Family Grace

Today I was privileged to attend the celebration of life for a friend’s husband who passed last year. Due to COVID concerns, the family put off holding a gathering until now. I had only met her husband once that I recall, so I was attending purely to support her. I have found that when I attend such gatherings without much history with the deceased I actually walk away with more to think about. No exception today.

The top thing that struck me was an admittance from the youngest son. In his sharing about his dad, he spoke transparently stating that they hadn’t always had the greatest relationship. He said he didn’t want to go on about that. Instead he said this:

As an adult I’ve come to realize that parents are people to. My dad was a person. We all mess up.

He then went on to tell terrific stories of how he relied on his dad in many ways and will miss his being there to give advice and fix his mistakes. He gave a terrific image of how he remembered feeling like his dad would be behind him watching him do something and sensing that his dad wished he could wrapped his arms around his sides in order to fix what he wasn’t doing right. He said he imagines that his dad is still doing that.

This husband/father/friend was loved. And it appears he was loved because he accepted everyone’s humanity including his own. Could that be the answer to a tight family? Each one receives and shares grace out of their acceptance of their humanity?

As I listened to this son laugh and cry talking about his dad, this passage came to mind:

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children-with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

Psalm 103:13-18

May families remember that they are dust.

May families receive and share grace.

May families bask in the everlasting to everlasting love of the Lord.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Into the Silent Land (a book review)

A few days ago I included a reference to Into the Silent Land in a post. When I heard about this book, I thought it was going to be about the spiritual discipline of solitude. To my surprise, it turned out to be much more than that.

Laird shared in the introduction that his objective was to examine two contemplative practices: the practice of stillness (meditation or contemplative prayer) and the practice of watchfulness or awareness. He had my attention.

I won’t be able to compact his descriptions of these practices with justice. What I can do is relay that if you believe you’ve read or heard all there is to know about prayer, you might want to make sure by reading this book. What I thought I knew about contemplative prayer has been deepened. What I practice in meditation has been retooled.

The meat of the book is chapters four and six. Chapter four introduces and outlines what Laird calls the three doorways of the present moment. He describes a method of praying based on utilizing a prayer word. I found it familiar but not. He was putting words to my novice practices and revealing how to mature them. Then in chapter six-my favorite-he makes it real by sharing three overcomer’s stories. Their struggles include fear, pain, and compulsion. The victory in these three human stories support his label of their moving from victim to witness.

You may be wondering if this book is for you. Here are three descriptors to try on for size:

  • If you wonder if the practice of meditation carries value, this book is for you.
  • If you wish your prayer life to be more relational and not just petitionary, this book is for you.
  • If you are looking for a spiritual discipline challenge, this book is for you.

Laird doesn’t write to be quoted, but here are a few highlights worth sharing:

If we are going to speak of what a human being is, we have not said enough until we speak of God.

God does not know how to be absent.

There is a certain wisdom that settles into a life that does not attempt to control what everybody else ought to be thinking, saying, doing, or voting on. Wisdom, health, life, and love cannot be found in trying to control the wind, but rather in harnessing the wind in the sails of receptive engagement of the present moment.

It is very liberating to realize that what goes on in our head…does not have the final word on who we are.

If you want to make fear grow, run from it.

Fear, anger, envy-any afflictive thought or feeling-cannot withstand a direct gaze.

We commonly meet our wounds in temptation and failure.

Divine love doesn’t have to decide whether or not to forgive. Divine love is forgiving love.

Photo by Adam Rhodes on Unsplash

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!

Looking for Book #1?

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.

Franklin wrote a Keeper.

What’s Left

God is still the God of what’s left. -Jentezen Franklin, Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt


This quote is in chapter 11, “Fight for Your Family.” Franklin’s point is that whatever the status of one’s family there’s still something left. Now is the time to let God be God of whatever’s left. Encouraging. Hope-filled.

How ’bout we broaden the story? Like…

  • God is still the God of what’s left of your company
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your marriage
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your friendship
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your finances
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your church
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your neighborhood
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your government
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your health
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your education
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your parenting
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your career
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your retirement
  • God is still the God of what’s left of your life

Old And Refreshing

My Christmas Eve was blessed by two worship services.  

In both, two old carols included verses new to me, refreshing like light from the manger.

This verse from “O Come All Ye Faithful”:

Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,

We would embrace thee with love and awe;

Who would not love thee, loving us so dearly?

This verse from “In Bleak Midwinter”:

Heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;

Heav’n and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign;

In the bleak midwinter a stable sufficed

The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

May the child’s light shine on you this Christmas Day!

Bumper Sticker Disturbance

Driving home from church last Sunday, I pulled up to a red light and apparently was behind another churchgoer. Anyone driving a van adorned by a bumper sticker including a Bible reference on a Sunday after lunch, it’s a sign. Unfortunately, this sign wasn’t positive. My spirit was immediately disturbed. I took a pic so I could chew on this disturbance.

When I got home, I looked up this verse because my mind was having a hard time connecting any scripture that would support this statement. Here’s what it says:

“No harm will come to you; no plague will come near your tent.”

My disturbance made sense. The statement of choice is a personal choice that, whether you agree with it or not, doesn’t have to cause disturbance. The verse read in its context and understood by the Psalmist’s intent doesn’t have to cause disturbance. The disturbance is when they are put together as if they belong together. They do not belong together. Here are three reasons why:

1. Putting them together abuses the Bible narrative. If you could use this statement to choose to not participate in the challenges of this world, then much of the Bible narrative doesn’t make sense. Driver, is that the message you wanted to send when you chose to buy that bumper sticker? Many of the most beloved characters in the Bible endured harm and plague. Suppose Joseph had declined to participate in the famine. Or if Daniel had chosen not to participate in denying the King’s decree. Or if Paul had decided enduring prison was going too far, not a choice he was going to agree to. Or if Esther had said, “My life is too good to choose to put it at risk.” Believer, if you want to know a better understanding of Psalms 91, here’s a link to an article that does it justice. An excerpt of the article says this about the message of Psalms 91:

Psalms 91 is God’s way of telling us that whoever runs to him and seeks his divine protection will be saved from calamity and destruction. When we pray the words of this psalm it becomes a powerful shield of protection from fear. However, some people mistakenly thought the teaching is an unconditional promise and proof that life will be smooth sailing, that we won’t face hardship, illness, or any other crisis. This kind of thinking is often preached by pastors and ministers who teach the false and deceptive prosperity gospel. Nothing can be farther from the truth. God promises protection, but it doesn’t mean that we won’t suffer even in the face of this pandemic.

2. Putting them together denies God’s sovereignty. It very well could be, Driver, that people you love will test positive, be hospitalized, come close to or succumb to death during this pandemic. It could be you. What happens to faith then? Is God no longer in control? Absolutely not. When we decide to make choices that make us feel good and in control, we’ve basically kicked God off our heart’s throne. And, thankfully, he has plenty of mercy and patience to wait us out. They go on forever. And when we realize our choice was wrong, that his ways and thoughts are indeed higher and better than ours, he will do what Psalms 91 is all about-offer us comfort by reminding us he’s in control.

3. Putting them together creates division and lacks love. Division and selfishness most likely aren’t your intent. You heard a leader declare this statement of choice was truth. Unfortunately, it’s not. If we know anything from today’s culture, false messages are divisive and self-serving. Christians cannot say they love God and people while declaring a false message.

So if this message is wrong, what’s the right message? Based on these three thoughts, here are three edits of the statement:

“I have chosen to accurately know God’s word in this pandemic.”

“I have chosen to trust God in this pandemic.”

“I have chosen to pursue peace and share love in this pandemic.”

Disclaimer: In general, I’m not a bumper sticker fan. You print one of these non-disturbing three, I might become one.

    Taking Jesus Seriously

    Started this book today:


    Jethani has doodled and produced 72 devotionals based on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).


    After reading the first nine, I encourage you to check it out. If you wonder what might be troubling you about followers of Jesus, you might discover it in this book. It’s possible we haven’t taken Jesus seriously enough.

    “Self,…”

    Fear is exhausting. Well, at least misplaced fear can be. Proper fear can actually provide joy and comfort.

    Several people have commented how that in spite of being slowed down since March they still feel tired, maybe even more so. Perhaps fear is to blame.

    I started a new book this afternoon, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn. His book contains 48 devotionals written as notes to “Self,” reminders of what you know based on Scripture. Note #3, entitled “Fear,” includes these thoughts:

    Worldly fear will lead you to toe party lines, compel you to try to live a safe life, and lead you to so prize the good gifts of God that they mutate into idols.

    Your possessions can go up in flames, but you have treasure in heaven and stand to inherit the kingdom. Your reputation may be sullied, but you are justified in Jesus. You may be rejected by those who you admire, but you are accepted by God. You may be hated, but your Father in heaven loves you with an undying love.

    The fear you need to maintain and cultivate is a fear of God, for in it you will discover wisdom and develop strength that enables you to persevere in faith to the end.

    Somewhere in those reminders may you find rest from fear, whether you’re fighting your own or burdened by other’s.

    What if you wrote your own note to self? What reminders would it include?

    Photo Credit: Unsplash/Melanie Wasser