Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, be kind. Be kind in your thoughts. Be kind in your words. Be kind in your posts. Be kind when talking about those you love. Be kind when talking about rule-breakers, border-crossers, and those with whom you disagree. Be kind when posting about those who are different from you, who believe differently from you, and whose cultural backgrounds may even clash with your opinions and values.
"The world is changed by your example, not your opinion."
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:29
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly." -Proverbs 15:1-2
"I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak." - Matthew 12:36
Don't let your emotions and opinions justify behavior that doesn't reflect Christ. Be kind.
Be kind when talking about Muslims, LGBTQ+, liberal Democrats, hardcore Republicans, and those with whom you disagree. I don’t care how much you dislike them-- it doesn’t change your biblical responsibility to operate in grace and to use compassionate speech.
"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." - Ephesians 4:29
Don’t forget that you are called to a higher standard than our culture. Your personal feelings of offense do not exempt you from this standard.
“You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
You are called to the higher path of love over retaliation and resentment, regardless of THEIR behavior. If you are concerned about the future of our nation, intercede instead of dividing further.
Don't let your emotions and opinions justify behavior that doesn't reflect Christ.
“This is what the LORD Almighty says, “Give careful thought to your ways.”
A Note on Creativity:
I had one of the most creative souls I know recently tell me that she struggled with calling herself an "artist." I've been thinking about that for a few days now.
Here's the rub: if you create, you are an artist. You were made in the image of the Creative God, the same one who spoke stars with his breath and breathed life into dirt and said, "Live!"
Every child who paints a picture calls himself or herself an artist. It's put in us to create. It's only when we grow up and start looking at everyone around us that we deny our own creativity, that we shirk in the shadows. There was only one Van Gogh, and in the same vein, there is only one YOU.
How cool that God thought the world needed you both.
Creativity comes through many forms: ink, music, cake. It moves through many mediums: words, ingredients, bits of brokenness. It speaks to many souls: children, adults, seniors. It hollers across economic and social divides. It encourages, inspires, and awakens. It is God's gift to us to create.
Robert Madu said, "Creativity is the moment you exhale what God inhaled in you before the foundations of the earth." I love that. We were made to manifest creativity.
Don't sell your creativity (or yourself) short.
I have a journaling Bible that my dear husband bought for me a couple of Christmases ago, and I adore the fact that I don't have to scribble in 2-point font in small margins anymore. At least that's how I imagined things going.
I have a couple of Bibles I love, and they carry tear stains, coffee stains, highlighting, comments...They are well-worn. But not this one. This one doesn't have any marks from my pen at all.
It's so beautiful I haven't been able to bring myself to write in it. What if I don't like how I take notes in it? Do I need to have a color-coding system?
I was recently discussing my conundrum with my friend Theanny, and I told her, "It's my baby!"
She gently reminded me that babies grow up, and that it's a messy process. Simply put: I had allowed my perfectionism to get in the way of my enjoying my Christmas present.
It sounds silly when I put it that way, but that's the truth.
Too often we are susceptible to fearing things God never intended us to: others' opinions, failure, or even of not measuring up to our own standards of perfectionism. We can cause these fears to cripple our writing or whatever it is that God has called us to. Fear can make us want to hide our gifts under the proverbial bushel, but that's not what gifts are for! Gifts are given for use!
So with all of that being said, I'm writing in my Bible today. It's time for me to let go of ideas of perfection.
How about you? What step do you need to take to overcome the fear of using your gifts?
Isaiah 43:1 “Don’t fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.”
With this new year, I've been taking stock of my writing, as I know many of my fellow poets are doing. This involves exploring motivations, researching markets, setting goals, and organization. And of course, then there is the actual writing. :)
I'm also moving offices in my house to a room more toward the back, switching up with my husband, which means packing books. LOTS and LOTS of books. In the middle of the packing, I found a small miracle.
I discovered a special treasure today. It is a book of poems by Helen Steiner Rice called Poems of Faith. It belonged to my Nana Christine, and that I often saw on her coffee table when I was a little girl, and I remember reading the poems as a young teenager. When she passed away a few years ago, it came to my library. I didn't realize the seed she had sown in my life before I could even read.
I didn't realize the inscription until today:
To Amy Love, Nana
Grandmother Christine Keith
My grandmother gave me my first book of poetry when I was 1 1/2 years old.
Thanks, Nana. I'm still down here, writing poems.
So to all of those who invest not only in your own dreams, but in the dreams of others and to those of you who share your love of words with the world, keep doing so. You don't know what effect your passion will have on those around you. Do all things with love, and watch the world blossom.
"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is always so much we can learn from others' perspectives. I've been reading some enlightening articles on race and the Church and the history of the Church's approach toward racism. Wow. One such article is here. I also recently read Benjamin Watson's book Under Our Skin. It laid cards out on the table that I didn't know existed. There is so much I have not known, and I know I've just barely scratched the surface.
It made my heart hurt. My heart is grieved that we so often overlook and fail to address something so heinous in our society: the issue that we draw dividing lines based on the color of people's skin.
My heart is grieved that I have failed to weigh the matter and my responsibility to the Body. I have not always actively sought to understand others. I'm thinking about the saying that "You don't understand someone unless you have walked a mile in their shoes." Most of the time, I don't even look up from my own concerns. The times I seek to understand my black brothers and sisters is often after a major national tragedy. How sad is that?
I am called to more. We are called to more!
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." (II Corinthians 5:11)
I watch my social media feed fill up with lots of opinions, and some of those aren't so great, even from my Christian friends. The posts about Muslims and immigrants seem to get me the most (as they often blanket a whole group based on the actions of some). The deafening silence of Christians who would rather ignore the reality of learned racism than confront it. Where is the love of God in that? As Mother Teresa once said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." How can I love someone if all I constantly reinforce in my heart about them is that they will take my job, or my home, or if I fear that if they have a headdress, they also have a bomb?
We can be so caught up in opinions that are heated by the political climate that we fail to see people as individuals. They become faceless, teeming masses, and when that happens, my assumptions can take center stage. And before I know it, Satan has a foothold in my mind as I fail to see the image of God in my fellow human being. He or she becomes a statistic and my compassion can be overruled by fear. If I'm not careful, I can become hardwired for fearful and defensive postures and miss the fact that God wants me to be a conduit of power and purpose.
"Well, all ____________________ are ______________." Dangerous territory right there. All Asians are smart? Blacks are...? Arabs are...? Fill in your blanks here, and think about them. What assumptions do you carry, even subconsciously? What do you think when you see a black man walking toward you at night and wearing a hoodie? Or a Arab woman in an airport in her hijab?
I was at the mall once wearing a shirt that supported a missions trip to Korea. The Korean flag was on the front of my shirt, and some guy came up to me and said, "Do you teach Karate?" REALLY?
Then there are things like: "You know how Chinese people name their children? They throw silver wear down the stairs!" "Me Chinese, me play joke. Me put pee-pee in your Coke!"
And you might say, "I'm not racist." How's your speech? Do you mock other people's cultures? Names? Accents? We can excuse a lot in the name of humor.
Church, mockery is never love. It's not borne of love or any of the other fruit of the Spirit: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, or self-control. Could you be unwittingly contributing to the pain of another person? Or the furthering of a societal narrative that makes someone less than you? Do you let demeaning terms slip into your conversations? How about stereotypes?
These are things I am asking not just you, but myself. I want Holy Spirit to challenge every single assumption or notion I have that may block His work in me and His willingness to work through me. Words matter. They have eternal impact.
May I honor God and His image in those around me in thought, word, and deed. May I use the wisdom of Holy Spirit to engage those who are different than me, to the uttermost parts of the earth. May we, as a Church, rise up and be agents of change.
My heart was broken to read about the death of another young black man in America who was unarmed. I mourn the fact that his children will never hear his voice again or feel their daddy pick them up and hold them close; I think it is horrible that his grandmother had to cower in her house because there was shooting in her backyard. Regardless of what he was suspected of doing, I was stunned to read about the 20 shots fired at one man by two officers. Were there no other options to even disable a suspect? I’m not an officer, so I don’t know what was going on in their minds, but I can empathize with the anger that their decision has unleashed.
And even though there aren't answers yet, there are lots of questions. And rightly so.
I was also immediately saddened because of the division that started to fill my news feed. As soon as the articles started to be posted, the fighting started. There was anger and denial on the sides of both whites and blacks who all call themselves Christians. The discussions were rarely about listening. The battle lines of “them” and “us” were quickly redrawn. This is how it starts, brothers and sisters. Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy, and if he can use anger and injustice to fuel the destruction of the Church, he will do it.
Without forgiveness, we relive the past, resurrected in our own tragic, angry version of it.
We fail to listen to one another. We come at each other, going for the jugular of anyone who doesn’t agree with our perspective. Like loose cannons, we fire at anyone who opposes our perspective.
And instead of a healthy Body that functions with its many members working in harmony, we sicken the Body, as we produce more venom, more bile, more anger.
In the middle of your anger, where is Jesus? Is the image of Christ reflected in how you engage with the terrible issues of our day? Are you seeing individuals and giving them a chance, or are you so frustrated that all you can see is a collective “They”? (“Well, __________ people are all like…”)
Where’s the love that’s supposed to be the trademark of Christianity?
Jesus was not blind to injustice, and yet, He gave a clear command that we can forget in our frustration:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous."
- Matthew 5:43-45
Are you praying for those you’re posting about? Are you praying for those you’re arguing with and calling names? Are you reflecting Christ as brightly as you can be?
With the news of what happened yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, I'm left again thinking of families whose lives will be forever altered. I know that there will be analysis of what caused the young man to take the lives of 17 people and that there will be many days to question what is going on in our country and to debate gun control and have discussions on what may have been overlooked or prevented. There will tears, pain, grief, finger-pointing, disagreement...
And in the midst of this and the temptation to make sure my opinion is known, I ask, "What is my responsibility?"
"Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus said, "for they will be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9)
I used to think of peacemakers as those who brought peace between two opposing groups, and that is one definition, but what can I do to bring peace to the lives of those around me, the individuals dealing with our crazy, messed up world?
How can I be a source of calm in a raging river of emotions? How can I bring love to battered hearts? There is so much in our wide world.
There's a famous story told of a man who found a little boy tossing back starfish that had been washed up onto the seashore. The man told the child,
"There are so many of them! You'll never make a difference!" The child responded, as he threw back another one,
"I did to that one."
How can we "make" peace for other people? How can I say to them, "Take courage" through my own kindness? How can you? What individual life can you speak into today?
"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you."
For me, this is one of the most comforting verses in the book of Psalms. As a teacher, my job is to instruct my students and to help them understand the information that is to be covered in the course. If they have questions, I am the person to ask. If something in their textbook is confusing, my job is to bring clarification. I'm to guide them gently through the information, facilitating their learning, and showing them what they need to pay attention to and pitfalls they need to avoid. I can't do this effectively without communicating with them and having an understanding of their problem.
When a student is confused or has a particular question, the best way I can help him or her sometimes is one-on-one. There are days when I address the whole group, but when a student has a question that is specific to his or her paper, he or she needs to talk to me directly. We will look over the paper together and plan out how the student needs to proceed. Group instruction is no longer enough: the individual matter demands my individual attention.
The beautiful thing about the Lord is that He treats all of us on a one-on-one basis. While we have corporate instructions as His Church to reach the world, His relationship with each of us is not dependent on a group setting. The Word of God speaks of His intimate knowledge of us as individuals. In Matthew 10:30, Jesus told His disciples that the very hairs on their head were numbered. In Isaiah 44:2, Isaiah prophesied that the Lord formed us in our mothers' wombs. Countless other Scriptures remind us that God has plans for each of us, and they speak of His loving care toward His creation.
We can find comfort in His love and intimate knowledge in the times when we don't see answers that are immediately clear, times when we feel like our life's compass is spinning out of control. God is the Greatest Teacher, and He promises not just to give us directions, but to guide us personally, with His watchful eye on us.
We may not know all of the answers on our own, but Jesus has promised to instruct, teach and counsel us: to serve as our Great Guide on this journey of life. With this confidence, we can learn to trust Him more than we trust ourselves—and we will find we are stronger for it!
Thank You for Your care for me, that it isn’t lacking in any way. Help me to turn to you in times of discouragement or worry; establish my thoughts in Your word. In Jesus’s name, amen.
“…to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Luke 1:79
“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Matthew 4:16
One of the most recognized symbols in nursing is the lamp, but the reason behind this symbol goes back to a pioneer in the field: Florence Nightingale. The British government adopted the lamp to honor her pioneering work in the field of nursing.
In 1854, the Crimean War broke out, as the British Empire and the Russian Empire struggled for control of the Ottoman Empire. Florence Nightingale was a nurse sent to a base hospital where wounded British soldiers were being taken. She soon became known for her compassion and seemingly tireless concern for the men. She would walk the halls at night, personally attending to the soldiers, and earned the nickname “the Lady with the Lamp.” It was said that soldiers, finding comfort in her care, would kiss her shadow. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the following lines about her in his poem “Santa Filomena”:
“Lo! In that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom
And flit from room to room.”
Luke 1:79 and Matthew 4:16 are prophetic verses about part of Christ’s calling: to give light to those who sit in the darkness and in the shadow of death. His presence was a source of life and hope wherever he went. Throughout Scripture, His occupation was about those around Him. He was Light; we are called to carry that Light into the world.
What if we were to become The People of Lamp? What if we saw each day at our workplaces as places where our faith and peace were needed? What if we looked with our spiritual eyes at those who are in such need, wounded, hopeless, and dying around us? Jesus came to bring light to those who sit in darkness; shouldn’t we do the same?
Show me how to be Your light to a lost world. Teach me to be less about me and all about You and what You want from me. Help me to fulfill my calling to bring Your light to all those I come in contact with, especially at my workplace this week. Open my eyes to the needs of those around me. Thank You for Your wisdom and peace.
In Jesus’ Name,
I consider myself a pretty positive person, but some days, it doesn't seem to take much to derail my mood.
Today it was a pair of pants.
Okay, it wasn't the pants; it was actually that I couldn't bring myself to wear any of my shirts with them. The shirts were the wrong color, or they were too dressy to go with casual pants, or they were too tight, or they were too thick for Texas summer. And then I looked at the contents of my closet and at the range of clothes sizes--everything from a size 10 (my 2013 weight) to my current size 16--and I got angry.
Angry at myself for being undisciplined. Angry for eating the pimento cheese sandwich and Cheetos that I ate yesterday and knew I shouldn't. Frustrated at bad habits. And over and over in my head, the nagging, condemning Diet Fairy's voice: "You KNOW better. You KNOW what to do and not do. Why don't you JUST DO IT?"
And then came the other thoughts: "Some people are burying their loved ones today. Some people don't have clothes to wear at all. Some people would love a pimento cheese sandwich. You're being petty. Stop it."
Emotional and mental funk.
What do you do on the days when you don't have enough grace for yourself?
I complained to my husband. I ate a healthy breakfast. I still felt bad.
I reached out and asked friends to pray. I read Scripture. I talked to the Lord, and I'm still inviting Him to shift everything in me He needs to.
And bit by bit, my day is improving, and my outlook is improving. I haven't dropped forty pounds, my shirt is still the same one I (begrudgingly) finally settled on this morning, and I know that I have a lot of work to do to improve my health.
But most importantly, I'm realizing that God understands me and that a whole lot of people love me and are praying for me. And for today, that is enough.
I'm thankful that God's grace finds us sometimes through our friends.