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!”
And did I learn a lot. The challenges this family dealt with due to adopting a child eventually diagnosed with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder) and RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) are astonishing. How this played out through the adoption, health care, and education systems sheds light on the many challenges of families trying to love and care for their mentally ill children.
This story is a good reminder of three lessons:
You never know what is going on in a stranger’s life. You may witness something you think you understand, but it’s impossible to know the full story.
Media can get it wrong also. Just because the headline says it doesn’t make it true.
Grace goes a long way. Give it as much as you need it.
I read John 19 this morning, Good Friday. Here are two interesting verses to contrast:
15 They shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
Pilate said to them, “Should I crucify your king?”
“We have no king but Caesar!” the chief priests answered.
19 Pilate also had a sign made and put on the cross. It said: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
So many questions. Did the chief priests really mean what they said? Did they really view Caesar as their king? If so, what did they say to the people around them when they spoke about their God, their loyalty to him? Seems contradictory. Feels familiar in 2021 America.
Of course, one could understand from Jesus’ teachings that the chief priests didn’t really get it. When Jesus talked about the kingdom of God, his language and teaching may have even gone over their heads, too. They either didn’t understand it or they rejected it. Either is tragic for them and the people they led. Seems that what we continue to witness happen in religious circles when leaders focus their eyes on the wrong king isn’t anything new.
As a follower of Jesus, to declare allegiance to any created being over their Creator declares citizenship in an earthly kingdom. Some scholars teach that Pilate’s note on his sign wasn’t so much a personal declaration as a statement of charge-that Jesus claimed to be the King of the Jews. Interesting that, regardless of his intent, Pilate-the non-Jew, the one not looking for a Messiah, the one who was simply trying to do justice for the accused man-declared the truth.
May we all on this Good Friday declare that Jesus is King.
I was called a liar yesterday. In jest while proofing my email, my colleague accused me of not being honest by expressing appreciation for a phone call that they understood I wasn’t really thrilled about having received. They were right, sort of.
My reply, “It’s called grace.” Amy Cuddy would call it “faking it till you become it.” (From her book Presence)
Let’s be honest. We don’t always have grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, trust-all the things we want to have, to be, to give. It’s that fruit of the Spirit list (Galatians 5:22-23) that we strive for, that we judge ourselves by, that we possibly believe just isn’t attainable.
Although Cuddy wasn’t making a spiritual statement with her suggestion, I’m suggesting we can adopt it when it comes to producing spiritual fruit. Following the Spirit’s lead, we can give grace, even if it feels less than 100%. We can forgive, even if it isn’t 100% pure…yet. Does that mean we are lying? I’d say it means we are “walking more in the Spirit than in the flesh” (back up to verse 16 in Galatians 5).
We have to start somewhere. Maybe what we all need is grace-grace to allow ourselves to fake (submit to it when it isn’t 100% what we feel) the fruit until we become it. Sorta like when your parents made you say you were sorry and you loved your sibling as part of their discipline tactics. 100%?
P.S. The reply email I received produced better results from faking it than not.
Recently a colleague referenced this book by Pat Schneider:
After doing my usual thing of sampling it on Kindle, I purchased it. (NOTE: “Usual thing on Kindle” means if I’m enticed to highlight while reading the sample, it’s more than likely an eventual purchase.)
At first I wasn’t enticed, but then came these two lines from the same paragraph:
When I achieve true waiting, true listening, something happens that I experience as a gift…If I am made in the image of the creator, then I am myself a creator, and my acts of creating participate in mystery.
That first line grabbed my attention. It aligns with several messages I’ve heard recently, the most recent while driving to Orlando yesterday. (NOTE: To radio DJs, your words carry power.) I’ve lived most of my life feeling like I’ve taken on a burden when someone shares intimate stories with me. I’ve been eased and encouraged lately to see these sharings as gifts, completely altering how I listen and experience the moment.
And that second line, it’s a different way to say what I’ve often told others. We are creators. We are creative. We were created to create. Opening our minds to that truth and expanding our definition of creativity frees us to “participate in mystery.”
I posted about Amy Cuddy’s book Presence on January 31. I finally finished it today. What a great read.
The last two chapters were worth the wait. Chapter ten addresses what she called self-nudging. Here are a few quotes:
Presence is about approaching your biggest challenges without dread, executing them without anxiety, and leaving them without regret. We don’t get there by deciding to change right now. We do it gently, incrementally, by nudging ourselves – a bit further every time.
Focusing on process encourages us to keep working, to keep going, and to see challenges as opportunities for growth, not as threats of failure.
The more you reframe your anxiety as excitement, the happier and more successful you may become.
And chapter eleven captures the point of the whole book. “Fake it till you become it.”
I came across Amy Cuddy‘s book while browsing in Barnes & Noble. The cover intrigued me.
I ho-hummed through the first two chapters. Then came #3, “Stop Preaching, Start Listening.” Highlighter activated. And mostly because of the illustrative work she retold of Boston minister Reverend Jeffrey Brown. Follow this link to his Ted Talk.
His story of turning around gang violence in Boston in the 1990’s definitely brings light to the definition of presence. You could say that he defines presence as simply showing up. But how you show up is what Cuddy emphasizes with this statement:
When we meet someone new, we quickly answer two questions: “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” In our research, my colleagues and I have referred to these dimensions as warmth and competence respectively.
She ties warmth and trust together, competence and respect together. And whether we realize it or not, we first check a new acquaintance’s trustworthiness before their competence. Yet, when people are asked which they’d rather be seen as, most choose competent. Cuddy believes that desire can lead to costly mistakes.
To avoid that mistake, she encourages us to focus on the value of listening. Here are five reasons why:
People can trust you.
You acquire useful information.
You begin to see other people as individuals-and maybe even allies.
You develop solutions that other people are willing to accept and even adopt.
When people feel heard, they are more willing to listen.
In order to get somewhere with the gang members, Reverend Brown had this attitude: The youth have to be looked at not as the problem but as partners. How much farther might we get in all life’s arenas if we adopted this mindset? In our families, in our offices, in our courtrooms, in our churches, in our schools, in our legislative bodies, in our town halls, in our social media posts, in our spotlight moments, in our journalism, in our prayers?
There is a time for preaching and a time for listening. How much further might we get if we honored those times?
“Beatitude people aren’t problems to society.” -J. Paul Nyquist, Prepare (2021 book #2)
Students of the New Testament understand that adjective beatitude. It’s a reference to the first part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew. Chapter 5 verses 3-12 contains a list of eight descriptors for people that Jesus taught are blessed. These descriptors run, just like they did then, contrary to society’s thoughts about being blessed, being happy. Take a look at this summary by Pastor David Jeremiah, and you’ll see why:
The humble (those poor in spirit)
The hurting (those in mourning)
The harnessed (the meek)
The hungry (those seeking righteousness)
The helpers (the merciful)
The holy (those with a pure heart)
The healers (the peacemakers)
The harassed (the persecuted)
A different worldview describes happiness and blessing by what you own, by getting what you want, and even more by what you deserve. That worldview potentially leads to a society full of self-indulged citizens who, unintentionally and intentionally, cause problems.
For those hungry for peace in their hearts and in their world, we must take the lead. We must be beatitude people. Will we be perfect? No. So in those moments, we’ll need other beatitude people around us. People who say, “I’m for my society more than myself. My worldview is different. I am a beatitude person. I’m not perfect either, but God gives me grace. I’m going to share that grace and decrease problems in our society.”
Photo by Sabine Van Straaten on Unsplash
In the last few days I’ve been struck by two ways to know what God thinks of me. They sound similar yet carry different meanings.
The first came from a devotional that highlighted Hebrews 11:16:
But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
To be clear, no, Hebrews 11 is not about me. It’s a list recalling Old Testament lives of faith. And the writer pauses in the list to say, “God was not ashamed to be called their God.” Why? Their faith. Their faith to build an ark. Their faith to leave their families. Their faith to wait. Their faith to give up everything. Their faith to trust. Their faith to desire heaven over earth.
When I have and act by that kind of faith, I know God is not ashamed of me.
The second came from the book I’m reading by J. Paul Nyquist, Prepare.
“God never blesses anyone or anything He doesn’t approve of.”
Nyquist says this based on the beatitude: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matthew 5:11) He begins chapter four of his book with this verse to support that persecution isn’t a curse but a blessing. So in the face of false accusation, reviling, and evil, I can know God approves of me.
When I face evil attacks, I know God approves of me.
I don’t have to doubt what God thinks of me when my faith is steadfast. He approves. He is not ashamed.
Book #1 for 2021 done. And it was a good choice to kick it off.
It’s time to let God heal you. It’s time to let God restore you. It’s time to let God do a mighty work.
Franklin takes the first half of the book to define and describe love.
Don’t speak to the fool in others; speak to the king in them.
Chapter four, “Stop Keeping Score and Start Losing Count,” by title alone moves you in the right direction. He had this to say about Jesus’ work on forgiving:
Before he could leave this earth, Jesus had to forgive those who were torturing him, those who were mocking him, those who were blaspheming him. This was important because God’s hands will not touch spirits that do not release forgiveness. Wherever you release forgiveness, you release the power of the Spirit of God.
For several chapters, Franklin focuses on the family. Why? Perhaps because it’s the place where we learn about love and also where we are most prone to be hurt by it.
You cannot be so spiritual that you neglect natural things. And you cannot be so natural that you neglect the spiritual things. God’s will is somewhere between Martha’s kitchen and Mary’s altar.
The final three chapters address one’s love relationship with God. He argues that the enemy’s goal is to create distrust. And what happens often is instead he pushes us to pray more, to run to God, and to increase our faith-particularly when we love like we’ve never been hurt.