Why Pray? It’s a Relationship, not a Transaction

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.

Matthew 6, The Message

Those are the words Jesus uses to begin what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer.”

Of course, the version you might know sounds more like:

Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. (Matthew 6.8)

“Hallowed” means a few things. In the NLT, it’s translated as “may your name be kept holy.” Basically, it means something that is set apart. If something is hallowed, we acknowledge it as greater than anything else and different from anything else. Saying God’s name is hallowed is saying that we understand nothing compares to the Almighty God. We set God apart as completely other. Yet, in the same teaching in Matthew, Jesus also says we approach him as we would a good dad. It’s an interesting paradox and also a beautiful one.

Sit with Your Father

“Father” in the prayer adds a connotation of authority—a parent who deserves our obedience and trust. It’s more formal than the “abba” Jesus and Paul use elsewhere. In the following chapter, Jesus’ use of the word parent is more intimate. He speaks of an involved dad who wants to hear the words of his children and supply their needs. 

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” (7:9-11).

In neither case does he mean an austere distant capital “F” father who doesn’t have time for his offspring. His words imply that we are to approach God aware of how deeply he loves us and how much he wants us to come to him. 

If we didn’t or don’t have a good earthly father, this may be difficult. We might have to imagine another caring, listening ear.

If a good dad wasn’t your experience, imagine is the ultimate parent who did want to listen to your every question, hear your every thought, and view every picture you ever drew. Imagine what that would have been like, and come near to God knowing that’s what he’s offering.

So one purpose of prayer is to be with our loved one and share our hearts. That’s it. It’s not a big complex thing. It’s something we can do all the time every day on the regular. We share our hearts, our thoughts, our emotions, our hurts, everything. Just as the psalmists did, we let them out to our perfect parent. Some of the prayers in the Psalms are pretty rough! Yet God as parent heard them and recognized the pain they came out of.

Talk Less, Listen More

Of course, children usually also listen to a parent for advice and comfort. We wait to hear, not just speak, because our relationship is a two-way thing. Prayer is not a time for us to do all the talking and God to do all the listening.

In fact, that leads right into the second line from the Message translation. “God, Reveal who you are.” How can God do that if I’m not listening? Prayer is a time for us to come to God and ask that we understand more about our relationship.

Again, it helps me to think about it as I would an earthly relationship with a parent. When we’re children, we really don’t know much about our dads. We might know what they do all day, and we have an idea of their character by how they treat us and others. But we actually know very little about them as people. We are content to think of them only in relationship to us. It’s not until later as we grow up that we realize they are their own separate entity and they have their own complex humanity. The older we get, if we’re fortunate, we know more and more about our dads. We come to know their hearts. We understand what gets them up in the morning and makes them passionate. We learn not just that they love us but why. We see more of how they treat others and more of who they are as a result. 

I never got that chance with my own dad. But when I think about it, I can see the parallels with my heavenly parent and how that relationship should go. As a young Christian, I only knew God in terms of what he’d done for me. I didn’t understand God at all except as it related to me. As I matured, I saw more of who God is. I saw how Jesus behaved and what he said. I saw how he treated other people.

The longer I am in relationship with God, the more I hear his heartbeat and know what he is passionate about. The more I come to him in prayer, the more I understand about who he is and who I am as a result. 

It’s a Reciprocal Relationship

One first purpose of prayer is to create that maturity in my heart so that I come to a full understanding of who God really is and who I really am. 

God, reveal who you are. May your name be kept holy. 

That’s the first and most important reason we pray. We have to establish that relationship before anything else can fall into place. Next time, we’ll talk about the next line.

Why Pray?

Photo by James Wei on Unsplash


Teaching through Leviticus can do strange things to you.

Between all the sacrifices and laws and weird details about menstrual cycles and eating shellfish, some things began to come together for me in ways they hadn’t before. Rituals and disciplines have been part of the Christian life for centuries. Yet how often have we neglected their importance in recent decades? I know I have. I’m not a ritual kind of person. I love novelty, and I don’t like to do the same thing twice very often. (Unless it’s reading/watching Lord of the Rings or Pride and Prejudice. These can be done multiple times a year, if necessary.)

What I hadn’t noticed is that these rituals that define and describe our life with God are catalogued in Leviticus not as a bunch of strange laws but as a way of making order in a chaotic world to draw us toward our Creator.

Now, we don’t participate in sacrifices or casting people out of the tent for a week. We do, however, practice rituals and disciplines that order our lives with God. The most important is prayer. 

Why Pray?

What the point of prayer? It seems reasonable to start focusing that question with what we call the Lord’s Prayer—a small part of Matthew 6 where, when the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, he told them. It’s not a magical prayer that we use to get what we want from God. We don’t just repeat it and hope that good things will happen because we do. It’s not a mantra or a spell. But it is a good example and pattern for us to follow in prayer. So in asking the question—why pray? It’s a good starting point.

Good Routines

The doctor I see for my Restless Leg Syndrome has helped me learn new bedtime routines that make the difficult task of falling asleep with RLS a little easier. Now, I know that if I want to succeed in a good night’s sleep, I start a few things in the hours before. 

Photo by Erik Brolin on Unsplash

I stretch. Maybe do a few yoga moves. I take a few turns around the dining room table and, if it’s really bad, apply some heating pads. Much earlier, I’ve forgone caffeine early and exercise during the day. I turn off all the screens by nine. This last one is huge. Along with taking the medication she’s given me, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to sleep.

Our hearts in the minutes before prayer also require some routines and exercises to prepare us for a good conversation in prayer.

Jesus begins: 

“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat?

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matthew 6.5-6, Message)

First of all, Jesus tells us to find a quiet secluded place. Why? So we won’t make a public production of our prayers. We need to be able to get alone with God and focus on him. The last thing we need is to focus on how other people are perceiving how we pray. A lot of people, including myself, the pastor, don’t like to pray in public. There is an important place for communal prayer, and I think we need to all practice it. But first, we need to practice being alone with God and being honest with him. If we don’t get that straight, we won’t pray together straight either. 

The World Is not a Stage

Jesus has just taught his followers the same concept regarding giving. When we give away our money, time, or whatever, we’re not supposed to do it in a showy way. We quietly obey God by being generous while keeping it to ourselves as best we can. It’s not a false humility where we actually take pride in being so humble and secretive about how awesome we are. It’s a quiet humility that knows everything we have is from God anyway, and our ability to give is the results of God’s generosity. 

Then, Jesus teaches the same thing about prayer. Don’t pray as a show. Pray as a relationship between two beings. 

I wouldn’t go to my spouse and, wanting to chat about our plans for the weekend, create a dramatic production of my pitch and sell tickets to the neighbors. This isn’t how a relationship works. 

If we’re focused on making a production of our prayer and worrying about how others see it, we’re not really focused on God. We’re not putting ourselves in a place of humble acceptance of whatever he has to say. We’re thinking of ourselves, and that is a terrible way to approach prayer. 

We all know people whose voice changes when they are praying in public. They suddenly have a “holy voice” instead of the regular one that they use with us. It’s kind of weird, but most of us do it sometimes. We think we have to put on a holy voice to sound like we are being holy in front of other people. But really, Jesus asks us to come and speak like we’re talking to someone we love, and it should sound that way. Otherwise, we’re in danger of pride as we pray, and that will definitely keep us from hearing God.

So the first thing Jesus teaches us is those beautiful words—“just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.”

When we shift our focus, and it happens without us realizing it usually, God’s grace becomes so apparent. We feel God’s presence. We forget about ourselves and we begin to think about our Creator. We begin to think about listening instead of speaking. 

Isn’t it beautiful that the writer tells us we can pray very simply to God because he already knows what we want and, more importantly, what we need? There are no special words to say to get what we want. Our focus is not supposed to be getting what we want. It’s supposed to be talking to God. It’s kind of like when I was a kid and came into the living room and just sat down at the foot of my dad’s chair and leaned on his knee. I didn’t want anything from him. I just wanted to be in his presence. I loved being with him. That’s what God wants from us when we come in prayer. 

Jesus continues:

“The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply.” (Matthew 6.7-8)

It’s Also not a Vending Machine

My daughter regularly grumbles about the vending machine at work. I have to agree with her—there is nothing worse than putting in your dollar, pushing the buttons that correspond to a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, and seeing a bag of pretzels drop in the slot instead. This is not what we ordered. We paid good money, and we got a dud.

Photo by Jesse Chan on Unsplash

Yet a lot of people approach prayer similarly. We believe that if we put in certain words, a holy vocal timbre, or the right dollop of faith, what we want from God will drop in the slot. When it doesn’t happen, we get ticked off at God. 

Prayer isn’t a formula. Prayer is definitely not a transaction. God isn’t a vending machine ready to offer us what we want if only we find the right buttons to push. Can you imagine treating someone you love like that? No one feels loved by a manipulator.

With a loving God, we can pray very simply. Prayer, first of all, is about a relationship. It’s about chatting with and listening to the one who loves you more than you can even imagine. That’s what Jesus is trying to get across when he tells us to approach God quietly, with humility, and without pretense of games. 

Next time, we’ll begin the famous first words a lot of us know: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

Reading Through Black History Month

I’ve really returned to my love of reading this year. The past several years, I’ve read for my dissertation and classes but not a lot for fun. I loved reading for school! But there was little time for other things.

So to wrap up February, in honor of Black History Month, I want to offer you a round up of some of the books I’ve read the last few years written by black authors. Some are new reads this month; others are old friends.

The Cross and the Lynching Tree, James Cone

“Both the cross and the lynching tree represented the worst in human beings and at the same time ‘an unquenchable ontological thirst’ for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning.”

Such a disturbing and needed theology of black suffering and history in America and its relationship to white Christianity. This is the first book I read in February. learned so much, and I especially liked learning about the black women who stepped into their faith and told the truth about injustice. It’s hard, painful, and important to read this book as a white Christian. You will read things you wish you had never known about. But we must know about them. 

I’ve been reading a lot of the Bible, especially the exodus stories, this past year from the point of view of the suffering, and it’s been huge in my understanding of Scripture. Cone brings us through this process so that we can see God, and the cross, when we see the lynching tree.

I’m Still Here, Austin Channing Brown. A favorite book of 2018. 

“Anger is not inherently destructive. My anger can be a force for good. My anger can be creative and imaginative, seeing a better world that doesn’t yet exist. It can fuel a righteous movement toward justice and freedom. I don’t need to fear my own anger. I don’t have to be afraid of myself. I am not mild-mannered. I am passionate and strong and clear-eyed and focused.” 

Brown has a great ability to explain exactly how it feels to be a black woman in America in a way others can understand. She is unflinching but also positive in her assessment of what can be done to honor her and others for being “still here” despite all the attempts to negate their existence. 

If you want to understand the daily struggles that black women, and men, face that we really don’t see, listen to Brown. 

Ready To Rise, Jo Saxton

“What is the cost when a woman lacks access and investment, encouragement to own her voice, and opportunities for influence in her sphere when there is no obvious pathway to progress?”

This book about women in leadership asks: How do women uniquely learn to believe in and develop their voice as a leader? I love her emphasis on women encouraging one another to find their voice and rise together. Saxton refuses to give in to scarcity thinking and wishes for everyone to learn their power. I plan to put into place some of the things I learned in the chapter on finding a village. I’ve never really had a mentor, and I definitely need sponsors. Also, I need to be those things for others.

All the Colors We Will See, Patrice Gopo. 

I heard Patrice at Breathe Christian Writer’s Conference a few years ago and knew from the first night I would like her. When I listened to her teach about memoir, I had already picked up her book the night before. It’s a treasure of one woman’s learning how to navigate growing up, race, marriage, family, and not belonging anywhere yet finding grace. It’s beautifully written and relatable. Gopo paints such vivid portraits through essays that detail her life experience. The words are beautiful, even when the experiences aren’t, and the essays convey a story of family resilience.

Reading While Black, Esau McCaulley. My second read of this February! This is not for the theologically faint of heart. It’s hard work, but he takes the reader through the Bible, and some history of black theology, to find a solid place for a theology of freedom and justice. Like me, McCaulley seeks a theology that can hold both a tradition of justice and one of more conservative approach to scripture. I especially enjoy the section on Luke and how it intersects with the entire arc of the Bible to bring justice issues forward.

The Very Good Gospel, Lisa Sharon Harper. Another one I read a couple years ago. Harper offers a similar overview of scripture in a more accessible manner. She spreads out a gospel that is so much richer than the me-sized, individualistic gospel we’ve been taught in so many places. It’s offers a gospel that reconciles and restores. 

My favorite quote is when she talks about Finney’s revivals and how, when people came to the altar to give their lives to Christ, 

“Men and women confessed and repented of their personal sins as well as their complicity with structural evil. And when they wiped away their tears and opened their eyes, Finney thrust a pen into their hands and pointed them to sign-up sheets for the abolitionist movement. This is what it meant to be an evangelical Christian in the 1800s.”

This is what it still should mean. She makes a beautiful case for the two, personal and corporate salvation and re-creation, to be inherently intertwined as the whole gospel.

How To Fight Racism, Jemar Tisby.

Another new release! Here’s my Amazon review: In his new book, Jemar Tisby takes us on a journey of how to fight racism—the is not simply a how to manual. He gives the Christian basis for the fight in well considered textual and historical explanations. He also gives us an American perspective on the issue, with historical commentary. He explains historic systematic racism as well as the different stages people might be at in dealing with their own racist tendencies.

Nowhere does Tisby reflect a disrespect for or condescension toward either those who practice racism or those who aren’t quite sure what to do about it yet. He approaches the topic with humility and the intent to take people wherever they are and teach them at that level. It makes the book approachable and useful when talking with those who remain entrenched in certain racist tendencies or attitudes. He has a gift of teaching powerful truth in a disarming way that can get past defenses and allow for change.

His approach is clear and well explained. The framework is an acronym ARC. “ARC is an acronym that stands for awareness, relationships, and commitment.” Then, the thoughtfulness and helpful attitude with which he comes at the topic comes out: “Perhaps you are just starting the journey, and even baby steps are accompanied by the risk of stumbling and falling. But you learn how to walk one step at a time through persistent, informed practice.

And yet, he tells the clear truth about the topic.

“In order to fight for racial justice, racism must not be lightly dismissed. It must be treated as the evil offense against God and human beings that it is.” (Jemar Tisby)

I learned how to mobilize my community for change. I discovered ways I can fight systemic racism that I had no idea I could do. The church I pastor has moved past many of the troublesome issues he mentions, but we can still learn and grow and unearth attitudes and beliefs we don’t know we have. We have the tools to serve our community better because of Tisby’s book. We learn how to: talk to our kids, cultivate relationships, see our own past, learn, take apart systems, create our own statements of justice, give out to our community, and more.

A Sojourner’s Truth, Natasha Sistrunk Robinson.

Robinson tells her story of discovering life as a brilliant black woman in a world not made for her. Her stories of military school and training as a black woman are unimaginable, and it has caused her to become a great advocate for young women. She began a program to mentor girls toward leadership. This story moved me to continue following her to see what more amazing things she has planned for girls who can lead but haven’t had this truth spoken into their lives.

There you are—a handful of great black authors you could be reading and maybe have. If you have suggestions, please comment with them. I would love to see some possibilities I haven’t read!

What are you reading right now? I’m finally cracking open Jesus and John Wayne.

Minding My Business

Does it feel like a new year yet? I’m not sure. In some respects, we have hope this year we didn’t have a few months ago. A vaccine to end, or at least mitigate, our new reality hovers on the horizon. It trembles there, offering some measure of hope to what otherwise feels like a very old year already by February. My husband has received it, as a front line worker. I’m in group 3, and you can bet I’ll be in line.

On the other hand, January looked little different for many of us than did November or December or all the interminable months before them. We’re still here. Still isolating. Still waiting. The difference, of course, is that for those of us in the northern hinterlands, we can’t even go outside for a respite in January, and we have no holidays now for a looong time.

Left to our own devices, increasingly on our own, we develop coping skills or we wither, and personally, I’d much prefer to cope. One of the helpful things for me has been to learn a bit more mindfulness. I know—some of you have got this down like a pro. If you’re like me though, stopping to breathe isn’t really what you do.

We run from project to project, one checklist item to the next one. People like me are excited for the new year mostly because we get a new planner—a new place to write down all those ideas and goals. 

(Never underestimate the excitement of a new planner in my life. The perfect planner is akin to the holy grail for this 5.)

Mindfulness isn’t usually written in that planner. Neither is rest. Enter 2020. The year that finally (I hope) taught me that those things are not just good ideas—they’re survival. They’re also part of God’s perfect plan for us from the beginning.

We’re supposed to rest. We’re meant to breathe. God designed humans beings to sabbath—to STOP (literally, that’s what it means) and take time to notice our world.

So I have been learning to Stop. Pay attention. (Another very important word in the Bible–usually translated as “listen” or “hear.”.)

One of the things I’ve begun to do is sit in my chair in the morning and notice my senses. I take a few deep breaths and sink into the chair, closing my eyes, just paying attention to my small world. 

I notice the heat kick on. I give thanks for heat. 

I hear the tea kettle in the kitchen. I offer gratitude for a husband making me tea. That thought leads me to say a prayer for his patients that day, for their well-being and their families. 

I hear a cardinal chirp outside the window, and I am thankful God created birds, going so far as to create beautiful birds of vivid color and different design. Why? There was no need. But a creative God chose to give his people the gift of diversity on the wing.

Another day I might choose to focus on what I can smell. The licorice scent of Earl Grey steaming out of my tea mug. Oh, thank you for caffeine. And thank you for making it taste good in so many varieties. 

The smell of cat fur, as the little 7-pounder nestles into my lap, a place she finds comfort, and I find comfort and gratitude knowing a creature trusts me at that level. 

I can detect some lemongrass, so I give thanks for newly mopped floors. I think to pray for those living in refugee camps where keeping one’s home clean is a small comfort they had to leave behind, and concepts like “home” and “floor” now exist not as assumptions but hopes for the future.

These few moments of paying attention center me. They give me a morning “fix” of focus to begin a new day. After spending time quieting my mind and hearing my surroundings rather than my racing thoughts and ideas, I can hear the voice of God better. I’ve set aside my agenda long enough that God can get a word in edgewise.

I find this a good plan most days. My words are too many and too disjointed unless I’ve heard a word from God first. 

Science agrees. Mindfulness and centering give us mental focus for our day.

I’m offering this up not as a cure-all for 2021 but as one small thing I’ve found these last few months that help me center myself on where I need to be. Maybe you’re seeking some ways to focus yourself as well this new year. Small things. Baby steps. That’s all we may be able to handle right now, and thank you Lord, that’s often all we need.

That’s a Wrap

Rounding Up

We did a LOT of puzzles in 2020

Are we ready for a round up post? On February 1? Of course we are. Because we know:

1) I’m not usually on time for these sorts of things. 

And

2) You got inundated with that jazz last month, and now you actually have time to look at these things. 

See? I planned that out. So here we go. My favorite things of 2020. 

Five favorite books

OK, 7. Because choosing is hard, and I could have easily picked twelve.

I met my goodreads goal of 35! I know that’s not a ton, but 2020. I was tired. We were all tired. I spent the first third of the year finishing and defending my thesis. Plus also, I did a lot of puzzles. Finishing the goal is a win. It doesn’t matter what the goal was. I finished.

Let’s not waste our time moving goal posts on ourselves because we don’t think what we did was good enough. Not Spoiler: it was good enough. We made it.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Enough said. Truth – I’ve never read it. I’ve been a little major and an English teacher, and I have never read this book. Now I have, and now it has changed me. It makes me sad to see how much has not really changed. To see the world through the eyes of a child and to see her slow awakening to what people to what people are capable of, both good and bad, is enchantingly and devastatingly told.

From Burned Out to Beloved: Soul Care for Wounded Healers. Bethany D. Hiser. As a pastor and as a person who is constantly trying to save the world (is that redundant?), I found this work indispensable. Ms. Hiser helps people like me to pull back and to see ourselves. She helps us to equip others rather than to “save” them. In the process, we learn how to love and be blessed by our work rather than burned out. After the year we’ve just had, this is required reading for caregivers of any sort.

Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, Eugene Peterson. Peterson’s work is so challenging for pastors and so absolutely necessary. I needed this this year. Desperately. His whole section on rest and Sabbath is something I had been contemplating and wrestling with for a while, and this book blew it wide open.

Sabbath is a chance to let God do what God does best, without my interference. It’s my chance to join that after stopping long enough to see and to hear it.

The God Who Sees, Karen Gonzales. Gonzales puts the story of her family’s journey from Guatemala to the United States alongside the nomads of Scripture. The foreigners, those on the margins, those of whom God tells us to take special care. She explains to the reader God’s heart for those who find themselves on this journey and how we can make that struggle easier. I love the way she puts the stories together and the research she does into this very difficult issue. 

Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell. I will inherently love anything Gladwell writes. This book is quite timely, given our desperate need to hear what others are thinking and understand where they’re coming from. His exploration of how our different backgrounds and “languages” of communication affects the way we understand one another is fascinating. Gladewell is always a winner for me. He’s what I want to be when I grow up.

The Sun Does Shine, Anthony Ray Hinton. What can I even say? This man lost most of his life in prison. Why? Because, to summarize the words of those who arrested him, “they will convict any black man of the crime, and you are as good as any other.” It’s not just a story of one man’s injustice though. It’s a story of the relationships he made in prison and what all of us can learn from listening to those men alone in their cells. The relationship between the author and the klansman was so crazy and beautiful. This is one of the men you meet in the movie Just Mercy. You should meet him in this book, too.

Booked, Literature in the Soul of Me, Karen Swallow Prior. As the Goodreads descriptions says, this book is for, “Anyone who has struggled to find a way to articulate the inexpressible through a love of story.” Dr. Prior tells her memoir through literature, and this is so relatable to me. As a little girl who could never be torn away from a book, I could also tell my life through stories. Some of the stories she chooses could also be mine. I love the mingling of memoir and literature and life. This, too, is how I could explain out my life.

Five favorite recipes

Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Fettuccini Yes please. Pasta. Garlic. Sun-dried Tomatoes. The word “creamy.” It’s all there.

Cinnamon Roll Macarons. Hands down the best macarons I’ve ever made. Only I put chocolate ganache filling in, because who doesn’t’t love cinnamon and chocolate???

Vaca Frita de Pollo. One of the women in our church was making this while on zoom, and I NEEDED the recipe. It was all I dreamed of.

Chicken Normandy. Do it on a cold day when you have lots of time and want the most delicious chicken dinner you’ve ever had, possibly.

Za’atar Man’ouche. I saw this on a travel show and said—I need this in my life! And what do you know? Our kid had given us zaatar in a Christmas gift. Here you are. You’re welcome.

Thing I’m most proud to have made: Two of the kids gave me a Great British Bakeoff Book, and let me tell you, everything in it I’ve made is incredible. But this was quite the challenge.

Five favorite podcasts

2020 was not a good year for podcasts. I generally listen to them in the car, and, well, I didn’t spend much time in the car this year. Like, we saved a lot of money on gas, maintenance, and we should have just probably cancel the insurance. I hardly drove that thing. So I’ve been missing my podcasts. But these have been my favorites.

The Holy Post

Lead Stories

Revisionist History

The Bible Project

And a new one to add—Three Black Men

Five things I hope don’t go back to “normal.” 

That we learned to love the outdoors again. 

That we learned to slow down and live without the unnecessary things we thought were so important.

That we said “enough” to injustice and decided to change ourselves in order to change our culture. We also decided to stop engaging with the nonsense and just get to work.

That many of us came to appreciate in a new way those who keep the gears running and keep us safe. Healthcare workers, food workers, delivery drivers and sanitation workers. Those who bring my groceries to my door and those who hover over ICU patients, for 36 hours straight. Please, let us not forget. Oh and by the way, a lot of those people are immigrants.

That we learned to hold our people tightly and our plans loosely.

The thing that happened this year I desperately needed and didn’t know I did. Can you guess?

That’s it. That’s my round up. What about you? What were the things you loved about 2020? What are the things you’ll remember and take forward? I would love to hear.

Editing the Church

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Today, writing a blog feels weird. 

See, I typically write my blogs a few months in advance. What you read in March I wrote in January or even December. But today, that’s kind of inconceivable.

I have no idea what this world is going to look like in a few months. I’m not even sure about next week. I don’t feel any sense of security or serenity writing about what my outlook on things will be in March as we sit here a few days out of a coup at the nation’s capital. I’m not assuming it’s over. 

Much has been written on the day, and much of it has been stellar. I’m not repeating those analyses.

So today, I’ll move some things around and respond to now, not two months from now.

Photo by Jeremiah Higgins on Unsplash

My focus, as you know from reading my banner if not my blog, is not on the politics so much is on the church. Not that the former is not important, but the future of the church is the passion that God has given me. What do these unsettling times mean for the church? Most importantly, what does the fallout mean for the next generations of our church? 

It’s not an exaggeration to say that this could be the most devastating event for the American church that we have seen in a very long while. The next generation has seen the church in reaction, and they’re not having it. I don’t blame them at all.

Mind you, I wouldn’t be all that sad to stand at the grave of much that passes for American Christianity. My concern is with the baby that will likely get tossed with the bathwater. The bathwater stinks. It’s filthy. It is in desperate need of change. 

But the baby—the church you don’t see in the cameras—is filled with people who honestly, humbly, falteringly attempt to follow Jesus. They could be the innocent victims of this drive-by disaster. 

Jesus’ church really does have people in it who love him more than they love themselves. They’re just harder to find in the swill and swell of the stinky bathwater.

Photo by Stefan Kunze on Unsplash

God will not suffer. Ultimately, his church will survive. Jesus Christ is King, and that will not change. He does not need us to defend him. He will raise his remnant as he always has. Like Simba, the church that survives will stagger up, blink at the light, and bewilderedly continue in the circle God has started. But it is likely to die, first. 

Four in ten young adults between the ages of 23 and 38 now say they are religiously unaffiliated.

IN a 2017 study, “Political rifts between young Christians and their congregations are growing. A quarter (25%) of recent dropouts said disagreements over their church’s stance on political and social issues contributed to their decision to stop attending, compared to 15 percent

That those rifts have increased with the advent of QAnon and “Stop the Steal” conspiracy theories being welcomed and applauded in the church is clear from a thirty-second perusal of social media. 

The exodus isn’t temporary, as it has been in the past, either. For the first time, young adults are not returning to church when they have families, because they don’t believe they need the church to teach their children how to be good people. That isn’t because they believe God has failed them or isn’t good. It’s because they believe the church is no longer filled with good people.

The people in the church cannot teach their children what they do not know.

While in the past most of those disaffected with church retained their belief in and some relationship with Jesus, that is also changing. 2019 saw the greatest surge in atheism in America. Those who consider themselves atheists, agnostics, or”nothing in particular” have risen to over a quarter of the population. The next generation has lost their spiritual community, and with no one to talk with about their questions, doubts, and ideas, their faith has eroded as well. This was inevitable—God created us for community, and we cannot go without it for long without serious effect.

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

An Atlantic article explores the sudden sharp decline in American Christianity in the 1990’s. “According to Christian Smith, a sociology and religion professor at the University of Notre Dame, America’s nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.” The last two have complex sociological issues and are fascinating to look at. The first is the important one, for my purposes.

Here are some of the reasons younger generations are leaving the church right now. They are amazingly clear-eyed at the illogic and incongruity they see. These are the things they can’t understand. Church, we have to bring these things they see into the light. face them unflinchingly, and set them right. 

The same people who have told them that men cannot meet with women over lunch because they fear the “appearance of evil” are silent regarding “Jesus Saves” signs next to confederate flags and nooses—unmistakable symbols of white supremacy and lynching. These symbols do not convey the appearance of evil—they are evil. We are to believe Christians can stand next to them and not participate in the stench of their meaning. Yet a male pastor cannot accompany me, a female pastor, to a training meeting because “appearances.” This is the incongruity causing young people to leave the church.

The same people who tell them social justice and creation concerns are not the gospel and “just preach the gospel” are very concerned about fighting for their constitutional rights. Also, they don’t appear to know the gospel very well. This is the incongruity causing young people to leave the church.

The same people who protest that talk of racism is dividing the church will tell them on social media that anyone who votes for a democrat is a baby killer and not a real Christian. We are supposed to assume this is not sowing division but righteousness. This is the incongruity causing young people to leave the church.

The same people who taught them that “Jesus loves the little children—red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight” don’t find those children precious when they’re in cages at a southern border. They shrug and consider those precious souls collateral damage in a war against the neighbor we’re supposed to love. This is the incongruity causing young people to leave the church.

The same people who counsel them to “think for yourself” succumb to outrageously unlikely claims that fit what they see as a “safe” worldview. The same pastors who tell teens to question what their teachers tell them admonish them never to question the pastors.This is the incongruity causing young people to leave the church.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

I’ve been an English teacher, a writer, and an editor. I’ve graded hundreds of papers and critiqued dozens of articles. There are two kinds of writing that an editor or a teacher find almost impossible to critique. That which is perfect as it is—and that which is hopelessly bad. 

In the first, we can find nothing bad to say. In the second, we don’t know where to start. We don’t think there’s any way to help the work improve. 

If I critique the church, it’s because I have hope. It’s because I don’t think it’s beyond fixing. I don’t think the people in it, like myself, cannot do better. I believe they, like me, are sinners in need of redemption. I edit with conviction and ferocity because I know we are better than we’ve been. I believe God is working, as Paul says in Ephesians 2.10, on a masterpiece. 

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Ephesians 2.10
Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash

The problem is, sometimes the block of clay God is trying to mold prefers to mold itself into a different sort of creature entirely. One that does not image the Creator. This is when God needs to start over, sometimes smashing that clay down, to re-form it in the way it was meant to be. 

If that’s what happens to the American church, so be it. It needs to be re-formed. I pray that we choose to work with the artist in that reformation. I pray that the next generation wants to come along for that work and join us in it. Let it be a re-creation of integrity, free from incongruity (which others read as hypocrisy). Let it be a church that transparently looks and acts like Jesus. 

We’ll get some things wrong. I have no illusions that we won’t make our own massive errors. We’re all hypocrites, every one of us, preferring to see others more clearly than we see ourselves. That’s why we need one another.

We need to do one another’s critiquing, while we’re not too far gone, and we need to hear the critique of the next generation. As the mom of three of them, I can tell you—they’re pretty smart.

The God Who Is Bent on Good

I’ve been revisiting the story of Moses bringing this people out of Egypt again. You know—burning bush, wth? Pharaoh, plagues, lambs, all that MGM stuff. 

After God gives Moses a woodshed moment at the bush, Moses makes his way back to Egypt to free his people. A little reluctant and frightened, at first he is met with excitement. Finally, a savior has come to free them! 

Then Pharaoh digs in the talons deeper and makes life even more unbearable than it already was, which was pretty stinkin’ unbearable. He forces the people to increase their work while decreasing their supplies. Thus, the next time, Moses finds a less than enthusiastic crowd.

Ex 6.6-9 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’

Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.”

Did you catch that last part? They did not listen to Moses because of their discouragement. Other versions translate it their “broken spirit and how hard they were made to work,” and “they had become too discouraged by the brutality of their slavery.”

This last line struck me when I read it this time. I could not get away from it. I don’t think I’d ever noticed it before, or at least, I’d never paid attention. They believed—but they got too discouraged, too broken, because of the cruelty with which they were treated.

Make no mistake, that was Pharaoh’s intent. He planned that. When he authorized the increase in brick making with no materials to do it, he knew the result. The people would be too worn down by one more setback to dare to dream or try. 

It’s the same story as when Moses was born.

Evil is predictable. It bets on the fact that oppression and dehumanization will discourage others to the point of quitting.

Sometimes, it wins.

Other times, it doesn’t.

Photo by Mike Castro Demaria on Unsplash

We’ve heard this story hundreds of times, and all of those times I recall, we’ve heard how the Israelites behaved horribly. They were unfaithful, reckless, foolish folks who didn’t believe and didn’t obey. I’ve never once heard this verse spoken of.

They did not listen to Moses because of their discouragement.

These are a people filled with trauma. They’ve suffered terrible degradation, dehumanization, oppression, and marginalization. For generations, they have no experience of freedom and no ability to govern or lead themselves. 

The normal human response from and to trauma is exactly what we see—fear, confusion, comfort with the devil they know, inability to see that things are going to get better after they get worse, and anger at the person responsible for that worse part. 

The gut-wrenching beauty here is that God knows this. He understands that they feel too broken to believe. So he continues to free them, bringing them out, showing them his power, and fulfilling his promises, regardless of how they feel or act.

He does this because that is who he is.

God is bent on good for his people—and he will not be stopped. He loves them through their trauma and brings them to the other side of the Red Sea, and beyond.

The story reminds me of another stretch in Scripture that’s rather notorious for its imagery. It’s a Psalm sung during the exile of Israel, much later.

By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down and wept,
When we remembered Zion.

Upon the willows in the midst of it

We hung our harps.

For there our captors demanded of us songs,

And our tormentors mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

How can we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land?

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
May my right hand forget her skill.

May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
If I do not remember you,
If I do not exalt Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.

Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom
The day of Jerusalem,
Who said, “Raze it, raze it
To its very foundation.”

O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
How blessed will be the one who repays you
With the recompense with which you have repaid us.

How blessed will be the one 

who seizes and dashes your little ones
Against the rock. (Psalm 137)

It’s one of my favorite songs in Godspell, beautiful and haunting. But the songwriter doesn’t use those last lines—the horrific ones about murdering babies. They’re not exactly lyrical.

The Babylonian exile was not a nice “pack up your things and get going” on a vacay. It was not Sound of Music. It was everything you know that modern tribal warfare is, and these people are not merely homesick. They are demoralized, exhausted, mourning loved ones, hopeless, dehumanized, humiliated. They’ve been beaten, raped, killed, and brutally taken from their homes.

This song speaks their emotion, and these are their honest, anguished words. It’s strikingly similar to how the Israelites felt in Egypt. 

It is not surprising there was intense anger. 

It is surprising that made it into the scriptures.

And I think this tells us something about God.

It tells us that he hears, sees, and knows his peoples’ pain, and he does not turn away from their expression of it. 

Yes, it’s wrong. Yes, it’s terrible imagery. 

Yes, forgiveness and refusal to take revenge is God’s way for us. 

Yes, it would have been wrong for an Israelite to actually dash a baby against a rock, and there would be no excuse.

But somewhere in here, we get the realization that God knows we grieve and hurt and fear, and He lets us do that.

That’s what going on in Egypt as well.

They’re grieving. Exhausted. Hopeless. They wanted to believe but it was just too much. In the middle of that, God sees and hears and remembers and loves. 

He guides them out when they cannot see a way out.

God hears us in our grief and does not demand a right response.

And I think that’s what going on for some people right now, as we enter 2021.

We’re OK. But we’re fortunate.

Many with mental health issues or addictions are still hopeless.

Many who are alone are still scared.

Those who have lost people are mourning.

And God sees and hears and knows. 

Sometimes we as humans want others to hurry up with their hurt, grief, etc. We want to rush forward into 2021 and erase all that was this year. Many people will try for a do over, a forgetting, an obliterating of all that pain so that we can put it in the past.

But God doesn’t do that.

He sits with us.

He waits. 

He holds us up until we can walk on our own.

He weeps with us at our discouragement and hears our hurt.

We need to be willing to sit with pain, too. Ours or that of others. To sit with people or our own souls and hear them and give them permission to hurt. It could be the first best thing we do in 2021.

God hears us in our grief and does not demand a right response.

Why? Because 

  • He knows fear—My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
  • He knows uncertainty—“Will you leave me, too?”
  • He knows loss—he’s been betrayed so many times 
  • He knows grief—“My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”
  • He knows loneliness—“My God why have you forsaken me?” 

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried.

God hears us in our grief and does not demand a right response.

God does bring the Israelites out. He relieves their despondency, discouragement, brokenness.

As he does for us.

Because the parting of the Red Sea is just ahead. 

And so is the empty tomb.

The Light Still Shines

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:5 NLT)

As I type this, I’ve just received an email telling me my dream trip, the one I’ve been planning for two years, has been canceled. As you read this, that’s where I should be.

I know as sacrifices go this year it’s not tipping the scale, but the trip was both symbolic and a lifelong dream for me, and I’m devastated.

December may host the darkest days of the year, but it seems for many that the darkness never lifted after last winter. When spring arrived, so did protracted global crisis. We’re entering the Christmas season tired, grieving, and anxious. Family togetherness probably won’t look the same. There could be members missing from the circle around our tree. It’s unlikely we here will have in-person church services for this important time of year, and that loss of community during one of the most-community oriented seasons of our lives cuts deeply.

Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

The lights might be twinkling, but not a lot of people are singing “Joy To the World” in quite the same key they’re used to.

Into all this enters the promise of a baby in a manger wailing under a star whose wattage won’t quit. Nothing about that part of the story has changed. The Light of the world still came, still lives, and if nothing could extinguish it when John penned those words some 2000 years ago, nothing can in this year of woe either.

Think about the world Jesus entered.

When the star shone on Bethlehem, the people there lived under oppressive rule. They might not have seen Roman soldiers often, but they felt their presence. They knew the grasping greed of the tax collectors and their power to destroy a family already on the economic edge. They had seen crosses on the roadside, and they knew who usually hung there. Though their ruler Herod pretended to be a Jew, they understood his true loyalties lay only with himself.

They needed light to believe the darkness that pushed them into the ground and stole their breath could be pierced.

When the star shone on Bethlehem, most of the population existed in near-poverty, including Mary and Joseph. They subsisted, with a home and enough food, but they worked constantly, and one bad year could be the difference between survival and devastation. Jesus and Joseph would have carved plows, yokes, chairs, and bowls six days a week, unaware of this thing we refer to as leisure time. 

They needed light to hope that their children’s lives could be better.

When the star shone on Bethlehem, mothers died in childbirth, children died of diarrhea and other results of poor sanitation in crowded areas, and everyone died in plagues. In cities, people lived sardined together in buildings with no modern comforts such as air conditioning or indoor plumbing. Alexander Hamilton famously sings that, where he came from (1750’s Nevis), many people lived “half as many” as twenty years. Jesus understood this, too—at 33, he had already lived close to the 35-40 average lifespan. (High infant mortality, however, skews that number.)

They needed light to see that the grave didn’t close out their life story and this difficult world was not their only chance to find peace.

This is the world into which the great I AM entered as flesh. The similarities of disease and injustice strike us clearer this year perhaps, but they don’t surprise the baby who took up residence in a musty feeding trough in a place whose capacity for sin he knew too well.

The darkness can never extinguish the Light of the world. All the pain and difficulty in Jesus’ world could not stop the blinding star from flashing its sign for all to see who wanted to see: “Come. Faith, Hope, and Love are born tonight. This Light cannot ever be overcome.” 

We can be overcome. We can be overwrought and overworked. We can lose heart, and our courage to keep on can be extinguished. Those are the days we look to that star of Bethlehem we hang a facsimile of on our tree and remember: its incredible light was only a sign. Though it shone like a Fresnel lighthouse lens beaming its way out to a dark sea, it only pointed the way to the greater Light. 

That Light shone in a wooden trough on a holy night in a cave long ago. It also shone out of an empty tomb behind a cast-off stone on a morning when all hopes had been shattered. The darkness cannot extinguish it. Death has no power over it. Neither pandemics nor racism nor ugly divisions can separate us from it. If we follow him, even when it feels like we’re walking in the deepest darkness, we can know that we are walking toward life.

Photo by Anton Darius on Unsplash

 “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life. (John 8:12 NLT

The Lord is my light and my salvation—so why should I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1 NLT)

This article first appeared in The Glorious Table.

Food that Satisfies

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. — Maya Angelou

This famous quote of Angelou’s, sometime erroneously attributed to Oprah, although she credited it properly, has surfaced anew lately. We’ve seen it more for good reason. Far too often in the last few years, people we previously trusted have shown us who they are. We’ve come to terms with that truth, even when we have desperately wanted to believe otherwise. Yet the quote has its positive side, too. If someone shows you who they are, and who they are is dazzling, believe that, too.

This Advent, we’re working through some of Jesus’ I AM statements. Several times he told the people who he was. More importantly, he showed them. It always rang true. He was/is who he said he was. 

Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life. I AM the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6.27, 35)

Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last. I don’t know about you, but so much of my life at times seems filled with working for food that doesn’t last. Not tangible food I ingest. Food of others sorts. Praise. Appreciation. Perfection. Bylines or likes on a page. Numbers of people tuned in to a church service or a live video. “Food” that nourishes our egos but what about our souls?

Photo by Helena Yankovska on Unsplash

It isn’t that these thing aren’t important. They are. I’m not going to get on a soapbox about how promoting a brand or a church or a book is somehow ungodly and a waste of our precious one life. I don’t know that this is true. We are given gifts by the Holy Spirit, and God enjoys when we use them for our fulfillment and others’ benefit. I don’t believe God looks at our promotional efforts and shakes a head at how pointless they all are. God loves when we bless others through our work, and we can’t bless others who don’t know we exist. It isn’t the actions themselves or the need for them professionally or personally that causes malnourishment of the soul.

It’s the need for them for our identity.

Using that kind of bread to feed our souls isn’t sustainable for long, because it was never meant for that purpose. It doesn’t fill the holes hungry for real love and acceptance that hang nothing on what we produce or how profound or witty we are online. 

We hunger, deep in our spirits, for food that will satisfy those gaping holes of being loved for who we are and being wanted in someone’s space, no conditions attached. So when we exchange those likes, tweets, and shares for acceptance, we’re  gorging on food that doesn’t last. That space empties so quickly, needing to be filled again every day, just like out stomachs. 

The people who crowded around Jesus the day he made this statement had a similar experience. They hung who they were and how valuable they were on the thing they could see, like the bread and circuses so popular and familiar in their Roman/Jewish world.

They wanted to measure Jesus like this too, but he defied them. After he’d fed the crowd miraculously, he left them,  but they tracked him down, wanting more.

“I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for eternal life.

They asked, “What must we do in order to accomplish what God requires?”

Jesus replied, “This is what God requires, that you believe in him whom God sent.”

They asked, “What miraculous sign will you do, that we can see and believe you? What will you do? 

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.But I told you that you have seen me and still don’t believe. 

Jesus knew they came for the show. He knew they wanted to be defined and valued by their proximity to the sparkle and glitter. He knew they would define him by what he could deliver, and they would turn on him once he did not. 

So Jesus showed them who he was.

He gave them bread. Then he offered life. 

Approaching the bread and circuses world in which we live believing we can find who we are and what we long for from it is asking for food that will not last. Yet this is where we live, so how do we find the balance between living there and gaining our value there?

Drawing near to Christ, the Jesus who was born in a feeding area and lived moving toward a cross, is our touchpoint. The Christ of loaves and fishes and water and wine is beautiful and generous and abundant, but this was not his daily life. Jesus didn’t materialize fish and fries for his disciples at every meal. His presence was the bread of life, not his miracles. 

When we gain our identity through proximity to his humble life rather than a shiny show, we can learn to manage that show as a helpful tool but not as our main source of nutrition.

The world this year seems to have grown both closer and lonelier. More people than ever long for acceptance in another’s space without conditions attached. We haven’t been in others’ space much, and when we have, we wonder if the wrong word or opinion might sever the relationship.

Interpersonal strains, writ large by how much we’ve been in the same space for so long together, have brought more of us to the point of recognizing that we need love for who we are, even when we are at our worst. 

Jesus offers to fill those hungers that nothing else can. The miracles of feeding 5000 aren’t about food. They’re about love. Abundant, magnificent, extravagant love that knows no bounds of physical reality that would count loaves and fishes and find them not enough. The miracles are about filling our hearts with the bread we need—the nearness of a savior whose love can’t be put in a box of opinion, dogma, or party.

It can, however, be put in an animal trough. It can come blazing hot on a winter’s night, lighting up our hearts and filling them with food that will endure for eternal life. 

It’s that food that grounds me when I launch into the world around me where identity and love can be bought for a large enough following. We do need daily food. It’s not a bad thing. It’s fine and good to work for. But it’s not the same thing as eternal food. We cannot confuse the two.

Choosing Gratitude

Last time I talked about the difficulty in giving thanks during years like this one. Yet I know, from experience and from God’s word, that doing it anyway matters. Giving thanks anyway:

  • Reminds us that we do have much to be thankful for, even in hard times
  • Helps us find the small things and appreciate them
  • Gives us compassion for those with less to be thankful for
  • Heightens our awareness of everything around us, to notice the little joys
  • Boosts our mental health, as gratitude always does
  • Shows us the arc of God’s care for us, even when we weren’t looking or seeing
  • Is obedience, and that comes with its own peace.

So today, I’m going to look back at my gratitude journal in 2020 and list some of the things I wrote down. I hope you can find some, too. I admit, I’ve not been great at keeping this journal this year. But the act of doing it always brings me joy and peace. I highly recommend a gratitude journal. 

It doesn’t have to be preciously cute or Pinterest worthy. Mine is a solid red notebook my husband brought back from a medical convention. It says “American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery” on the front. You can see, I’m all fancy.

It’s such a good practice for our hearts and souls. Pick up a notebook form the dollar store, and start writing. I write three things a day. You do you. Here are some great ideas and options in case you need them.

If you want some ways to get creative and make it super fun, I love the ideas of bookending and decorating, talked about here.

And if you want to hear the whole TED talk about gratitude the above article mentions, view it here.

So here’s random list of 20 things I’ve written since April.

  • Coyotes looking at me in the backyard, while I’m on a zoom meeting (Yes. It happened.)
  • I’m learning new patterns of kindness
  • I don’t worry people will kill my white children
  • Garden art
  • Hamilton (How lucky we are to be alive right now!)
  • My new home office
  • The fun quotes I made and framed in my new office, like the one below.
  • Hummingbird feeders
  • Crickets in my house (I love them. I’m not sorry.)
  • The ability to learn new things (hello, zoom church)
  • Morning fog 
  • My husband home longer in the mornings (his gym at work where he went early is COVID closed)
  • Clean mopped floors
  • Almond tea
  • Daughters who decorate my house for my virtual graduation
  • That graduation! That dissertation DONE!
  • People who put the dishes away
  • Quiet mornings on the deck
  • Early morning sunlight filtering through the trees
  • The privilege of white skin, and the responsibility
  • New followers!

That’s a short list. You can see it’s pretty varied. Some big things. Some little things. Some serious and some just plain fun. In this year of hard, find the small things that give you joy. Write them down. Go back to that as often as you need to. Feed your soul on joy.

You are loved.