What Does She See?

On Monday, the Bradenton Police Department’s Facebook page shared this photo taken during a badge pinning ceremony for the 5th grade safety patrol from Sea Breeze Elementary. And it made me pause.

For those who don’t live in Bradenton or within a mile of this school like I do, the officer in this photo is Bradenton Chief of Police Bevan. She’s doing what I’ve seen her do on a few occasions and when we met. She’s looking this 5th grader in the eyes and taking in the person she’s shaking hands with. The look says something without words. If nothing else, those words are, “I see you.” But I’m curious what exactly does she see? And what does she hope this student is seeing in return?

No question in my mind this 5th grader is seeing something. Her age seems unimportant. In this second, she’s hearing and seeing something that could stay with her much of her life. The look on her face made me pause and ask, “What does she see? What is bringing that look of responding without words?”

Rather than suggest what those answers are, I’ll leave you to chew on it. Whatever the answers are, they bring joy. Joy to the Chief of Police. Joy to the Safety Patrol member. Joy to the photographer. Joy to this observer.

May they both continue to see and give joy!

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An Open Letter to 22E Dad on Southwest Flight 1477

I had decided for this flight I wanted an aisle seat.  Seat 22D by you and your wife was the first one I came to, so I took it.  Immediately I wondered if I’d made a bad choice. 

You even gave me a “Are you sure” look.  I failed to consider what may transpire during the 2hr 45m flight with your child you were holding.  But I decided to embrace it and build a connection. 

“First flight?”

“Yeah.  He’s three months old.”

“Congratulations!  First child?”

“Yes.”

“That’s a big deal.”

“Yes, it is.”

That 18-word interchange said a lot.  The smile on your face and the light in your eyes said more.  But you had much more to say without words the rest of the flight.

To start the flight, “Junior” (I never asked you his name) was asleep.  The sharp tone of the captain’s voice changed that.  It wasn’t long before he started letting you know it was diaper time.  Your wife wondered which restroom had a changing table.  Not only did you get the answer from the attendant-you did the deed yourself.

While you and Junior were gone, your wife got his mid-flight bottle ready, which he seemed to expect the second you returned.  Without hesitation, you took the bottle and met his expectation.  Then you burped him.  Then you rocked him in various ways until he checked back in to dreamland.

Back in dreamland

Dad, I don’t fly a lot-two or three times a year.  And I can’t say I’ve ever sat beside a couple with a baby.  So the sample size is small.  But I’m going to go out on a limb and say, “You’re not normal.”  I would say, “Think about it,” but the proof says you already did.

You intentionally sat in the middle seat, which put you on bathroom duty and gave your wife as much privacy as possible.  You did these things all without a spirit of having lost a bet or it was “your turn.”

Dad, I’d like to think I’m wrong, but I’m guessing the reason this is noteworthy to me is I don’t believe the average dad thinks ahead like that. And even if they do, I’m also going to guess the joy you had isn’t the emotion the average dad would have knowing diaper and bottle duty is part of the flight plan.

This is what your actions said to me. More importantly to be considered is what your actions said to your wife and your son. Dad, I congratulate you even more for how you are starting your fathering and husbandry journey. Sure, not every plane ride will go this well. There will plenty husband/father rides that you’ll be tempted to be average, maybe even below average. On those days, pause to look back on this one. Remember the honor you gave, the love you expressed, and the joy you received in return. My guess is you have an above average dad. For everyone’s sake, but especially your family’s generations to come after “Junior,” keep up this great start and may other dads follow your lead.

P.S. Thank you for making 22D an above average choice.

Stop & Hold

The Day is coming When My

Heart will stop wandering

Peace will stop wavering

Faith will stop studdering

Joy will stop fleeting

On that Day I’ll Finally Stop

Looking in a mirror dimly

Asking needless questions

Forgetting You Are the King of the World

Trying to do what You’ve Already Done

‘Til that Day I Desire to Keep

Holding on to Hope

Holding on to Truth

Holding on to Life

Holding on to You

Photo by Thomas Chan on Unsplash

You Are The House of the Lord

It’s Saturday, which means I’ve listened to another episode of Being Known, specifically episode “Dwell” from season three.

In it Dr. Thompson made a reference that those who place faith in Jesus become indwelt by the Holy Spirit, making them a house of the Lord.

My lyrical brain immediately thought of Phil Wickham’s song by that title. I paused the podcast and listened to that song through the lens that any reference to the house of the Lord was to a believer, not to a building. That was impactful.

In that listening I also considered that perspective suggested a more personal choice of pronouns in the song. So I began changing all the “we’s” to “I.” Even more impactful.

You may not know this song. Here’s the official lyric video. Take a few minutes to listen to the song several times.

First, to familiarize yourself with it.

Then listen from the perspective that you are the house.

Then a final time changing the plural pronouns to singular.

Have a Joy-filled Day!

Storytelling: Finding Joy

My ongoing search to find podcasts that interest me has recently delivered a gem. The podcast is Being Known Podcast with Curt Thompson and Pepper Sweeney. Here’s their description of their podcast’s purpose:

In a world in which we experience such deep desire and such great grief, we find coursing through all of it our unquenchable longing to be known. But we don’t want to stop there, for we know in our bones and blood that we desire to be known in order for us to create and curate beauty and goodness in the world — together with our friends and, in our best moments, even our enemies — in every domain of life that we occupy.

I just finished listening to episode #4: Story. So many good thoughts-some new and some reminders-about what story is, how we tell ours, and why we need to.

A lot of what I’m doing in life in my storytelling is I’m looking for ways to find joy in a world that I know is not easy to live in. -Curt Thompson

This week I’ve had to find joy in a world not easy to live in. The story told about me, that I told myself, and that I shared with others led me to renewed joy. Thank you, Curt and Pepper, for conversation affirming my joy.

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

Gandhi’s Autobiography


Took me a while to finish this book, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I’m no longer ignorant about M. K. Gandhi.

His writings by no means cover every facet of his life’s history; but they walk you through his thinkings, choices, and beliefs. Christianity was not something he completely embraced, but he shared insights that Christians could endorse or receive challenge. Here are a few:

  • The church did not make a favorable impression on me. The sermons seemed to be uninspiring. The congregation did not strike me as being particularly religious. They were not an assembly of devout souls; they appeared rather to be worldly-minded people, going to church for recreation and a conformity to custom.
  • Service which is rendered without joy helps neither the servant not the served. But all other pleasures and possessions pale into nothingness before service which is rendered in a spirit of joy.
  • ‘Hate the sin and not the sinner’ is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.
  • Service without humility is selfishness and egotism.
  • Human language can but imperfectly describe God’s ways. I am sensible of the fact that they are indescribable and inscrutable. But if mortal man will dare to describe them, he has no better medium that his own inarticulate speech.
  • You can wake a man only if he is really asleep; no effort that you may make will produce any effect upon him if he is merely pretending to sleep.

Jesus’ Offensive Prayer

(Day 10 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold. Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.” – John 17:9-20

This is a section of the prayer Jesus prays in John 17. It is the longest recorded prayer in the Bible, and Jesus spends it praying for us.

A few of the things Jesus prays over us in this chapter are that we would be protected, united as believers, filled with joy, safe from the evil one, and holy.

When it comes to offensive praying, I think this is among the best examples to follow in our lives. We can pray for the same things as Jesus did here! This can be a guide when we are confused, or do not know what to pray for.

Each one of us greatly need all these things Jesus prayed over us to get through every day. I particularly like how Jesus prayed that we would be safe from the evil one. We need to pray that over each other now as much as ever.

We live in a world filled with so much darkness, and people who have become victims of the evil one. We see far too many people struggling with depression, suicide, violence, drugs, and overall hopelessness.

We should pray that we and the people around us would be safe from satan and his attacks that want to lead us down these evil paths. If anyone is struggling with any of these things, you are not a bad person or a bad Christian.

But I believe that praying for the things Jesus prayed for can allow you to fight against the attacks of the evil one and become victorious over them because of the power of Christ alone!

By Frank Welch

Who is Really God Here?

When someone is attacking us, our tendency is to focus on them and their actions, even in our prayers. It is fair to say in some cases we take the actions of an enemy and make them an idol. “Look at me. Poor me.” Our prayers become all about them vs. me. With that kind of mindset, who is really God here? 

Consider what David had to say about this in Psalm 5:

But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You. For You, Lord, bless the righteous one; You surround him with favor like a shield. ‭Psalms‬ ‭5‬:‭11-12‬ HCSB

David is suggesting that, because of the refuge God offers to those seeking righteousness, there should be rejoicing. Rather than focus on the enemy’s actions or words, David says boast about God. Rather than focus on the wrong thing, the wrong person, even the results of their actions, we can live in peace under the shield and favor that comes from the God of the Righteous. We must check our idol making by asking who is really God here.

Fruity Fridays: Possessing Joy

by Danny Bote 

As we are full-fledged into the Christmas season, I believe there is no other season that brings so much joy for some and so much emptiness and heartache for others. As a father of three younger children, we are still in the incredible excitement phase with Christmas. The anticipation of Christmas morning is truly great, and I love it as a father (I’m usually the first one up on Christmas morning). I truly am trying to soak up these moments and Christmas mornings as time speeds by and the kids grow up. Why? Because one day we will wake up Christmas morning to our kids being all grown and out of the house with them potentially having their own families and their own family Christmas traditions. That season will also bring me much joy, but there will also be an aspect of sadness and mourning as we no longer have a house of small children anticipating Christmas morning.

As I sit and think about joy and the Christmas season, I wonder, what does the culture define as joy? Merriam Webster dictionary defines joy as “a state of happiness” or “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” If you dig a little deeper, Webster defines happiness as “feeling pleasure and enjoyment because of your life, situation, etc.” What do we learn from this definition of joy and happiness? That joy is based upon our feelings of pleasure, or our circumstances. If that is true, isn’t that worrisome to you? Because you and I both know how quickly those can and do change. 

As I read the Webster definition, the part that struck me the most was “the prospect of possessing what one desires.” This opens the door to answering how you and I can have true joy. Ecclesiastes 3:11 states: “He(God) has put eternity into man’s heart…” You see, God has placed the prospect of possessing eternity into our hearts. We desire to possess eternity and true joy, but we try to fill that desire with things that are only temporary. Every single one of us is taken by this desire. We believe that if we just possess that car, that person, that relationship, that job, that number in our bank account, that child, that spouse, that house… if we just get that(fill-in-the-blank), we will have joy forever! And let’s be honest, when we get that temporal thing it does bring us a momentary feeling of pleasure and enjoyment, but what happens when that feeling or circumstance is gone? Usually, we continue to try and fill that void with the next temporal thing, which leads to more fleeting moments of joy and pleasure. And over and over we go, trying to grasp something that we just can’t seem to get. What a desperate cycle, isn’t it? We have all experienced this personally and continue to see it in our culture today. So, what is the answer to this never-ending cycle? 

Galatians 5:22 states: “But the fruit of the Spirit is joy…” Stop, read that again. Did you catch it? Joy comes from having the Holy Spirit! Possessing God himself in our hearts! If we have the Spirit of God, then that means we have the righteousness of Christ! Joy is not based on an emotion, or success, or good fortune, but on the possession of the eternal! If you received the grace and mercy that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ, then you have that which brings true joy, no matter the circumstance! Yes, it’s ok and even healthy to have feelings of joy and happiness or feelings of sadness and mourn, cry, and be upset by circumstances, but through the changing circumstances of life you can have true joy! Why? Because it’s based on filling that eternal void with a righteousness the eternal, unchanging God only provides through His Son Jesus Christ. That which truly satisfies the soul.

No matter how great or how hard the Christmas season may be for you, if you have the righteousness of Christ, you can truly say, or even sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” 

And if you have Christ, you have the Spirit, and the fruit of the Spirit is joy.

Fruity Fridays: Joy Comes in the Morning

by Eric Vorhies

Several years ago I heard a speaker share an experience about a college basketball game that he wanted to watch. He was unable to watch it live, but he managed to record it. His plan was to avoid all TVs for the day. I also imagine that his conversations were similar to: “Don’t tell me the score of the game, and when is my next meeting?” Finally, he got home and as he was walking through the door, he thought, “I did it.” Then he was greeted warmly by his son, “Wow, that was an exciting win today dad!”

Though irritated, he was determined. He started watching the game. Like with all sporting events, some bad calls were made. Poor decisions, injuries, and deficits were suffered by his team. And that’s when something interesting happened. This experience was different. He knew the outcome. The pointless turnover was emotionally mitigated by the fact that his team would win. All the stressful moments were no match for the knowledge of victory.

Each part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, in my understanding, is a perspective shift. Joy is not about being excited or happy about the present circumstances. It is about knowing that those present circumstances aren’t permanent. Armed with the knowledge of future victory, Paul writes, “In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content.”

The theme of Psalm 30 can be found in its fifth verse: “Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning.” Today some people are dealing with weeping spending the night. The pain of life is real. You might be going through it now, or you might be going through it tomorrow. Either way, you will have those moments. But whether it is a divorce, tension between a parent and a child, or financial struggles, joy will come in the morning! In the midst of failed relationships or consequences of bad decisions, joy can be had. If we shift our perspective, we can view the poor decisions, injuries, and deficits of life as simple speed bumps on our path to eternal victory because we know, that one day, we will be in perfect union with the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

That kind of joy is the joy that the Holy Spirit is offering.