Luffa. Corn

I sat a small jar of various types of seeds in the middle of each table. None were labeled. Some were obvious. Others, not so much. The ladies began to arrive, laughter and catching up filled the air as they grabbed their coffee and snacks and sat down. 

If I were to ask you what type of seed is in the jar on your table what would you say? 

This is definitely corn. One table replied. 

Peas. Said another. 

I think these are lima beans, but they have purple stripes on them! 

So, what do you think your harvest will be when you plant them? If you plant corn what do you expect to get in return? 

Ummm, corn?, someone answered as if the teacher were trying to trick the student. 

And the peas. What about the peas? 

Peas of course! 

Exactly! In farming or gardening this is an absolute principle. Whatever seed you sow, is exactly what’ll you’ll grow. It doesn’t surprise us when we sow or plant a lima bean seed and get lima beans. Or a piece of corn and get an ear of corn. 

Tim Keller says, whatever you sow, you will reap. Though the seed may lie in the ground to no apparent effect for a long time, it will come up. It is not the reaping that determines the harvest, but the sowing. (Galatians for You p.175)

It’s a simple principle for the farmer but it’s not just for the agricultural community. You don’t have to get your hands in the dirt to understand this is a how-to-live-life lesson as well. But what is simple for the farmer seems to be more complex when it comes to applying it to our daily lives. Or so it seems.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

In chapter six of Galatians, Paul uses this simple principle of sowing and reaping in the spiritual realm as well. It’s just as absolute, just as unstoppable. 

Earlier in his letter Paul addresses the sarx or sinful heart and lists those things we do to satisfy the darker side of ourselves. Things like repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfying wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. (Galatians 5:21 MSG)

Paul warns the Galatian people to not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. He cannot be treated lightly. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction…(Galatians 6:7-8 NIV)

Notice that the “acts of the sinful nature” aren’t all actions; attitudes are just as much over-desires of our sarx.

Before we despair, there is another seed we can sow and grow; that being the fruit of the spirit. Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

Notice all of these are one fruit, not multiple fruits. John says: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” (1John 4:20 NIV) Notice that he does not say: If a man loves God but doesn’t love his brother, he is unbalanced. No, he says he is a liar. True love to God (love) is always accompanied by love to others (kindness). If they are not both there, neither are there at all. (Galatians to You by Tim Keller p153)

We can sow the seeds of the sarx and reap the ravage. Or we can sow the fruit of the Spirit and reap the reward. But we can’t do both. At least not at the same time. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

We’ve been planting the garden the past few days. It’s reassuring to know that an okra seed will become okra that I will roll in cornmeal and fry on both sides, a lima seed will become a lima bean. Tomato plants will produce, you guessed it, tomatoes.  Green bean seeds in the dirt, green beans off the plants and in my quart jars for winter feasting. 

Such a simple principle this sowing and reaping. 

So why are we surprised when we…

Sow seeds of hatred and receive hostility. 

Sow seeds of blindness and not be able to see. 

Sow seeds of deafness and not be able to hear. 

Sow seeds of silence and end up with no voice. 

Sow seeds of ignorance and refuse to learn. 

Sow seeds of hurt and end up with blood on our own hands.

Sow seeds of word spewing and end up with no friends. 

Like Paul, I could go on. 

Why do we make it so hard? 

I find it interesting that the first fruit of the Spirit is love and the opposite of love is not hate as one might expect but rather fear. 

But what are we afraid of? Each other? Of getting hurt? Our different skin tones? Our different cultures? Our different opinions? Of being wrong? Of being right? Of having to say we’re sorry? Of getting sick? 

The Bible tells us that there is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. (1John 4:18 NIV)

Martin Luther King Jr. said it this way, Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Maybe perfect love looks like driving different seeds in the ground. What if we…

Sow seeds of kindness and reap kinship. 

Sow seeds of eyes that see and witness the world in high definition color. 

Sow seeds of ears that listen and learn that every single one of us has a story. 

Sow seeds of conversations and begin to understand.

Sow seeds of wisdom and cultivate knowledge. 

Sow seeds of healing and reap reconciliation. 

Sow seeds of encouragement and watch people grow. 

It’s a simple principle, an absolute principle. I realize it sure seems more complex than this. But we have to start somewhere, right? Casting out fear so we can love begins with casting the right seeds. We are all farmers in this. Whatever seed you sow is exactly what you’ll grow. 

Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord and let the light of Your Truth flood in. Shine Your light on the hope You are calling us to embrace. (Ephesians 1:18 The Voice)

kw

A Parable of the Peony

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. (Albert Einstein)

If this German born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity and the world’s most famous equation of E=mccan understand everything better by looking at nature, then this simple girl can surely learn from her as well, right? 

There is Someone else who used nature to help us understand everything better using stories. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Jesus told many parables, short allegorical stories designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson and often used simple things like sowing seeds, sheep herding, coins, fish, harvesting as subjects to some of life’s greatest instructions. 

Consider the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13. His stories could be taken at surface level, I mean… 

What farmer doesn’t know the soil you plant your seed in matters? You could walk away with a simple garden lesson and go plant some literal seeds, hoping for a better harvest because of the agricultural lessons you learned: Stay away from rocky pathways, keep the weeds to a minimum, amend the soil for the best harvest. We’re gonna eat like kings and queens come harvest time, baby!! Thanks Jesus! 

Then there are those who wondered…is He talking about actual seeds and soil or is there a deeper meaning here? Who is the sower? Does that even matter? Do the rocks mean something? And what about those pesky weeds?  They walked away pondering profound truths that would give them a lifetime of learning.  

He still uses nature to teach, as long as we have ears to hear and eyes to notice. Because beyond the surface of the simple is a sacred something to see. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Enter the peony. Their spring season is short so every day I walk out to check their progress. They go from this: 

To this: 

In a matter of only a couple of days.

Small buds that bust a move with blooms as big as my entire hand. Gorgeous colors. Petals so soft you can barely feel them. Each one intricate, unique. Layer upon layer of lovely. 

As my daughter and I were inspecting the peony progress I said to her, it’s hard to believe that just a couple days ago this tightly wound bud went from this (pointing to a bud), to this (pointing to one half open), to this gorgeousness! (pointing to full bloom) Who would’ve thought there was so much beauty inside such a small bud?  

With arms loaded, we brought some of them inside to enjoy. Later that night that still small voice whispered, there’s also beauty in you that’s dying to bloom big blooms. You have no idea the possibilities that are waiting to bust out. What keeps you from doing so?  

Yeah. What does?

I came up with some possibilities. Maybe you can relate?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I’m going to start out here with the FACT that we all, Every. Single. One. Of. Us have God given gifts and talents. Don’t say you don’t, or we will have to have a group intervention for your clarification! Nobody wants that. Just ask my kids. 

So, what keeps us from bringing out the beauty and blooming big? 

We Compare. 

It’s the thief of joy, according to President Theodore Roosevelt. And this quote from Brene’ Brown: The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of ‘fit in and stand out!’ It’s not cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity, it’s be just like everyone else, but better. – from The Gifts of Imperfections 

What would happen if we stopped trying to be just like everyone else and started bringing our own uniqueness to the table? Can you imagine the beauty that bouquet would bring? 

You are wanted. You. Not you being like your best friend. You. 

We Downplay. 

How many times have I started the answer to the question: What do you do? with, Oh, I’m just a… or I’m only a…

It didn’t matter if I was talking about being a stay-at-home Mom or when I was working a job for a paycheck. It didn’t matter if I got paid to write an article or was simply writing to share on my blog with you, I downplay myself. I’m just a writer…not like an important writer…not famous or anything…just, you know, someone who likes to write…sometimes…

Do you do that too? Can I hear you saying, YES! OH MY GOSH! YES!!

Why? Just why, do we do this to ourselves? 

We have to stop the insanity and be proud of the gifts and talents we have and the jobs we do! We need to encourage each other to bring the full bloomed flower to the group! Can you imagine how different our culture would be, our homes would be, our workplaces would be, our churches would be, if we stopped devaluing and underestimating the importance of our God given gifts and talents? 

You are needed. You. Not the just a… or only a… But-full-booming-bloom-here’s-what-I-bring-to-the-table-in-all-your-lovely-YOU.

The Dreadful Iffy’s.

Oh, how these can dance in my head! Maybe you’ve had this same conversation with the what if’s as well. I’ll throw out a handful with the antithetical answer in the parenthesis: 

What if I can’t? (But what if you can?)

What if I fail? (But what if you succeed?)

What if they don’t like me? (But what if they do?)

What if I’m too much/not enough? (But what if you’re just right?)

What if it’s not worth the risk? (But what if it is?) 

What if I fall? (But what if you fly?) 

Anybody else have this conversation in their own head? Dreadful iffy’s be damned! Let’s, each one of us, live in the Oh but what if and not be afraid try. Let’s be courageous enough to take hold of our thoughts, be the boss of our internal voice and walk into our calling. 

You are brave. You. Even with knees knocking. You. 

We’re Blind to Ourselves

What you see as ordinary, I may see as extraordinary. What you consider to be just who I am, may be the exact thing that is much needed at your job, in your home, your church, your ministry. We don’t often see ourselves as others see us. As activist and educator, Marion Wright Edelman said, you can’t be what you can’t see. 

Often, when I’m leading a Bible study, we’ll have opportunities to point out a quality or gift or something one likes about another and it is such a JOY to watch as the one who is getting the compliment actually receives it as such! We have no idea how our “normal selves” can be used for God’s glory.  

We need to compliment and encourage each other so we CAN see what we CAN be! 

We were having an after-dinner conversation a couple weeks ago about “inspired versus inspirational.” Are we one or the other? Should we be both? I made the comment about how we should be inspired by others so we can in turn be inspirational. To which my man asked if I thought I was inspirational. To which I replied, no not really. I’m just a stay-at-home Mom. (Take my own advice much?!) 

My teenage son was surprised. Are you serious?  Then proceeded to list every reason why I inspired him and others. I had no idea he noticed such things. Who was truly surprised then? 

If we were having coffee, I would sit across from you and make a list of the blooming qualities that you can’t see. Those gifts and talents that you downplay would become the aroma others enjoy long after you’ve left the shop. 

You matter. You. You have something to give. You. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

I may not have a Nobel prize for my contribution to quantum physics like Albert but we do have something in common, we both love to look at nature for a deeper understanding. 

The parable of the peonies sure made me think beyond how gorgeous they are. Maybe the story helped you too? Don’t be afraid to bloom to full capacity. This world needs the beauty and fragrance of YOU! 

kw

Normal is a Setting on My Dryer

Normal: There’s no such thing, dear. Says Helen Hunts movie Mom in one of our favorites, As Good As It Gets.

My “normal” as a young one was spent being raised by my grandparents, which, as I found out once I started school was not normal at all back then. So, my normal wasn’t really normal at all. (Depending on who you ask, of course.) 

My “normal” routine years ago when I had three kids in three different schools playing three different sports, one in a stroller and one in the oven looks waaaaay different than my routine does today. We are down to that one in the oven being almost done proving and baking, ready for college and a career. 

My “normal” now affords me more time to read, garden, golf, spend time with girlfriends, volunteer, write etc.  There are days when I grieve the old days of chaos and running around, pick-ups and drop-offs, potty training, sports watching, the please can I spend the night days. Most days, however, I love my quieter, new normal. 

Then life happens and here you are looking down the mouth of a new normal…like it or not. 

Here’s where I get in trouble: when I hold to tightly to normal. Normal is a shifting sand, subject to change at any given moment. Life is normal. Until it’s not.

Think about it….

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Moses was leading a chill life, hanging out in the pasture with a few of his best sheep friends when God called him to go free his people whose “normal” had gone from…

  • A group of people living prosperous and free in Egypt because of Joseph’s leadership and relationship with the Pharaoh. Being in a foreign land had become very normal for them. Business as usual, blending in, bustling about with the day to days. 

Then Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died…and a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. (Exodus 1:6,8 NIV) 

Their normal was about to be turned upside down. This king didn’t like the people of Israel and in fact thought they would take over his kingdom if something wasn’t done about them. So, their new normal went from prosperous and free to…

  • A group of people living in bondage with slave masters oppressing them with forced labor. They were used and abused ruthlessly making bricks from straw and working in the fields. So wicked was this king that he had every boy born during this time killed so as to cut down the future population that threatened him…if only in his own mind. 

This was this generations normal. They knew of no other way of life. So much so that when Moses left the pastures to save his people, they fussed in their new found freedom and wanted to go back to the way things had once been. Back to bondage. Back to the familiar. This new, unknown normal felt very abnormal and was a scary place. 

Fast forward a few hundred years and we see Jesus standing in the temple courts watching as men sold cattle, sheep and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money. (John 2:14 NIV)

This was a new(er) normal for them. This selling of sacrifices at the temple. It hadn’t always been this way but no one thought anything about it. It just sort of slipped right in. It was almost time for the Jewish Passover so the town had all manner of people, visitors from out of town, shops and restaurant owners open for business, trying to make a living so maybe it made sense to offer these wearied travelers the ease of buying their sacrifices at the temple gate instead of searching for themselves….the way it used to be…the “old normal.” But…

What started out as a ministry of convenience quickly became an established, lucrative business for the priests. (Wiersbe Bible Commentary of the NT p. 234)

Until Jesus uprooted their normal by turning over some tables and using his whip like a radical Indiana Jones. The business was shattered, people, sheep and coins scattered, doves flew and no one knew…what would happen to their normal? 

And I wonder…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

What if we are living in a modern-day table turning? Sometimes it takes normal being turned upside down for us to realize today’s normal wasn’t normal yesterday but has somehow slipped in unnoticed.

What if we were living as people in bondage to things that we had no clue we were so attached to until it was taken away or at the very least changed dramatically?

What if in our quest for getting back to “normal” we completely miss the lesson? 

Don’t get me wrong, I want to hug my people and not just look at them through the lens of a Zoom call. I miss connecting with real people, doing real things. I want people to see my teeth when I smile not the flowers on my mask or me trying to “smile” with my eyes. I miss walking down the aisle of a store and not feeling like I need to shout “unclean”, so people clear out of the way or worse yet, people avoid the aisle altogether because they see me coming. 

But…

What if we so long for normal that our contentment, joy, peace and comfort depend on the shifting sand of normal instead of our Rock and place of Refuge, the One who is the Giver of all things good? 

What if this is a time to wake up, look up and evaluate our “normal” time, schedules, routines, budgets, brand preference, wastefulness, dinners together, quiet times, conversations, kindness, busyness, game nights, mindfulness…the list could go on and on couldn’t it? 

What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly. Be careful chasing after “normal” or you’ll find yourself in the world’s web. 

kw 

In the Footsteps of a Queen

Yep. That’s me. In the middle. That blond-haired bouffant won me the spot of Little Miss Pumpkin Show, circa 1971. Granny made my dress, a navy blue, crushed velvet, floor length beauty with a rick rack trim of daisies wrapped around an empire waist that tied in the back with a bow whose tail length also flowed to the floor. Black patent leathers on my feet and white gloves donned my hands as my six-year-old self perfected the parade wave. 

Our weekends were booked solid for a year. We rode on a float in parade after parade, small town after small town, daytime, nighttime, anytime. Sometimes it was hot as blue blazes and other times we had blankets that blended in with our dresses. We smiled and waved no matter the circumstance. Frozen toes, no one would know with a smile and wave. The drip, drip, dripping of sweat down your back, would be a fact but no would know with a smile and wave. 

We were queens after all! Chosen from a sea of contestants. Handpicked by judges who scrutinized our looks, watched our actions and reactions and cast their votes on who would best represent the great Circleville Pumpkin Show. It was an honor to be chosen. There were duties to done. 

As a young Little Miss, I had no idea what all the committee had to figure out. There was float designing and making as well as figuring out who would pull it. Which parades would we participate in? What time did we have to be there? Where were we in the line-up? And then there’s the waiting. We would show up hours before, find the float, sit on said float while it was in line then ride through a 2-3-hour parade. Smile and wave. 

I do remember falling asleep in the backseat on the car ride home more often than not. I’m quite sure my crown was crooked by the time I was carried to bed. It was exhausting. 

But this Little Miss had a lot to learn about endurance and sacrifice.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There’s another queen from long, long ago who also won a beauty show. Little did she know, she was chosen for such a time as this…

Maybe you’re familiar with the story of an orphaned Jewish girl by the name of Esther. She was handpicked long before me, not by a judge but by a king to become his queen; the Queen of Persia. 

During her reign there developed a strain between her Uncle Mordecai and a man called Haman, right hand to the king, enemy of Mordecai and hater of all Jewish people to whom Mordecai and Esther belonged. With his voice whispering in the king’s ear, Haman thought he had developed a shrewd, sure fire way to annihilate the people he grew up to hate. 

It was a bit of a sticky situation as Esther’s uncle begged her to use her position of power as queen to help her people. Esther, knowing the king had not a clue that she was Jewish, was rightfully afraid of what the king would say. Afterall, she’d not been summoned by him for quite some time. Would he side with his right-hand man or lean towards listening to his teenage beauty queen? 

Spoiler alert! Haman’s evil intentions to annihilate the Jewish people was found out because of a plan put together by the queen. Haman angered the king so much that he was hanged on the gallows he had built for his nemesis Mordecai. Speaking of Mordecai, struggling with insomnia the king ordered the book of chronicles (yawn…that should help!) where he discovered that Mordecai had thwarted an assassination attempt on his life and was never rewarded for it, so the king has him paraded on horseback by none other than hateful Haman (prior to the hanging, of course) who also had to proclaim, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!” (Esther 6:11NIV

What a turn of events! 

But how does she do it? 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

This is me as the Junior Miss Soybean Queen. (Before jealousy rears its ugly head in you, I rode in parades like the Bologna Festival. Cue: My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R. My bologna has a second name, it’s M-E-Y-E-R. Oh, I love to eat it every day and if you ask me why I’ll say…I’ll let those of you who know it, finish this little ditty. For those of you who have no clue, here is the commercial link. And yes, dear readers, this was another dress my Granny made for the Prairie Days parade. Put your jelly away. All is well.)

This Junior Miss and Esther are around the same age that she became the Queen of Persia. While I was worried about periods and pimples, she was perplexed about how to save her people…and prevail. Can you imagine relying on a junior-high kid (zits and all) to save you and your people? 

What can this little miss queen of pumpkins and junior miss queen of soybeans learn from a long-ago teenage queen of Persia? 

Plenty!  

And it’s just not for queens! This lesson plan is for any of us facing the unknown, unsure what to do or how to make the next move. For those who are staring straight into the eyes of doubt about who you are and why you’re here. It’s for those of us who know we should/could do something but have no idea what that truly looks like. We have the means, but we wonder, do we have the moxie? Anybody relate? 

Here’s what this teen queen did: 

1. Prayed. After her uncle Mordecai sent a note saying, do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to a royal position for such a time as this. (Esther 4:13-14 NIV) Esther sent word back asking if Mordecai would join her in fasting and prayer. 

She prayed about what purpose her position privied her to so she could plan what to do. When you don’t know what to do, what’s expected of you or what your part in the purpose is, start with prayer.

2. Petitioned. Esther used her position to petition the king about her plan to carry out her purpose in saving her people. This took some hootzpah on her part. It was against the law to simply pop in and have a little chat with the king, husband or not. She hadn’t been summoned by him so in going to him without an invitation there was danger. It could mean she was thrown in jail or even killed. It was a risk she was willing to take as she told her uncle, if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:16 NIV) 

We, too, can use our position to petition the King. Fear need not play a part in our path to the power we have available to us. The writer of Hebrews encourages believers when he says, so let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (Hebrews 4:16 NLT) No fear. Your Father is near!  

3. Persevered. Esther patiently let the petitioned plan play out. She didn’t jump ahead but instead planned out not one but two dinner parties with her man the king and Haman the hater. Her timing was spot on. Her follow through of what she needed to do was perfection. Her perseverance paid off. Haman hanged himself by harassing the queen and thus was hanged from the gallows he built for Mordecai. Had she spoken up too soon, the king may not have believed her. Had she not spoken up at all, she and her people would have perished. 

It’s so easy to get ahead of the plan, to trust your own way instead of the Father’s whom you petitioned for the plan in the first place. 

I’ve moved on. I’m no longer the Little Miss Pumpkin Show or Junior Miss Soybean Queen. I’ve traded my crowns for carpools, floats for a toilet brush, prairie day parades for aprons with stains. I have a big family that is loud with laughter and love. We’ve had our share of problems both big and small, sadness and sorrows, unspeakable joy and heartbreak. Some days I wonder and doubt. Some days I think I have it figured out. In the midst of it all, this Queen of Everything knows Queen Esther’s formula still works: Pray, Petition, Persevere with patience. Then through it all smile and wave knowing you were chosen for such a time as this!  

kw

When Something Rotten Becomes Something Good

You can tell a good recipe by the stains its card bears. Whenever I pull mine out for banana bread, I have to laugh because it is covered with…I’m not even sure what anymore…age perhaps? 

I noticed the bananas getting past their prime eating time a couple days ago and told my man that I didn’t want them to go to waste, especially when the grocery store shelves are emptying out faster than the stockers can fill them back up. Besides that, you all have read about how frugal my Granny was and while she is no longer physically with me, her words about wasting food still echo and I still listen! 

Oh, I could have peeled and frozen them for future smoothies. But there’s something soothing about doing something familiar in unfamiliar times such as these. 

So, I got out my bowls, measured out the ingredients, gave them a good stir, popped the bread pans in the oven and voila’

…from something rotten comes something good! I like to think Granny’s hanging with the great cloud of witnesses and nodding in approval as the aroma of her banana bread reaches the heavens. 

**********

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NIV) 

These are the words of Paul. A man who has done some pretty rotten things. He was zealous against the Church and all Jesus followers before becoming one himself on the road to Damascus when he had an encounter with Christ and ended up with scales for eyes. (Acts 9

These are the words of a man who has had some pretty rotten things done to him as well. He was beaten and left for dead, shipwrecked, thrown in jail, chained and put under house arrest. Many of the books he wrote in the New Testament, he did so under dire circumstances, filthy circumstances, rotten circumstances. 

And yet, his ancient assurance rings just as true for us today. This pandemic brings about some rotten stuff…loss, quarantines, uncertainty, fear, death, hysteria…and yet the same God who worked all things for the good in Paul’s day is the same God who will work all this out as well. 

Warren Wiersbe encourages us with these words concerning Romans 8:25-30: God is concerned with the trials of His people. The believer never need faint in times of suffering and trial because he knows that God is at work in the world (v28) and that He has a perfect plan (v29). God has two purposes in that plan: our good and His glory. Ultimately, He will make us like Jesus Christ! Best of all, God’s plan is going to succeed!  (The Wiersbe Bible Commentary New Testament p431)

We can trust that God’s recipe for taking something rotten and making something good is stained with what makes our hope ring eternal…the blood of Jesus, His One and Only. 

It’s why Paul could say, If God is for us, who can be against us?… Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:31, 35, 37 NIV)

Because of Christ. 

It’s why Paul could write about contentment, peace and joy while standing in the middle of the city’s sewer system. It’s why he could face the things he faced knowing that he served a God who can take something rotten and make something good. 

**********

We’ve seen it in my local community and I’m sure you have to…people sharing, caring, giving with big hearts, open hands and a strong determination to be a people who takes the stained recipe of the cross and bring the sweetest balm to those around them. 

The church being the Church. Not hoarding but helping. Not bucking but obeying. Not being fearful but faithful. Not without hope but hope full. 

We can trust that the same God to whom Paul referred, is the same God we serve today. And that cloud of witnesses that I’m sure my Granny’s hanging with these days? They are cheering us on as we fix our eyes on Him, the Author and Perfector of our faith. (Hebrews 11:1-3) May the aroma of our kindness in crisis be to them as sweet as my banana bread has been to us. 

I pray we can close our eyes and smell the aroma of the sweet. I pray we can open our eyes and see the good works of the One whose works are good. To Him be the glory.

kw