Lessons from “When Mama Can’t Kiss It Better”

Finally finished book #6 for the year.

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.

This Easter

I started this Thursday listening to my Easter playlist. In that, Lauren Daigle’s “How Can It Be” played. These lyrics from verse two stuck in my ears, mind, and heart.

The main reason they stuck is the contrast between the doubting of love and the exchanging of grace. Been on my mind for several weeks now, so these lyrics heard through the lens of Easter stopped me in my morning routine.

That’s what grace does. Makes you pause. Humbles your expectations. Erases your doubts. Brings you back.

May we all pause in humility to be brought back from our wandering through the erasing of our doubts of God’s love this Easter!

Every Circle Grace

Grace is an interesting topic. In my years in the church, the focus of grace has mostly been on the grace we receive from God. Rightly so. And during this Lenten season, it deserves top of mind.

Devoted followers of Jesus’ teachings believe we are to give what we receive. Everything we receive from God we are to pass on. Love. Mercy. Forgiveness. Faithfulness. And even Grace.

My observation is we tend to gift grace in various degrees. Some people give themselves plenty of grace…much more than they give to others. Some people disproportionately give their family members grace in comparison to others-some more, some less. One amazing observation that stands out more and more is the grace people in the church give to themselves compared to the grace they give people outside the church. Again, it goes both ways. Some people give better grace to their fellow churchgoers while others give better grace to those outside the church.

For better or worse, I’m the latter. For the record, neither is correct. Grace is to be shared with all people equally.

Looking at Jesus’ relationship circles, we observe supernatural grace giving. He gave Peter as much grace as he gave the woman at the well. He shared his grace equally with Nicodemus and Judas. His mother and Pilate both received appropriate grace. What an example he left us.

I most often fail at giving grace to those in my closest relationship circles. That awareness provides growth opportunity so whether in the next hour I engage a stranger in the store, a friend on the phone, or a colleague in the office, my grace is for every circle.

Jesus practiced every circle grace. His resurrection power says, “So can I.”

Grace to Fake It

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.

Problems to Society

“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:
  1. The humble (those poor in spirit)
  2. The hurting (those in mourning)
  3. The harnessed (the meek)
  4. The hungry (those seeking righteousness)
  5. The helpers (the merciful)
  6. The holy (those with a pure heart)
  7. The healers (the peacemakers)
  8. 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

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.

What If I’m Goliath?

This morning our pastor spoke from I Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath. Tonight, our Life Group discussed his notes and answered some discussion questions, one of which was “How do you speak to your giants?

In our discussion a thought came to me. It’s possible, when I get really honest with myself and God, that I’m my own giant. My willingness to be content in fear may be my giant. My need to control may be my giant. My lack of grace to see people how God sees them may be my giant. In pondering how to speak to my giant, it very well could be I have to answer, “How do I speak to myself?”

What if my fear is my Goliath?

What if my pride is my Goliath?

What if my self righteousness is my Goliath?

What if the flesh and blood I’ve made my giant is only a distraction from the real one?

What if I’m Goliath?

We Can All Be Multilingual

In today’s global economy, multilingual skills are in demand. To prepare school-age children for their careers, they are learning multiple languages, not just their primary language. That wasn’t a thing for my generation in the 70s. And in my 51 years of living, it hasn’t been a necessity; so I do not possess those skills. 

There is a reading plan on @youversion entitled Speak Over Me. Each of the seven days considers how God speaks over us; for example, he speaks affirmation, restoration, and healing over us. My reading this morning included this statement regarding his speaking grace over us:

On the cross, Jesus restored all things. He taught us grace and it was a language that, until that moment, we did not understand.

Interesting. Not only does God speak over us, he also teaches us how to speak a language we did not understand previously. How about that? And I’m guessing it’s a language I need, and so does everyone else around the globe.

So what languages can we learn from God, languages that we maybe didn’t understand until he started teaching us? Languages that his Son spoke while here with us in statements like…

  • Neither do I condemn you” – the language of hope
  • I lay down my life for you” – the language of sacrifice
  • They know not what they do” – the language of forgiveness
  • I have come so you may have life” – the language of purpose
  • I know my sheep” – the language of connection
  • As my Father loved me, I have loved you” – the language of love
  • Love your neighbor as yourself” – the language of peace
  • Do not despise one of these little ones” – the language of protection
  • No one can snatch you out of my Father’s hand” – the language of security
  • Be not afraid, only believe” – the language of faith 

When Jesus spoke these words, some understood the language immediately. And their lives were not the same. And they began speaking new languages. They became multilingual in spiritual languages. 

It was needed then. It is needed now. These languages can be taught. They can be learned. We can possess these skills. We can all be multilingual.

An Appointment to Remember

I have a memory problem. Not the kind where I find my lost glasses on my face or miss an appointment that’s been on my calendar for months…at least not today.

My memory problem is more about what I’m not doing than what I’m forgetting. In his book Awe, Paul David Tripp talks about the importance of remembering. Specifically, he stresses the value of intentionally pausing to remember well. What does well mean? Remembering well means looking back to notice, honor, commemorate, or celebrate the important moments, the growth experienced, or the grace received. I agree with Tripp, but apparently not enough.

I noticed this yesterday. While working through a strategic plan, I got amped about doing something that I, at first, didn’t think I had done very much. After taking time to look back and notice, I remembered I had actually done it multiple times. And had liked doing it. Without taking the time to remember well, that plan would have not developed into a better one.

Remembering well takes work. That sounds dreadful, but it doesn’t have to be. And it certainly doesn’t have to be a problem. With focus and desire for progress, a good look back may be exactly what’s needed. 

What’s the answer to my problem? Instead of worrying about remembering an appointment, maybe I should be making an appointment to remember.

Pray Boldly

(Day 24 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. – Romans 8:34b

Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

Even though we are addressing the Sovereign God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, we can pray boldly and without fear or timidity. How is that possible? By his grace, through his provision of salvation in his Son, we call him, “Father,” and we are his children. He invites us to come; he loves us, and he knows our needs.

We can pray with boldness because Jesus is our intercessor.

We have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One. – 1 John 2:1b.

He is the one who gave his life for us, and God raised him from the grave by the power of the same Holy Spirit who lives in the heart of every believer. We come to the Father by him and pray in his name.

Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them. – Hebrews 7:25.

Christ is our example in praying boldly. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus perfectly combined boldness with submission. In the High Priestly Prayer of John 17, Jesus made bold requests of His Father, as he prayed for himself, his disciples, and all who would later believe – you and me.

During his earthly life, he offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. – Hebrews 5:7.

Likewise, in Acts 7, Stephen prayed boldly in words very similar to those of Jesus on the cross.

In his book The Case for Miracles, Lee Strobel recounts a more recent example of Ruth, a ten-year-old girl praying boldly in Equatorial Africa. A mother had died in childbirth, leaving the premature newborn and a two-year-old daughter. The missionary doctor, Helen Roseveare, asked the orphans to pray for a hot water bottle to keep the baby warm, since there was no electricity or incubator. Ruth’s prayer was bold and specific, asking God for the hot water bottle to come that afternoon, since without it, the baby may not survive the night. Then she added her own request that God would send the two-year-old girl a doll, to remind her that he loved her. The missionary confesses that she really didn’t believe God was going to do that. The only hope was a package arriving from her homeland, and that had not happened in her four years there. Two hours later, a package arrived. As the missionary and children opened it, they found a hot water bottle. Little Ruth immediately decided that since God sent that, he must have also sent a doll. She started digging through the box and found a beautiful doll. God had led in the packing of that box five months earlier.

“Lord, please grant me the faith and boldness of a little child.” Amen.

By Pat Browning