Real Life Psalm 46:10

More than once this year, people have quoted Psalm 46:10 in conversations reflecting on 2020. This week, God has reminded me of it in two ways.

First, by this excerpt from a book I’m reading, Talking to High Monks in the Snow:

Once, I listened to a biologist. She had been awarded a grant supporting field study in the Kalahari Desert. It was the opportunity of a lifetime. Over vast distances, in a rented Land Rover, she scurried here and there. She marked sites. She took readings. She made plans. Always rushing to the momentous occasion, triggered by the distant rains, when the animals she studied would appear.

One day, the Land Rover overheated. In order to reach water and safety a strategy was devised. The vehicle could travel a few kilometers each day. Then the engine required rest to cool down. The result was that scientist was forced to spend many hours in remote locations where she had no business being. It nearly drove her mad.

There she was, with so much urgent busyness to be doing, in a place where nothing could be done. Loathing to waste time she transcribed her notes. Then she reread her field manuals. She stared impatiently across the vast wilderness, willing the coming of the rains, and the animals, or at least of a spare and sprightly jeep. “Here I am in the Kalahari,” she fumed, “having worked all my life to fulfill a girlhood dream. Here I am and everything has been thwarted.”

Then as the hours turn to days, it dawned on her. She was in the Kalahari with eyes and ears and time on her hands. This was her girlhood dream. The biologist took a deep breath and looked around. Some insects labored in the sands. She watched them for a while and her anxious pulse rate slowed.

And as the days stretched to a week, she noticed the subtle shifts in the scent of the desert during the day. She noticed that at a certain hour, if certain conditions prevailed-like 32 distinctive signs accompanying an auspicious horoscope-then small iguanas would appear.

Over time, her drive to achieve scientific notoriety eroded, and her sense of wonder emerged. In the desert the biologist found her motto. It is one that she carries to this day.

“Don’t just do something,” the scientist said to me, “sit there.”

Second, by this statement from a friend who’s facing COVID:

“It has been a remarkable feeling of God being shoulder to shoulder with me this week.”

A Grace Lesson from “Walking with Elephants”

Last night I caught the replay of Animal Planet’s “Walking with Elephants.” This 3-episode documentary follows Levison Wood’s 650-mile journey across Botswana to observe the annual migration of elephants to the Okavango Delta.


In the first episode, he is allowed to visit an elephant orphanage before heading off on his journey. The young elephants there had been rescued from various traumas-bush fires, death and separation from herds, poaching traps. The philosophy of the orphanage was to prepare the elephants to go back into the wild by not trying to control them as much as let them learn on their own. 

When asked how long the elephants would be there, I was a little surprised at the answer. The director said it usually takes 8-10 years. But as he explained his approach, it made sense. Before they are declared rehabilitated, they need to be able to survive on their own in a harsh world of predators. Outside of their herd, they are very vulnerable up until they are roughly ten years old (they live to an average age of 65). 

I see many applications from this reality for our lives. Here are the main two:

  1. Children of trauma have a long road ahead of them. It’s important their trauma is understood, their work through it is supervised, and their recovery be thorough. Whatever role we play in that work, it’s vital we understand this and give the grace and patience for that work to be completed.
  2. Trauma recovery or rehabilitation of any kind takes time. A quick-fix mindset sabotages the goal of full recovery. The body and the mind have to reset, reprogram, and strengthen. For some reason, the midlife of Moses’ story comes to my mind. After finding out his true identity and then losing control of his emotions and committing murder, God graciously gave him 40 years to recover before lighting up that bush. Moses needed full recovery.

Whether we are on the receiving or giving end of this kind of work, grace is key. That grace will empower the work to be completed, and the new life to start well. May we embrace that grace.

Who Takes The First Step?

I’ve continued to chew on the subject of forgiveness since posting about reading Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers. And a question came to mind this morning. And then I thought and prayed about it through the eyes of Christmas.

Before I get ahead of myself, here’s the question: Who takes the first step in forgiveness?

Does the offender or the offended? The answer may seem obvious…until you stop and chew on it. The ideal scenario would be the offender. But what if they can’t take the first step? What does that mean, they can’t? Here are some reasons:

  • They are no longer living. The conversation is no longer possible, so the offended person has to do the work of forgiveness never hearing what they wish they could.
  • They genuinely don’t know. Has this ever happened to you? You found out down the road that you offended someone, but you had no idea about it. Whether the offender should have known or not really isn’t the first issue, in this case. They can’t seek forgiveness for what they don’t know-that the other person was offended.
  • They innocently don’t know. Has this ever happened to you? You said or did something ignorant of it’s offensiveness. Similar to the previous scenario, they can’t seek forgiveness for what they don’t know-that their action was offensive.
  • They don’t have the capacity. This may be the hardest to see and accept. That doesn’t change the reality that some people simply don’t have the capacity to seek forgiveness at the time the offended would like. That’s tough, but realizing that opens the door for forgiveness to move forward in a different scenario.

As I thought about encouraging those offended on taking the first step, I realized a connection with Christmas. All of us living today have a need for God’s forgiveness. But he didn’t wait for us to come to him to seek it in order to make it available. He took care of that before we were born. He took the first step. He did that when we couldn’t. How humbling! How glorious!

So can the offended take the first step? Yes. Is it easy? No. But it might be easier when you realize God did it for you. You can pass it along. You can take the first step.

(Photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash)

Holy Moments

Finished Book #29 for 2020

The title caught my eye while browsing in a used book store in Dade City in August. One, because it wasn’t a massive book. Two, who wouldn’t want to know the answer to this question.

Kelly gets to his answer in chapter 6, of 15 chapters. This is the lie: Holiness is not possible.

Can’t say I’ve heard that literally stated by anyone, but his message rings true. We generally doubt holiness is possible. Kelly gives several examples. One is this:

The heroes, champions, and saints who have exemplified Christian living for 2000 years did not live holy lives. It is a mistake to step back and look at their lives and say, “She lived a holy life” or “He lived a truly holy life.” And these men and women that we place on pedestals would be the first to admit that they did not live holy lives – they lived holy moments.

The thought of pursuing holy moments is my takeaway from this book. Kelly defines it a couple of ways:

  1. When you open yourself to God.
  2. When you are being the person God created you to be, and you are doing what you believe God is calling you to do in that moment.

Sounds like a practical description of “walking in the Spirit.” His message is the more we create these moments with God’s grace the more holy our lives will be. To live in these moments, Kelly suggests a few litmus test questions:

  1. Will this help me grow in character and virtue?
  2. Does this contradict Jesus’ teachings?
  3. Will this action bring harm to another person?
  4. Lord, what is it that you want most for me and from me in this moment?

He states that God isn’t in the business of tweaking but the business of transformation. Transformation is possible. Each holy moment opens our hearts, minds, and spirits to that possibility. May we have more holy moments.

Better Than Most

Yesterday through a podcast episode I was reminded of the value of gratitude, even more so the importance of writing it down.

When I woke up this morning, I had a WhatsApp message from a pastor in Egypt sharing an update and requesting prayer. I met him in 2018 on a couple of trips to Jordan. Anytime I hear from those Jordanian contacts I’m reminded of the differences in our worlds. West vs. Middle East. Levels of freedom, finances, housing, opportunities, health services-basically every facet of life.

As I prayed for him I was convicted of taking for granted these life blessings that are better than most people in the world. So I followed through with the prompting to write down what I’m grateful for, but I did it differently than before. I made a list of sentences that had a fill-in-the-blank. The sentence was, “My                     is better than most.” Got a little more real, more thankful, more humbling, more worshipful.

Here are some of my sentences:

  • My finances are better than most
  • My health is better than most
  • My home is better than most
  • My security is better than most
  • My freedom is better than most
  • My future is better than most
  • My family is better than most

What words would you use to fill in the blank? How blessed are you better than most?

(Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash)

The Best Book I’ve Read About Forgiveness

I’ve read a few books on the subject of forgiveness. None of them match the one I just finished.


Alongside her exceptional writing, Leslie Fields makes this subject approachable through transparency and relatability. She doesn’t exploit or overstate. She tells her’s and other’s stories while paralleling them with familiar biblical ones. And although she’s addressing her journey to forgive her father, little of the biblical stories share the same context. The common need is becoming forgivers to the degree we have been forgiven.

The application and “what do I do with this” additional work by Dr. Hubbard makes this more than a well-told story. You have tools to do your forgiveness work. Outcomes or successes aren’t guaranteed, but you have what you need.

Here are seven examples of these ladies’ excellent work:

  • You can’t grow up and be full adults until you can forgive your parents.
  • We are all Jonahs who, in our unforgiveness, question whether we can or want to do the work of building the bridge of forgiveness that gives us the grace to see both good and bad in the one who has wronged us.
  • No other religious faith claims that everything you’ve done wrong can be utterly covered and forgiven by another, by God himself.
  • Sharing and crying with another is much more effective in moving us toward healing than all the crying done alone in our rooms. Talk therapy brings healing and has a positive impact on our brain chemistry.
  • Boundaries are not steel doors slammed in a person’s face, but rather, loving and firm ways of saying no, not now, not here. Setting boundaries honors both people involved by not allowing either one to dishonor the other or the relationship through unacceptable words or actions.
  • We can choose to reclaim our past for good-instead of replaying the same story over and over expecting something to change in the unending repetition. We do this by allowing ourselves to grieve, to mourn, to lament, to remember, to release, to revive, to live on, so that all may be well with our souls.
  • We have made forgiveness too private, too small, and too hard. It is not a feeling we have to conjure up; it is an attitude of humility and love that seeks the good of the other, apart from worth or deserving. It is the living out of a daily decision to extend to others what God has extended first to us.

Hanging Up on God

This week I’m reading through Genesis. Familiar stories. Yet, always new things to see-like watching a movie several times and observing or piecing something together you missed before.

This happened when I read chapters 32-33. If you want, pause reading this and read those two chapters. See what you observe.

Here’s the main thing I got this time: Jacob didn’t know what he didn’t know. Hate it when that happens.

He responded two ways: terror and prayer. Not a bad combo. If balanced. Well, probably should lean more to the latter.

When he heard his brother was coming with 400 men, he was terrified. He immediately got his mind working. But he paused to pray. Good move.

That prayer is a mixed bag. Nothing wrong with the prayer. He expresses his emotions, recognizes his family’s history of following God, reminds God of his promises, and pleas for rescuing from what he’s afraid Esau plans to do. The end. Back to work.

I propose he hung up on God. We’ve all done it. Dialed up, checked in, checked out. A one-way conversation. “Hey God! Here’s my situation. Remember what you said? I’m counting on you. Gotta go.”

Suppose Jacob didn’t hang up. Suppose he paused and listened. Suppose he asked questions like, “What should I do? Will you calm my fears? Am I missing anything? Am I thinking straight?”

Is it not possible that given the opportunity God could have saved Jacob a lot of work and emotional stress? And maybe that whole night of wrestling could have been avoided. And think of the fear he placed on his family. Terror does that when you hang up on God.

Application: When you don’t know what you don’t know, ask God a bunch of questions before you do anything. And wait for the answers. Stay on the phone.

(Photo by Dewang Gupta on Unsplash)

A Minister Myth

There’s a leadership philosophy that ministers and other leaders are often encouraged to adopt. I believe it’s a myth. I’ll go a step further to say it’s not biblical; in fact, an argument could be made to the opposite.

This philosophy, which I’ve never heard spoken on in any seminar nor was it taught in any of my seminary classes, goes something like this: Pastors can’t have, shouldn’t pursue, and must avoid friendships in the church. If you’ve never heard that before, read that again. And stop and meditate for a moment about it.

One commentary note I come to is this: No wonder ministers find themselves in unhealthy places. For whatever reason, they ignore the “one anothers” of scripture, miss the example of Jesus, then find themselves isolated in a kingdom of one wondering where everyone else is.

I’ve observed everyone else is enjoying and learning to embrace the benefits of the kingdom. In the kingdom of heaven, the citizens receive both encouragement and challenge to be like Jesus. While on earth, he intimately lived this out with his disciples. And it appears his relationship with three of them was a deeper level-one would probably call them friends.

I can’t imagine the last 23 years of my life had I lived by this philosophy. Do I get exemption because I’m single? May I say for all the single people, “Wake Up!” Your marital status doesn’t automatically determine your friendship need. All kingdom dwellers need other dwellers to encourage and challenge them. We all need friends.

Today, thank God for your cheerleaders, your encouragers, your challengers. Pastors and leaders, if these people are scarce in your life, what are you willing to do about it? Your isolated kingdom lacks. Take a step toward the life of your Redeemer. Pursue friendships. Live in the blessing of Jesus’ hope for all kingdom dwellers (John 17).

The Flood: A Pandemic Observed

Read Genesis 8-9 today. Three God observations:

  1. “The ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.” God was in control, even to the detail of placing the ark where it needed to be. He made sure it rested and stayed put. OBSERVATION: Take care of the ark’s inside. God will take care of the outside.
  2. They were in the ark about a year, mostly waiting on the water to recede. While they waited, God had provided what they needed. Why was this important? Once they entered the ark, nothing was ever the same. The Flood was the pandemic of pandemics. There was no returning to normal.  OBSERVATION: God is God of before, during, and after.
  3. Noah lived 350 years after the flood. Noah’s life lasted 950 years. Scholars estimate the entire ark season of Noah’s life was anywhere from 75 to 120 years-at most 13% of his life. What’s the story of the other 87%? Through the “mundane,” God prepared him, sustained him, and multiplied him. OBSERVATION: God is there for all 100%, from the headlines to the footnotes.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Cam Adams

Prayer for Assumers

I pray you’re better at this than I am. It’s a work in progress. Unfortunately, it’s a thing for many professing Christians. I’m talking about assuming.

There are many reasons why we do it, but none of them are good. Assessing society, it seems unlikely Christians recognize assuming’s impact when we make assumptions based on…

…where someone goes to church, or that they don’t. (In 2020, are they attending in person or online.)

…how someone is dressed.

…how they respond to current events.

…what they drive.

…where they live.

…where they went to college, or that they didn’t.

…what we read, hear, or observe about them.

…what they are or aren’t passionate about.

…how they view past history, or that they don’t.

…what we believe the future does or doesn’t hold.

This prayer by author Stephen Mattson was on my Facebook feed today. It spoke to me because I had already confessed more than one assumption today-assumptions made in church of all places. As I said, a work in progress.

I’m grateful God’s mercy and forgiveness are unending-something assumers should add to this prayer.