Inklings, Love and Faith

Joy and Sorrow Weaved Together: What Tolkien & Lewis Teach Us

While J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are well known for their brilliant fantasy worlds, many of their personal letters and other works have profound teachings on both joy and grief. These two British writers, who left literary legacies like few others, remind us that both grief and joy will weave deep in our souls throughout our lives. That is both hard and beautiful, but each making us all the more human.

In A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis wrote: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.”

It was after his wife died from cancer that Lewis wrote this short, yet profound work. His collection of thoughts and observances so close to her death reveal a depth of honesty and raw emotion. It isn’t full of theological arguments on grief or five steps to overcoming your pain. It is, just as he named it, observations while grieving.

In the introduction Lewis’ stepson Douglas H. Gresham wrote: “A Grief Observed is not an ordinary book. In a sense it is not a book at all; it is, rather, the passionate result of a brave man turning to face his agony and examine it in order that he might further understand what is required of us in living this life in which we have to expect the pain and sorrow of the loss of those whom we love.” He goes on to say it is “the power of unabashed truth.”

I believe one of the reasons this work continues to touch the hearts of millions is that Lewis gives the reader permission to grieve fully. His experience, so vulnerable and honest on the page, gives any who come across his words the freedom to not hide or shy away from pain or grief. We don’t need superficial platitudes or answers as we grieve. There’s no “perfect Christian” response to grief. Trite words, Lewis proves, will not bring us peace or healing.

Instead, by reading Lewis’ words, I am reminded that there’s no right path to healing. As Lewis wrote, “Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process. It needs not a map but a history…”

Lewis’ words remind me of those penned in Psalm 77. In it the author writes:

“I cried out to God for help;

    I cried out to God to hear me.

When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;

    at night I stretched out untiring hands,

    and I would not be comforted.

I remembered you, God, and I groaned;

    I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.

You kept my eyes from closing;

    I was too troubled to speak.

I thought about the former days,

    the years of long ago;

I remembered my songs in the night.

    My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

“Will the Lord reject forever?

    Will he never show his favor again?

Has his unfailing love vanished forever?

    Has his promise failed for all time?

Has God forgotten to be merciful?

    Has he in anger withheld his compassion?” Psalm 77:1-7 (NIV)

As I read these words, I feel the deep distress the author is in. He cried out to the Lord, begging for his help. He too, wasn’t afraid of demanding answers and through the process of crying out, questioning, and pleading, found his peace. In this valley, he remembered:

“Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:

    the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;

    yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

I will consider all your works

    and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:10-12 (NIV)

It was similar for Lewis, who through demanding answers and not shying away from his pain, found his peace, even when it meant his life would forever be different. As he shared, he continued to live his life with a limp:

“Getting over it so soon? But the words are ambiguous. To say the patient is getting over it after an operation for appendicitis is one thing; after he’s had his leg off it is quite another. After that operation either the wounded stump heals or the man dies. If it heals, the fierce, continuous pain will stop. Presently he’ll get back his strength and be able to stump about on his wooden leg. He has ‘got over it.’ But he will probably have recurrent pains in the stump all his life, and perhaps pretty bad ones; and he will always be a one-legged man. There will be hardly any moment when he forgets it. Bathing, dressing, sitting down and getting up again, even lying in bed, will all be different. His whole way of life will be changed. All sorts of pleasures and activities that he once took for granted will have to be simply written off. Duties too. At present I am learning to get about on crutches. Perhaps I shall presently be given a wooden leg. But I shall never be a biped again.”

***

In The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by his son Christopher, we learn of a term that was newly minted by Tolkien: eucatastrophe.

After listening to a sermon that shared the story of a young boy, where the parents thought they were about to lose him (due to illness), the boy suddenly made a positive turn and asked for some food. On this, Tolkein went on to say, “It is quite unlike any other sensation. And all of a sudden I realized what it was: the very thing that I have been trying to write about and explain – in that fairy-story essay that I so much wish you had read that I think I shall send it to you. For it I coined the word ‘eucatastrophe’: the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears (which I argued it is the highest function of fairy-stories to produce). And I was there led to the view that it produces its peculiar effect because it is a sudden glimpse of Truth, your whole nature chained in material cause and effect, the chain of death, feels a sudden relief as if a major limb out of joint had suddenly snapped back.” (Bold emphasis mine)

He later went on to write that “I concluded by saying that the Resurrection was the greatest ‘eucatastrophe’ possible…and produces that essential emotion: Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one, reconciled, as selfishness and altruism are lost in Love.”

“Christian joy which produces tears because it is qualitatively so like sorrow, because it comes from those places where Joy and Sorrow are at one.” I can’t help but pause, especially on this Good Friday, on this line; where joy and sorrow are one. How true this is in our lives. 

In my nearly 40 years on this planet, I continue to learn that both joy and sorrow shape me deeply and how much I, and all of us, need never to shy away from feeling both deeply. Asking the hard questions, railing at God… these are what draw us to deeper intimacy with the Lord. Nor should we miss glimpses of sudden truth, happiness, and joy. Limp on, crawl on when you need, rejoice when you experience deep happiness. Humanity and life are rarely black and white, but that doesn’t mean the end result still won’t be beautiful. I can say this with deep confidence because He is Risen Indeed.

Love and Faith, Published Works

My Piece for Ekstasis Magazine: The Tender, Deeper Story

My latest piece for Black History Month is now live! Incredibly thankful for the opportunity to write about one of my favorite artists, Henry Ossawa Tanner, and his painting The Banjo Lesson (that I’ve had hanging in my house for years) for Ekstasis Magazine (part of the Christianity Today family). I wrote about what it means to me and what it means for us. Hope you enjoy!

You can read it here.

Love and Faith

Unmet Expectations Won’t Crush Us: Lessons From a Nearly 40 Year Old

In a week, I’m turning 39 and looking back, this decade has been an adventure. A move to another state, buying my first home, learning how to survive in a state that loves snow as much as I do not (I’m from Southern California, it’s in my blood to love warmth). It’s a different feeling from when I left my twenties, but I’m also excited for the next chapter. And because party planning is always fun, I’ve already started thinking about what I want to do for my 40th next year (mainly because I’m hoping it will include some kind of travel). 

This also got me thinking of the 40th birthday parties I remember when I was a kid, and I have one really important question…why did so many 40th birthday parties have “Over the Hill” themes??? Now that I’m on the cusp of 40 myself, I can’t help but laugh! I often wonder what they expected the other side of 40 to look like.  

We all have expectations, don’t we? While where I am today is not at all where I expected myself to be, I can say that I’m thankful that is the case, taking the good with the bad. No matter our age, we all have unmet expectations. It could be personal ones we set for ourselves or expectations we didn’t realize society (including the church) put there until we don’t meet them. 

When I was younger, I fully expected myself to pursue science and become a veterinarian. I’ve loved animals and biology from a young age (and still do), so that sense made to me and I planned for that. But as I got older and entered college, I quickly realized that I did not possess the same enthusiasm for other required studies in that field, particularly any kind of math or descriptive chemistry. But that in turn released me from a career expectation and gave me the freedom to pursue other passions and I ended up majoring in Journalism. 

Having gone to a Christian university, many young women expected to leave school with a fiancé or husband (and more often than not that was due to the pressure from church culture and expectations put on Christian woman) and left without one. There were also expectations many felt after finishing college, that their five-year and ten-year plans should be laid out perfectly. 

Some unmet expectations are easier to shrug off or even laugh off. But others aren’t so easy to ignore. Maybe it’s being a career you never wanted that only started out as “just to have a job.” Maybe it’s not being as fulfilled as you thought you would be in your marriage. Maybe it’s a close friendship that ended, causing deep pain. Maybe it’s a hurtful lack of support of your gifts and talents from those you trust. 

Maybe it’s unmet expectations in dating and what your marital status is. Maybe it’s the expectation of support from family and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and instead seeing them push back the most. Maybe it’s an unexpected end of a marriage you thought would be forever. There are so many maybes and realities we each experience.

Whether each new year brings what I expected or what I didn’t, the truth and hope that has gotten me through all of it is Jesus and only Jesus. 

Seems like such a “simple” answer yet is everything. Through Christ alone I find my value. And when my worth is secure, I don’t have to let unmet expectations define me. In Psalm 139, we read:

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.” Psalm 139:13-15 (NIV)

Not only does the Lord know our inmost being, we are wonderfully made by Him. Not matter my unmet or met expectations, that truth is always there! And because my truth, my value, my everything is tied to Jesus, through all of life circumstances, I can always find hope and peace in Jesus.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

I have experienced the beautiful unexpected and learned it doesn’t complete me. I have also experienced the heartbreaking unexpected and learned that it also won’t crush me completely. 

May you also find peace in this truth today.

Book Wisdom, Love and Faith

The Bold and Brave Rebuke of the Slaveholder’s Christianity – What We Can Still Learn from Frederick Douglass

I recently finished a re-read of THE NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS: AN AMERICAN SLAVE for The Musings of Jamie Book Club (you can join here on FB or sign up here for updates via my newsletter) and because it had been so long since I’ve read it, for much it was like reading it for the first time. One quote I’ve always remembered is one you’ll also see below:

“What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.”

A powerful quote indeed, but I had forgotten the rest of the Appendix, which is a fearless and fiery rebuke, that makes me want to stand up and applaud. Douglass wrote this nearly 20 years before the Civil War would start. His words, his direct call out of the hypocrisy of “Christian” slave owners must have inspired so many to continue the fight. As it is public domain, I am sharing the rest of it here. May we all live with such boldness.

From THE NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS: AN AMERICAN SLAVE:

I FIND, since reading over the foregoing Narrative, that I have, in several instances, spoken in such a tone and manner, respecting religion, as may possibly lead those unacquainted with my religious views to suppose me an opponent of all religion. To remove the liability of such misapprehension, I deem it proper to append the following brief explanation.

What I have said respecting and against religion, I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper; for, between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference — so wide, that to receive the one as good, pure, and holy, is of necessity to reject the other as bad, corrupt, and wicked. To be the friend of the one, is of necessity to be the enemy of the other. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ: I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land. Indeed, I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one, for calling the religion of this land Christianity.

I look upon it as the climax of all misnomers, the boldest of all frauds, and the grossest of all libels. Never was there a clearer case of “stealing the livery of the court of heaven to serve the devil in.” I am filled with unutterable loathing when I contemplate the religious pomp and show, together with the horrible inconsistencies, which every where surround me. We have men-stealers for ministers, women-whippers for missionaries, and cradle-plunderers for church members. The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday, and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus.

The man who robs me of my earnings at the end of each week meets me as a class-leader on Sunday morning, to show me the way of life, and the path of salvation. He who sells my sister, for purposes of prostitution, stands forth as the pious advocate of purity. He who proclaims it a religious duty to read the Bible denies me the right of learning to read the name of the God who made me.

He who is the religious advocate of marriage robs whole millions of its sacred influence, and leaves them to the ravages of wholesale pollution. The warm defender of the sacredness of the family relation is the same that scatters whole families, — sundering husbands and wives, parents and children, sisters and brothers, — leaving the hut vacant, and the hearth desolate. We see the thief preaching against theft, and the adulterer against adultery.

We have men sold to build churches, women sold to support the gospel, and babes sold to purchase Bibles for the poor heathen! all for the glory of God and the good of souls! The slave auctioneer’s bell and the churchgoing bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heartbroken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master. Revivals of religion and revivals in the slave-trade go hand in hand together.

The slave prison and the church stand near each other. The clanking of fetters and the rattling of chains in the prison, and the pious psalm and solemn prayer in the church, may be heard at the same time. The dealers in the bodies and souls of men erect their stand in the presence of the pulpit, and they mutually help each other. The dealer gives his blood-stained gold to support the pulpit, and the pulpit, in return, covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity. Here we have religion and robbery the allies of each other — devils dressed in angels’ robes, and hell presenting the semblance of paradise.

“Just God! and these are they,
Who minister at thine altar, God of right!
Men who their hands, with prayer and blessing, lay
On Israel’s ark of light. “What! preach, and kidnap men?
Give thanks, and rob thy own afflicted poor?
Talk of thy glorious liberty, and then
Bolt hard the captive’s door? “What! servants of thy own
Merciful Son, who came to seek and save
The homeless and the outcast, fettering down
The tasked and plundered slave! “Pilate and Herod friends!
Chief priests and rulers, as of old, combine!
Just God and holy! is that church which lends
Strength to the spoiler thine?”

The Christianity of America is a Christianity, of whose votaries it may be as truly said, as it was of the ancient scribes and Pharisees, “They bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. All their works they do for to be seen of men. — They love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, . . . . . and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. — But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

Ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. — Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Ye blind guides! which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but within, they are full of extortion and excess. — Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”

Dark and terrible as is this picture, I hold it to be strictly true of the overwhelming mass of professed Christians in America. They strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Could any thing be more true of our churches? They would be shocked at the proposition of fellowshipping a sheep-stealer; and at the same time they hug to their communion a man-stealer, and brand me with being an infidel, if I find fault with them for it. They attend with Pharisaical strictness to the outward forms of religion, and at the same time neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith. They are always ready to sacrifice, but seldom to show mercy. They are they who are represented as professing to love God whom they have not seen, whilst they hate their brother whom they have seen. They love the heathen on the other side of the globe. They can pray for him, pay money to have the Bible put into his hand, and missionaries to instruct him; while they despise and totally neglect the heathen at their own doors.

Such is, very briefly, my view of the religion of this land; and to avoid any misunderstanding, growing out of the use of general terms, I mean, by the religion of this land, that which is revealed in the words, deeds, and actions, of those bodies, north and south, calling themselves Christian churches, and yet in union with slaveholders. It is against religion, as presented by these bodies, that I have felt it my duty to testify.

I conclude these remarks by copying the following portrait of the religion of the south, (which is, by communion and fellowship, the religion of the north,) which I soberly affirm is “true to the life,” and without caricature or the slightest exaggeration. It is said to have been drawn, several years before the present anti-slavery agitation began, by a northern Methodist preacher, who, while residing at the south, had an opportunity to see slaveholding morals, manners, and piety, with his own eyes. “Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord. Shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this?”

A PARODY.
“Come, saints and sinners, hear me tell
How pious priests whip Jack and Nell,
And women buy and children sell,
And preach all sinners down to hell,
And sing of heavenly union.

“They’ll bleat and baa, dona like goats,
Gorge down black sheep, and strain at motes,
Array their backs in fine black coats,
Then seize their negroes by their throats,
And choke, for heavenly union.

“They’ll church you if you sip a dram,
And damn you if you steal a lamb;
Yet rob old Tony, Doll, and Sam,
Of human rights, and bread and ham;
Kidnapper’s heavenly union.

“They’ll loudly talk of Christ’s reward,
And bind his image with a cord,
And scold, and swing the lash abhorred,
And sell their brother in the Lord
To handcuffed heavenly union.

“They’ll read and sing a sacred song,
And make a prayer both loud and long,
And teach the right and do the wrong,
Hailing the brother, sister throng,
With words of heavenly union.

“We wonder how such saints can sing,
Or praise the Lord upon the wing,
Who roar, and scold, and whip, and sting,
And to their slaves and mammon cling,
In guilty conscience union.

“They’ll raise tobacco, corn, and rye,
And drive, and thieve, and cheat, and lie,
And lay up treasures in the sky,
By making switch and cowskin fly,
In hope of heavenly union.

“They’ll crack old Tony on the skull,
And preach and roar like Bashan bull,
Or braying ass, of mischief full,
Then seize old Jacob by the wool,
And pull for heavenly union.

“A roaring, ranting, sleek man-thief,
Who lived on mutton, veal, and beef,
Yet never would afford relief
To needy, sable sons of grief,
Was big with heavenly union.

“ ‘Love not the world,’ the preacher said,
And winked his eye, and shook his head;
He seized on Tom, and Dick, and Ned,
Cut short their meat, and clothes, and bread,
Yet still loved heavenly union.

“Another preacher whining spoke
Of One whose heart for sinners broke:
He tied old Nanny to an oak,
And drew the blood at every stroke,
And prayed for heavenly union.

“Two others oped their iron jaws,
And waved their children-stealing paws;
There sat their children in gewgaws;
By stinting negroes’ backs and maws,
They kept up heavenly union.

“All good from Jack another takes,
And entertains their flirts and rakes,
Who dress as sleek as glossy snakes,
And cram their mouths with sweetened cakes;
And this goes down for union.”

Sincerely and earnestly hoping that this little book may do something toward throwing light on the American slave system, and hastening the glad day of deliverance to the millions of my brethren in bonds — faithfully relying upon the power of truth, love, and justice, for success in my humble efforts — and solemnly pledging myself anew to the sacred cause, —

I subscribe myself, FREDERICK DOUGLASS.
LYNN, Mass., April 28, 1845.

From: Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Dover Publications. Kindle Edition.

If you haven’t yet, please take some time to read the full Narrative. It’s available online and at any book store!

Love and Faith

It’s Been 30 Years

I often wonder what the dreams of my Grandma were. When you’re young and lose someone close, understanding all that was lost comes later. Often years later. My Grandma died on December 31, 1990 when I was only 8 years old, so while I do have some concrete memories, most of my memories of her are hazy- almost dreamlike – of a quiet and sweet woman who loved all of her grandchildren.

That’s me in the top right.

I remember her smile, and the way she would often use my Grandpa’s nickname and say with a smile “Oh Red,” when my Grandpa was doing something only my Grandpa would do.

I may not have had the words in my young vocabulary when I running around causing chaos with my other young cousins, but with age comes wisdom and and looking back, I can see the ways sickness affected her body (she had open heart surgery before I was born and again when I was little), sickness that would eventually take her in the early hours of a cold California day, the last day of the year.

Did she see her dreams fulfilled? In those final months did she know her time was short and wonder what would become of her grandchildren? I have a feeling she did. I wonder too, if she knew that 8th grandchild and second granddaughter (myself) would be one of the feisty introverts and have much of the same passionate spirit as my Mama, my Grandma’s second born?

That’s my Mom my Grandma is holding in the left photo and others include my Grandpa, great Aunts and Uncles, and my Great-Grandma.

Did I get my love of Spanish music from her too? Was it both her and my Grandpa who left a legacy of music that included voices like Luis Miguel, Perry Como, Keely Smith, Eydie Gormé y Trio Los Panchos?

If she were around today, I’m sure we would chat often about these things, along with talking about our faith and how that has shaped our lives. I wonder, would we talk about favorite foods and if my albondigas tasted anything like hers? I know there would still be lots of hugs.

It’s amazing how love will always stick to a heart, to a soul, even if experienced for such a short time.

As I’ve been in California for awhile, I was hoping to explore some of her spots around L.A. with my Mom, but with all that’s going on, unfortunately I haven’t been able to. But even while the explorations are on hold, being home has included many chats, memories, and stories from both my Mom and Dad about all of my Grandparents. Many, I quickly learned, I didn’t know (or quite possibly I forgot). And even stories they heard from their parents about their Grandparents (many who sadly died young).

Seeing old photos of my Grandma with her sisters (my great Aunts), I again can’t help but wonder, what did they imagine for their future generations? Sisters doing life together, much like my sister and I.

Hortensia. That was her name, but many stories from my Mom over these past several weeks, tell me she never went by her full name. It was always Grandma from my cousins, siblings, and I, “Mimi” for others, and even other nicknames for her siblings and parents. My cousin who was born not too long after her passing is her namesake.

Even if I never called her that, I love her name. The history it encompasses, the stories it’s always ready to share.

I wish I remembered more and had more time with her, but I am thankful for the faded memories I do have and I see her legacy in my Mom, my Aunts and in my cousins. In the importance of family and the importance of love that comes with it.

I hope that if you are blessed to still have your Grandparents in your life, and, come to think of it, your parents, take time today to send them a hello and “I Love You.” The days are long, but the years are far too short.

Love and Faith

Look What Was Hiding Out in Deuteronomy

After my Easter devotional readings this year, I started one of the many plans that get you through the Bible in a year. Through mid-August to mid-September, I made my way through Deuteronomy. Mixed throughout the plan were some Psalms, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who isn’t super thrilled about reading through this gem of a book (much like Leviticus and Numbers).

When I noticed that I only had two days left of reading in Deuteronomy I was excited and even prayed “Lord, just help me make it through these last few chapters without completely losing focus.”

Sure enough my reading turned out more than what I expected. As I read Deuteronomy 29:5-6 (which was Moses’ Third Address), Moses is calling the Israelites to commit to the Lord and shared with them these words of the Lord: “During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, not did the sandals on your feet…I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.”

I’ve been a Christian for over two decades and this is the first time I ever thought about their clothes as they wandered through the desert. Am I the only one? But what I love about this passage is that it shows something so profound:

The Lord took care of every single detail. They never had to worry about any of their needs.

What a reminder! God takes care of my daily needs. How prone am I to forget. How easily I don’t notice or take for granted the ways God takes care of my daily needs.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

I was also reminded that God’s Word is living. It’s true. It draws us closer to Him, whatever book of the Bible we are reading.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

Even though reading the Old Testament can be such a struggle in understanding, frustration, and wrestling (and honestly, not just completely skimming over some of the books), God can handle that. He will still always be there to help understand and bring peace.

And in that there’s hope.

Love and Faith, Published Works

My Article for Christ + Pop Culture Magazine is Live!

I had the chance to write about immigration, Jesus, and Jane the Virgin for Christ and Pop Culture magazine. Would love for you to check it out!

“We’ve forgotten (or refuse to see) that we are better because of our diversity, because we are a nation of immigrants, and because our collective experiences make us stronger…”

Read the full article here.

Changing the World, Love and Faith

I’m Tired

Artist Link: http://www.instagram.com/shirien.creates/

May has sucked. Yes, the pandemic, but that’s not really why. It’s because racial injustice in America is having some kind of day.

Ahmaud Arbery.
Breonna Taylor.
George Floyd.

How was this all in one month? All these stories out for the world to know about in four short weeks?

Not only is it horrific, exhausting, maddening, sad, and awful, but the silence of so many, especially fellow believers, is deafening.

DEAFENING.

Not one lament.
Not one tweet.
Not even a thought or a prayer.

(Yes, I know there are people who care, who aren’t or don’t post on social media. Of course I know that.)

Yet, when the pushback came, many of these same silent people had plenty to say about the riots that broke out. No one wants riots, but what does this tell me? They care more about inanimate things than human life.

I have plenty of more thoughts on this, but I’ll stick with someone y’all may have heard of:

(Please read more about the speech here. It was given in front of a predominately white audience. You can find the full speech here)

 

Please stop asking for “more context.” Please stop the whataboutisms or black on black crime. Please stop making excuses. Please stop saying “well, I have a Black friend.” Please stop. Just stop.

Weep and mourn with your fellow brothers and sisters. Then be moved to action.

Until the hard work of looking inside and looking at the history of America and race is done, people cannot fully understand all the dynamics of the protests or the “isolated” incidents that actually happen all the time, and change will never happen. It’s not a partisan issue.

Yes, pray. Pray, pray, pray, pray. Pray God changes hearts and that people’s eyes would open. But also do the work. Hard issues will never change without people doing the hard work. MLK Jr. (who was hated when he was alive by many in the church) and so many others absolutely prayed, but they also did work.

Read books.
Watch movies.
Follow voices of people who don’t look like you.

But please stop making excuses or ignoring the truth. Humans who are made in God’s image are dying because of racism.

That alone should be reason enough to stop, listen, and learn.

 

If you are wondering where to start, here’s a list of books and movies.

Book Wisdom, Love and Faith

Living Life Without the Worry

Last year I read The Heart Between Us: Two Sisters, One Heart Transplant, and a Bucket List by Lindsay Harrel for one of my book clubs. It’s the story of a woman, who after having a heart transplant, hasn’t quite lived up to her potential. After meeting her donor’s family, she decides to set off on an adventure, finishing her donor’s bucket list. Most of the list includes travel and unexpectedly, her sister joins her on her trip.

I liked the focus on the two sisters and their relationship (and the work they have to do on their relationship), but while it may not have been the main focus of the book, there was another unexpected reminder that came from the book: how much worry can take away from living.

I had some short and random notes from reading this book in a draft, long before a pandemic took over the world and 2020 decided to act the fool. Only recently did I stumble upon them. But, how not so surprisingly, it turned out reading about worry is something I needed. Here’s the quote that stuck out from the book:

“When I worry, I am telling God I don’t trust him. I fret about things I can’t control. I used to think worry was just part of my emotional DNA, something I couldn’t change. But the Bible tells us not to worry. It’s an actual command. Your father reminded me of that. Gently, of course.” A soft laugh. “If we’re told not to worry, then there’s got to be a way to make it happen.”

How easy is it to blame our worry on it being “just who we are?” How quickly are we prone to excusing behavior instead of the hard work of changing it?

In John 14:1, Jesus speaks these words to His disciples, but they have just as much meaning to us as well: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” What is it you find yourself worrying about? What do you try to control most?

When friends from high school started planning our 20th high school reunion (it was going to be this August, but has since been postponed until next year), they created a Facebook group. There’s been plenty of chatter and it’s been fun to think about high school days and see what folks are up to. What has been incredibly sad though, is talking about all of the people we’ve lost since high school. I don’t know if there’s an average number for a school my size, but we’ve lost quite a few. Just recently someone shared about a friend who passed away the previous year. I had absolutely no idea and it was a punch to the gut. He was someone I was looking forward to catching up with.

And once again that age old reminder hit: we aren’t promised tomorrow.

So what do I have to gain by worrying? Trust me, I know it’s hard. I know parents worry about their kids until, well, their whole lives, but is it normal parent concern or unhealthy all consuming worry? If you’re single and dating (or not dating), does finding someone consume what your thoughts, what you talk about with friends? Are you dating someone just for the sake of dating, even with the red flags flying? Are you always thinking about work?

I know there are so many more examples of worry to choose from. But one I know we are all experiencing is with COVID-19 dominating the world. Do you find yourself online reading news every spare second? Hoping somewhere or someone online will make sense of all the mess?

It’s hard. I know. We worry about things we care about. There are many times when the Lord gently reminds me of when my worry starts becoming more than my faith. But hang on to the truth Jesus has left us in His Word.

“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:22-31 (ESV)

When I’m in a rut, I try to ask myself these questions: Is my worry stopping me from God’s call on my life? Is worry causing unnecessary tension in my relationships? Am I spending more time worrying about the situation than in prayer and reading the Bible? I encourage you today, to give whatever worries you might have (whether big or small) to the Lord. That’s the best place it can be.

And know I’m there right along with you.

Love and Faith, Travel Adventures

His Majesty Is Everywhere

“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.”

1 Chronicles 29:11 (NIV)

You know what I love? That there are so many places on earth where you can’t help but see God’s majesty. I’ve been thinking of past adventures (while plotting future adventures) and thought of my time in Africa. Several years ago I had the opportunity to spend time in Zambia and Botswana. After spending nearly two weeks with some amazing Zambians, I also got to spend time in Botswana on a safari.

God’s majesty was everywhere as we ventured on land and water. By no means a surprising statement, but we need those reminders often don’t we? I’d seen animals before in a zoo, but to watch a herd of zebras and giraffes roam freely in the wild revealed another level in His creativity. Whether it was making way for elephants to cross, slowly passing by hippos, watching crocodiles float lazily after a meal, or encountering beautiful sunsets, to this day I hold on to the profound ways it changed me.

I long to return. While that may or may not happen, I’m reminded I can encounter His splendor wherever I am. Whether that’s watching a Netflix documentary (some of the documentary footage is incredible) or stepping outside to watch a sunset from my porch, His splendor is everywhere and how blessed we are when we encounter it.

I encourage you today, wherever you are, to take time to see His majesty.

“Praise the Lord, my soul.
Lord my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.”

Psalm 104:1 (NIV)