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I stood there, unable to move my eyes from what was happening in front of me.

She wet the facecloth with warm water, then, ever so gently dabbed his forehead, his cheeks, chin, nose, mouth and eyes. With the tenderest of care of care, her hands guided the dampened cloth, slowly, gingerly over his face. It was as if I was watching the work of a master … no,

it was as if I was watching her wipe the face of her own father.

The expert, compassionate act I viewed stopped me where I was standing, for I had entered a time and place of holiness, beauty and honor.

In my seventy-six hours of final vigil with my dad, this was one of the most tender moments … and it was performed by a stranger, a nurse, paid to do a task, but who took it beyond job description, she performed an act of tenderness as I have never witnessed before. And I will forever be changed because of it.

The tenderness and compassion with which she worked … the respect and dignity that she blessed my comatose father with also blessed me. I was treated to an act of a master at her job, one who did more than was expected of her.

I was reminded of the story of the death of Lazarus as I watched this beautiful kindness.

Lazarus had died, already in the tomb for four days. Jesus said he was going to “wake him” from his death sleep.

When Jesus (and the disciples) got there, he saw Mary and Martha weeping, filled with sorrow over the loss of their brother.

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!””
(John 11:33-36)

This is a similar picture of tenderness and compassion. Jesus knew that he would raise the dead Lazarus from the grave. But, his tears were not over Lazarus’ death, they were tears of compassion for the sorrow and heartache that Mary and Martha were experiencing. He wept with empathy, responding with love and gentleness.

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I have been pondering shame for a number of months. The word shame has become a derogatory word, whereas, in the past, it was a more widely acceptable one.

Truthfully, most words that evoke a negative feelings are more unacceptable within society today … for none of us wants to feel bad, feel guilt, or feel that we are being judged negatively.

I have been pondering whether shame is an intended part of the Bible’s larger narrative … after all we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Then I read Nehemiah 8. Here we read about Ezra, the religious leader, speaking to the community of men, women and children from dawn to noon at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles when the Jews remember wandering in the desert after their exodus from Egypt.

Ezra was reading the Law to the people and it says that they understood what was being read. They were cognizant of the Laws that they had broken … their eyes were opened to their sins and they were sad, weeping and sorrow-filled.

As I read that I understood that what they might be feeling was shame. They knew that they had fallen short, they knew that they are been disobedient, and they hung their heads … in shame. Their reactions were pure, human reactions … the shame they felt was innate, natural.

But …

Their tears and mourning were the indicators that they knew their sin and they regretted it. This is the first step in receiving the promise of redemption.

Then Ezra, Nehemiah and the others who were instructing the people told them:

“This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” (8:9)

They were told to go and feast, to eat great foods and drink great drinks. To invite others, who had nothing, so that all could share in the celebration that is available to all. They were led to celebrate, because their shame could be erased.

And so they did. They celebrated “with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.” (v. 12)

This is the difference that acknowledging our sins can make. When our eyes and ears are opened to the sin in our hearts, that knowledge is not for the purpose of shaming us, but to open the door to the hope that can erase our sins.

Christ is the antidote to shame … Hallelujah!

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

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Please and thank-you … the magic words of childhood learning. If I had a nickel for every time I instructed one of our three, over their growing up years, to use these words as offering, well my financial future would be secure. Repetition has a way of ensuring information and behavior stick like super glue!

The magic words of adulthood are a not-so-famous pair, but are equally rich in meaning, benefit and practice …

thankfulness and joy

These two words, practices, are essentials for the Christ-follower. The thing is that you cannot have joy without thankfulness and you cannot have thankfulness without joy. The two are synonymous.

Neither joy, nor thankfulness have anything to do with happiness, to do with everything in life going as we wish. Joy and thankfulness are independent of the ephemeral or short-lived condition of happiness. Instead they are result of something eternal, holy.

Blogger, Corella Roberts, has said,

the binding agent of joy is thankfulness

Thankfulness and joy are fruits of the Holy Spirit within us. It is not us, in our own power, but he who is within us. They are the outpouring of the peace that passes all human understanding.

When the Prince of Peace resides within us, thankfulness and joy emanate from us, naturally and grandly.

1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

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Why would anyone want to be ordinary in a world of so many possibilities?

We are exposed to images of fame and wealth on the magazine covers every time we stand in the grocery store checkout. We turn on our television, our computer and are given glimpses of those who are known, whether in the arenas of sports, politics, entertainment or activism.

Sometimes I take this need for more, for better into my relationship with God. I think that I can (somehow) excel at being a follower of Christ. And I am not alone … for we have all been to funerals or read obituaries that make the person sound as though they had a unique and exemplary walk with our Lord.

But, our walk with God has little to do with what we offer him … for it is what he offers us that saves us … and it is what he does with our ordinary life that makes our life abundant.

This passage speaks so beautifully to our responsibility in our ordinary life (the Carole’s Notes in bold)

Romans 12 (MSG)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you

I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.

In this way we are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of his body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.

If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

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I love my job as an educational assistant, I love seeing the students have those aha moments, those lightbulb moments when some bit of information just clicks in their brain and they get it … and they know it and you know it and a moment of mutual celebration is had …

because, for some, learning can be so hard.

and sometimes the teaching, the assisting can be so hard too.

In the work I get to do, it is so easy to get frustrated when a student’s light bulb is not flickering, when there are more uh oh than aha moments, when their academic discouragements have reached beyond their brain and into their very souls.

Recently I met a student. He entered our classroom life with the distractibility of a dog when a squirrel crosses it’s path, a body that moves constantly to the music of his mind, little verbal impulse control and a disdain for pencil to paper unlike any I have seen in sixteen years in this field.

Usually, such a student is discouraged, hates school, equates learning with failure, knows administration better than classroom teachers and their soul is irreparably crushed.

Not this dancing bear of a fourteen year old young man!

He entered our classroom moving to his own beat, with a relaxed saunter, a quick smile, a gentle heart … and his soul intact.

He seems to know that school is … just school,
it’s not the main stage event.

Now that knowledge may drive those of us who work with him rather batty, but … he has been a beautiful teacher to me, this year. It is as though God is using him to remind me to slow down, to take breaks, to allow unexpected interruptions from the subject at hand, to listen to the beat in my own mind, my heart.

Two verses, when put together, describe perfectly what I feel that God is saying to me through this gentle, distracted, ever-moving, thoughtful teenage boy:

“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15) … for … “his way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (Psalms 18:30)

In those verses we are reminded to not let discouragements over battles that are in God’s hands get to us. That there is a plan, but it’s God’s plan, not ours. That he will protect us, if we would just trust him.

This student is not ‘my’ student, he is a child of God. I am required to help him learn, but not at the cost of a crushed soul.

So as I guide this young man through math, God is using him to guide me through gentle waters. It’s like the light bulb is flickering and I have had my aha moment.

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Being a mom is hard, being a mom to littles is exhausting, being a single mom to littles … I can’t even imagine. I really cannot imagine, for theirs are shoes I have never worn, never walked in.

I recently bumped into a sweet lady that I hadn’t seen is quite awhile. She was with her kiddos … in public … you know, where the pressure is on to be the social media perfect momma.

As we sat and reminisced, with kiddo-queries in the midst, she shared that she was now single … but I already knew. I knew, not because of a (so common, it seems) social media post, or because someone else had shared the news, but because God had whispered it into my heart, months before.

To that mom, that now single mom, who I bumped into, seemingly by chance (and any others out there, single dads too, who I don’t know) …

You’re gonna make it.

You are doing the toughest job there is and you are doing it with the handicap of doing it, day in and day out on your own …

but you are not alone.

Your heavenly father is at your side, silently overseeing you and your children. He is protecting and directing you, as you face each day. He never sleeps, but stays alert at your side, while you sleep, work, fulfil all of your parenting responsibilities, your financial responsibilities … all of it.

Don’t let discouragement and exhaustion and loneliness win …

“He Who created you, and He Who formed you: Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned or scorched, nor will the flame kindle upon you.”
Isaiah 43:1-2

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This little light of mine …
I’m gonna let it shine …

My faith in the future of followers of Christ (of all genders) has been recently bouyed from an unexpected situation that initially brought darkness like a sucker punch to the gut.

So, a situation occurred where one Christian leader (who happens to be male) made a comment about another Christian leader (who happens to be female), that she should “go home”.

It was a sad, unfortunate, unnecessary and head shaking comment that made the souls of many mourn for the darkness that fell with the words.

In my mind, I kept hearing these Jesus words:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

  • life as we know it is not fair … to expect anything else is to be living in a false reality
  • Jesus has already won the battle of good vs. evil, of love vs. hate, of joy vs. sadness, of light vs. darkness

We cannot forget …
life is not fair and
Jesus has won the battle

… then the responses began … responses of support for the woman (for all women), responses of a call to action, but also responses of a theme of victimization and hate.

My stomach lurched, my head shook, the darkness grew.

Christians were posting, and blogging, and preaching …
anger, and frustration, and defeatism, and victimization.

But …

Christ was not one to cry out poor me for the injustice he was experiencing, he was not a whiner, he was not a hater. When he was arrested and his follower Simon Peter retaliated and sliced the ear of a high priest … and how did Jesus respond?

“Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (John 18:11)

Jesus went to the cross, because that is what he had to do to save the souls of his people … that was his calling, handed down by his own father.

And our calling is to follow in his footsteps … and guess what it’s gonna be messy, it’s going to hurt, we are going to be victimized, we are going to have trouble … that we are guaranteed in his word and in his practise.

BUT, we are also
more than conquers.

While other Christians have now spoken about the pointless words and of her gender-related victimization, she (the one who the comment was directed toward) has responded in confidence of her calling and in grace, remembering that our calling is to “honor God, (and) let’s move on.”

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” John 1:9

She just kept doing what she does, focusing on the goal, focusing on the calling, focusing on the prize … as is our example in Christ as women and men who follow his leadership.

“The enemy taunts us with whispers like, ‘You’ll never be free. You’ve tried a hundred times. You go back every time. You’re hopeless. You’re weak. You’re a failure. You don’t have what it takes.’ Every one of these statements about you is a lie if you are a believer in Christ. You do have what it takes. You have Jesus – the Way, the truth, and the Life. But you can’t just believe in Him to be free from your stronghold. You must believe Him. Believe He can do what He says He can do. Believe you can do what He says you can do. Believe He is who He says He is. And believe you are who He says you are.” (from Beth Moore’s book, Praying God’s Prayer).

Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine

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