Monthly Archives: August 2020




A lifeguard friend of ours showed up to work at the pool the other day with bruises on his shoulder and arms from his high school football practice.  After I winced at his wounds, I thought of my brother, who coaches high school football in Arkansas.  I recalled a time when he was a kid and his legs were covered in black and blue bruises from football practice.  I texted him to remind him of it, and he told me that little league football was some of the worst pain he’d experienced in sports.  But football is not the only culprit.  My daughter Riley experiences bruising when she dances.  Sometimes a routine involves dropping quickly to her knees, which results in bruising.  At any given time, her toes may be bruised because she’s been dancing ballet on pointe.

We expect bruising in athletic endeavors, but most of us experience bruising in more common, everyday ways.  I run into the footboard of our bed on what seems like a regular basis.  Every time my thigh comes into forceful contact with the edge of said footboard, I think, “that’s going to leave a bruise.”  Of course, I often don’t remember how I became bruised.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve found a bruise on my body and thought, I wonder where that came from.

Bruises may vary in their severity but as far as wounds go, they are on the lighter side of injuries.  The discolorations on our bodies eventually fade.  But the bruises we sustain to our emotional lives are much harder to get over.  Other people may inflict the bruises purposely or accidentally by their words and actions.  We may even bruise ourselves by our own behaviors and thoughts.

The mental and emotional contusions we endure may not lose their power over time.  They don’t automatically fade away like our physical bruises.  In addition, these wounds are invisible to others.  People don’t say, “are you hurt?” because they can’t bear witness to the wounds.  And even if they could see our bruises, they might say, “it’s only a bruise, what’s the big deal?”  But we know the depth and tenderness of the bruises.  We know how badly they hurt and may feel as though we are black and blue all over without anyone knowing.  In an effort to defend ourselves, we may construct internal armor to protect ourselves from further bruising.  We don’t want to feel anything because we might sustain more hurt and pain.

In the New Testament, Jesus “made a circuit of the all the towns and villages.  He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives.” Matt. 9:35-38 (MSG).  The last portion struck a chord with me: Jesus focused on healing their bruised and hurt lives, not merely their physical ailments.  And then the passage continues, “When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke.  So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd.”

Jesus was moved to the point of heartbreak for the people he saw around him.  He loved them and believed that the hidden parts of their lives that were bruised and hurt were worth care and restoration.  God loves us just the same.  He doesn’t want us to remain bruised and battered emotionally and mentally.  He can rescue us from being confused and lost.

Knowing that God is heartbroken for us at times and wants change in our lives is a humbling realization.  Our first step is to ask God to begin the process of healing our bruises.  God can take down our defenses and repair the tender places in our hearts and souls.

God loves us too much to ignore us during our pain and loneliness.  Bodily bruises do not heal instantly, nor will our emotional bruises heal immediately.  But God will not leave our bruised lives untouched when we seek his love and care.










Poured Out



I’ve always enjoyed the beginning of a new school year.  I love the rush of a fresh start with new school supplies, whether it was for me or my kids.  But this year has been different in many ways: we’ve been home from face-to-face school since March; we start school online for the first several weeks; we may or may not be face-to-face for very long once school starts.  All of that meant that I’d not been looking forward to the start of this school year.  I could barely bring myself to buy supplies until the day before school began.  When I talked about this strange school year with a couple of my friends, we wondered about the ultimate fall out, mentally and emotionally, from dealing with the Covid-19 crisis, in part, because we lacked our normal anticipation and excitement.  In fact, I felt worn down and a little numb.

So, I sought solace by conducting a Google search of Bible verses that dealt with this feeling I couldn’t quite name.  I found Psalm 22, a psalm of David, in which he asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” a refrain that Jesus would echo from the cross.  In describing his plight, David said, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.  My heart has turned to wax; it has melted within me.” Poured out –  that felt familiar.

During this crisis, all of us have been pouring ourselves out, day after day, trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy or dealing with the everchanging newness of the situation.   And yet, with all of the isolation and distancing, we are not being filled up with the benefits of friendship, social interactions, or community with any regularity, if at all.  Many of us feel gutted and hollow.

In the Old Testament, a woman tells the prophet Elisha that her husband, who’d been one of Elisha’s men, had died and now his creditors would make her sons slaves to fulfill the debt.  Elisha offered to help and asked what the woman had available in her house.  She replied, “Your servant has nothing there at all, except a small jar of olive oil.”  Elisha told her to “go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars.  Don’t ask for just a few.”  He then directed her to pour oil into all the jars.  The woman and her sons poured oil into numerous jars until there were no more jars left, which allowed them to pay off their debts and gave them money to live on.  2 Kings 4:1-7.

I feel as though many of us are like the empty jars, all of our energy and spirit poured out waiting to be refilled.  When we lived in Missouri, we occasionally held Services for Wholeness and Healing at our church, First Presbyterian of St. Louis.  Our pastor Reverend Kelly Allen started the tradition and asked if I would help her.  She would stand at one end of the sanctuary and I would be at the other end creating two stations for people to approach, at which time they would offer a specific prayer request.  We would pray with them and then anoint their heads with a small amount of oil.  At first, I hesitated because I felt unqualified to help, but she convinced me it was okay.  I’m so glad I participated because it was powerful and moving to pray with people regarding their personal situations, to know they were entrusting me with their needs, to stand in the gap between them and God and speak on their behalf.  Those connections were life affirming for me.  Placing the symbol of the cross in oil on their foreheads was a way to reassure them they were not alone in their pain or sorrow or seeking.

We may feel empty at times, especially as of late.  But God has the ability to fill us with his spirit until we are overflowing again.  However, God may depend on us to help.  Even when we cannot be together physically, we need to make efforts to fill one another up with love.  We can reach out to let others know they are on our minds.  Sometimes, a simple text is all it takes to reassure another that they are not forgotten, that they matter, that they are understood.  None of us are perfect at lifting and encouraging others, but if we all take responsibility to perform small gestures with regularity, what a difference we might make for others.  In turn, we might also find our vessels being filled.  Then maybe when we can gather again physically in our chosen groups, we will not return depleted but rather with a new-found spirit of connection and love.

Let us pour out love and empathy to fill others’ hearts knowing God will empower us to help them and will also heal us from the emptiness we may experience in these challenging times.















“Would You Rather?”



My eight-year-old son Alex loves to play the game “Would You Rather?”  He presents two alternatives and then asks anyone who will listen which they would prefer.  Every mealtime and oftentimes while hanging out at the pool, Alex likes to offer his questions, which tend toward the crazy and fantastic.  For example, assuming you could survive, would you rather live in a volcano or in the ocean?  But then my eleven-year-old son Clay turned serious and asked, “would you rather change the past or know the future?”  This proposition instantly increased my angst.

My automatic answer was to know the future, but I realize others might answer differently.  Intellectually, I know this is a futile dilemma.  We can’t change the past no matter how often we relive the memories or how hard we wish we could alter the actions of ourselves or others.  We can’t have do-overs, and yet we continue to rethink what we would’ve said or could’ve done.  We analyze all of the details and rearrange the pieces in our heads.  If only this had occurred or if only that hadn’t, we believe things would’ve been better for us.  We can get stuck in the past in our efforts to erase the pain and hurt.

As far as the future, we can spend massive amounts of time and energy worrying about how things might turn out.  We end up living with constant stress because of our inability to predict the future.  Sometimes, our desire to manufacture the outcomes we want can cause high levels of anxiety for us and others.  Many circumstances are completely out of our control, and we cannot orchestrate people to behave the way we want without being manipulative and condescending.  We want so badly for everything to turn out perfectly, but perfection is not a real possibility.  Our yearning to avoid emotional harm can cause our hearts and minds actually to ache.

Even when we pray and invite God to be present in our situations, it’s not always obvious which decisions we should make.  While we can try to follow God’s plans, there is no guarantee that we can figure it out successfully.  We must pray and seek God and then make the best choices as we understand them.  Sometimes, searching for God’s guidance has been difficult for me.  I want to make the “right” decisions, and as a result, I end up praying in a stilted and stifling way.  I find myself afraid to tell God what I truly want because I’m not sure if my desires line up with God’s.  When I do tell God what I honestly want, I tend to back up and quickly say, “but your will be done,” almost as a disclaimer.

Being dishonest with God though is a ridiculous proposition.  He knows us thoroughly and deeply and knows when we are being truthful with our whole hearts laid out before him or not.  Fear of failing God and myself in the future are not good excuses for hiding my true and authentic self from God in the present.

So, I’ve decided that I’ll follow Alex’s way when faced with life’s “would you rather” questions.  I will try to be upfront with God and make my preferences known.  When I pray, I’ll say, “if I’m being honest, this is the way I would rather things turn out.  But, if things don’t work out the way I’d like, then I’ll need your help to deal with how life plays out in reality.”  When we face our “would you rather” dilemmas, I truly believe that God “would rather” we be honest, authentic, and vulnerable and trust that God is with us no matter what.










Leap of Faith



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At the start of summer, we rushed back to the pool to get my son Alex, who was seven at the time, swimming again before he went to camp for the first time. He’d almost mastered swimming last summer, but we knew he needed practice to feel comfortable again.  Alex always had some anxiety and fear regarding the pool and swimming even with all of the lessons he’d had.  After a few days though, when he was swimming and jumping off the diving board again, he declared that “it took a leap of faith” for him to get back into the swim of things.

But there was another little girl, about four years old, who was having a much harder time taking the leap.  She stood on the end of the diving board in her pink swimsuit with a lemon print and bounced.  She wanted to jump, and she was prepared with floaties on her arms and chest.  Her parents and brother encouraged her from the sidelines, but all she could do was bounce.  She got down and then tried again.  Up and down several times.  One of the lifeguards who was not on duty generously jumped into the pool and treaded water below the diving board.  The lifeguard provided assurance that she would catch the girl or be right beside her if she required help.  But the little girl didn’t know the lifeguard well.  She bounced and bounced, but I didn’t see her jump into the pool that day.

At the time, I told my daughter “there’s a metaphor here,” but I didn’t see what the metaphor was until I revisited the situation.  I saw the little girl and thought about how scary it can be when we want to take a risk.  It’s so frightening when we cannot see how deep the water is; when we are afraid we’ll sink instead of swim; when we don’t know how long we’ll be in the deep before we make it safely to the edge.  Even when we’ve prepared and planned, we may be paralyzed by the decision to jump.  We bounce, back away, try again, and wait, wondering if the risk is worth the reward or possibly the heartache or failure.

I was consumed with my kinship with the little girl, but I completely forgot about the lifeguard in the water.  The lifeguard who offered calm, who was ready to give assistance or rescue if needed. The lifeguard who was already in the water waiting for the girl to jump.  But because she didn’t know the lifeguard, she couldn’t trust the lifeguard.

God is the lifeguard, already in the deep, waiting for us to be vulnerable. For us to either take a baby step off the diving board or take a running jump and make a huge splash with a cannonball. God is there to offer assurance, comfort, help, or rescue.  But if we don’t know God, if we don’t spend time with him, we won’t trust that God is going to catch us.  Praying, worshipping, singing, meditating, reading the Bible, and being in community with other believers will help strengthen our bonds with God.  If we don’t invest in our relationship with him, we will not learn to trust him.  Then, we may never take any of the risks in life that make it so rich and worthwhile.

Leaps of faith are hard.  The better we know God, the more we will trust him to help us when we take the plunges that we want and need to take.  So, let’s dive in knowing God is our lifeguard, who loves us and is there to save us.