Blog

Unaddressed: Letters and Invitations

Dear World ~ We are a brilliantly diverse, endlessly fascinating population of people. Such unique ethnicities, languages and cultures… yet… one big global family, made in God’s image, meant to love and be loved. So where is the love? I fear we’re on the brink of a worldwide shortage. And I doubt there’s a single soul on this planet that couldn’t use some TLC right now. Let’s be gentle with each other… and give a little grace, shall we?

Dear America ~ You need to get your head on straight. Where’s the common decency? What happened to “we hold these truths to be self-evident… that all men are created equal.” We never even got there. And now it seems we’re slipping back. When did we lose sight of “liberty and justice… for all?” We have to do better. Which means, we have to be better. (God help us.) Only then will liberty, equity, security and justice prevail. In the words of Frederick Douglass, “The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous.” Oh how far we’ve strayed…

Dear Church ~ When the Gospel becomes secondary, we’re undone. Let’s keep the main thing the main thing: Jesus. Not pontificating or politicking or pursuing the American Dream. You know what our nation needs? Hope. Help. Humility. Healing. We need less condescension/conflict/chaos and more Christlikeness: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me; he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted and to announce that captives shall be released and the blind shall see, that the downtrodden shall be freed from their oppressors, and that God is ready to give blessings to all who come to him.” Jesus taught us to pray and pull together, help shoulder each others’ burdens, tenderly care for one another – His very body. But we continue to inflict pain with repeated acts of self-harm. Let’s bandage our unsightly/self-inflicted/ superficial cuts and get on with tending the critically wounded around us. (In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a bloody battlefield.)

Dear BIPOC/Neighbors ~ I don’t even know what to say. Except… I’m sorry. I see your anguish and your anger. I hear your pleas and protests and prayers. But I admit I haven’t given you my full attention before now. I’m sorry my prejudgments and prejudices have hurt you. (In ways I’m becoming aware of… and ways I know I’m still blind to.) I’m learning that oppression comes in many shapes and sizes: profiling, poverty, limited access and opportunity, inadequate housing/healthcare/ education… I’m sorry I didn’t notice sooner, listen better, learn more, or love you enough to work harder – alongside you – to pursue God’s good and pleasing and perfect will: equity and justice.

Dear White Neighbors ~ I see you (many of you) trying. Trying to learn, understand, engage. Bless you. (I mean that. Because some folks don’t even bother.) But let’s be honest for a sec. We don’t get it. All this researching and reading and reflecting can’t duplicate experience. So let’s acknowledge that. (And by all means, keep researching, reading and reflecting.) If we really want to be allies of BIPOC, we need to shut up… and listen. Show up… and serve. Serve those who’ve been underserved for too long. Be willing to become uncomfortable… to make others more so. Start making room (in our boardrooms, family rooms and hearts) so everyone gets a fair shot. Let’s ensure that this land of ours becomes a land of liberty, peace and prosperity, not just for some or most… but all.

Dear Law Enforcement Officers ~ I’m sorry you’re suffering because of the horrific sins of a few (who happen to wear the same uniform). You already do a thankless job: upholding and enforcing the law in our communities (and yes, policing within your ranks). And now you’re being vilified for it. Enduring scorn and spite, suffering insults and assaults… just for going to work. I know nothing I say will make that easier to bear. I don’t have any magic words, other than these two: I care. Thank you for working to protect American lives… regardless of race/religion/ political affiliation/sexual orientation/immigration status/socioeconomic class. Please stay on the job.

Dear Jordan ~ So many times during your growing-up years I meant well, but didn’t do very well. Because honestly, I didn’t know where to begin. I saw the prejudgments and prejudice, witnessed bias and bigotry… but I didn’t allow my horror and heartache to be used for good by God, to spur action. Thank you for your unspoken forgiveness and forbearance. What a gift. My desperate hope is that you/I/our family will be conduits for healing, grace and peace in our community and world. I love you all the way up to heaven and back a million zillion times, J… and I’m praying for you always.

Dear Jesus ~ Forgive me. I so often do what I don’t want to do… and don’t do what I ought. You (always) love (everybody) perfectly. And I fall dreadfully short. With your life and death, you taught that loving means sharing, serving, sacrifice. For the needy and neglected, the marginalized and mistreated. You crossed cultural and racial and gender gaps. again and again, to personally deliver that love. Help me follow your lead. I don’t want to just believe; I want to do what you said. Because I know…

Faith without works is dead.

(And damaging too.)

Too often I’ve talked the talk… but not walked the walk. I’ve sat on the sidelines, out of faithlessness or fear. I’ve chosen my own personal comfort over compassion for others. I’ve made excuses, rather than sacrifices.

Forgive me… and give me a fresh start.

Yours (truly),

Wendy

P.S. Friends, if you want to do a little good but aren’t sure where to start… pray.

I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I’m supposed to do, what I can do… I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things. (Mother Teresa)

Let’s get on our knees… and then roll up our sleeves.

Daddy Issues

This one might hurt a little.

‘Cause Father’s Day isn’t just fun and (baseball/bags/poker/tennis/golf) games. Sadly, this third Sunday in June can toss up all kinds of heartache and here’s why:

There’s a whole slew of troubled guys out there who happen to have reproduced.

And more than a few of their kids grew up… hurt. So many battle-scarred adults were wounded by the person responsible for protecting them:

Dad.

(Others were just collateral damage in his own private battles.)

All this means there’s a mess of kids – young and old – for whom Father’s Day seems a little ridiculous/offensive/pointless/painful. Or a lot.

I’d venture to guess that most of those troubled dads got that way because their dads were troubled.

(Unfortunately, it’s often an inherited trait.)

Doesn’t take a PhD in Clinical Psychology to figure out that a lot of deadbeat dads were raised by men who were chronically distant or distracted. Dismissive or demanding. Demeaning or downright mean.

Or maybe Dad just took off. Without thinking twice about the fallout.

Either way, daddy issues almost always come back to haunt somebody. Usually two somebodies:

Parent.

And child.

The sad truth is there are a lot of lousy dads. And even more mediocre ones. But the good news is there are some really fantastic fathers out there too.

My kids got one of the all-time greats.

His name is Steve… but he mostly goes by Dad, Daddy, Dizzle or (my personal favorite)…

Hoosier Daddy.

He’s the best of the best. Steady, strong, hardworking, humble, faithful, fun and fiercely devoted. He counsels, coaches, comforts, consoles. He folds laundry and settles disputes. He’s good with a mower, shovel, glove and putter. And he can grill a mean rack of ribs.

He plays with our kids and prays with our kids.

And he practices what he preaches.

He loves them. Dearly. Deeply.

Day after day after day.

Real love means sacrifice. For dads, it means willingly relinquishing their desires (perhaps their dreams too) so their kids can grow up healthy, safe and strong… and pursue their own dreams.

Being a good dad requires intentionality and investment.

Because you know how kids spell “love?”

T-I-M-E.

The best dads give their kids that gift, again and again.

(Even when it’s inconvenient or seems “unimportant” in comparison to other demands.)

If you got a dad like that, it’s pretty easy to respect, appreciate and celebrate that guy. But what if you didn’t?

Honor your father…

Anyway.

(Because God said so.)

Notice the lack of conditions/caveats/qualifications. It doesn’t say “Honor your father if (fill-in-the-blank).”

If he was honorable. Or admirable. Or available. (Or even around.)

It just says honor him.

Sometimes that means expressing gratitude (for a job well done) and admiration (for a life well-lived).

Sometimes it’s just acknowledging that he did the best he could. (Often this requires some hindsight… and humility.)

But if your dad was someone who abused you – physically or emotionally, intentionally or repeatedly – how in the world are you supposed to do that impossibly hard thing? Honor him?

Honestly, I have no idea. Because my dad didn’t abuse or abandon me. He didn’t belittle or manipulate or prey on me… he protected and provided and prayed for me.

Maybe “honoring” your dad just means allowing God to be your Father… and asking Him to help you not repeat the cycle of abuse.

Or maybe it means mustering every ounce of mercy and bravery that God offers and saying, “I forgive you.” Even if you’ve never gotten a glimpse of remorse or a whisper of “I’m sorry.”

Because forgiveness is a gift you give yourself.

(When you open it, you’ll find buried treasure inside. For some, freedom. Others, healing. Some, transformation. Others, a whole new identity.)

The truth is it’s our Creator who defines us. The real question isn’t who your father is… or even who you are… it’s whose you are.

Who’s your Daddy?

If you don’t already know Him, I pray you’ll get to know your Heavenly Daddy.

I just hope you’re not too wounded or bitter to even try.

Maybe you blame “our Father who art in heaven” for your troubled/absent/abusive one. You figure if He’s really God (all-knowing, all-powerful and all that) then He’s responsible for the dad you got (or didn’t get, as the case may be).

Fair enough.

But God’s not a dictator. He didn’t “make” your father do – or not do – anything. He isn’t responsible for that great big gash your dad left on your heart.

He just wants to be the one to stitch it up. (And make it better than new.)

He promises to be the Dad you never had: protective, patient, kind, strong, gentle, wise, merciful, fair, full of good humor and giver of good gifts.

He really is the… Best. Dad. Ever.

And He loves you like crazy.

From the bottom of my heart, I wish you a Heavenly Father‘s Day.

Wendy

P.S. Pretty sure if all dads were good dads, a lot of the world’s problems would vanish in a heartbeat.

In Order to (Re)Form a More Perfect Union

I don’t know about you, but my heart can’t take much more. It’s battered and bruised… And bracing for worse.

It feels like 2020 could be the year of our undoing.

Collectively, we were already reeling from the deadly destruction/ ecomomic devastation/overwhelming despair of COVID…

104,000 dead.

Millions unemployed.

Suicide attempts.

Overdoses.

Isolation.

Burnout.

And then came three consecutive stories of black Americans killed… for no apparent reason.

Amaud Arbery… out for a run.

Breonna Taylor… in her own home.

George Floyd… pinned to the street, gasping for air.

Three human beings created in God’s image… beautiful and beloved, all.

I haven’t seen the video of George Floyd’s last minutes. I cannot bring myself to watch it. (Because just reading about it nearly gutted me.)

A Gospel-sharing, bridge-building, neighbor-loving “gentle giant,” George Floyd took his last breath on earth Monday. Now he’s safely home in heaven with Jesus… and his mama.

But his death begs the question:

How are we still here? In America? In 2020?!

Stuck in this cesspool of racism, injustice and needless violence?

I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling to stay afloat. The flood of emotions is coming fast and furious. I’m grappling/praying/hurting/ fuming/crying/pleading/grieving. Deeply. Sometimes all in the space of five minutes.  But the deepest, darkest valley I keep finding myself in is… fear.

I’m afraid for the people I love whose skin just happens to be darker than mine.

Afraid they will encounter the wrong person at the wrong time… and wind up injured.

Or jailed.

Or dead.

And that’s why I can’t just sign a petition or post a meme and move on. I know I need to ask God’s Spirit to search me and uproot my own prejudices and pre-judgments. I need to confess my own predisposition to dismiss or devalue some of my neighbors. I need to pray against my tendency toward complacency-by-comfortableness.

I need to listen more, learn more, do more. Where I can, when I can, however I can. Because…

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmond Tutu)

A couple days ago, I re-read Reverend King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to some of his fellow clergymen. His words are haunting:

First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection…

He goes on to write:

In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

Oh LORD, help me be bold for you. Because…

Equity and justice are the foundation of your throne. ~ Psalm 89:14 (NET)

Help me be brave for my neighbor. Because…

No life is more “valuable” than another. (No life is more “disposable” either.) Our immeasurable worth is God-given and intrinsic (because we were made in His brilliant, beautiful image.)

Help me live and love like Jesus.

Genuinely.

Generously.

Help me do the right thing. Even when it makes me – or someone else – uncomfortable.

“Shout! A full-throated shout!
    Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives…
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
    and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
    law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
    and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
    ‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
    Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

“Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
    You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
    You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
    won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
    and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
    a fast day that I, God, would like?

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

~ Isaiah 58:1-8, The Message

Let’s be justice-seekers and bridge-builders and hope-givers. Right where we are. However we can. 

Let’s be humble repenters… and revolutionaries for love. Lavish, lifesaving love.

Right in our own little corner of the world.

Maybe that won’t be the catalyst for sweeping change… but it will make a difference.

One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a boy hurriedly picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean.

Approaching the boy he asked, “Young man, what are you doing?”

The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

The man laughed and said, “Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then smiling at the man, he said …

“I made a difference to that one.”

2020 could be the year of our re-making.

Let’s get started.

Wendy

P.S. Condemning oppression and police brutality doesn’t make me anti-law enforcement. I am praying fervently for our police officers, firefighters and National Guard tonight too. Calling for an end to violent, destructive rioting doesn’t mean I don’t support the protestors or understand (that I don’t understand) their outrage and grief. I’m praying for peace… and change. Join me?

Christians & COVID: Politicizing, Theorizing (& Apologizing)

The only maladies more contagious than COVID right now are the rapidly-mutating accusations and politically-charged conspiracy theories surrounding it.

Wow.

And yikes.

I haven’t heard them all yet… but I’ve heard a smattering. And a whole lot of them are coming from Christians. (Disclaimer: I realize that some people who’d identify themselves as such don’t know a whole lot about what Jesus said, did or taught.)

Frankly, I just don’t get it.

Because what does polarizing/politicizing/promoting conspiracy theories – in a pandemic (or ever) – actually accomplish? Especially in regards to what Christ told us to do?

Jesus made it pretty clear that we’ve got two essential tasks before us:

Love God with everything we’ve got.

And love people. Strangers, friends and foes alike.

^ I’m not exactly sure how speculating and insinuating and implicating fit into that.

If we really want people to be drawn to Jesus (and all His goodness/grace/mercy), then we – the people who follow Him – ought to (at least try to) be good and gracious and merciful ourselves. If Christians aren’t the kind of people others are drawn to, then it would seem we’re not doing our job. (Love draws people in and makes them feel heard… seen… safe… special. Not scolded/slandered/dismissed/detested.)

News flash: We’re supposed to point people to Jesus by looking – and living – like He did.

There’s a surprising number of people who know something’s broken/wrong/ missing/stuck in their lives. And they’re just waiting for someone to introduce them to the One who can fix/forgive/fill/free them.

I’ve said this before (probably during the last election cycle) but I think it bears repeating:

My dear brothers and sisters, if we want to win some, we need to be…

Winsome.

Based on what I see on social media lately, I’d say we’re falling embarrassingly short.

I’ve seen some pretty insensitive/offensive/capricious remarks in response to people with differing views on COVID and the issues surrounding it. That over-the-top defensiveness smacks of pride… or paranoia. And it hurts my heart.

And really, what good does it do? The odds of convincing someone with an opposing view – on a platform like Twitter or Facebook – are next to nil.

Maybe these folks can’t find anything better to do.

Or maybe (after two months in lockdown) they’re starting to lose it.

(Coronanervousbreakdown?)

Ranting and raving rarely convince anyone of anything… except that the person doing it is out in left field (or right, as the case may be.) Explain how being argumentative – or spittin’ mad – is going to invite others to love and follow Jesus?

Can we all just take a deep breath… and a step back… and remind ourselves:

The enemy is… the enemy.

Not people created in God’s image and loved like crazy by Him. (Regardless of political perspective, party affiliation, personal preferences or past mistakes.)

We Christians need to pull it together (and pull together). We need to ask the Holy Spirit to empty us of ourselves and fill us full of His love. We need to listen and pray, give and forgive, serve and bless.

when the Holy Spirit controls our lives he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. ~ Galatians 5:22-23

Peace… not pot-stirring.

Patience… not pushback.

Kindness… not contempt.

Gentleness… not hostility.

Self-control… not volatility.

A friend of mine recently shared this quote from Oswald Chambers, and it struck a chord:

The things we are going through are either making us sweeter, better, nobler men and women; or they are making us more captious and fault-finding, more insistent upon our own way. The things that happen either make us fiends, or they make us saints; it depends entirely upon the relationship we are in to God. If we say — “Thy will be done,” we get the consolation of John 17, the consolation of knowing that our Father is working according to His own wisdom. When we understand what God is after we will not get mean and cynical. Jesus has prayed nothing less for us than absolute oneness with Himself as He was one with the Father. Some of us are far off it, and yet God will not leave us alone until we are one with Him, because Jesus has prayed that we may be. 

The response to this pandemic has elicited all kinds of politically-charged accusations and public shaming. I’m not denying there’s lots of lousy reporting, misinformation and not-so-hidden agendas – money and power come to mind – in both political parties and every media outlet around. But why this startling impulse (of some individuals) to push conspiracy theories and wild speculation and gloom-and-doom prognostication? 

None of it is helping. It’s not healing a single sick patient or helping a weary front-line worker or feeding a hungry family or lifting anyone out of despair.

So let me be the first to apologize.

To our doctors and nurses and pharmacists and first-responders.

To our grocery store workers and truck drivers and delivery people.

To our researchers and scientists and statisticians.

To my neighbors, friends and fellow citizens whose newsfeed looks uglier by the day.

And to those who have lost loved ones… or their livelihood.

I’m sorry.

Please don’t reject Jesus because of those who claim to follow Him including…

Yours Truly,

Wendy

P.S. I know I’ll probably get some grief for this post… and that’s okay. I may hear some explanations/generalizations/justifications like: “I want the truth! I’m just trying to educate people! Jesus spoke truth!”

Yes He did. (He IS truth.) But when Jesus spoke truth, it was thoroughly wrapped in humility and grace. He wasn’t presumptuous or pushy. Ever.

In fact, the only times He got really riled?

He was calling out…

Religious hypocrites.

*******

Father, forgive us.

 

When Mother’s Day Isn’t Happy

To all the broken-hearted women who wish they could fall asleep Saturday evening and wake up on Monday morning… this one’s for you. The women for whom Mother’s Day delivers a twinge of sadness… or a dull ache. A shooting pain… or one that sears straight through your soul.

This one’s for the precious mommas who can’t hug their grown children… because they’re separated by miles and stay-at-home orders and the threat of a deadly virus.

So Mother’s Day will be spent in what feels like the worst way:

Alone.

All the flowers/FaceTime calls/Hallmark cards/candy in the world – while lovely and appreciated – simply can’t compare to the sweet gift of togetherness. (< That is the most coveted Mother’s Day present of all.)

But there are some women whose sorrow won’t lift even when the COVID restrictions do. There are some whose sadness is soul-deep.

These are the women who hurt at every mention of Mother’s Day… and it has nothing to do with Coronavirus or quarantine or keeping 6 feet apart. These are the women whose heart breaks afresh every “second Sunday in May,” not just this one.

Childless mothers.

Those who buried their beautiful children…

Or never had them. (Because their bodies just couldn’t cooperate.)

They suffer excruciating phantom pains:

Of lives they cannot share. Embraces they cannot feel. Memories they cannot make.

So many moms who’ve lost a child to stillbirth or miscarriage or cancer or stroke or suicide or accident or abortion or estrangement… (Sadly, this list goes on and on.) Women who silently bear their burden of bereavement. At graduations, weddings, baby showers. On birthdays, holidays, all the days.

That kind of grief is real/raw/relentless.

For women like them, this “holiday” to celebrate mothers holds next to nothing.

Except anguish.

(And unfortunately, there isn’t a cardiac surgeon in the world who can repair that kind of broken heart.)

More than anything, mothering means nurturing.

And I can almost feel your ache to nurture… to teach and care and comfort and counsel. To feed a little body… and soul. I see your heart that holds more than enough love for another human being (or three). I sense your willingness to do almost anything just to be able to be – and do – what you wish.

Mother.

You long for the title – and its responsibilities – because you were made in the image of God – the very Essence of flawless nurturing. He is the perfect (and undeniably the most patient) Parent ever. Not only is He our Heavenly Father… He invented and ordained the art of mothering.

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. The Lord alone guided them… (Deuteronomy 32:11-12a)

So what to do when you’re aching to rouse and hover and carry and guide… and you can’t? (Or never could.)

Start with your feelings.

Notice them.

Feel them.

And maybe… if you’re feeling really brave… share them. (But only with someone worthy of your trust and willing to hear your whole – good/bad/ugly – story.)

Give yourself grace and mercy.

(And maybe some flowers and chocolate too.)

Listen, I’m not suggesting you pretend that Mother’s Day is your favorite day of the year. And I’m not trying to make it happy/breezy/sunny/carefree but possibly… hopefully…

Tolerable.

Tender.

True.

Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Parent. Soak up all the love gifted to you by the One who adores you… and has good plans for you. (Really.)

I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.  Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. ~ Jeremiah 29:11-12 (NCV)

Choose this Mother’s Day to honor your own momma. (Or her memory if you – like me – are missing her something fierce.)

Blessing her will bless you.

(Promise.)

The commandment ‘Honor your father and mother’ is the first one with a promise attached: so that things will go well for you, and you will live for a long time in the land. ~ Ephesians 6:2-3 (CEB)

Be kind to yourself. (Please do this, for heaven’s sake.)

It’s not selfish; it’s necessary. Like water/sleep/food/air.

Nourish and tenderly care (for yourself)… Ephesians 6:29 (NRSV)

And know that there are lots of moms out there who see you… and feel deeply. For you and with you. Your story matters to a whole lot of people who care.

Love and sympathy from one of them,

Wendy

P.S. Today is my mother’s birthday. (She’s celebrating in heaven… but I’m having cake here and now.)

Happy 75th Birthday to the very best mother and friend a girl could ask for.

 

All Kinds of Crazy

What a strange new world.

The rhythms and routines of daily life – once barely noticed – came to a screeching halt a few weeks back. And now the world as we knew it is suspended… indefinitely.

I don’t know about you, but my schedule looks vastly different than it did before March 13th. Except for showering and sleeping. Well… some days.

(Today is not one of them.)

It’s tough to get your bearings when you can’t see anything but the backyard or balcony. If you don’t have either, I pray for the preservation of your sanity. (Seriously.)

This is our new normal.

Personally, I’d like to get back to the old one. (Maybe with an extra helping of perspective. And heaping sides of gratitude and compassion.)

But I guess that isn’t an option. Not entirely anyway. Because this virus is taking a heavy toll.

I remember how different the world seemed after 9/11. Then – like now – most of us really came together. We cared… gave… grieved. We comforted and consoled.

And we counted the cost.

And here we are… counting again.

41,000 lives lost. (And by the time you finish reading this, it’ll tick even higher.)

That’s a whole lot of bereft families and broken hearts.

And that number doesn’t include the other victims of this crisis. The collateral damage, if you will.

I’m not minimizing the death toll. Not one iota. But I think maybe it’s time to acknowledge our other losses too. To say it’s ok to feel dazed/ disoriented by the far-reaching effects of this pandemic. It’s normal to feel discouraged/distressed about how different the future looks from just a few weeks ago. It’s understandable if you feel distraught/devastated… even if none of your loved ones have died from COVID-19.

This. Is. Hard.

And this “virtual” reality feels… well… unreal.

Trying to outlast this virus seems like a lost cause because folks are dropping every day. Not only those who die from Coronavirus but those who succumb in other ways.

To slashed income. Or domestic violence. Or burnout from working 12-hour shifts. Day after day. Week after week. (No relief in sight.)

There’s other unsettling fallout too. Like the shocking and sudden realization that there isn’t much you/I/we can control.

Like job security… financial security… food security.

There’s more than a little desperation going around. And nobody coming around. That’s a profoundly negative equation. (Isolation + desperation = unmitigated disaster.)

I think it’s high time the people who deliver the news start reporting (loud and clear) that we’re smack in the middle of another pandemic.

A mental health emergency.

This crisis has followed right on the heels of the contagious disease and even those who’ve outrun or recovered from Coronavirus are starting to feel the effects of its ruthless twin. Regardless of where we live, more and more are finding ourselves in…

An acutely SAD state.

(As in… Stressed. Anxious. Depressed.)

And who can blame us? Coping skills – in unprecedented global crises – can be scarce. And when there’s no place to go…

We go all kinds of crazy.

Relationships come unraveled. Sobriety is shattered. Suicides (and attempts) skyrocket.

How do we dig up some hope in all this wreckage? Where’s the steady calm when the whole world’s spinning out? Who’s got answers? And antidotes?

Anyone?

Human beings are pretty resilient and resourceful. But we’re not invincible. (We’re not infinitely clever/creative/capable either.) We don’t have enough willpower or prescience or inner zen to anchor ourselves (when we’re adrift) or find our way (when we’re lost) or develop a cure (for all that ails us).

Not one of us.

We need someone a whole lot stronger and smarter than our so-called best and brightest. We need a superhero.

A savior.

We need a hope-provider and healer. One that specializes in bodies, psyches and spirits. One that can fling stars and split atoms and soothe troubled souls.

Pretty sure every single one of us could use a good doctor/therapist/holistic healthcare provider right now.

Let me introduce you to a great physician and wonderful counselor.

His name is Jesus. And he can see you anytime.

He’s the answer and the antidote.

And he will carry us through.

You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times… So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does. (1 Peter 5:9-11, The Message)

Wendy

P.S. Please know I’m not trying to put a spiritual Band-aid on a severed artery. Stress, anxiety and depression are complex mental health issues with physical, emotional and spiritual causes and effects. (And God has given us amazing doctors/therapists/holistic healthcare providers to help us in times like this.) If you’re experiencing ongoing symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, please, please schedule a Telehealth appointment.

Stat.

When There’s No Easy Way Out

In the midst of this pandemic, I have a question for you. Bold and uncensored.

A somber, blunt, bare-your-soul kind of question.

What’s your worst fear?

Is it this virus?

This plague that violently attacks some… and leaves them gasping for breath… fighting for dear life?

Is that the vexing thing that looms low and dark, ominous and unsettling? The thing that instantly evokes foreboding… or sheer terror? The invisible enemy that creeps close, no matter which way you turn. The threat that slinks and slithers into every quiet moment and leaves you rattled, reeling.

Maybe COVID-19 isn’t the thing. Sure, it’s taken center stage… but behind the curtain lurks another assailant, taunting you with terrifying “what ifs” or “what nows” or grim predictions or false accusations. Threats of inescapable heartbreak or inevitable failure: infertility, arrest, abuse, bankruptcy, betrayal.

Perhaps it’s something even worse. Maybe you’re terrified of watching someone you love… leave.

Or suffer.

Or self-destruct.

Or die.

(Does it matter the culprit? COVID, cancer, cardiac failure… they’re are all merciless killers.)

Whatever it is, I’m guessing it’s heavy. And hard. And hurts like hell.

Fear and dread drag us to the shadowlands and abandon us there. They make us scratch/claw/cower/sob. They predict defeat and suggest surrender. Or lay blame and offer ammo.

They whisper doom.

So we seek scapegoats and stockpile munitions (masks/gloves/groceries/guns) and sometimes we make human shields of the people we hold dearest. (Because they’re near.)

Fear convinces us that we are utterly alone. That we have to walk the proverbial plank (or lie in the ICU bed) unaccompanied and unprotected, bound and bare.

Dread persuades us that no one has the faintest clue what we’re going through… or what peril awaits.

No one.

Not a single soul.

But it isn’t true.  

Because…

Jesus.

He walked away, perhaps a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed this prayer: “Father, if you are willing, please take away this cup of horror from me. But I want your will, not mine.”Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him, for he was in such agony of spirit that he broke into a sweat of blood, with great drops falling to the ground as he prayed more and more earnestly. (Luke 22:41-44, TLB)

Jesus was no stranger to dread.

He felt its stranglehold. Knew its instinct to devour.

He begged release. But it was denied him.

There simply was no easy way out.

So He bore the anguish through tears… and beads of sweat… and drops of blood.

He faced the worst horror of all, knowing full well what heinous injustice, vicious brutality and unbridled evil would be unleashed against him.

He was not spared the brunt of the (real) Avenger’s wrath. He wasn’t delivered from one millisecond of hissing mockery or bloody torture or wrongful conviction. Nor the spitting or scourging or spikes or…

Suffocating.

Jesus drank the cup of suffering… and poured out his lifeblood.

Alone.

His followers distanced themselves.

His friends freaked… and fled. In fact, one of his closest companions outright denied even knowing him. (Not once or twice. Three times.) Another turned traitor.

Even his own Father deserted him in his darkest hour.

At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock.  Then at three o’clock Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” …Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last.  And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. When the Roman officer who stood facing him saw how he had died, he exclaimed, “This man truly was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:33-34, 37-39, NLT)

Jesus – the Son of Almighty God – despaired… and died. Unaccompanied and unprotected, bound and bare.

Utterly, indecently, disgracefully – and yes, dreadfully – alone.

Why? So we never have to be. Not in a pandemic. Not on our deathbed. Never.

Jesus died alone so we don’t have to.

His name is Immanuel…

God with us.

He is Love. And love never leaves.

Oh how he loves us.   

Crazy as it may sound, his love was deeper and wider and higher than his sweating-blood dread. Braver than the savagery inflicted on him. More ferocious than all the foes and forces amassed against him. His love fueled him through forsakenness.

Jesus’ steadfast, staggering love compelled him – held him – to the cross.

He suffered alone, so we could come near.

Near to the holy.

Near to the heavenly.

Near to hope.

He drank the cup of crucifixion, so we could could come close – commune – with him.

Our Helper, our Healer, our High Priest.

We have a great high priest. He has gone up into heaven. He is Jesus the Son of God. So let us hold firmly to what we say we believe.  We have a high priest who can feel it when we are weak and hurting. We have a high priest who has been tempted in every way, just as we are. But he did not sin. So let us boldly approach God’s throne of grace. Then we will receive mercy. We will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:14-16, NIRV)

There’s no easy way out of this pandemic. And ultimately, there’s no escaping death. It comes to all… eventually.

If there’s ever a time to face your worst fear, it’s now.

Whatever it is that you dread… draw near to the throne of grace.

Receive mercy.

Find grace.

While they were eating, Jesus took bread and blessed it. He broke the bread, gave it to his disciples, and said, “Take this, and eat it. This is my body.” Then he took a cup and spoke a prayer of thanksgiving. He gave it to them and said, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood, the blood of the promise. It is poured out for many people so that sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 26:26-28, GW)

The One ~ God’s own Son, the perfect Passover Lamb ~ who faced the dread, drank the cup, spilled his blood and bore the cross…

He won.

He rose.

He forgives. (Yes, even that.)

He lives!    

He defeated sin and darkness and death. Once and for all.

For all.  

Believe and receive.

Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes. (Ephesians 3:20, TLB)

Praying for (another) Easter miracle.

Wendy

P.S. When it looks like there’s no easy way out, remember what Jesus said: I am the Way.

 

Spread This

I hope by now everyone is following directions. (Meaning… doctors’ orders.)

If you’re not working on the front lines fighting this pandemic, kindly imitate your dog.

Sit.

Stay.

Good boy.

If however, you can’t stay home because your work is essential (s/o to all the brave, beautiful souls working in healthcare, pharmacy, scientific research, food prep/packaging/transport/stocking, medical equipment manufacturing, warehouse distribution, supply chain)…

Godspeed.

We can’t thank you enough. (Because no amount of gratitude is sufficient right now.) Please know that we are with you, for you, behind you.

Every day.

Every (double) shift.

Every step of the way.

As dark as these days have been, the past couple weeks have shed a lot of light. You can learn alot about people in times of crisis. Some freak out. Some shut down. Some bully. Some blame. Some wail about the seemingly insurmountable problem we’re facing. Others work around the clock trying to solve it. Some cower under the covers. Others run into burning buildings/emergency rooms/nursing homes/ICU units to rescue whomever they can.

It’s heartening to hear stories of devoted workers who – at great risk to themselves – continue to do their life-saving and life-sustaining jobs. They are real-life heroes, every single one of them.

(How beautiful would it be if each one of us found ways to “show and tell” the battle-weary pandemic warriors we know how much we love, admire and appreciate them?)

And then – sadly, always – there are the antiheroes.

For every inspiring story of tireless courage or tender care, there’s a disheartening one about some idiot/inciter/narcissist/nitwit making things worse for everyone.

(Don’t be that guy. ^)

We’ve got to stop the spread of this virus. Absolutely. As soon as possible. But can we stop spreading false information and unfounded rumors too? Can we quit the fearmongering and finger-pointing and foolishness?

Where can we get personal protective equipment to stop the spread of that s#*t?

Scare tactics and death counts and divisive politicizing – while plentiful – aren’t helpful. Ever.

But especially at a time like this.

Finger-pointing isn’t a cure. (I’m not a nurse, doctor or medical researcher, but as far as I know, assigning blame doesn’t alleviate a single symptom of any infectious disease.)

And fear?

It’s a killer.

In the past week, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been tested for COVID-19. We’ve all heard about the dire shortage of hospital beds and ventilators and PPE. But those aren’t the only things in short supply around here.

With a long way to go, we’re seeing an alarming increase in the number of patients… but very little…

Patience.

We have one job to do – #stayhome – and some folks just can’t seem to follow directions. People are getting antsy. And anxious. And agitated. And it isn’t helping our collective cause. When people freak out/flake out/go out… they put others at risk. And that isn’t OK. Being bored/restless/stressed is not an adequate defense for manslaughter.

(Read that again. If you are an asymptomatic carrier of the virus, your selfishness – venturing out unnecessarily, hosting a get-together, taking that trip – could kill somebody.)

We’ve got a whole lot of brain power and creativity and generosity and tenacity teaming up to tackle this runaway problem and arrest this pandemic.

But one by one, hour by hour, it seems…

We’re losing heart.

Despair is in the air.

Just like this virus, diminishing hope is contagious… and dangerous.

Yes, it’s ok to feel sad/scared/lonely right now. (Especially if someone you love is sick or dying. Or if you’ve lost your job… or your bearings.) But we’ve got to hang in there. We need to keep doing the hard thing that has to be done.

Stay home.

Stay hopeful.

And wait for the storm to pass.

It’s tough, I know. My crew is experiencing noticeable symptoms of stir crazy/cabin fever/delirium and all that.

Next to my grandmother’s Bible, my favorite book is an old-school, leather-bound weekly calendar. (I’m currently detoxing from my addiction to scheduling.) I’m a perpetual planner… and a girl on the go. And I currently have nothing to plan and nowhere to go, so…

(Solitaire?)

Nobody said it would be easy, this business of being still. It drags us straight into the face of our angst, fear and discontent. It forces us to confront our own dismay and dread. It’s an undeniable, unsettling reminder that we have very little control.

Virtually none.

But maybe that’ll turn out to be a good thing.

If we want protection, peace, patience, perseverance, we’re gonna have to look outside ourselves. (Because clearly, there’s a global shortage of that kind of PPE.)

Only God gives inward peace, and I depend on him. 

God alone is the mighty rock that keeps me safe, and he is the fortress where I feel secure. God saves me and honors me. He is that mighty rock where I find safety.

Trust God, my friends, and always tell him each one of your concerns. 

God is our place of safety. (Psalm 62:5-8, CEV)

How about we spread this?

Peace that’s impenetrable.

Hope that’s unyielding.

Love that’s relentless.

When this is all behind us – and it will be one day – those rare, chronic conditions will remain. And we will be better, stronger, healthier because of it.

Please… don’t be an April fool.

Hold the line.

And hold onto hope.

Wendy

P.S. We can do this. We can. But we’ve got to stick together… and stay apart… and spread only the good stuff. #staystrong #stayhopeful #stayhome

 

How to Change the World in 14 Days

Right now. (< That’s when we need to get a grip.)

If we wait… or hesitate… it’ll be too little too late.

If you read my previous post about the Coronavirus pandemic (Hi, Dad!) you know my opinion that PANIC!!! is not helpful… or healthy. Not at all. But in the days since, I’ve seen another cultural trend emerging. And it goes like this:

Me first.

(Actually, I suppose that isn’t really a trend. It’s been the norm all along. It just hasn’t been quite as obvious.)

We’re all guilty of it sometimes. It’s hard-wired into us, self-preservation, survival-of-the-fittest and all that. But we don’t have to live by instinct. We can choose instead to live for the common good. Because I believe that’s instilled in us too. By someone who embodies goodness.

God.

(Believe it or not, you bear a striking resemblance. See?)

Frankly I’m a little stunned by the pushing and shoving and hoarding and hysteria. (Toilet paper? Can someone please explain this to me… Does panic cause diarrhea?)

And then there’s the devil-may-care, I’m-not-scared, social-distancing rebels. Who flip the bird at scientists and medical experts… and refuse to make even the slightest adjustments to their own plans for the greater good.

Seriously?

Stop.

Because here’s the thing. All these precautions and protocols and postponements might turn out to be an overreaction…

Or they might keep people alive who otherwise would have succumbed.

See if you’re pro-life, then you ought to be advocating for all lives. The very young/very old, rich/poor, healthy/strong/disabled/diseased, white/brown/black, housed/homeless, conservative/liberal/moderate, law-abiding citizen/convicted criminal, straight/LGBTQ, Christian/Jew/Muslim/Buddhist/Hindu/Wiccan/atheist/Universalist/secular humanist, homegrown American/refugee/undocumented worker, people you adore/people who make your blood boil… You get the idea.

Now would be a great time for us to start taking care of each other.

It’s great if you’re not afraid of COVID-19 (because living in fear is a killer too), but if you contract it – or asymptomatically carry it – and then share it… it could turn out that your nonchalance is deadly.

To someone’s grandmother or godfather or favorite aunt. To a beloved teacher or friendly cashier or war hero.

Let’s honor them by protecting them.

There’s a great line at the end of the movie A Few Good Men, when a dishonorably discharged Marine makes the realization that – in following orders – he actually failed to do his job.

We were supposed to fight for those who couldn’t fight for themselves.

It’s not just our military or medical professionals that ought to be charged with the difficult task of fighting for the vulnerable. It’s all of us.

…If you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front… Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. ~ Philippians 2:1b-4 (The Message)

We’ve all read uplifting/inspiring/amazing stories about real-life heroes. Now’s the chance to be one.

Here’s 7 things we can do – right now – to change the world:

1. Keep our distance. (6 feet, give or take.)

2. Keep our composure. (For heaven’s sake, can we please stay calm.)

3. Keep our hands and households clean. (Don’t forget phones/remotes/keyboards/door knobs.)

4. Love our neighbors. (Look around. Who needs help? Lend a hand… or kick in a few bucks.)

5. Love our families. (Always lamenting that you don’t get enough time with the people you love? Me too. Here’s our chance.)

6. Love ourselves. (Self-care isn’t selfish. It’s smart. Take a walk. Take a nap. Read a book. Bake a cake. Call that friend you’ve been meaning to call. Start that project you’ve been planning to tackle. Breathe.)

7. Pray. (For the sick and those caring for them: doctors, nurses, lab techs, support staff. For our government leaders, local officials, community and school administrators. For first responders and 911 operators. For hourly-wage workers and small business owners. For food-insecure families and our homeless neighbors.)

We’re all in this together.

(HSM fans, I know you’re singing the chorus. The rest of you, I apologize for the ensuing earworm.)

The medical experts and healthcare officials all agree. We can do this. We can flatten the curve, lessen the impact, contain this virus and control the damage. We just need to do the hard thing.

Come together… by staying apart.

In so doing, we might just save a life.

(Or thousands.)

Wendy

P.S. While we’re fighting this battle on our own soil, let’s not forget everyone else. Let’s pray for the people of Syria, China, Italy, South Korea, Iran, Spain, Japan, France, Venezuala… Prayer may turn out to be the most effective anti-viral treatment ever.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so God can heal you. When a believing person prays, great things happen. ~ James 5:16 (NCV)

Viral

There’s a very real problem plaguing the human race. And it isn’t Coronavirus.

It’s something more insidious. There’s no test for it. And no vaccine.

Fear.

(Which causes symptoms ranging from mild anxiety to sheer panic.)

So far this week, I’ve received a dozen emails with Coronavirus warnings, updates and “responses” – from city government and school officials, insurance companies, healthcare providers and financial planners. (And CostCo just sent a link to purchase “everyday essentials” like Lysol, SoftSoap and Kleenex… while supplies last. Coincidence?)

While there’s certainly cause for concern (and precautions – especially for the elderly and those with already compromised health), widespread fear seems to be the ailment that’s preceding all the other symptoms of COVID-19. The fear factor is growing and multiplying like bacteria in a petri dish. Fueled by the news media, the financial markets, doomsday prognosticators… and frantic parents.

(Who are currently suffering Daylight Savings sleep deprivation… and stockpiling nonperishables and Purell.)

The nonstop news cycle features sensationalized stories and unsettling images of hazmat suits and body bags. Schools are closing, markets are tanking, and businesses are bracing for the worst. The only ones profiting are the makers of protective masks. And hard liquor. (I know some of you DIY-ers are mixing up Tito’s Homemade Hand Sanitizer in your kitchen.)

Panic is… well… pandemic.

We’re easily unnerved by all the “what ifs” and the whens/whys/hows.

And we dread the inevitable:

Death.

Yes, Coronavirus can kill you. But so can lots of other things. Cars, cancer, heroin, venom, botulism, bees, bullets.

Not to mention tornadoes, like the one that just killed 24 people in Tennessee on Tuesday. And garden-variety flu, which claims the lives of roughly 25,000 Americans every year.

In the US, 21 people have died from Coronavirus. Meanwhile – daily – 6500 people die as a result of Alzheimers, heart disease, diabetes and depression. And you know what that means?

It’s not sinister-looking microorganisms killing people by the thousands every day.

It’s stress.

Otherwise known as dis-ease.

(You know… fear, anxiety, worry, panic, despair.)

Sometimes it’s sudden onset: crisis, catastrophe, terror, trauma. And sometimes it just infiltrates (and permeates) over time.

According to the American Psychological Association:

Chronic stress is linked to the six leading causes of death… and more than 75 percent of all physician office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.

Stress kills more people each year than MERS, SARS, Ebola and Coronavirus combined.

And most of the time it happens slowly… invisibly.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take preventative measures against Coronavirus. We absolutely need to. Deadly viruses need to be quarantined… and eradicated. But so does debilitating fear. (Which tends to spread further, faster.)

Thankfully, there are brilliant, tenacious scientists, physicians, psychologists and researchers working night and day (around the world) to treat these maladies. But there’s only one care provider with a 100% cure rate for both.

Jesus.

His antidote for the pandemic of panic is…

Peace.

(There’s no co-pay and no prescription necessary. And Jesus offers an endless supply.)

After Jesus died, was buried and then defeated death – and before He headed to heaven to get things ready for us – He said this:

I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace.

In the same breath, He quelled our fears and reassured all of us who are prone to worry.

So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught. 

God knows we’ve got plenty to fear. We’re afraid for ourselves, our children, the planet and its people. Our only hope is a Heavenly Father who’s ready, willing and able to take care of us – every second, in every circumstance.

Jesus loves you/me/us… and He’s the greatest Physician. He doesn’t practice; He’s already perfect. And His treatment plan includes physical, emotional and spiritual healing.

For eternity.

The truth is, I could die from COVID-19. I have very little control over that. But if I do, I know where I’m going. I’m good… because God is.

(And He gave His Son to prove it.)

We’ve got to stop spreading germs… and fear… and start spreading the good news.

Prayer works. And so does soap.

So wash your hands.

And remember that you’re in God’s.

Wendy

P.S. I hope this goes viral.