Pick Them Up

When a baby is distressed, they’re distressed because they are sleepy, hungry, uncomfortable, cold. And the way we respond to newborns is we pick them up…We are helping them begin to learn that when you are in distress you express your distress and someone comes to comfort you.

Curt Thompson, MD

Several takeaways from this statement in Episode 7, Season 1 of Being Known.

  • It’s normal to express distress. We were born doing it.
  • It’s normal to comfort someone who is expressing their distress. The majority of us have been comforted and can reciprocate it.
  • Comforting someone is picking them up. We pick each other up when we respond to distress cries with comfort.
  • The ultimate picker-upper is God. We express our distress through prayer. He comforts. He picks us up.

Are you in distress? Who are you sharing it with? Where can you trust to go for comfort? Have you expressed your distress to God?

Do you know someone in distress? How can you pick them up today? Have you prayed for God to pick them up?

Psalm 113:1-9 (The Message)

113 1-3 Hallelujah!
You who serve God, praise God!
    Just to speak his name is praise!
Just to remember God is a blessing—
    now and tomorrow and always.
From east to west, from dawn to dusk,
    keep lifting all your praises to God!

4-9 God is higher than anything and anyone,
    outshining everything you can see in the skies.
Who can compare with God, our God,
    so majestically enthroned,
Surveying his magnificent
    heavens and earth?
He picks up the poor from out of the dirt,
    rescues the forgotten who’ve been thrown out with the trash,
Seats them among the honored guests,
    a place of honor among the brightest and best.
He gives childless couples a family,
    gives them joy as the parents of children.
Hallelujah!

Photo by Heike Mintel on Unsplash

Courage Musts

Since he had turned his back upon the fight his fears had been wondrously magnified. Death about to thrust him between the shoulder blades was far more dreadful than death about to smite him between the eyes. When he thought of it later, he conceived the impression that it is better to view the appalling than to be merely within hearing. The noises of the battle were like stones; he believed himself liable to be crushed.

The Red Badge of Courage, chapter 6

To experience victory, hard must be faced.

To defeat fears, eyes must gaze forward.

To minimize dread, fight must be embraced.

To remain steadfast, battle must be accepted.

To resist surrender, better must be pursued.

To foster courage, will must be resolved.

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

Regulating

We don’t control things; we regulate things. Human beings actually don’t control anything. We have agency, and we can regulate things; but we don’t absolutely, like dictators, control anything. I can’t control my heartrate absolutely. I ultimately can’t even control my breathing rate. I can regulate it-I can move it up and move it down-but there are going to be certain perimeters within which, you know, I can only hold my breath for so long and then I got to start breathing again.

Curt Thompson, MD

First I came across this graphic posted on social media. Within hours, I heard Dr. Thompson’s quote on his podcast, Being Known.

Our extremely accessible world tempts us to focus on the wrong things, to believe we can-or must-control more than is possible. When accepted, these temptations lead to overwhelming emotions that take us down roads we weren’t designed to travel.

This graphic states a helpful principle: focus on the things that matter that you can control. Everything else requires faith. Faith that all things matter to God. Faith that he controls all things. When I misplace that faith, I’ve given into another temptation-playing God.

These temptations need regulating. Working on regulating is less overwhelming than working on controlling. That I can work on. That makes me think of some of the Beatitudes-Jesus’ teaching on what blessing looks like.

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

Matthew 5:3-9, The Message

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Welcome to Egypt!

“Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh and the captain of the guards.” (Genesis 37:36)

“Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Now that your father and brothers have come to you, the land of Egypt is open before you; settle your father and brothers in the best part of the land. They can live in the land of Goshen. If you know of any capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.” (Genesis 47:5-6)

No idea what Egyptian road signs existed in 1700BC, but it doesn’t take much to imagine that Joseph and Jacob would have had different emotions if they passed one welcoming them to the country.

Joseph: “What just happened? I don’t want to be here. God, why did you let this happen?”

Jacob: “What is happening? I’m so glad to be here. God, how can I thank you?”

Genesis 37-47 recounts many of the most familiar biblical dramas. Dramas that were foreshadowed in dreams. Dramas that no one saw coming. Dramas with immediate answers to questions. Dramas where silence still lingers.

Our lives aren’t much different.

Rolling along with seemingly no problems, then WHAM! Welcome to hatred, to betrayal, to dysfunction, to lies, to prison, to loss, to loneliness, to misunderstanding, to abandonment, to…..

Or doing the best with what’s been handed to us, then SURPRISE! Welcome to blessing, to grace, to forgiveness, to renewal, to acceptance, to explanation, to honor, to peace, to hope, to…..

We can learn many truths from Jacob and Joseph’s lives. Today, wherever and whatever you’ve been welcomed to, know that God has walked with many of his children through their whams and surprises. He goes to Egypt with you. How do I know? Here are some other verses within these same Genesis chapters:

“The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, serving in the household of his Egyptian master.” (Genesis 39:2)

“But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor with the prison warden.” (Genesis 39:21)

“Israel set out with all that he had and came to Beer-sheba, and he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. That night God spoke to Israel in a vision: ‘Jacob, Jacob!’ he said.

And Jacob replied, ‘Here I am.’

God said, ‘I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you back. Joseph will close your eyes when you die.’” (Genesis 46:1-4)

Welcome to Egypt! You are not alone!

Photo by Spencer Davis on Unsplash

Today, I Remember

May 31st was Memorial Day. A holiday to remember those who have given their life for freedom.

That morning I decided not to start my day with a run. Instead I felt led to have a Sabbath moment. Just follow the promptings and see where they led.

To begin, I picked up my Bible reading where I was. It just happened that I was reading in Exodus where the Israelites were first instructed about Passover. I’ve read that many times. But on this particular day, it mattered a little more when I read this verse:

“This day is to be a memorial for you, and you must celebrate it as a festival to the Lord. You are to celebrate it throughout your generations as a permanent statute.” Exodus 12:14

How could I ignore the connection, right? So, note to self.

I don’t remember how or why, but after I finished reading I came across a youtube video of Max Lucado sharing a personal story that I hadn’t heard before. The title read “Max Lucado Testimony: Jesus Healed Me From Sexual Abuse.” About three minutes into this clip, Max shared a unique communion experience he took upon himself to take when he was twelve years old. He described going to the refrigerator and finding what he could to observe communion right then and there. He felt like he needed to remember. He ended up with a glass of milk and leftover potatoes. And in his heart, he remembered and felt cleansed and embraced as he took that private moment to remember.

How could I ignore the connection, right?

Now it was more than a note to self. It was a call to remember right then. So I followed Max’s example and went to the refrigerator. I ended up with a bagel and a cup of fruit punch. Then with further scripture reading and listening to a playlist I put together of communion music, I had an hour or two of memorial and celebration.

It hit me that a further following of Exodus 12:14 could be that I make this a habit. I don’t have to wait on my church to dictate when I remember and celebrate. I can follow God’s direction and repeat this moment whenever I wish.

For now, I’m putting it on my calendar once a month. And this morning was that time. And I share this for you to consider how you might make remembering and celebrating a part of your home as well.

(From my time this morning) Today I remember that…

  • you were betrayed
  • you knew what you were doing
  • you desired to be glorified
  • through you your Father was glorified
  • envy was your enemy
  • you chose to give your life
  • you are the way to life now and forever
  • you knew the prophecies and surrendered to their fulfillment
  • you could have stopped it all
  • you were alone
  • you gave the charge to love one another
  • the shedding of your blood washes away my sin
  • you humbled yourself completely to the point of death

Photo by David Weber on Unsplash

Jumping Through Hoops

Hi. I’m John. I hate jumping through hoops.

Who else is in the circle? Where’s the next 12-step support group meeting?

Meditating on this life challenge, it crossed my mind to add to my musing Hebrews 4:15:

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. (The Message)

So I seriously asked myself, “What did Jesus know about jumping through hoops?” And the answer was, “Sit down, John. You’re going to be here a while.”

One simple answer to this question is another question: Which one?

  • Becoming human
  • Teaching humans
  • Being a human son
  • Waiting for the “GO” sign to serve humans
  • Human praying
  • Observing human religious practices
  • Submitting to human authorities

More could be listed. Just one of these shut my mouth. But here’s the one that stopped my being.

  • Providing humans salvation

When moaning counting hoops jumped to buy a house, consider the number of Old Testament prophecies Jesus needed to fulfill to even get to Passion week. Scholars debate the number, but it’s safe to say it was dozens. Hundreds of items to check off.

Did he keep a spreadsheet? Swipe his brow after #78? Celebrate every 100? Resist temptation to stop a couple short? Decide we weren’t worth it after all? “Are you kidding me, Father? Do you see what I see?”

It’s unfathomable. But, to give it a try, think more in detail about the hoop jumping he endured Passion week. To get you started, here’s a list of words:

  • Judas
  • Lies
  • Arrest
  • Betrayal
  • Shame
  • Cursing
  • Mocking
  • Rejection
  • Thrones
  • Trial
  • Spit
  • Slaps
  • Nails

I challenge you to keep adding to the list.

And after each one, pause.

Then in your pause, whisper a prayer.

And finally, allow the Master Hoop Jumper to enter the circle.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find that a support group of two is just enough.

And it’s offered whenever and wherever you are.

Photo by Paul Zoetemeijer on Unsplash

Mountain Notes to Self

Exodus 26:30; 27:8

30 You are to set up the tabernacle according to the plan for it that you have been shown on the mountain.

Construct the altar with boards so that it is hollow. They are to make it just as it was shown to you on the mountain.

Moses had memorable mountain moments with God. These Exodus chapters and others surrounding them narrate life-changing moments for him and his entire nation.

The wording of these two verses gave me pause when I read them today. We dream of mountain-top moments-moments that we fantasize about, wish we could have more of, or possible build our lives around.

If we aren’t careful, mountain-top moments will come and go, and the point of them is lost. The life-giving, life-changing truths may not take root or, worse, are totally missed.

I’d rather not waste the climb. To avoid that tragedy, I made these notes to self:

  • There’s more to receive on the mountain that just a great view.
  • While on the mountain, after I’ve recovered from the climb and taken in the view, listen. And take notes.
  • Before starting the descent off the mountain, submit and commit to the Mountain Maker’s words.

Now Hope (book review)

If you use the Bible reading app YouVersion, here’s a tip you may not know:

Many of the devotional plans are based on books, many written by pastors. Often, this is how I find books that I haven’t heard of and end up reading.

That was the case with the book I just finished, “Now Hope” by Paul De Jong.

This book is very accessible by all readers. I would describe it as a book of 19 devotionals designed to provide “tools to develop a hope-filled and expansive future.”

Although each devotional is good, the best tool of the book is the introduction. De Jong makes clear how foundational hope is to life, particularly the life poised to receive God’s promises. Quoting 1 Corinthians 13, he discusses the links between faith, hope, and love. His point is all three are needed “to reach the finish line and experience God’s promised outcomes.”

The devotional that provides the best mindset for pursuing hope is in Part Two: Hope Confronts Survival with Significance. In Hope Develops Expectation, De Jong outlines four levels of living:

  • simply survive
  • live an average life
  • commit to impact the world
  • influence the world by fully engaging the gifts God gives

Expectation means you’re going to believe for more, turn up earlier, resist giving up, and focus on the God who can. You’re going to be looking for more in every day and in every season. You’re going to be thanking God for the little things. Make a decision in the now to live on the higher ground of greater levels of expectation.

Hope Rising (book review)

Many years ago while working on a personal values exercise, the word hope surfaced as a personal guide. So it’s no wonder that two connections (work and church) I’ve made in the last year carry that same guide.

And it goes to reason that the book I just finished reading stands out as meaningful. Hope Rising by Casey Gwinn and Chan Hellman hits the mark in explaining much of the challenges our country wrestles with daily. Many people have low hope, and therefore their lives follow down the road to hopelessness.

Hope is a verb involving action and the ability to change the future.

The crust of their objective is to help readers grasp the importance of goals, pathways, and willpower in what they call the science of hope. They recite many research results (there are over 2,000 published studies on hope) that indicate how the concepts move people from low hope to high hope, thus hope rising. The book contains numerous stories of people with low hope working on rising their hope.

We act based on what we believe not based on what we know.

In order to know where you are on the hope scale, they share several examples of domains (academic, health/fitness, family, romantic relationships) where you can assess your hope level. Quite insightful. To take the general evaluation, follow this link to hopescore.org.

They make a believable argument that hope impacts education, work, and health, which certainly impact families and personal growth. This has led them to focus on providing support for children and adults who have experienced trauma in their lives and struggle with hope.

Hope is not a step in life; it is a stance.

Who should read this book?

  • It wouldn’t hurt anyone to read it
  • Anyone who has had any hint of trauma in their life
  • Anyone who works with children
  • Anyone who works with trauma victims
  • Coaches
  • Ministers
  • Counselors/Psychologists
  • Anyone desiring hope to rise

Bring On The Hope!

I’m giving myself a double dose of hope these days in my reading. First, with this book…

Second, with a youversion reading plan by Paul De Jong entitled “Now Hope.”

This quote stood out to me in my reading today:

The level of hope we have today is an indicator of the level of character we’ve developed.

He believes that based on Romans 5:3-4 where Paul wrote that “tribulation produces, perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

We don’t like it, but we know it’s true. So what if we decided to like it? Like spinach. I didn’t like spinach as a kid. Now, I’m a fan. My taste buds have developed.

Given the right time and attention, we can choose to embrace hard times. Rather than run or sulk or wallow, we can declare, “I’m all in for whatever is about to be developed. Bring on the character. Bring on the hope!”

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