What does your garden grow?

Does it grow compassion?  Are you aware of the deep hurts and needs of others?

Does it nuture other’s growth? 

Is it suffering from a lack of awareness because of your in attention?

Does it celebrate beauty? 

Does it let the Light of the world shine through?

Does it humbly learn from mistakes of the past? 

What does your garden grow?

Reason to Sing

You know how you stumble on a new group and new song and it just hits you in the heart? Well yes… that just happened.

May it be good for your heart, too…

Reason to Sing

by All Sons and Daughters

When the pieces seem to shatter
To gather off the floor
And all that seems to matter
Is that I don’t feel you anymore
No I don’t feel you anymore.

I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands

I need a reason to sing
When I’m overcome by fear
And I hate everything I know
If this waiting lasts forever
I’m afraid I might let go
I’m afraid I might let go
Oh Oh Oh

I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands

I need a reason to sing
Yeah
Will there be a victory
Will You sing it over me now
Oh

Your peace is the melody
You sing it over me now
Oh Lord
Will there be a victory
Will You sing it over me now
Oh Lord

Your peace is the melody
You sing it over me now

I need a reason to sing
I need a reason to sing
I need to know that You’re still holding
The whole world in Your hands
That is a reason to sing

Wisdom…

The rain to the wind said,
“You push and I’ll pelt.”
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt
And lay lodged — though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

~Robert Frost

I’m learning how not to be bowled over by the “pelting rain” of ministry. Some days it’s more difficult than others. It’s especially hard when I see someone headed for a head-on collision with reality. He or she is not listening to the advice or warning of those who surround them with love and prayers.

And when the crash happens, there really is nothing more to say.

Years ago in my earliest ministry jobs, I wanted to one of the “wise women” — or just to be “wise!” I looked up to women and men who seemed to understand how life rolled with its flubs and near-misses. I felt loved and accepted by them, even when I knew I was making squirrelly decisions. I knew their unconditional love was a mirror of God’s love for me.

“Maybe someday, I’ll be like them,” I thought. “I’ll bring some love and humor and wisdom into others’ lives. God help me, I really hope I do. Some day.”

Lately, I’ve been stressed by listening to others who are going through some very difficult life issues. And I’m finding as I listen that there’s really nothing I can say that helps. I can pray. I can sometimes offer a suggestion. But mostly, I just offer love.

In Kairos Outside, a ministry to women affected by incarceration, we have a saying:

Listen, listen. Love, love.

That works on so many levels, for so many situations. Wherever God places me today, in whatever the situation, may I hear the “wisdom from above.”

What of the wisdom from above? First, it is pure, and then peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good actions, fair, and genuine. James 3:17 CEB

Words that Hurt – an important article

A recent email containing the Arise E-Newsletter from Christians for Biblical Equality contained an article titled “Words That Hurt” by Vaun Swanson. I wanted to highlight it so that if you are in a space of conversation and reconciliation, it might help you. It sure did help me.

Swanson highlighted six primary themes identified by Patricia Evans, author of The Verbally Abusive Relationship: (you can read the whole article here if you’d like)…

Inequality vs. Equality: The verbal abuser must have power over their partner;
Competition vs. Partnership: The abuser perceives anything achieved by the partner as a threat; they must maintain one-upmanship in the relationship;
Manipulation vs. Mutuality: The abuser, feeling powerless within, attempts to get what they want through indirect and devious means;
Hostility vs. Goodwill: All verbal abuse is hostile whether it is expressed overtly or covertly and may include name-calling, poorly disguised jokes, blaming, or remaining aloof;
Control vs. Intimacy: The abuser may refuse to discuss a problem, preventing all possibility of resolution. The partner is left with a sick, hurt feeling;
Negation vs. Validation: Because of their need for dominance, the abuser is compelled to negate their partner’s experiences, values, and accomplishments.

Verbal abuse is all about power over another person. Mutuality cannot exist because one partner does not want it. This is not the type of relationship that God desires for his sons and daughters.

If we are honest, all of us have engaged in this kind of conversation at one time or another. We have used our words to hurt, not heal. We have sought ways to show we are “right,” not seek forgiveness.

It happens in our homes.
It happens in the political arena.
It happens at our jobs.
It happens in our churches and nonprofits.

Quite honestly, it is the ways this shows itself in churches and parachurch organizations that distresses me the most.

I am oh so imperfect at this work of reconciliation. But at the same time, I dare not continue to build brushfires instead of bridges. In the pulpit, in chaplaincy, in counseling, in friendships — it is more important to hear than to be heard. Unfortunately, as long as the human race exists, it seems that we will find ways to use our words to wound one another. Or we will think that because what we said was “right” it was OK to punish someone we felt “had it coming”.

And God must weep in frustration at our meanness to one another.

Dr. David Augsberger in Caring Enough to Confront said:

A relationship is only as strong as the communication is clear. Good relationship is two-way communication. When one side of the relationship is deeply troubled, the relationship is stressed; when one side is lost, the relationship is dying. To love another is to invite, respect and support that person’s equal right to hear and be heard. To love is to listen; to be loved is to be fully heard. Love is the first action of the eyes attending, the ears attuning, and then the soul connecting

Let me be clear: Everyone has a right to emotional and psychological (as well as physical) safety. And the strength and growth of the Church, today and in the future, depends on our willingness to seek peace and pursue it, (Psalm 34) even as we try to conform to the image of Christ and allow Love to always make us tell the truth (Eph. 4).

There cannot be one without the other. Like it or not.

Repentance vs. Confession

I am getting tired of hearing that someone is “truly sorry” for what they have done. It’s great that they are admitting they did wrong (AFTER they got caught in a lie). But I wonder why someone can justify that it is OK to lie, cheat or steal.

What’s going on? And why??

Recent news events like a congressman admitting to sending a lewd tweet, a governor having a “love child”, a city councilman being accused of stealing tax dollars for a car and trips to Vegas, are just the tip of the iceberg. It crosses political parties, ages, races and states. It’s an avalanche of public misdeeds.

Granted, media types seem to be foaming at the mouth as they do another expose’. At the dentist’s office this morning the local 24/7 news channel was going on. And on. AND ON!!! over the resignation of Rep. Weiner. You know, once or twice an hour should be sufficient. Could we talk about the stock market? Or perhaps debate climate change? How about a serious discussion about our government’s inability to get past deadlock on the national debt? Those issues are more painful. More serious. So we jump to the sensational instead.

It’s not just the political realm, either. My beloved Buckeyes lost a great coach because he admitted (and took full responsibility) for not reporting his players getting free tatts and other miscellaneous privileges. Coach Tressel was up front about it — once he realized it was not going to be dismissed as a rumor, he took his lumps with his players. He lost his job (though he was allowed to ‘resign’ and was not given a severance package.)

Is it that the famous persons in our culture are now more visible to the average member of public? That anyone, anywhere can do deep-level web searches and come up with dirt on a public figure? Is it the proliferation of internet broadcasts, podcasts and tweets of the news? Is it the ability to upload a video from a cell phone to YouTube in seconds, making “newsmaker videos” almost an anachronism?

I think that increased visibility is a factor in the escalation of these recent events, certainly. But I wonder if part of the issue is a weakening of the spiritual practice of confession and repentance. If we don’t have a clear understanding that there are consequences for our actions, if we don’t recognize that beyond the legal ramifications there are interpersonal ones too, there is little reason to believe that anyone will know. And beyond that human level, if we do not see that our actions represent a sinful act towards God, we do not seek to change.

It is also not a matter of conscience. The oft-repeated phrase I’ve heard from Pinocchio – “Always let your conscience be your guide” – is misguided. We can justify ourselves out of a black hole if we are truly determined to have things the way we want them. RC Sproul wrote:

“It was Jiminy Cricket who said, ‘Always let your conscience be your guide.’ This is good advice if our conscience is informed and ruled by the Word of God. However, if our conscience is ignorant of Scripture or has been seared or hardened by repeated sin, then Jiminy Cricket theology is disastrous.” — in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

But Sproul also is a bit heavy-handed here. Because even those people who KNOW that lying about lewd Tweets, or sleeping with the housekeeper, or ignoring freebies from tattoo parlors (whatever!) have a conscience. Many of them would profess to be people who believe the Bible is appropriate to guiding their daily decision-making. It’s just that in the thrill of the moment… they take the easy way out. Their hearts are not “seared or hardened” — they goofed up. And when they were caught — they admitted it.

Confession is, at its root, an opportunity for reconciliation. (In fact, it is properly called the ‘Rite of Reconciliation’ in the Catholic church.) It is a chance for us to agree with God that we are sin-wrecked people and need constant opportunities for do-overs. It doesn’t necessarily follow that saying a specific prayer or committing to do an act of penitence will ‘fix’ things. But it helps keep the heart humble, pliable, and willing to change.

People will vilify public liars. Personally, I struggle to feel “sorry” for those who have been caught in the consequences of their actions… particularly those who insisted they were innocent at the first… and then when faced with irrefutable evidence that they lied, had to make a public retraction. (ouch) But I also know that were I caught in the same situation (and I pray that I never am) I would be willing to be up front about my failings, and face the music. (Yes. That was plural failingS. I know myself far too well.)

One final thought (yeah. Sorry. This post got a little long…)

I have a couple of resources that I use to help keep me honest with God. The first is a link to several Scriptures and prayers of confession. Take the time to add one of these to your quiet times with God. The second is a time of re-booting (as I like to call it) through using the podcast Pray-As-You-Go. Just 15 minutes and I have a renewed perspective on God and Gods’ ways.

And occasionally, I stay on the right track.

Looking things squarely in the face…

This just kind of speaks to my heart tonight…

thank you, God…

NOTE: I took out the embedded video.
(The vocalist’s mannerisms were bugging me… but I still like the song!)
You can watch the video here…

“The Prayer”
I pray you’ll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don’t know
Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe

I pray we’ll find your light
And hold it in our hearts
When stars go out each night
Remind us where you are
Let this be our prayer
When shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

We ask that life be kind
And watch us from above
We hope each soul will find
Another soul to love

Let this be our prayer
Just like every child
Needs to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

Need to find a place
Guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we’ll be safe

Two people I’d ask you to pray for…

There’s two special people I’d ask your prayers for…

Little Collin, who is 5.5 months old and has dealt with far too many tests, hospitalizations and “medical stuff” than a little guy should.

Pray for him to make steady progress, and for healing. And for a God-sized dose of peace for his parents…

And this is Dave… about a year ago, Dave had a serious motorcycle accident. By a miracle of God, the right emergency workers just “happened” to be in a car that came on him right after his accident. And with lots of surgery, prayer and support, he’s on the road to recovery.

He has surgeries left to continue repairing the spaghetti of his insides, but mostly, prayers for him and his wife, Kendahl, would be huge.

Thanks for being a part of the unseen “cloud of witnesses” surrounding them…

Deb