As You Social Distance – Don’t Distance Socially

Don’t Distance, Socially

Friends – this entry is being written in the eighth month of the Covid-19 pandemic where we are being told to ‘social distance’. It is also during a time of political anxiety due to the upcoming elections and racial unrest that is creating divisions throughout our nation. It is being written during a time where there are hybrid models in place guiding everything from how we shop, to how our children are being taught. There are also ongoing safety concerns limiting how we socialize and even worship. While inconvenient, these precautions are intended to help us avoid the impacts of catching or spreading this insidious virus wherever possible. Unfortunately, it also creates an underlying risk of a subtle isolation as part of the new ways of engaging.

In recent months we have seen protests, protests of the protests, hurricanes, economic swings, and much more. I must admit, I am weary. I am weary from Covid-19, weary from the challenges of keeping my child engaged during these quarantine months, and weary from recent events that have pinnacled into an apprehension of allowing my family to step outside for anything. As we are being urged to ‘socially distance’ to stay safe, I have to admit, I miss the engagement and interaction of the pre-Covid19 days. I am a hugger by nature, so it feels awkward to wave or air-bump elbows. I am getting used to it, but I feel some days like a disconnected soul looking for another soul to connect to.

And this brings me to my topic today – as we social distance to stay safe, let’s be mindful not to ‘socially distance’ from each other.  

Love Neighbor and Yourself

Friends – as tensions escalate due to experiences relating to race and injustice, I am just as weary.  I am old enough to remember times in my upbringing when I have been called names by departing residents as the complexion of the neighborhood changed in the 1970s. Over the years, as my faith grew, my heart opened to a greater empathy for all because that is what the Bible says to do. I was fortunate to have a mother who, despite racial injustice in her own life, taught me to love unconditionally. She would always say “Let love prevail” and so, that is what I learned to do. While all relationships are not so genial, this has kept peace in my soul in all of my interactions over the years. To this day I am grateful for her lessons and I have gained some awesome relationships as a result.

But today, I am weary. I feel like these recent months, also during a medical pandemic, have served well to beat the emotional life out of me. Almost like running a marathon on a hot day with little water, I want to finish well but my energy is getting low. That is when I am reminded of one of my favorite passages in the Bible in Mark 12:30-31 (New International Version) –

30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

Let’s Connect

As life tries to widen the areas that connect us all, make every effort to not become distant in the core areas that bring us together. In our humanity, we need each other – and that is what God intended when He said to ‘love your neighbor’. But don’t miss a critical component of this edict and that is we must love our neighbor as ourselves. This requires self-love that expands beyond the individual being. The love of ‘self’ begins when we see how much God loves us.  We matter to Him! When the dots of this love connection all play out, we are all better in the end. That sets the stage for a peace that is directly tied to our social relationships.

So again, as you ‘social distance’, please don’t distance socially. Let us stay connected, in Jesus’ Name!

The Red Sea Didn’t Move – God Did

Move Red Sea, Move

Why am I thinking about Moses and the Red Sea?  Maybe it’s because the movie, The Ten Commandments, just made its annual Easter appearance on television.  Maybe it’s because current events are reminding me strongly of that scene where Moses and the newly freed Israelites, while being pursued by Pharaoh and his army, suddenly found themselves on a cliff overlooking a vicious body of water with nowhere to go.  You see, as this blog is being written, we are in the sixth week of self-isolation in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.  For some reason, this week feels like a Red Sea scenario, where the pandemic has no intention of showing those of us, caught up in the pandemic’s fray, favor. 

The novel Coronavirus has impacted every continent in this world.  As of today, it has claimed approximately 166K lives amid almost 2.4M reported cases worldwide.  These numbers, along with smaller, more detailed numbers for our local communities, have become an ongoing byline to every news program or headline being broadcast.  Sadly, during this week six, there appears to be no way out as we dangle on that cliff, waiting for something to make it end today.

But It’s Hard, Lord

And so, I think about Moses.  I am pretty sure he was being yelled at, questioned, and cursed (because the Bible says so) by the very people for which he had just facilitated freedom.   In these days of selfies, Moses probably would have been hit in the back of the head with sheep dung if he turned his back on this angry crowd to take a picture, or worse, pushed into the roiling waves of the Red Sea.  It is also during these times that I wonder about all the ‘wonderment’ in the Bible and why the story of the Red Sea is so endearing.  I think it’s a reminder to us that God came through during an impossible time. A time that truly was the difference between life and death.

God Knows

God could have only come through for the Israelites if He was mindful of the imminent need.  He wasn’t off toiling with something elsewhere He could have missed their cries.  God was very aware of their need and was present in the moment (read Exodus 14).  Likewise, when we cry out to Him, God is a very present help already aware of the need (Psalm 46:1).

This COVID-19 season is a tough one. Tough because all the endings are not happy ones.  Many are dying and there is no logic as to why some survive.  The Red Sea is still being the vicious body of water that it always was, and it seems God is not willing to move it so we can get on with the rest of our lives.  Inherently, I believe, that is the point.  When we look at scripture, time and time again, we see God doesn’t necessarily remove the situation; He moves in the situation.  Yes, we see lepers healed and sight restored in the Bible, but these miracles usually happen when the person is already dangling on that cliff crying out for an intervention.  The ‘red sea’ is still there, looming in the background hoping to swallow up the person’s hopes and dreams – and then we also see, God is still there. 

We are reminded that, just like Moses and the Israelites, God does not necessarily move our ‘Red Sea Situations’ out of the way. Instead, He moves in them.  God moves in ways that give us a better understanding of His love and His power.  Much like Jesus’ crucifixion on the cross, He didn’t make the cross go away. The movement came, through Jesus’ death; and that movement continues to today in lives again and again.

Give Your ‘Red Sea’ to the Lord

As this pandemic continues to make moves across this nation and this world remember, God is still moving in ‘Red Sea Situations’.  God is moving in your situation.  He is a very present help in times of trouble.  God is our refuge and, more importantly, God knows your circumstances and what you are going through.  Keep seeking God’s face and keep your faith.  Like Moses, wave your staff (e.g. through prayer) and let God move in your life.  God’s movement always has a plan (Proverbs 19:21) that can overcome any circumstance and is backed by a love that is greater than anything we could imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

#LivingTheRedeemedLife

When Life Hits Hard, Get It Together!

God Guides the Crossroads of Life
Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

Coming Apart At The Seams

There are times in life where we can hear God telling us to ‘Get it Together’!  Much like the perpetual slap on each cheek or being picked up by the scruff of the neck when we get overly anxious, God must, at times, step in to stop us in our tracks – before we head over the figurative cliff just ahead. 

The momentary detour may protect us from that path we are most familiar with that seems to lead to the same old outcome.  There can also be detours to make us reflect on a path that we are terrified to take because it is unfamiliar or unknown to us.  Whatever it is, if you are a believer, God is constantly trying to get your attention to remind you of your purpose and His plan in your life; to help you ‘get it together’. God manages everything and will help you manage the issues of life.

God Holds Everything Together

In the Bible, there is a reminder in Colossians 1:17 that says –

“He is before all things, and in him, all things hold together.

The verses preceding this verse provide a more detailed context but verse 17 is something we should keep in the forefront of our minds – the fact that Jesus is our Sovereign Lord and knows everything we are going through.  When we feel our lives are spiraling out of control, He is aware and knows how to get it back together.  How?  Because “in Him, all things hold together.”

On Safe Ground

So, when you feel the pressure to conform, give in, fight or get frustrated remember your faith.  Your faith, along with the voice of the Holy Spirit, will guide you to peace and understanding.  You never walk alone, and you never walk without a guide or directions to ‘get it together’ – if you have Jesus Christ as your Savior. There’s also peace in knowing that God works in ways that don’t make sense to others anyway. Again, God holds everything together and will help you manage the issues of life.

#LivingTheRedeemedLife

The Shadow of Trauma

The Shadow of Trauma

We all live in the shadow of trauma.  This is the residue of trauma that is related to our own or other people’s traumatic experiences.   Recently, I was browsing on Instagram and saw a quote by the recording artist Rashaan Patterson that made me think about the impact of generational experiences, specifically traumatic ones, and how they affect our lives.  The post said, “Stop mistaking shared trauma as compatibility.”   This statement stopped me for a moment.  It made me wish someone told me this advice when I was younger, especially when I was dating. 

This quote made me realize the pain of traumatic experiences such as loss, grief, disappointment, abuse and how we are impacted by ours and other peoples traumas.  Trauma is everywhere. The term ‘trauma’ itself is, at times, overlooked because we tend to associate it with only tragic and devastating events.  While this can be true, and I definitely don’t want to take away from anyone’s experience – I feel that we many times don’t address our own ‘traumas’ because they aren’t as dramatic as we envision trauma to be. 

Please note:  The following is not meant to discourage you from seeking professional help.  One of the most important lessons I learned as I began my healing journey came via a wonderful counselor (who was also Christian) that helped me gain perspective on why I did some of the things I did – repeatedly.  I learned my responses were my coping mechanism but they also, many times, made the situation worse.

Trauma By Proximity

For example, I grew up with a father who was an alcoholic.  I speak about this in my book “What Just Happened?  Living the Redeemed Life When All Hell Breaks Loose” (found at www.amazon.com). My father’s alcoholism left a mark on me that I probably didn’t recognize until I was older.  He was mean some days, loving on other days and disconnected the rest of the time.  His disconnection made me work extra hard to ‘prove’ my loyalty or love in the various relationships I had along the path to adulthood – even when they did not necessarily deserve that kind of commitment. 

It was only after my own various failed relationships and many prayers (and counseling) that I gained a deeper understanding that his drinking was related to his very tragic upbringing and this was how he coped. He experienced loss, through death and separation, at a very young age.  He grew up in abject conditions from being in a ‘coal miner family’.  My father had to become an adult when many kids were experiencing the joys of teenage exploration and he found himself on his own by eighteen years old.  That was when he joined the military.  Drinking was my fathers only escape and he continued to drink for most of the rest of his life.  I only knew the ‘trauma of his trauma’ and he probably only knew the trauma of his parent’s trauma.  It has been an ongoing cycle for this branch of the family tree.

What I have learned about this ‘trauma by association experience’ is – sometimes the impacts are passed on generationally, and sometimes we are unwilling victims due to proximity.   We adjust so easily to each other’s trauma that when we find traumas in common, we feel we’ve found our bestie, soul mate and friend.  We’ve even come up with names for how we respond to trauma, e.g. triggers, but that often sounds like a deflection because we recognize it exists, but we don’t really address it in a way to heal the pain.  That was the case for me.  I recognized I had triggers but it took a long time before I finally asked God for the wisdom to truly heal.  It was that realization that began my journey for peace within.

God’s Healing Power

What does God say about all of this? His number one goal for us is a ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’ and to not carry our traumas around like a big piece of luggage on wheels.  God does not want us to lose sight that He is the one who can ultimately lighten the impact of our traumas to the point they are just faint memories in the rear-view mirror of life.  I believe that is why Paul said in 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your cares upon the Lord because He cares for you.”

God knew we would go through stuff in life.  And some of it is so hard that it leaves the indelible stain of trauma.  Satans number one goal is to use these experiences to stop us and keep us from our purpose.

John 12:40 is a scripture that reminds us of the healing God offers.  It says-

“The Lord has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts— so that their eyes cannot see, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and have me heal them.”

Trauma has such a powerful effect that it can ‘blind us’ and ‘harden our hearts’ such that we can’t even turn outside of ourselves to get healing. Stop right now and seek God.  Cry out to Him if you need to because He is a loving Father that is always listening. God says to take His yoke, to give Him your hurts and pains, and to let Him deal with and heal the traumas of life.  God can transform your traumas into a brick in the foundation that catapults you into healing, purpose, and greatness.  Let go and let God take that burden.  Remember, Jesus came to not only give you life but life more abundantly.

Let The Healing Begin

Let the healing begin, now.  Let God know you are hurting and want to give it all to Him.  You can pray to God right now to lead you and guide you.  He can make the rest of your life the best it can be, in Jesus Name! 

A good resource to consult is New Life Ministries (www.newlife.com) which offers various resources and a network of counselors to assist you in beginning the journey.  You can also leave a prayer request with me on the Contact page and I will pray with and for you.  Don’t hesitate…healing begins today.

God in the ‘Tenderizing’ Seasons

Oops, I Did It Again

Sometimes, when I look back over my life, I realize how many times God has had to save me.  As much as I hate to admit it, many times He has had to save me from myself!  My Savior has had to save me, too many times, from doing things I know I shouldn’t be doing.  That’s when God’s Holy Hand, reaching in to intervene, reminds me of the process used to get meat to a state where it is chewable and tasty.   In the normal process of meat preparation, a good marinade should be all that is needed to make it palatable.  But sometimes, when the meat is a little tough, you need a meat tenderizer to soften it up.  God can be like a tenderizer at certain points in our lives when we need some ‘softening’. 

Now, I believe God prefers to marinate us with His Word and Spirit.  That is what I call the ‘spice route’, where He uses the salt of His Word and the fragrance of His Spirit to get our attention.   However, there are those times God needs to be that tool, you know, the one that looks much like a hammer.  That tool is a pretty harsh tool and it is used to ‘pound out’ the resistant areas of our lives to bring in the taste and tenderness.  

Time to Tenderize

There are times in life where we are like the reference in Acts 7:51 where God looks at us like a “stiff-necked people.”  That is when we resist the direction of the Holy Spirit to ‘do right’ and follow our own feelings and desires.  That begins what I call the ‘tenderization season’ in our living where God steps in and creates a level of interference to get us back on track.  It can be momentary, where the correction is only for an instant (like the marinade) or it can last longer if the actions warrant it.  The hardest response is when the tenderization comes by way of the ‘hammer’ – think Jonah, when he disobeyed God’s direction because he wasn’t ‘feeling it’ (Jonah 1:1-3). Or the Israelites so many times throughout the Bible when they refused to follow God’s way. 

Remember, when God’s refining fire comes into your life, it is much easier to BEAR if it comes via the light touch of God’s ‘marinade’ vs. the blunt force (and prickly points) of a tenderizing hammer.  God loves us enough to give us the free will to choose His Will.  He also loves us enough to use discipline to help us recognize that His course is the best course.  Tenderization is discipline. I believe this allows us to understand the ramifications of our choices and not blame Him when our decisions are not aligned with His.

Tenderization is Discipline

His Word reminds us that He is always available to save us from ourselves. The door is never closed to make a ‘hard turn’ to get out of the trouble we have created and make to choice to choose Him.  Think about the prodigal son, whose choices led him to a place where even pigs lived better than he did (Luke 15:13-16).  Once he ‘got it’ he ran back home to the loving arms of a waiting father.  That is how God is with us.  However, one thing I have learned in my own faith walk, God will not continue to give you rope after life-saving rope without some ‘tenderization’.  This is part of the loving discipline of a loving God who wants us to experience the best things in life.

So…Our humanity will sometimes create tenderizing seasons in life.

It is better to avoid the hammer by marinating in God’s Word, spending time in prayer to listen to His voice and following His directions.  If you find yourself on the wrong end of God’s discipline, don’t ignore Him (like Jonah), follow Him.  And always remember, God loves you and only wants the best for you.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

#LivingTheRedeemedLife