Hopefully Devoted: Nevertheless Living

(Yes, it’s almost lunch. I’m sorry. All morning, though I knew it was Friday and showed up for a Friday appointment, I was convinced today was Saturday. So, while it is still Friday, here’s today’s post.)

This is the image most closely associated with Jesus prayer in the Garden of Gethsemene. Serenely praying for God’s will to be done. Asking for this bitter cup to pass him by. He acquiesces, and declares that if it cannot, he would follow God’s plan.

So when it comes to praying about God’s will we have this kind of image. It’s tranquil, full of obeience and peace.

And yet these are the words Dr. Luke uses to describe the scene:

Jesus left and made his way to the Mount of Olives, as was his custom, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived, he said to them, “Pray that you won’t give in to temptation.”  He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, “Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.” Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him.  He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.  When he got up from praying, he went to the disciples. He found them asleep, overcome by grief. He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation (Luke 22:39-46, CEB).”

Or Matthew’s account:

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He said to the disciples, “Stay here while I go and pray over there.”  When he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, he began to feel sad and anxious. Then he said to them, “I’m very sad. It’s as if I’m dying. Stay here and keep alert with me.” Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”

He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you stay alert one hour with me? Stay alert and pray so that you won’t give in to temptation. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.” A second time he went away and prayed, “My Father, if it’s not possible that this cup be taken away unless I drink it, then let it be what you want.”

Again he came and found them sleeping. Their eyes were heavy with sleep. But he left them and again went and prayed the same words for the third time.  Then he came to his disciples and said to them, “Will you sleep and rest all night? Look, the time has come for the Human One to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up. Let’s go. Look, here comes my betrayer (Matthew 26:36-46, CEB).”

Neither of those pictures above seem to adequately portray the intensity of Jesus as he worked his way to surrender. I read of anguish, struggle, drops of blood.

There would be those who say nothing we could surrender would equal what Jesus gave up in this prayer. And while I agree that very few of us will be called to die an overwhelmingly painful and shame-filled death on a cross. Here’s what Jesus said:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23, NIV).

Sit with that for a while. Denying self is surrender, is nevertheless–it’s not my will by yours be done. It is as Jesus taught his followers: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

And there’s that part about taking up their cross DAILY and following the way that Jesus walked.

That may not be a struggle for everyone, but it might be.

What will it be for you?

Monday Mindset: Do It Anyway

Do you ever wonder why you commit to something? Maybe regret it? I confess I have, and sometimes do. Like: what was I thinking when I decided it would be a good thing to get up on Monday morning and write a blog post? But here we are.

I was surprised to learn from Snooze news, “people are most likely to hit “snooze” on Wednesday (40%), while only 28 percent are likely to do so on Monday (studyfinds.org, 4/29/22).” I thought for sure Monday would be the number one day statistically. After a weekend off, the temptation to keep hitting the snooze would be highest as we face the dreaded return to work.

Enter today’s mindset: Do It Anyway. Most of us push through, because we have to. Even when we don’t want to get up. Even when we don’t want to pay the fine. Even when we hurt all over. Even if it really doesn’t matter. Even if no one will notice. Even if they don’t deserve it.

Each week, every day, we are called upon to do something we don’t want to. Something that is either expected or necessary. And just because it’s the right thing, that won’t guarantee we will enjoy, appreciate it, or even be appreciated. Do it anyway.

I have carried around a small picture from my “Home Interiors” party days (circa 1987). When people are hard to love, don’t deserve it, or won’t even know, do it anyway.

I found this quote on my Twitter feed. It seemed to fit our mindset (and a recent one also):“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” – Maya Angelou

Finally, if we are to truly have a “do it anyway” mindset, we need this reminder, too: The Paradoxical Commandments. By Dr. Kent M. Keit

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.

Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Monday Mindset: Discipline

Discipline. Tough word for a Monday morning when we feel like we’re doing our best to crawl out of bed and make it to the bathroom, unsure of how we’ll ever make it to work–let alone through the rest of the day…or week ahead.

When I went looking for pics for today’s mindset word, the two above were among the most popular. The Olympic theme, or athletics in general were the strongest contender by sheer number. I was hoping to see more educational, piano playing, band practicing–anything that requires intentional striving for excellence.

What was totally missing included silence, study, prayer, service, meditation. You know, spiritual disciplines. Does the world even see them as disciplines?

Here’s what I know about discipline:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11).

Rather, be hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined (Titus 1:8).

Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good (Deuteronomy 8:5).

As a child I shunned discipline. I didn’t try because I didn’t want to fail. But all that did was make me feel like a failure since all my friends were good at stuff because they learned the importance of hard work and achievement.

Getting older helped. I began to see some things I was good at and I’ve applied myself and created my niches. I realized I didn’t have to be good at everything and instead worked hard in certain areas.

One thing I have worked especially hard at is exercise–a discipline of my body. I have completed a time of daily exercise 976 days in a row. That seems to impress some folks and others merely dismiss it as excessive or as misdirected energy. For me, it’s neither. Exercising every day is a discipline which I find comforting and encouraging. I tend to make light when people ask why I keep going. I tell them I don’t want to start over. But even if I had to, I would.

Here’s the thing: discipline is a choice. I may not be able to control the outcome or result, I can make the choice to do it. And I’m better for it. Getting on the bike, or walking, or rowing isn’t always fun. Sometimes I’m soar or tired or busy. But I have tasted of the fruit of peace and strength. I’m not going to quit.

What disciplines to you nurture in your life? What do you gain from them?

Bubbles…just because

I love bubble gum. I love blowing bubbles. Gum bubbles…soap bubbles. Doesn’t matter.

Bubbles are whimsy…light-heartedness…laughter…child-likeness.

That’s what I wish for you today. I doubt your day will be filled that way. But watch for the “bubble moments.”

Then I dare you…nah, I triple dog dare you: catch one on your nose!

Monday Mindset: Kindness

Good morning! Good day. Good evening. It’s the start of another week. And I have a word and a thought for you. (And me, because I need it, too!)

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I ask: Do you have any Karens in your life?

How many immediately thought of the caricatures so prevalent in our media of out of control, obnoxious, vile, often racial, overly entitled women screaming at some innocent worker or person they feel has wronged them or that is in the wrong place? It breaks my heart that the name I associate with some of the kindest, gentlest people would be portrayed in such a derogatory manner. Let’s create a new name so no one else uses when it comes time to name their baby. Because I can’t think of a new name, and won’t take my friends’ name in vain, I’m going to use Cruella–forgive me if that’s your Aunty’s name.

As we launch into this week, there will be many Cruellas who will cross our paths. What do we do with them? How would treat them? But even more than the ravings of the entitled, there will be wounded folks. People who are grieving, hurting, lost, and alone. How will we treat them?

It’s easy to be all up in our heads. Maybe having our own issues–too many issues to care about anyone else. How do we want to be treated? I’m imagining that we all can do with a little more kindness. And if that’s what we are needing, maybe even craving, imagine how much others need and crave it, too.

Your mission for today (hear the music in the background?) is to see Jesus in every (yep, I mean all of them–even Cruella) person you encounter. Because that’s Jesus’ lesson from Matthew 25 (check it out if you don’t believe me). And when you see Jesus (because he’s there), plant a seed of kindness. It’s might take an extra minute–isn’t Jesus worth that much?

And keep these words in your heart and mind, because you will never regret being kind:

If you need a theme song for today, try this one: https://youtu.be/vfLOG8qkuqY

Books, Books, and More Books

Yesterday was the younger daughter’s birthday. We had a delightful outing. First we hit Starbucks for yummy treats. My driving may have caused her to lose a bit of hers, but we overcame.

Then we headed to Cleveland to a Books A Million (aka BAM). The plan hub and I devised was to pay for all her books as a birthday gift. She had quite a haul, and tried to argue with the plan. The guy at the register who checked us out made things work. At one point an older woman heard the interchange and tapped me on the shoulder, “If you need someone to buy books for we’ll be right over here.” Then she looked at the daughter and with a huge grin and matronly authority said, “Let her buy the books.” Everyone within earshot was rolling with laughter.

Lunch came next. Her choice. We went to BIBIBOP. New to me, but it definitely won’t be my last trip! Delish!

Today we planned to go to the local library book sale. Before COVID, the library had three sales a year. Neither of us had been to a sale since some time in 2019. She found several books to add to her collection, and I came away with the twenty you see above. Together we spent $8.00 on books and then we renewed our Friends of the Library membership.

Now I need to start reading.


Are you an observer or a participant?  I know, it depends on what’s going on.  My extroverted personality tends to get me involved.  My lack of boundaries causes me to say yes to things I don’t always “want” to do.  And because I’m somewhat ADD, well, I just don’t sit well.  I like to be where things are happening.  Unless the “happening” is in the kitchen or on a sports field of play.  I do know my limitations.

Ah, limitations in participation.  They are pretty much self-imposed, wouldn’t you agree?  We have our list of “can’ts”  that we are quick to recite when with really can’t or don’t want to do something.  When I was a kid and my grandmother wanted to teach me to knit and crochet, I was quick to use the excuse that I was left handed and therefore couldn’t learn.  I’m not exactly sure where I got that, unless it was from my first grade teacher, who I absolutely exasperated, as she struggled to teach me how to write my letters.  Perhaps she determined and announced that I was unteachable because I was left handed.  Anyway, it was an excuse that served me well on summer days when I was clearly more interested in playing outdoors than learning to knit one and purl two.

All this thinking about participation, reminded me of one of my favorite passages in scripture.  It was penned by Peter: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3-4, NIV)

I found this passage early on in my faith journey, thanks to a small book by Bob Benson entitled, “Come Share the Being.”  You can borrow my copy, but I want it back.  In it he invites us  to really contemplate how we have not only been invited, but we are equipped to share in the divine nature of God.  You and me, with all our stuff—good and bad—have been given the great and precious promises so that we can participate in the divine nature of God.  Does that give you chill bumps, or knock you upside the head, or break your heart?  Think about it! 

Now, given that we’ve been given ev-er-ee-thing (hear that word broken down and pronounced in a slow exaggerated manner) that we need, how (how, how, how) can we continue to throw up excuses and can’ts when God asks us to do something?  It is time to stop letting a few do the work while we observe.  

It is time to participate.  

If you’re ready to plunge right in, by all means go ahead!  The water’s great!  But if not, if you’re feeling a little more timid, if you need a little more confirmation (if your cousin’s name is Gideon), than stick your toe in and watch what God will do.  Remember when the Hebrew children were willing to put their toes in the Red Sea or the Jordan River, the waters parted. 

You have been given everything, God’s most precious promises, to be able to participate in the divine nature.  And yes, that does mean you—no matter what your first grade teacher, or mom, or boyfriend, or boss have said!  

I don’t what time the clock says as you are reading this, but I know it’s time to stop observing and start participating.  What are you waiting for?  You have everything you need.

Where am I…why?

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV)

This morning I attended a Zoom training provided by my district for ministers/pastors. The District Executive opened by reading the scripture noted above. She preface the reading by saying she had heard several people expressing their concern over knowing what God’s will was/is for their lives. “God’s will is plainly stated in scripture.” And then she read the all too familiar verse.

There are other scriptures that make God’s will and expectations clearly and plainly known. We’re the ones who get all Gideon (see Judges 6:36-40) and keep asking God to make is unmistakably clear before we will act—only delaying the obvious out of fear or selfishness.

One example from the Old Testament, Micah 6:8 begins with the prophet asking the question he already knows the answer to: What does God require of you but to do the right thing (act justly), be kind (love mercy), and walk humbly with your God (author’s interpretation).

At one point in Jesus’ earthly ministry, he was asked a young man what one thing needed to be done to inherit eternal life. He did well on the keeping the standards of the day (teachings of the Law and prophets), so Jesus challenged him, nudged him toward greater growth: go and sell everything you have and give the money to those with need. This was too much for him, and he went away sad. Jesus seemed to be telling him that he can’t claim an eternal reward when the temporal needs of those here are so massively obvious, and we can do something about it. There will be no riches taken into heaven, so invest them here in those with need.

But I digress…

When Kris read the scripture Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, I began to weep. I have been here caring for my mom for nearly two years. Two years away from my husband and family. Two years away from the job that is my calling. Two years separated from friends. Two years feeling like I’m wandering in the desert and looking for the Promised Land.

Honestly, I find myself resentful and angry, depressed and discouraged. I cannot count the times I have cried out to God, “Why am I here? Why now? How long? When will I get on with life?” I know that I am needed here. But why do I need to be here?

I have taught on numerous occasions from the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes that God wastes nothing. So my head knows and believes that even this time when I am not where I want to be, doing what I want to do, will not be wasted by God.

Only I can choose to waste this time.

Can I just tell you that awareness sucks? I haven’t been living joyfully, prayerfully, or thankfully. Maybe on the surface…but not deep within. Not where it counts.

So…I have a couple of choices. Now that I know what God’s will, intention for my life, is: I can go away sad and unchanged because it’s too much to ask; or I can determine to live more fully and actively into God’s expectation and will for me and trust that the opportunities to live out my calling will present themselves—perhaps in ways I never imagined or even knew could be for me.

I think I’ll choose the latter. Because I’ve walked the route of the former and it is an unfulfilling, lonely, and futile path…and I was made for more than that.

And so were you.

Let’s get our rejoicing on, our prayerlife going, and our gratitude overflowing. Perfect season to be thinking, moving and growing this way.

Finding Joy?

One of the saddest sights: the red truck, driven by my husband, heading back to Ohio.

Nelson and I had a wonderful visit. We worked on projects together. We cleaned out the shed (again). We cooked together. We laughed. We “attended” church together (online).

But today, he left for Ohio. He’s still needed there. And I’m needed here. It’s hard—I know, I’ve said that before. But doing the right thing isn’t always the easy thing.

When I left to go walk dogs at the shelter, he left for Ohio. I cried. He cried. We waved and blew kisses until we could no longer see each other.

After I was done at the shelter, I came out on the porch to work on my fall class syllabus and write a bit. Being out here made me happy because one of the projects Nelson completed was putting up the two fans (with lights). I can work out here because with the fan on the humidity is no bother! I love it.

Before I started this reflection, I read a post by a young writer who has a medical condition that makes life difficult when it flares. And she’s in a flare, but in spite of the pain and the medical questions, she was finding joy in simple things—like wearing a new t-shirt with the cutest donkey on it. And she asked the question, “Where do you find joy?”

My initial thought was that there was no joy in this day. But after a moment of quiet, I realized that’s not true at all. I just had a wonderful visit with my husband and the plan is for him to be back in December—for Christmas! I can sit outside, no matter the weather, because of these wonderful lighted fans. I was able to walk two dogs this morning, and get a bunch of doggie kisses from two dogs as well. I had a really nice talk with one of the other workers. And another checked on me since she remembered this morning might be difficult for me.

I need to be reminded sometimes that joy is not dependent upon my circumstances or even the situations I find myself in. For even in the darkest of times, if I will look or pay attention, be present in the moment, I can find reason for joy, and for peace.

On a morning like this, will I only see the red truck driving away, or will I look for the joys, the blessings that are here with me? And while December may seem a long way off, there will be multiple daily Facetime calls to keep us connected. Calls where questions can be asked, jokes can be told, and problems can be solved. And those connections hold their own special kind of joy.

I may not be able to “count it ALL joy” (James 1:3), but I can find joy in the moment. And I will live Moment by Moment.

Moment by Moment is an old hymn, a favorite of mine and Nelson’s. Here are the lyrics:

  1. Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
    Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
    Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
    Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.
    • Refrain:
      Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
      Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
      Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
      Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.
  2. Never a trial that He is not there,
    Never a burden that He doth not bear,
    Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
    Moment by moment, I’m under His care.
  3. Never a heartache, and never a groan,
    Never a teardrop, and never a moan;
    Never a danger but there on the throne,
    Moment by moment He thinks of His own.
  4. Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
    Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
    Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
    Jesus my Savior abides with me still. (Daniel W. Whittle)
(A “family portrait” painted for us by Jim Lemasters)

2020 Advent Unmuting Challenge

So this challenge was made on Twitter and I decided to give it a try.

November 29: Abundance of Caution: Mark 13:33

Text: And since you don’t know when that time will come, be on guard! Stay alert!

When my dad was dying from cancer, I rode back to the house with my mom across Columbus. I remarked at how well I thought she was doing well in spite of everything. I told her I couldn’t remember her driving on the interstate. She laughed and added that was probably because she and Dad had been “blotto” most of the time.

At the time of this conversation, I was in a CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) program in Kansas City. I had been doing a lot of reading on children of alcoholics. The descriptions lined up with many of my behaviors, especially my hyper vigilance: always watching for the other shoe to drop, and being ready for some emotional explosion or melt down.

Always ready. On guard. Alert! Anticipate and expect the worst.

When began my faith journey as a freshman in high school, I gravitated toward these kinds of verses of warning. They had a familiar feel. I could handle this.

My struggle came when I had to understand and incorporate grace. The tension between what I understood as be alert and relax was confusing and unsettling. How would I make it work?

As life has unfolded, I have learned that it’s just as easy to choose to anticipate the positive as it is the negative. After all, I know well, that we will get what we look for.

So I now longer read these verses with the lenses of doom and gloom. I will be ready, not out of fear, but out of an expectation for God to bring good out of whatever I face.

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