Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Would You Attach the Name?



I have a love/hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it enables me to renew friendships with those I’ve lost contact with. It helps me to stay in touch with folks I don’t see on a regular basis. I can share my writing with those who might not read it otherwise.

But on the other hand, my exception to it is the same as I’ve always had about letters to the editor. It has seemed to me that folks sometimes write in those letters things about others they have not first said to them in person or would not say to them in a room alone with them. The same is true for social media. It gives a microphone to what would never be exchanged in person in civil conversation.

I’m not talking about messages posted that may be misinterpreted from the way we meant them. I’ve had my share of those over the years. Try as we might, sometimes we miss it, and something slips by. Regret always follows. What I’m talking about here are comments posted to be snarky, to pile on, or just to be plain crude or even mean.

These statements confuse those who do not yet know the Lord. For if we as believers post a prayer one day and come back with a cruel meme the next, what does that say to someone just beginning to explore Christianity? We need to be consistent with our witness.

And I can hear this response coming, “I just speak the truth in love.” A well known Bible teacher says that whenever she hears someone say that, she braces herself, because she knows often that something spoken “not in love” is coming.  Those words from the Bible can be a seeming cover for saying whatever we want and don’t have anything to do with love at all.

In the quoted verse in the picture from Colossians 3:17, the Apostle Paul wrote that every detail of our lives should be done in the name of Jesus. There’s a reason for that. Our flimsy words don't have much power, but if we write aware and inspired by the power and Name of Jesus, much can happen. That means in all our words—every text, every email, every social media post, every spoken word, every telephone call, we should be able to attach “in the precious name of Jesus.” I don’t know about you, but that makes me squirm. It makes me feel as if I need to take another long, hard look at what I write or speak before I release it into the world. And that applies to our actions, or “whatever.” Paul reminds us we should also offer thanks “every step of the way.” Another challenge.

I’m aware that God’s calling manifests itself differently in each of us. Some have more of a prophetic edge and God uses them to especially be salt and light. Because we know in this old world, we need both salt and light. But even so, what we say absolutely must be cloaked in love and said in His Name.

2020 was a stressful year to beat stressful years. And 2021 has started much the same way. We have all often been moved to the edge of our seats. But somehow, someway, we must put Jesus above all of this. So, I’m issuing a challenge. Let’s take a long hard look at our media feeds. If there’s something we can’t attach “In the precious name of Jesus,” Let’s delete it. Before we write that text or email, let’s give it the “Is this in Jesus name?" test. Let’s fill up the world with hope and encouragement, not in a Pollyanna-stick-your-head-in-the-sand kind of way but in a Jesus’s-love kind of way. In every detail, let’s strive to be able to attach that blessed Name. Again, our snarky words don’t often change anything, but His powerful Name absolutely can.

For listening:

Here are two songs I love about the Name of Jesus. Click on titles to listen.

“There’s Something about that Name” (the old school Gather version. And please scroll down and read the comment that begins with “I am from a country behind high wall…”

What a Beautiful Name (one of my favorites from Hillsong)

 


Here to find books. If you're looking for print, when you reach the page, scroll down to look for other formats. 

 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Reality Check

I’m amazed at the varied experiences of reality over the past year.

One business thrives and another is on the verge of closing, depending on the goods or service offered.

There are those who personally know few who have been seriously ill from the virus, but I spoke with a woman this week who lost eight close friends in a ten-day period. So hard.

Some go about their daily routines in much the same with only a few caveats and others because of underlying health conditions have been isolated, their lives feeling as if they are in a permanent holding pattern.

One has the virus and hardly has any symptoms, and in the same house, someone else winds up in the ICU.

And we won’t even talk about the disparities in the political, and other realms.

But here's a reality check—a reality that is higher than any of this, and it is one we all have opportunity to share.

It has to do with who Jesus said He is.

Here are Jesus’s I am statements in John:

“I am the bread of life “(John 6:35).

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

“I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:9).

“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14).

“I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25).

“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

“I am the Vine” (John 15:1).

Jesus is our spiritual provider, our source of illumination in this dark world, the only portal to real life, the one who cares for our souls, the risen from the dead Savior who opens the path of powerful truth that leads to eternity, and the wellspring of continuing nourishment.

As I read in one commentary, “Jesus has His own reality. He is who and what He says he is, regardless of what we or anyone else might think or say of Him.”

Another writer said, “He is everywhere, everything, and “every-when.” Don’t you love that?

When you feel as if you’re the only one experiencing life the way you do, when it doesn’t match up with anyone else’s experience, and the enemy says you’re all alone—give your heart, soul, mind, and spirit to Jesus and allow Him to be your everywhere, your everything, and your “every-when.”

Since Ash Wednesday is tomorrow, I pray for each of you in this season an experience of HIS presence greater than anything you may have experienced before. Blessings.

Still looking for a little Valentine's sweetness?



 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Treasure in the Darkness

It's been a while since I ran this post, but it came to mind again this week. It seemed appropriate both for Valentine's Day and  the circumstances we may find ourselves in these times. 

I’ve been crawling around in one of the attics this week. We have three. Thankfully, one of them is empty.

For those of you who have spotless attics swept clean with boxes carefully labeled, you’ll want to skip this post. It’s not for you.

But if open cardboard boxes, overflowing TJMaxx bags, and loose debris tumble overhead in your home, you’ll understand.

How’d so much stuff get up there?

Try home schooling for eight years. So far, I’ve counted five bins of schoolbooks. There’s probably more, because I’m only a third of the way through this attic. Add to that the kid’s art projects I couldn’t let go. It’s just always been easier to poke stuff I didn’t know what to do with in the attic and deal with it later. Later has arrived. Can you say procrastinate?

Through the years, it was a no brainer to carry odds and ends to Goodwill--clothing and linens to a ministry for the homeless, but what about that box of costumes my kids wore a thousand days, so tattered no one else would want them? I can still see my son in the cowboy chaps and my daughter in the yellow tutu.

I know, I know. Our memories are not tied up in our things. But, right now, this Mama with the starkly empty nest can’t take some of this to the dump.

Still, after many hours yesterday, I almost filled up the recycle bin, added to our load for the landfill, and crated several boxes to carry off to various places.

I have much work ahead squinting and poking around in the darkness, while trying to avoid roofing nails overhead (sad to report no overhead insulation in this old house).

Some of the blasts from the past brought me to tears.

A message from a long ago Valentines Day, a project from Sunday School—

“I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
So that you may know that it is I,
The Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name”(Isaiah 45:3 NASB).

Way up there in the darkness, in the midst of a hard project, God called to me through treasured messages of grace and love from  kids long grown into young adulthood.

Makes me think of another dark time just after I’d had breast cancer surgery when I battled fear one night until the early hours of morning. The thought, “You’re going to die,” hounded me. Then, just before dawn, God’s love and peace overwhelmed me—a treasure in the darkness.

“I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us” (Romans 8:38-39).

From my own experience, I know cancer and dark attics can’t get between God’s love and us either.

Praying His treasures for you in your own dark times, friends.

 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

When This Pandemic is Over

In an homage to a piece that Rick Bragg wrote this month in Southern Living, I thought I’d also take a stab at writing about what I’m going to do when this pandemic is over. I realize there’s probably not going to be a particular day when the edict goes forth that we can resume normal life. It will likely be a gradual thing. But when the time is right, God willing, here is what I dream of doing:

Hug my family for as long as I want. Then we’ll gather around our dining room table. We haven’t sat together at that table in over a year. We’ll give thanks that all of us made it through even though several had the virus. We will eat after each other and talk in each other’s faces just because we can. It’s going to take us hours and no one is going to be in a hurry, because we’re going to remember all the times we had to eat six feet apart, sometimes in the freezing cold just to be in each other’s company. The next weekend, we’ll do the same thing at a crowded restaurant, because oh, how we’ve missed eating at one of our favorite places, Mama’s Boy, during this pandemic.

We’ll have a big deal at church. I don’t know what we’ll call it. My husband is technically retired status, but not really, because he has hardly missed a Sunday preaching in thirty-five years. He’s been at a picture postcard church in a rural area for over ten years, and they still have Homecomings. It’s going to be something like that. We’re going to pack people in the church until the overflow hall overflows. Well praise God and  greet, hug, and love on each other to make up for all the times we couldn’t. 

We’ll take time to remember those we lost, for whom the funerals were abbreviated, and we weren’t allowed to comfort others as we normally do. Then we’ll sing a little extra and more loudly. We’ll have dinner on the grounds and eat until all the fried chicken is gone and our friend Randy’s delicious cakes are reduced to crumbs. We’ll take a long time to clean up because we won’t want to go home. And then maybe we’ll do it all again the next Sunday.

We’ll visit our friends in the nursing and retirement homes. Jerry regularly preached in one and I often did music but that all screeched to a halt last year. Well, when the doors swing open, we’ll be there to hug our friends and tell them how much we missed them.

Then maybe we’ll have a party at our house for anyone who wants to come. Because we won’t care about the cat fur on the sofa, the paint that needs touching up, or the unending list of yard work. Because after a year of having no guests in our house, we’re just desperate to share this space again. I may just open up my front door and put a big sign out front that says, “Open house. Come on in.”

We’ll go to a UGA football, basketball, or baseball game and sit really close to others and share a big tub of popcorn. Maybe even with a stranger. We’ll not be concerned at all that someone is hollering "Go Dawgs!" right in our ears because oh, how we have missed seeing those Dawgs in person.

I’m going to TJ Maxx. And not in some senior hour. I’ll let you know how long I stay.

I really hope to sing with symphony chorus again, too. I’ve missed it so much.

I'll travel. When my daughter was little and we had been out and about, we'd pull in the driveway coming home and she'd say, "NO, I want to go somewhere." She was all about seeing something new. Well, I want to stand in the driveway and shout, "I want to go somewhere." I'm ready. 

When this pandemic is over, I’m going to once more fall on my knees and thank God for those who are right this minute putting there lives at risk for people they don’t even know. Doctors, nurses, EMT’s, firefighters, police, who are day after day staring down this enemy virus. Our hospitals here are still very full. I’ll again give thanks for the researchers and scientists who worked to develop a vaccine that has given hope in what has seemed an unending nightmare. I’m going to thank God for teachers who stood in the classrooms and taught online and tried to educate our children through one of the most challenging times in our nation’s history. I’ll praise God for essential workers who worked to provide food for our families, and delivery drivers who brought it to us. And all the other workers I don’t even know about who have kept things moving along.

When this pandemic is over, it won’t all be about what we’ll do but also sharing the ways we’ve been changed by this time. I don’t want to wait until then to learn what I need to learn. The apostle Paul who knew a good bit about hard times wrote in an oft quoted verse in Romans, “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.” Even during so much difficulty, if we love Him, God wants to use these things for our good. It can be a bit challenging to wrap our minds around, but still, it’s the absolute truth. So, Lord, help us to be open for that.

So, make your own list, but remember, until this pandemic is over, let’s  keep putting others first, loving on our neighbors, remembering those who are alone or grieving, and giving where we see a need. Let’s remember to say thanks to anyone who does something for us. And let’s keep up our hope and our prayers that this pandemic will be over. Soon.



 

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