Overcoming Loneliness

Marriage: “Future Gardens from Present Pain”

This past week, we celebrated the wedding of my nephew. As I watched the exchange of vows, rings, and professions of love between the young couple, I noticed the diversity of marriage relationships represented during the ceremony. In front of me stood a young couple just minutes away from being declared husband and wife. In the audience sat couples married a year, years, and decades. On this particular day, I sat in the back of the crowd with my Father. He and my mama recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. I pulled a chair up next to my dad, who was sitting alone because mom, wheelchair bound and on oxygen, could not join him. At one point, dad turned back toward the house where mom sat with her caregiver, and waved. I cried! The juxtaposition between my parents and the new couple standing in front, was an unexpected gut punch. I was watching one marriage beginning while another was slowly ending. As the young couple exchanged vows yet to be challenged and a love yet to be truly tested, I sat next to an incredible man who has faithfully fulfilled the promise to love, cherish, and honor till death terminates the covenant relationship between he and his bride. Their story is one filled with sorrow, brokenness, joy, and blessings.

Towards the end of the ceremony, my dad was tasked to read I Cor 13. I don’t think anyone in the audience was more worthy of reading those words to Kat and Levi than my Father. God’s description about what real love looks like flowed from the lips of a man who has lived out this famous passage his entire life, but especially in the last six years while caring for his dying bride.

Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not envy,

is not boastful, is not conceited,

does not act improperly,

is not selfish, is not provoked,

and does not keep a record of wrongs.

Love finds no joy in unrighteousness

but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

When reading these verses, we are invited to understand and participate in the true nature of love. Marriage is a union between two sinners who are naturally impatient, unkind, arrogant, and prideful. Marriage is a covenant between two people who often act unloving, who in sin provoke the other to sin, who dutifully keep records of every mess up and hurt, while excusing their own sin. Marriage is a covenant between two people who are prone to listen to lies, establish limits and ultimatums, doubt the heart of the other, and become hopeless that change is truly possible. The reality of marriage is that two naïve, youthful kids, who can’t imagine not always being head-over-heels in love, might one day find themselves so broken by the words or actions of the other they will actually entertain the thought of just giving up.

Love isn’t easy and doesn’t come naturally. Love isn’t candy, flowers, perfect sex, and the ability to remember important dates. Love is forged in the trenches of conflict and brokenness. Deep and unquenchable love emerges from the battlefield of disappointment and failure, as two couples who once warred against each, other emerge as allies, hand in hand (or possibly even with one carrying the other). True love is in fact, death! The saddest part about marriage is that often, when presented with the opportunity to experience the love dreamed of and prayed for, many couples bail. When the reality of life extinguishes the butterflies, and the flutter of a new love is replaced with sorrow, disappointment, and brokenness, the popular opinion is the conclusion that the relationship was a mistake. Couples declare they are in fact incompatible, and the logical solution is to move on so the search for the “right one” can begin. If I were ever to get a tattoo, it would be of a line from a Jon Foreman’s song in which Foreman describes brokenness. Like all other conflicts and sorrows in life, conflict in our marriages are opportunities to sow:

“Future Flowers from Present Pain”

Marriage often deposits us in the middle of a battlefield. Initially, we often mistake our spouse for the enemy. The truth about these battles is that fact that our heart and flesh are our greatest foe. In the midst of brokenness it is easy to believe satan’s lie, that the imperfections of our spouse are the greatest threat to our happiness, their mistakes the source of our sorrows and why our longings remain unfulfilled. So we set out to eradicate their sin while silently being slain by our own. Early on in our marriage, I avoided conflicts at all costs and cheated myself of the opportunities to tend a precious “garden “of love that could one day bloom in beauty and grandeur if I was courageous enough to let it. I ran from the garden of opportunity, I did not tend it. If by chance I did stay, I hid my seeds in a bitter cup of disappointment where they rotted, rather than allowing them to be planted in the rich soil of His faithfulness and grace. Praise be to God who exposed hearts, tenderly allowed brokenness, and faithfully walked alongside us as we learned how to look to him, die to ourselves, and truly live out a Corinthians 13 love towards each other. If you find yourself in the middle of a marriage filled with sorrow, disappointment, and heartbreak, please understand you are standing amid the fertile soil of opportunity, growth, fruit, love, and a unity beyond comprehension. Water your garden with tears, but dutifully attend to the seeds sown in faith during seasons of sorrow and want. Vigilantly drive off the spiritual disease that rots roots, devours buds, and steals fruit. Lean into the Father and cooperate with his process of refining your marriage and developing a true I Corinthians 13 love. Remember, your spouse isn’t the enemy- sin is. Conflict is not failure, it is opportunity! Your Father gave you to each other, and he was present when you uttered your marriage covenant. He loves you, and the state of your hearts matter to him. You aren’t fighting alone. He fights for you and with you! And as Jon Foreman eloquently wrote, never forget,

“Love alone is worth the fight.” Jon Foreman

When God Makes A Man

For the past fourteen and a half years, I have been tasked with the responsibility to keep this man-child alive. I have feed, clothed, protected, and shielded him from foes and dangers, visible and invisible. For years I was his everything (what David would call having him wrapped around my apron strings 😊) From the time he was a toddler, he remained within eyesight of me and my protection, willingly lavishing me with his all his affection…. payable in never-ending hugs and kisses….. then one day the hugs and kisses became few and far between…. photos nearly impossible! Watching my adorable, affectionate, pudgy boy grow into a lanky, strong, deep voiced, hairy, opinionated man has been one of the most heart wrenching yet beautiful seasons of life for me.

This afternoon, for thirty minutes, I forced myself to remain calm and glued to the couch where I sat while watching my boy scale a backyard tree. This wan’t your typical tree climbing adventure. This involved ropes, climbing harness, carabiners and a homemade climbing rig and minimal use of the tree to climb. I can’t begin to express the struggle within my heart as I watched my son climb 30 plus feet into the atmosphere, where I am pretty sure oxygen deprivation would soon overtake him and inhibit any existing common sense! I willed myself to sit in silence as I watched him falter, flounder in the breeze, struggle with tangled ropes, get stuck, cling to a branch (I am pretty sure it was rotten) swing precariously out of control, untangle and eventually free himself…..and then continue to climb…… It took every ounce of will power and self-control to not run out and shout motherly (and wise) admonitions, imploring him to not kill himself all while pointing out every possible way he could die….. which was in fact a real possibility because I ran the probabilities of all manner of calamities that could possibly kill him, and the odds were not in his favor.

After a thirty-minute struggle with nature, I was relieved to watch Owen’s uneventful return to earth.  A few seconds later he rushed into the house and invited me into his world. With excitement, he began to describe his adventures in the tree. Once more, I bit my tongue and listened to his detailed narrative of events. I praised him for his quick thinking and asked questons about his ability to free himself ( from what I considered a near death experience with a rope and gravity.) I asked him questions about how he solved the delima of getting hisglove caught in the rope (to which he proudly exclaimed “I unhooked myself from the line (30 feet in the air) in order to get loose!!!!” And gasp, ….. I even offered him my phone to take back up into the tree so he could photograph the “hundreds” of beetles he discovered on a branch. A miracle happened in that moment mama’s because  I didn’t reprimand, caution, or give him sage advice. I let him be who God created him to be, a strong, courageous, adventurous warrior.  I can’t describe his excitement over the entire episode (which I consider a near debacle!) He talked me through everything he realized had gone wrong, and his solution to the rope that had inhibiting him from successfully reaching a dead branch (he has determined to cut down), and how he was going to succeed next time. Seconds later he was back in the tree and….climbing even higher. I verbally called out to the Lord to preserve the life of my son and then forced myself to look away while doing a mental refresher of my 1st Aid skills.

Then my husband came home. He walked over to the couch where I sat and I pointed out the window towards the tree. With a smile, he gazed out the window at his son dangling from a rope. He nodded at Owen and exclaimed, “That’s exactly what I did when I was his age.” David slipped out the back door and walked to the tree, standing below flailling limbs and legs. I am not sure what my husband said to our son, but I saw a grin spread over Owen’s face as his daddy called up to him. Soon Owen was on the ground, and I watched as father and son discussed climbing strategies. I watched David inspect Owen’s rigging and ascent line, giving him advice regarding his knots. I watched Owen ask a question and then saw him respond, giving his father a huge smile and thumbs up….. and then he was backup up the tree. While my mama’s heart ached for times long past, I knew even in that moment, I was watching the process of my boy becoming a man! I am not sure how, but my heart ached and surged with pride, all at the same time.

I an age where men of courage, valor, and strength are shamed and even attacked, I am so very grateful for my husband who models Godly character and might in action. David knows that Owen faces an uphill battle and he is committed to walking alongside and encouraging him to become an man of God as he faces the battles ahead. David is reading a book “How God Makes Men,” preparing to take Owen through it.” I’d give anyhting for a hug, or semi normal picture, but more than anything I want my boy be be the full measure of a man God desires to make him. I pray that as God grows my son, he also gives me courage and faith to let go. Though my heart aches to hold my adorable, cowboy boot wearing, tractor loving kid one more time, I pray there are more towering trees to climb in Owen’s future, and mountains to scale, battles to fight, and enemies to vanquish……

Mama’s, hug your sons while you can, savor the moments, but don’t hold onto them. Let them find a tree to climb a mountian to scale, a battle to fight. Let them falter, fall, and fail. Let them discover who and what they are made of. Don’t shield them from battles that will make them men. Let them become men who love you but don’t need you.

My Abba Father, Part 1

I remember the day my oldest daughter Jessica entered this world. The Doctor dutifully announced her arrival and shortly after, her tiny cries filled the delivery room. At that moment, her wails of disapproval were the most beautiful sounds I had ever heard. With awe, David and I welcomed her into our lives and she captivated our hearts. There was no question about it! We had given birth to the most beautiful baby ever created. Looking back this makes me laugh because Jess was the typical newborn- blotchy, cheesy, with a very malformed head and swollen face. BUT, she was ours and in our opinion, she was perfect. Shortly after her grand entrance, both sets of grandparents busted through the delivery room door, eager to meet their granddaughter. As they passed her around, I remember hearing David’s mom exclaim “She has David’s nose!” Even in my exhausted and drug-induced state, I immediately felt a twinge of irritation. Yes, I was completely aware that this little life shared our DNA, but something inside me wanted to see, and hear others to acknowledge, my likeness in her tiny purple form. 

If you are a parent, you understand that longing to see your likeness and the sense of pride your child(children) brought you when you caught glimpses of yourself in their face. For the past two days, I have been immersed in a book, “God Has A Name,” by John Mark Comer. As he expounds on Exodus 34:4-7, describing the life-transforming truth of God’s character and nature found in His name Yahweh, he asked a question.  “Can you imagine how God feels about His Children?” This question brought me back to that hospital room almost eighteen years ago. The joy, excitement, pride, utter awe I felt when I held my daughter is indescribable. I loved her then (and now), with a love I had never experienced before. For seventeen years, I have positioned myself to move heaven and earth to care for, protect, and provide for her every need. I have sacrificed sleep, food, personal wants, and needs (including hygiene those first few weeks), goals, and even dreams, in order to care for, provide, teach, and prepare her for her own journey and life story.  Even today, as I look into the face of the beautiful seventeen-year-old woman, racing out the door on her way to work, my heart swells. She is my daughter! I gave birth to her!! How did I get such a precious gift?!?! (Also, how did we manage to keep her and the other two alive??) 

Within the limits of my earthly brain, I understand Comer’s question and the importance of asking it, not simply within the context of my children Jess, Mollie, and Owen. My Father feels the same way about my husband, sister, parents, friends….. He feels the same about them as I do my own children, but then a gazillion timed more!! As often as I can, I let my children know, no matter what they do (good or bad), what they accomplish (noteworthy or embarrasing), or who they become (professional dog walker or president)…. I will always love them. There is no sin, no screw-up, no failure, no length of prodigal living that can diminish, to any degree, my love for them. They may cause great sorrow and break my heart, but they are mine, and I will love them unconditionally (Never condoning, excusing, accepting, or enabling sin). But then there is the Love of our Father towards HIS children! A Love that abounds, overflows, and is poured out with unlimited, “Compassion & Grace.” Comer’s point was to allow our limited comprehension of God’s love for His Children to challenge, define, inform, and empower us to love others, be they spouses, children, friends, enemies, those who have hurt us, and even the mildly (or majorly) irritating people in our lives. All BECAUSE, they-are-HIS-children and HE is the Ultimate, ON Steroids, Don’t Mess With this Papa bear’s kid…… kinda daddy…. A Daddy who NEVERgets it wrong, never misses a fall, never fails to see, never fails to respond, never lacks the resource. A papa who never lacks authority, power, and ability to intervene and come to the rescue of his kid!!!!  Immediately after reading this, my thoughts were ouch! What have I done!!… duck for cover!!!…. repent !!!!

If the above truth strikes a twinge of fear into your heart (and it should) as you consider all the relationships you have with all the children of The Father of Heaven – husband, parents, children, siblings, co-workers, churchgoers….. the quarrels, fights, disagreements, public slander, private musings….the thoughtless offenses and outright blatant sins you have committed against His children, let this next thought bring comfort. (after you repent of course)

As I grieved over this realization and with embarrassment and shame began to talk to my Daddy and ask for forgiveness, MY Abba, Daddy In heaven reminded me “I gave and YOU a name too Jody, you are equally mine! (Isaiah 43:1) In the margin of my book, I scribbled, “I am never a disappointment to God! There will never be even a moment in time where God can not, does not, or will not look upon me, his faltering and struggling daughter, and not be moved with compassion. His graciousness, in light of my failures and imperfections, will never cause him to hesitate to come to my aid, encompass me with His presence, and forgive me of my sins and failures.” WOW!! He looks at me the same way I gazed upon my newborn daughter! He looks at me with equal measures of pride and compassion. Because of the blood of his son, I am forever and eternally His! Do you struggle to wrap your head around this truth like I do? The insecure, often made fun of, never quite fit in, never chosen, never enough, always felt like a mistake little girl inside of me struggles to understand…believe, accept this truth.. I am the wife who got irritated at her husband, the mamma who snapped at her children, the drover who got angry and barked at the driver in front of her going 15 mines under the speed limit, and I struggle with this reality….this gift. How can he look down upon me and beam with pride and glance over at the angles and exclaim “Thats my daughter!!!”

Think back to a time when your kid did something so amazingly fantastic that your heart swelled with a pride you could actually feel deep inside your heart. A time where you pulled out your phone to share a photo with a firend or posted a video of them doing their thing on the internet for all of the world to see……… This is how God your Fathert feels about you!  Let your heart and mind settle on this thought until it breaks you, sucks the very breath out of your lungs, ignites hope and joy where frustration, guilt, and shame used to reside….. And then go climb up into His lap and tell him about your day.


Letting Go Of The Past

Part 3 of the Surrender Series

Renewed in Surrender

Ephesians 4:22-23 “..Put off the former conversation of the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.

The Struggle to let go

I have likened the frustrating struggle to let go of what I desperately need to rid myself of, to the well-worn trail that meandered through my grandparent’s back back yard all the way down to the gate leading into the chicken yard. My grandma always fed the feral cats that roamed freely on their farm. Even when the grass was long overdue for a mow, the one path that every single cat took to get down to the food bowl was ALWAYS visible. It began at the foot of the back porch steps, snaked alongside the old well, continued beneath the rusty chicken wire gate and stopped in front of a henpecked rubber feeding dish at the foot of the chicken yard. I am not sure why the cats chose that particular route to get to the food, but from the time I was a child, running across the lawn in my dirty bare feet, up to the day the last cat disappeared, that well-worn path was always there, in the exact same place it had always been. This “cat track” provided a path of least resistance to the free food that awaited the freeloading feline that my grandma complained about but tolerated.  I am convinced that the cats traveled this path so often, they could have found their way with blindfolded eyes and stopped up noses.

Fast forward many years since childhood and Seven years into one of the darkest and most broken seasons of my life. Without knowing how I had gotten there, I eventually found myself shattered beyond what I thoughts was repairable. My pain, compounded by Isolation, had exasperated the brokenness I was desperately trying to escape. The absence of outside counsel and help, apart from what I could muster on my own, was a perfect recipe for disaster. Though I spent half the day simply trying to survive and the other half attempting to hide that fact from everyone, I was indeed, a walking disaster, waiting to implode. My life had become like the well-worn path in my grandparent’s backyard. Even though I fervently prayed to God for relief from the fear, anxiety, and pain, the habitual processing of what I thought I saw, heard, and felt was the only way I knew how to protect the broken and hurting parts of me. 

Just when I was at the point of a physical, emotional, and spiritual breakdown, God led me to a counselor. For the first time in my life, I was no longer on my own, trying to figure out how to repair the broken pieces of my life. This counselor’s presence provided me with the opportunity to hear Truth from the perspective of someone “sitting on the back porch” as they watched me walk that well-worn path from the deck to the feeding bowl. Wise counsel and probing questions revealed a pattern of beliefs that led to habitual responses to pain and triggers that drudged up the past. This cycle, trapping me inside a prison of pain and fear, not the freedom and peace I desperately cried out to God for on a daily basis.

My counselor saw what I could not. In my journey, I was just like the barnyard cats. Sometimes I willingly searched for the familiar memories, feelings, and events. I felt the need to replay them in my mind, believing it would help me make sense of what I had experienced. On bad days, I willingly revisited the past in order to justify the dark place where my heart decided it wanted to reside.  Other times the past crept up from behind, blindsiding me in the midst of a normal, carefree day. Though I had done nothing wrong, a mere word, memory, or photo would trigger and drudge up the past I was desperate to escape. Imprisoned once more by unrelenting fear, anxiety, and anger, a good day quickly became a day of torture and torment.  There were even days I prepared and valiantly fought like mad to get off the old warn path that I knew I shouldn’t be on, only to jump back on in defeat, when exhaustion and hopelessness from trying to forge a new path overcame me.

John 8:32 “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The truth he spoke into my life was like water to a parched soul, but it was still an agonizing journey to enter into that healing process to find, forge, and walk in the freedom I had almost given up fighting to obtain. Unconscious habits had to be replaced with intentional and exhausting efforts to forge a new path and a new way of thinking. A spiritual, emotional, and mental renewal of my mind was the only way to freedom. At first, no matter how diligently I recited verses and statements of truth, my mind instinctively wandered back to the path of least resistance. Without effort, familiar fears, anxieties, and accusations inhabited the spaces I had fought so passionately to clear out. Gradually, a new path became visible while the old path began to fade. The Truth was the only thing that could erase the old familiar path to the feeding bowl of misery and brokenness. Only freedom could help me forge a new path that lead to freedom. The steps and process that forged the new and erased the old are for another day and another blog, but I am here to testify that it is possible and the process one of the most beautiful chapters God has written in my life story. 

Romans 12:2  instructs us,

“Do not conform to the pattern (ie. paths) of this world,

but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—

his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If my story sounds a lot like yours, take heart. There is hope! Beauty from ashes is possible and joy can replae mourning! God’s desire for your life is that you find and forge a new path that leads to fullness of life, freedom, and healing. Reject the temptation to isolate yourself from others. Open up to a counselor and trusted friends who will love you well and love you unselfishly. Reach up, cry out, and drink deep in faith the words of truth God speaks into your soul through His word, His people, and His Spirit.

Surrender: Stepping into the unknown

As I study the call to surrender and grapple with what this looks like for me, I have come to realize there are quite a few obstacles that question the sensibility of doing this, as well as my ability to embrace this endeavor. Some obstacles rear their head in the form of red warning lights that blink brightly, shouting questions like “What if?” Many of these cautions evoke an onslaught of turbulent emotions. In order to move forward in obedience to this call to surrender, it is crucial to identify, interpret, and remove anything that holds me back from full surrender. In my next few blogs I will focus on some of the obstacles I find myself contending with daily..

Perhaps one of the greatest physical, emotional, and mental struggles I deal with as I dive into the practice of surrender, is the reality that surrender doesn’t just invite me into the realm of the unknown, it demands it of me. When God asks me to surrender and let go, he is asking me to let go of all that I know and am familiar with and to obediently step into the unknown of His Providence and Sovereignty.

Surrender doesn’t just invite me into the realm of the unknown, it demands it of me.

 I like the uncomplicated rhythm that familiarity brings to my life. Change can be scary and is often disruptive, exhausting, and at times painfully uncomfortable. I love adventure. It is something my husband embraces with childlike delight, and after 18 years of marriage, I ’d like to think that I have learned to enjoy and share in his passion to experience and see different things. But, whether we are soaring into the heavens inside a small metal box with wings and a prop, or plumbing the depths of the ocean with small metal tanks strapped to our backs, we still maintain some degree of control. These adventures come with a clear understanding of what we are doing, where we are going, and how long it will take us to get there. Flight plans and dive plans are made, measuring fuel or oxygen consumption. Risk assessments determine if our adventure is a go/no-go, and each adventure requires lots of preparations so that if any surprise arises, is isn’t as surprising. 

Surrendering to the call to follow God, is to relinquish control and the right to decide what path I walk, where the journey will take me, how long my journey will take, and what this Divine adventure will require of me.  Surrender invites God into my life, my home, my family, my work, my hobbies, and my giving. Surrender gives God the freedom to disrupt the calm of the known in order to rearrange my priorities so that I can travel His path of Kingdom work. This might look like interrupted evenings, resumed education/training, transition of careers, diverted funds, and even (gasp), less involvement in earthly family so I can join in the work of growing His Kingdom Family!

Painting by: Joel David Holsinger
Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the paths of life. In Your presence is fullness of Joy. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore

How in the world do I find the strength and desire to cry out to God the words, “All to Jesus, I surrender, All to Him I freely Give?” Well the answer is found in the next part of the song 🙂 I will ever love and trust Him, In His presence daily live.” Jesus proclaimed that any person who does not hate father or mother, brother & sisters, wife & Children or his own life, that he couldn’t be his follower. This isn’t a call to actually foster the emotions associated with hate and to treat those on my life with acts of contempt. His point is that when I truly Love God and understand His unsurpassed value and worth, I will spend my days identifying and opposing anyone or thing that threatens to rob me of, distracts me from, or take from me any degree of what he desires for my life. True surrender means I am willing to forsake, push aside, and deny myself earthly comforts and pleasure because I do not want to miss even a second of His riches, glory and sweet fellowship. True surrender means I not only understand God’s value and worth, I believe it in an earth shattering, life changing, priorities shifting way. I surrender because I both Love and Trust Him. It’s hard to comprehend a love greater than the loveI have for my husband and children! I can’t even hope to foster a desire and drive that exceeds the relationship that with my family, but God declares that kind of love was bestowed upon me and that depth of love can grow and thrive inside my heart. I want this. I want to understand this love and be consumed by it. I want to know Him so deeply and fully, that any command, no matter what it is, can be yielded to without questioning, doubt & Fear!

All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give

I will ever love and trust Him, In His Presence daily live

All to Jesus I surrender, Humbly at His feet I bow

Worldly pleasures all forsaken, Take me Jesus take me now

All to Jesus I surrender, Make me Saviour wholly Thine

Let me feel the Holy Spirit, Truly know that Thou art mine.

I surrender all,

I surrender all,

All to Thee my blessed Saviour,

I surrender all

Surrendering my Identity

Do you know your true identity?

When we hear of someone “losing” or “surrendering” their identity, it’s usually not in a positive light. For example, in a former relationship, my husband felt the need to suppress who he truly was (likes, dislikes, goals, dreams, activities he enjoyed) to try and win the approval of his fiance and her parents. Early on in my marriage, the insecurity and baggage I brought into our relationship made me feel like I had to hide who I was and what made me tick and instead become who I thought my husband wished I was. This made it hard for me to do simple things like voice my own perspective or suggest opinions that were different than the ones expressed by my husband. In fact, I was so insecure, not only would I struggle to tell him ‘what I wanted” (yes we’re talking about things like what restaurant to go to and where to vacation), I even stop drinking flavored coffee, which I absolutely loved, all because, in my husband’s opinion, flavored coffee was an abomination. Please understand, my husband is an incredibly sensitive and loving man. He never told me to only and always agree with him or I prohibit me from drinking flavored coffee, he just complained about how stinky he thought it was : )

The kind of surrender God is calling me to, is not an exchange of who I am in order to become what pleases another, which is in essence a lie and unhealthy. This type of surrender is in reality, a letting go of who I am not, in order to become who I truly am. True Biblical surrender is a call to understand, believe, embrace and become who God has declared me to be so I can accomplish the Divine work he has called me to engage in, for His Kingdom, His honor, and His Glory.  Ephesians provides a beautiful picture of this heavenly exchange and provides a guide that helps us through the process of surrendering the identity of someone who has died in order to embrace and assume the identity of who God declares, equips, and calls us to be.

Do you realize that if you have received the gift of salvation, YOU are literally, spiritually, & physically an actual daughter of God!!! Please repeat that phrase and ask the Spirit of God to allow the reality of this truth to be understood by your mind in a way that transforms the way you think and act! At your salvation, an actual legal adoption took place in heaven between Judge and Savior, Father and son. There is an actual document with your name on it contained in the Book of Life. On this document you are listed as the daughter of God. You are part of His Family tree.

I was never into the Royal Family, and never understood friends who obsessed over them and followed their every move. I think the physical example (and failures) of kings and kingdoms have ruined our ability to understand the truth of who and what we have become in Christ. As trite as the kingdom and rule of an earthly king and queen is today, at a human level, it can still help us to comprehend, to a minuscule degree, what our new identity and position in Christ means.  

Imagine being an orphan in the poorest country on the face of the earth. Not only do you live in a wretched country, you also live in the most wretched children’s home ever to exist. You have no rights or privileges, and you are not free to leave because you belong to the cruel owner of the orphanage. You do what you are told, wear what you are handed, and eat what little you are given in silence. There is no time for yourself. You are powerless and must do everything you are told, no matter how cruel, painful, or damaging it is to your health and life. This home is your prison and you know you will never set food beyond the miserable property upon which you live. Imagine if one day you received an official letter informing you that Queen Elizabeth had held a lottery and your name had been chosen. A press conference had been called, without you even knowing what was going on, and the Queen had declared to the world that you (insert your name here) had just been officially adopted into their Royal family. There on the spot, you are announced as the princess of England with all power, privileges, rights, and duties are bestowed upon you as the Royal Daughter. Accompanying this declaration is a request for you to prepare yourself for the journey to meet your new family and begin your new life. You are instructed to burn every scrap of clothing and discard every object in your possession that ties you to your previous life as a wretched, lowly orphan, and slave. Placed in front of you are boxes containing clothing and riches, the likes you have never seen. An attendant is also provided, This “helper” knows everything the Queen desires for you to do before your arrival. He knows what state you need to be in by the time you stand before her throne and He also has unlimited power and ability to carry out every demand that has been given regarding your physical appearance, conduct, possessions, education.  All the time, resources, and opportunities you need in order to transform you from an orphan slave into the sophisticated and elegant princess of England is his to freely lavish upon you. Immediately, you are also free from the laws, constraints, rule of everyone around you, including the owner of the orphanage. No one has the power to demand anything of you or do anything to you. The only voice you are required to listen to, and the only kingdom and ruler that defines who you are, the scope of your power, and what is expected of you, is the kingdom and voice of the Queen of England. 

A scenario like this would blow my mind YET this is our reality!! Can you wrap your head around the fact that as unreal as the story above sounds this, to an even greater degree is the true narrative of your life and calling? Does your heart quicken because you understand “This IS your Life?” You have been rescued from a literal and physical hellish existence! You are living, breathing Royalty! (I will give you my autograph if you give me yours) One day, you will live in an physical mansion of an actual brick and mortar Kingdom. You will walk streets of splendor with your siblings, who you will actually get along with. You will sit at table next to your brothers and sisters, millions upon trillions of them. You will be able to physically see, speak with, and permanently dwell with Jesus Christ, the Son and Savior of the world!!! You will enter into, remain in, and experience the presence of The The Living God who created the universe. Right now angels in heaven experience this but with head bowed, and eyes covered. All they can do is what God created them to do, proclaim “Holy! Holy! Holy! You are Lord God Almighty! God who was, is, and is to come.” BUT WE, we were created for relationship with Christ and we will dwell with him and remain in His presence. God is actually our Father!!! God is your daddy! 

How does this impact how you “dress” yourself, physically, and spiritually every day? Who or what do you dress as? Doomed orphan or daughter of the King? What do you take off and put on every time you get out of bed? What identity do you surrender yourself to? How does the reality that “I am in the midst of the greatest wardrobe change ever known to mankind,” change daily activities, goals, and desires? All of us would jump at the chance if we were offered the opportunity of a “rags to riches” moment here on earth. How can we hesitate to accept the gift of our own eternal real-life rags to riches opportunity today? What part of the broken, filthy, powerless orphan are you holding onto today. 

Ephesians 2

2 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh[a] and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love for us, 5 has made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

A Word

My focus for 2021

New Year, new focus!

Like many, I spent some time considering what “word” to choose as my focus for 2021. As I was finishing the year with a great book, end of year sermons, and my own personal devotions, a word seemed to echo in my heart. So for the year of 2021, my focus will be upon the act of Surrender!


Normally, the word surrender isn’t not one we think of in a positive light. The definition of the word surrender is:

“To cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.

Whenever there is war, there will be surrender. In war, to surrender means to lay down weapons and to stop fighting for your cause. In war, the losers are the ones who surrender in humiliation and defeat. The climax of some of the greatest books and movies of all time, is the point at which the protagonist is confronted with prospect of surrender. The height of the plot coming when, with all option are exhausted, all strength depleted, and casualties high and the hero is faced with the choice to surrender pride, rights, livelihood, family, and freedom in order to survive. The resolution of some of the greatest battles in history are those in when, against all odds, the underdogs didn’t just survive, they defeated their enemy.  Surrender is not something we are supposed to yield to, but rather something we fight against, at all cost.

But as I sit on the couch, the old hymn “All to Jesus, I surrendered” echoes in my head. Surrender!?!?  Why in the world would I voluntarily do this you might ask? We just celebrated the Christmas season with the familiar words “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace and goodwill to all men.” With what has gone on in our world in just the last year even, it’s obvious that this wasn’t a declaration to mankind and a promise that the end of all wars and violence had come to earth. We in America alone have experienced the Revolutionary war, Civil war, World war I & II, and vietnam war…… just to name a few. No, this announcement thousands of years ago held far greater meaning for all of mankind both present and future. 

Because of sin, before that wondrous night in Bethlehem, man was always and only at war with God. Mortal enemies with an immortal and all powerful God with the doom of all mankind guaranteed. “But God, who is rich in mercy and great Love” sent His only begotten Son, in order to facilitate the most historic peace accord of all time. We deserved absolute annihilation as enemies of the Living God but Jesus, God’s Holy and Righteous Son, came as a babe and then died on the cross, feeling the full weight of His Father’s wrath and justice. Mankind, once mortal enemies with God could now be “brought near” and “called sons and daughters.” Where all of mankind once had the sentence of eternal death and separation from Christ pronounced upon them, they could now receive not only pardon but also adoption into God’s family. Added to this, a promise was given that man would only be pardoned, he would also become joint heirs with His Son, and gifted with all the rights and privileges that Jesus Christ, the Son of God had. The only action required was surrender. 

For the 1st and only time in history surrender wouldn’t mean humiliation, imprisonment, expulsion, the loss of everything, execution, or suffering. This surrender, this bowing of knee to the rule and reign of God, meant adoption and absolvement of the debt we owed and could never repay. Surrender didn’t mean slavery and loss of freedom, it meant provision and power. Instead of the victor taking everything from us as plunder, we received complete access to His evenly treasures, imperishable, immeasurable,  and eternal. 

This is a gift I received as a young 6 year old girl but for God’s children, the need for and call to surrender is one I must engage in daily. This call to surrender has been a common theme and mantra of our church.  A call to Surrender my time and talents, so they can be  used for God’s purposes and glory not mine. It is a call to Surrender what is comfortable and familiar and to step out into the battlefield where I will be uncomfortably stretched beyond what I thought possible. It is a call to surrender my desire to have a safe and pain free life for my kids by stepping aside and allowing the Lord to have His way, in His time, with my kids. The day I kneeled in surrender, accepting the free gift of salvation and peace with God, my life of surrender had just begun. Its easy to forget this truth in the midst of a busy life. Its easy to forget my life is no longer mine, because it was redeemed with the most expensive and precious price ever paid.

So for 2021, surrender is my focus. The action of giving up one thing in order to obtain something else of greater eternal value. I know surrender might be uncomfortable and even painful at times, but in the end I know the words of Jim Elliot will prove true:

“He is no fool who gives up what he can not keep,

In order to gain what he can not loose.”

For another blog about surrender click here: “On The Edge of That Glad Surrender

Little Foxes that Spoil the Vine….

The not so respectable, respectable sins

Between the Vines – Artist: Carl Brenders

Catch for us the foxes,

    the little foxes

that ruin the vineyards,

    our vineyards that are in bloom.

Song of Solomon 2:15

The Fox

A few days ago I found myself quite irritated with my husband. If I were to disclose what it was that set me on edge I have no doubt you would shake your head in amazement and then hand me the number of a good marriage counselor because at that moment in time, my heart needed some help. As I stood trying to sort through what I was feeling and why, the Holy Spirit pressed upon my heart the realization that immediately identifying and dealing with this perplexing situation was not an option! As I forced my brain to concentrate on God’s call to love unconditionally, it struck me that moments like these, if left unattended, threaten the foundation of even the most solid and committed relationships. Couples do not stand at the alter on their wedding day with hearts full of contempt and disdain. What begins as true, committed love will always grow cold over time if the memories of what they loved most about their spouse are replaced and replayed with a growing list of hurts, offenses, and irritations. If I valued the gift of a healthy and thriving marriage and planned to honor my pledge “to love, honor, and obey till death”, not divorce, I had to figure out and deal with what really was going on in my heart towards my spouse. But, there was more going on in my heart than opportunity for a silly irritation to attack the foundation of our marriage. A few days later, God used a simple drive in the car and then a book to bring understanding and truth to a critical need to identify and eliminate some foxes in my vineyard.

The Drive

The drive on Thursday wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me. I wasn’t in a hurry, there wasn’t a lot of traffic. I was simply making my way back home after running some errands. As I approached an intersection, a car hesitated and then pulled out in front of me. With their available clearance to shoot the gap already in question, the car then proceeded to slow down and go a full 5 miles under the speed limit. Frustrated, I eloquently barked out my irritation at the inept driver. I did’t cuss and I didn’t rage or loose control of my emotions, but in frustration I proceeded to spend the next few minute explaining to the car in front of me exactly what I thought of their driving skills or rather lack of them. The entire time I was vocalizing my displeasure, the Holy Spirit quietly was doing the same to me to me. Conviction eventually led to muted irritation until opportunity provided me with the chance to get around my slow moving obstacle. I snapped the turn signal my, jerked my car into the other lane, and then stomped on the gas making sure to looked over as I passed the slow moving can in order to get a glimpse of the offending driver. My irritation seemed innocent, if not justified but deep down I knew I had responded poorly. I knew this outburst and the many others like it were wrong. I felt convicted and ashamed because I knew this was an ongoing problem I hadn’t been able to master. I also knew I this was a sin I should not excuse to justify and so I arrived home discouraged. I continued on with my day, got distracted, completely forgot about the interaction. Eventually, the sorrow and guilt over my conduct faded and the little fox remained in my garden.

The Book

Today I finished up Lisa Terkeurst’s book “Forgiving What You Can’t Forget.” One of the last points she made about the importance and necessity of forgiveness, brought everything from the past week into light. Aside from the fact that God commanded us to forgive and Jesus tied it to the Father’s forgiveness toward us (Luke 13), was the truth that the consequences of refusing to forgive seeps into all other relationships and aspects of our lives. We can’t simply choose to not forgive a specific person and keep the effects of that bitterness confined to that one single relationship or situation. Bitterness is a sin that will spill into and poison all other relationships. Bitterness towards an “enemy” who has wounded us will multiply and be poured out upon the spouse we love, the friends we cherish, and the children we adore. Any sin rationalized and justified produces consequences that seeps into every aspect of our lives and relationships. I began to reflect upon the people and events in my life that had caused great brokenness and pain, things I would never be able to forget. There are memories so painful that the mere mention of names or events can trigger stifling anxiety attacks. Lisa’s words rang true as I began to connect the dots, recognizing a familiar pattern of keeping score, making lists, and withdraw from other relationships I cherished.

The Connection

As I digested Lisa’s words, I thought back to my shameful ride in the car and then to the silly irritation towards my husband a few days earlier. The light came on again as I realized those 2 moments were also connected. Just as bitterness towards one relationship affects another, justifying my irritation towards an aggravatingly slow drivers created a home in my heart for the seeds similar irritation towards my husband. “Little foxes” (ie. sins) are often excused reactions that fly under the radar. While they seem innocent and harmless, they quietly perpetrate some of the greatest damage to relationships far and wide because they continue unnoticed and unhindered. I would never dream of killing someone who hurt me, but I can become so bitter I rejoice when they hurt or worse yet become bitter at God when they don’t. I may believe it absurd to divorce my spouse for something petty like leaving his underwear of the floor but I can poison my heart and love towards him by daily compiling a list of irritations, faults, and failures that silently and gradually erase from memory all that is good, and noble about him that I admired and fell in love with in the beginning.

All foxes that are welcomed or tolerated into the vineyard spoil the vines and destroy the grapes. Every sin tolerated and justified in one situation take root in our hearts and bring destruction in others. May God grant us discernment and vigilance to root out and annihilate all the little foxes.

Peace For Today: When My Heart is Overwhelmed!

Psalm 61:1-4
Hear my cry O God. Attend to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I will cry unto you,
when my heart is overwhelmed within me,
lead me to the rock that is higher than I
For you have been a shelter for me,
a strong tower from the enemy
I will abide in your tower forever,
I will trust in the covert of your wings.

Where do you go when fear strikes? What do you do when anxiety rears its ugly head?

I love the beautiful image David casts of his journey through anxiety and uncertainty. His thought process, prayer, and pilgrimage through times like we are experiencing today has been a great source of comfort to me, helping me to center my focus and quiet my heart.

“While man is the creator of chaos and pain, the only true source of Hope and Peace is the One True God and Creator of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Hear my cry O God. Attend to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I will cry unto you

When overwhelming circumstances come our way, who or where do we turn to 1st? It is very easy for me to search for statistics, stories, and sources that produce information which confirm “things are OK”. The only problem is that for every stat or source I find there are often as many contradictory stats or stories that surface. If you add in the disheartening scenario like we have today where no amount of facts seem to be able to break through the walls of misinformation, deception, and outright lies- what began as manageable anxiety over the unknown morphs to downright frustration and even anger.

David’s first step in Psalm 61 is a movement to quiet his heart, center his focus, and remind himself that While man is the creator of chaos and pain, the only true source of Hope and Peace is the One True God and Creator of all things, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Like a child that has just been pushed down by the neighborhood bully, David runs to his “Abba” daddy father to make things right. “Hear my cry” or listen to the troubles that burden my heart he utters to his Father. “Attend to my prayer” Daddy, give full attention and all your effort to helping me with my conflict he demands. David is pleading with God to take notice and to take action! Stats will never bring peace or hope. Sinful, fallen, imperfect people are incapable of bringing security or salvation. This world is broken and corrupt. Chaos will continue to grow and spread. BUT we serve a True and Faithful God who never changes, and in whom there is “No shadow of turning.” In him we find constancy and solid ground. David realized that anxiety of heart, caused by the brokenness of the world, finds rest only in the power and person of a Faithful God who never changes. So David’s focus turns from trying to figure out how he can change the people and circumstances causing his distress, focusing instead upon the Faithfulness and Power of the God of Salvation.

“David realized that anxiety of heart, caused by the brokenness of the world, finds rest only in the power and person of a Faithful God who never changes”

When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I

The heart- (our mind & our collection of thoughts, beliefs, and understanding) is the epicenter where the battles of anxiety and fear take place. Our amazing body takes in the world around us and within milliseconds processes what is seen, heard, felt and sensed. Drawing from years of collected experiences, knowledge, and beliefs, our bodies then take action based upon what we believe to be true.

Quite often, an overwhelmed heart is one in which “Truth” has been drowned out by the fears of “what could be” and/or the experiences of “what has already been.” David’s cry of “Lead me to a rock, higher that I“ is such a profound statement. David, battling anxiety, fear, and probably even anger, recognizes that in that moment he is dwelling in a place where fear, anxiety, and anger thrives because his mind and heart isn’t where it needs to me. Man’s mind, body, thoughts, and, intellect are limited and imperfect and David realized residing physically and spiritually in a place limited by his physical body and intellect, he would find no rest. David understood that a change in the Spiritual location and the focus of his heart, spiritual eyes, and quite possibly even the physical location of his eyes and body were needed in order to vanquish the overwhelming feelings of despair and hopelessness. And so his prayer continues, confessing to the Lord that he understood he was not where he should be while also asking God to “lead him to the place “Higher” than himself, where he needed to be. A place that extended beyond his kingdom and provided a power, wisdom, and protection far beyond what even he, anointed king and ruler could provide. And don’t miss the important fact that there was a spiritual climb (and possibly a physical one too- perhaps to the sanctuary to pray some more) to get from point A– anxiety and distress, to point B– peace and hope. David didn’t get to simply ask to be transported to peace and hope. David understood that he had to take an active role to get to that place of peace and security- He had to aggressively engage in a journey from where he was presently to where he needed and wanted to be.

“Quite often, an overwhelmed heart is one in which “Truth” has been drowned out by the fears of what could be” and/or the experiences of “what has already been.”

For you have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy

I had the opportunity to counsel quite a few women through incapacitating anxieties and fear. The experiences of past abuse, present sorrows, and perceived future dangers were a constant and deafening noise to ears struggling to hear the voice of reason and truth. When tackling debilitating anxieties and fear, I often went to this Psalm as a source of encouragement and direction.

On a white board I would draw the counselee in the midst of a battle field and we would discuss the “enemies they battled. I would ask them to imagine the situations, memories, fears, and even people standing before them, that they mentally and emotionally went to war with on a daily basis. We would discuss how overwhelming and even hopeless the “enemy” looming before them often seemed. From their vantage point, the life they lived appeared to pit one (themselves) against so many others.

After reading this Psalm and discussing the need for movement from point A to point B, I would draw a shelter between the counselee and their enemies and then ask why they should run into this place of refuge? They would mention things like: With a shelter, they experienced safety because they were no longer out in the open, exposed and helpless. The place of refuge allowed them periods of rest when weary because they didn’t always have to fight…. in the shelter they were completely hidden from the gaze of their enemies and within the walls they were always protected. Once surrounded by these walls they were no longer exposed, vulnerable, and alone.

My favorite part of the verse came next. With the dry marker we transformed that shelter into something so much more formidable as we add depth and height making it into a tall “Strong Tower.” This tower was not only fortified and safe, it loomed over the battlefield. I would ask the counselee what had changed about the battle she was now facing, aside from the fact she was no longer out in the open and vulnerable because she was inside and sheltered. She was able to recognize the fact that the presence of a “strong tower” shifted the battle to her favor because her position in the tower provided her with a new vantage point. She was now above her enemies and she could see the entire battlefield and the boundaries within which she fought. She could see the enemy clearly and the tower allowed her to see their numbers, limitations, strengthen, weaknesses, and movements. She could see and understand the weapons they had brought to attack her with and she now knew exactly what weapons she needed in order to engage in battle and defeat them
In the “Strong tower” she now had the advantage not just defensively but offensively! What a liberating truth!!!

What beautiful imagery of the Spiritual battles we fight today. Yes COVID is a real physical disease, the riots and chaos on the news today present real physical threats and financial burdens. Lost jobs and future uncertainties are very real and palpable fears BUT God’s word tells us that the the battles we wage as children of the King are not merely physical but Spiritual in nature. We do not strive and wage war to preserve a physical life and worldly goods. We engage in battle to win and preserve what can never be taken away from us, a Spiritual Heritage, incorruptible, imperishable. We groan and strain under the burden of a broken world and corrupt society with hope because we know we are just strangers and sojourners here, looking for another Kingdom promised to us by our Heavenly father. Our fears, anxiety originate in this broken and fallen physical world but often they are fought predominately on a spiritual battlefield. A spiritual battle already won for us at the cross when Jesus rose from the dead in glorious victory over sin His Father placing all things under his feet including all rulers, powers, and dominions!

Today, if you find your heart “Overwhelmed” and peace and joy fleeting, follow David’s journey to the “Strong Tower” of God’s presence. If you are overwhelmed, you are not where you need to be spiritually, and quite possibly physically (For me often the wrong physical place is often facebook:) Ask God to lead you into His presence and to open your ears and eyes to the truth that liberates and brings peace and freedom. Step into His presence, into that “Strong “Tower” and let His Word, and His Truth” shed light on the battlefield before you. Let His presence and His Power change both your perspective of who or what the enemy is that you are to fight, how you are equipped to fight, and the true cause you are called to fight for.
Blessings and Peace!

Why monuments are’t our biggest problem…How Nelson Mandela Got it Wrong…and Why Racism Will Continue.

True history is a record of verifiable facts free from the prejudice of man. It must contain both his honorable, valiant, and noble deeds which ignite pride and gratefulness, as well as the deplorable and incomprehensible works of darkness that evoke shame and horror. Not one single piece of history is void of the deeds of both honorable and dishonorable men and women.

Because the heart of every man is filled with sin, every moment of recorded history is sullied and tarnished by his hatred, greed, and the effects of the natural depravity of his heart and soul. Every noble conflict is tarnished by the heinous deeds of inherently sinful and selfish men and women. Every vile conflict is filled with glimmers of light as men and women of honor and integrity stood against treachery, advocating for justice and equality for all. To demand that all history touched by the imperfections and prejudices of man be erased, as if by doing so you can punish those men and women for the sins they committed decades and centuries ago, is completely irrational!

George S quoteThe purpose of history, so wisely stated by Italian philosopher George Santayana,  is to educate humanity about the past BECAUSE “Those who don’t remember history are condemned to repeat it!” History educates us! It helps us to see how the unspeakable became possible. History reveals how ignorance and prejudice has fueled hatred and the murder of innocent men and women for thousands of years. It lets us consider and become aware that even the most pure of intentions can be skewed by the natural depravity of man’s heart bent towards selfish sinful self love. 

Erasing history is a global suicide mission with self destruction as the only possible end game! Systematically removing the monuments and records of every evil man, women, and event in this world, so that we can in essence remove any and all traces of his evil heart, will not end until every monument, statue, plaque and book is destroyed. Removing evidence of the the mistakes, sins, and ignorance of those in the past will not remove those very mistakes, sin, and ignorance still present in the heart of every man today.

Today I stumbled across an article that troubled me greatly. In the report a protester declared Christopher Columbus to be a man with a “White supremacist mindset.” How in the world this person or any person living today claims they are able to know and interpret the thoughts, intents, and heart of a man dead and buried over a thousand years baffles me. Based on that assumption this person felt they have the right to call for the removal of a monument erected in 1910, honoring the courage of “Italians who immigrated to Detroit” seeking freedom and the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What’s even more disturbing was that this clamoring to remove the monument wasn’t the original object of the protest. This Monument only came under fire after the search for other politically incorrect monuments came up empty.

Perhaps the quest to remove the “monuments” of those we deem unworthy has more to do with hiding the conditions of our own hearts here in the present than it is about the exposing the evil in the hearts of those from our past. Maybe mandatory history exams should be required of all protesters before any more monuments and records of history are removed! protest memeThe last time I studied history, the driving force behind the voyage that brought Christopher Columbus to America was the desire to find a new trade rout and resources with which humanity could sustain them self. Never in the annals of history have I ever heard it be charged that “white supremacy” drove Columbus or any other explorer to set sail, set foot, or ride to discover the unknown! If this protester were in fact correct, and the true motivation behind Columbus’ exploration was his own supremacy, it isn’t white man we would have to declare to be governed by a supremacist mindset, it would be Spaniard Supremacy we would have to go after.

Did prejudice, hate, murder, and slavery spread like cancer across the new world? Yes, and every other continent inhabited by mankind! Man abusing man existed long before Columbus set sail, and long before the Civil War began. Every act of hate exists because greed and self love has always existed deep within the core of his being. No human escapes this curse. It is a global fall and a global predicament. Native Americans killed, and were suppressed and killed by their own people groups long before Columbus showed up. Africans and people of all nations who were enslaved and brought to America (and the host of other countries riff with slavery), murdered, were murdered, and were oppressed by their own people groups long before they were violently ripped from the soil of their own countries. 

importantAtrocities are perpetuated and wars begun when one person or people group asserts that their humanity, rights and desires are more valid and important than everyone else’s. At the core of this mindset it the sick cancer of self-love. A love fueled by the belief my life is more important than any others. Because my life is all that matters, I have the right to decide to do or not do anything that pleases or benefits me and me alone! This is how one man can justify the enslavement of another. This is how one  can justify stealing the property of another. This is how one justifies destruction of another man’s property. This is how justifies murder, rape, adultery, theft, and abortion.

Regardless, as humanity once again turns against itself, to its own demise and destruction, every protest and every news article makes a most excellent “Case for Christ.”

This past week former President Obama also lit up the internet, responding to racial unrest by tweeting a famous quote from Nelson Mandela. NelsonFor those seeking answers and desperate for any semblance of a return to sanity in the midst of dark chaos, this quote rang true. While I am hopeful that our world might finally be ready for a wake up call, I find myself apprehensive and doubtful that we are actually heading in the right direction. You see the very quote encouraging an end to racism and hate in truth reveals why it still remains and will continue to exist and divide nations.

Contrary to Mr. Mandela’s claim, man is born filled to the brim with the capacity to hate and the natural desire to do so. Did you teach your kids to hit each other, steal from one another, devour the spirit of another with their words? NOPE! That came natural!  Jeremiah 17 states that the heart of man is the most deceitful thing in existence and beyond that Jeremiah asserts that man’s heart is desperately wicked. Yes, society plays an active role rationalizing the hatred of a man directed towards those it deems undesirable and worthless, BUT the fact is, before hate is given socitial permission to flow, it all ready resides at the core of man’s soul. Hate never lays dormant! It is violent, angry, and always calling for action and an avenue of expression. Even if we were to abolish all forms of hatred directed towards a person simply because of his/her skin color or nationality, we would be no better off as a society.

All forms of hate are vile and detestable, but a moral shift in society has proclaimed that certain forms of hate are permissible. Every single human on the face of the earth was born with a heart filled with hate. Without ever being taught or coaxed to explore that hateemotion, every living breathing human on the face of the earth will not only demonstrate that hate but also look for ways to rationalize and justify it, FOR the root of all hate is self love. Self love raises its head when a man steals an item from a store, a boss, or a neighbor. Self love is evidenced when a woman kills with her word or wounds with her hands. Hate extinguishes lives, abuses the innocent, bullies the weak, demeans the downtrodden and declares all others different from themselves to be less than human. Self love declares I am the most important thing on earth and anything that gets in my way or keeps me from what I want is the enemy and worthy of my anger, ire, and retribution. If a baby gets in the way of my career I have the right to kill it. If a man is married to a woman I like and find desirable I will steal her……and the list of acceptable acts of hate multiply because I have given myself the power and authority to make any decision because I am all that matters. What happens when masses of humanity, each with differing opinions about what is worthy of life (based on whether it adds value to their existence or helps them attain the life they want) rise up ????? You get what you have seen the past few days, weeks, years, decades, and centuries, anarchy, Hate, chaos, hAte, riots, haTe, beatings, hatE, theft, Hate, vandalism, hAte, murder, haTe, war, HATE………………………………When my happiness and success is all that matter, all that matters is that I get what I want, not the means by which I attained what I want!!!!!

While the world engages in an battle of epic proportions over diversity, arguing to the point of violence and then excusing the bloody and violent outcome, the very nature of self love is on display. When man cares more about the right to say I am right and you are wrong than he does for the human life and relationships he violently sacrifices in order to be able to brag he has won, self love is at its best.  When society can stand and fight for the rights of one people group while at the same time justifying the total extermination of another based on brain faculty there you see the dark face of self love!

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Racism isn’t our problem it is merely a symptom.  Self love is the monster we must address and hedonism the dragon to be slain! So what is the cure? We are told that there has never been a more powerful demonstration of love towards mankind than when one man laid down his life for another. The kicker is that this actual physical sacrifice  and death wan’t an even exchange. It wasn’t a good man dying for an even more noble and worthy man. It wasn’t a good man repaying the favor of another. For while we were still sinners, swimming in the mire of self love and depravity and hate, Jesus Christ died for us.   This is what true Love looks like. It is a love that can abolish racism and all other acts of violence. It is a love that sees fellow man as beautiful and worthy not because I deem him so but because he was created in the very image of the God of the Universe. True love understands that when much has been given much is required in return. The only hope we have to end racism and ALL other forms of hate is love and the only way we can exchange hate for love is to accept the Love of the one who first demonstrated what love looks like.


John 316