Monthly Archives: January 2021

When to Push Send


My finger hovered over the “send” button.  I’d written the email, I’d attached my book proposal, but I hesitated. I’d worked so long and hard on the document and had such high hopes that my proposal would be well received.  I’d prayed throughout the process of writing the proposal that God would help me find the words in order to share God’s love with others.  The anxiety and nerves caught up with me in that second, and I felt somewhat overwhelmed.  I took a breath, said an additional prayer, and hit the button.  Later, I told my daughter Riley that I’d shed a few tears before I found the gumption to send the email.  She said, “sometimes, there can be a lot of emotion in hitting send.”  I thought her statement was spot on.  That moment before we make a decision to act can be daunting and quite simply terrifying.  

So many factors go into making decisions.  We weigh the pros and cons.  We think through the potential outcomes.  We worry about what we might lose if we act.  We wish for what we might gain.  But our inability to control what happens is difficult for some of us.  Sometimes, the risks we perceive can paralyze us and keep us from making a decision at all.  When we don’t have all of the information our analysis feels incomplete.  But in so many circumstances, we simply can’t have all of the data before we choose.  In particular, we cannot know for certain how others will act or react to our decisions.  The unknown looms large and that can be maddening for those of us who want to know all the facts, all the time. 

For my book proposal, I had a deadline that provided the impetus I needed to finally push the send button.  So often though, we don’t have a timeline, so we wait, not wanting to pull the trigger in case we make the wrong choice.  Sometimes these are big life decisions, like what job to take or where to go to school.  But often our choices seem small but still so very important, like determining the right time to say what’s on our hearts or minds. 

At the root of this decision-making dilemma is fear.  Fear of choosing wrong and feeling like a failure or fear of suffering emotional pain and possible rejection.  In the Old Testament, when David was captured by his enemy, he said, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise — in God I trust and am not afraid.”  Psalm 56:3-4.  I marvel that in his dire situation, David could write about trusting God when he was afraid.  I admit that my trust in God is weak and my fears about making decisions pale in comparison to David’s plight.  But I also wonder if David wrote about his fear and his choice to trust God during those uncertain times to remind himself.  Maybe he repeated those words over and over like a mantra: When I am afraid, I put my trust in you, God.  

In those times when we encounter a decision, we can scrutinize our options and then pray in earnest for God’s guidance, inviting God to help us in our dilemma.  Ultimately, we face that moment right before finally making the actual decision.  As we hit the send button, literally or figuratively, when the anxiety and fear are at their peak, we can repeat David’s words in order to find courage to take that step.  When we are afraid, let us put our trust in God and rest in the hope and comfort that God will be with us always.

Receive the Positive Energy


This fall, we were watching “The Voice” singing competition during the blind auditions stage in which the contestant sings with the judges’ backs turned.  Singer Tamara Jade easily convinced all four coaches to turn around and request that she become a member of their teams.  When coach Kelly Clarkson made her pitch to Jade, she said, “You’re incredible. … You’re going to be in the finale.”  Jade was obviously flabbergasted that someone of Clarkson’s caliber would praise her in such high terms, but instead of merely saying thank you, Jade said, “I receive that.”   

Her response shocked and delighted me.  When Clarkson paid Jade a compliment, she deliberately chose to accept the positive energy and take it into her mind and spirit.  I thought, I didn’t even know someone could do that.  But Jade’s use of the phrase felt right. 

I don’t always take compliments well.  I don’t think I’m alone in this way.  If someone says something nice, instead of relishing the compliment, we deflect by redirecting the conversation.  Or we may even reject the kind words by shaking our heads or being self-deprecating in response.  Even if we express our appreciation, we don’t always believe others when they praise us.  We may think “if they only knew me” or “they’re just being nice” or “that’s not true” in response.    

Of course, if we hear a negative comment, we tend to take it to heart.  If someone makes an off-hand remark that they don’t necessarily intend to be hurtful, we still accept it as truth.  Even if the person is not someone we trust, we may give credence to their negativity.  We ruminate on the hurtful words, analyze them, relive them, and believe them.  We find it much harder to dispel the bad.  Unfortunately, we allow the negative to infiltrate our beliefs about ourselves.  

In Ephesians, the apostle Paul said, “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Ephesians 4:1-2.  We have each received a calling from God.  Some of us may know with specific detail what God has called us to do in life, but rest assured all of us have a larger, more general calling to love and help others.  We serve God by loving God’s people.     

Perhaps, we can judge whether to accept the criticism others aim at us by deciding whether it helps us live a life worthy of the calling we’ve received.  If the negativity only serves to tear us down and makes us doubt our worthiness, then we should reject it.  But we can and should accept the positive feedback we receive from others.  God loves us and values us beyond measure.  God works through people, so maybe the encouraging words from others allows God to communicate our value to us.  If we can truly believe the best about ourselves, we will then feel more confident.  When we embrace God’s love, when we accept love from people,  when we love ourselves, we will feel free to share love with other people.     

I want to emulate Tamara Jade’s attitude.  When someone tells me something positive about myself, I will say thank you and then think, “I receive that.”  In so doing, I embrace God’s calling to love myself and love others.  We can all choose to “receive” the positive energy others give us and use it to further God’s work in the world.     

Blessing One Another


On Saturday, I braved Target to get supplies because the weather report said it might ice or snow.  In north Texas, this usually means we will not see any precipitation at all, but the remote possibility of bad weather sent me and a bunch of other folks to the store.  As I pushed my full cart down an aisle, a woman who worked at Target was collecting items for an online order.  She said, “I like your mask.”  “Thank you,” I said and smiled underneath my mask, printed with the word “Kindness.”  “We really need it right now,” she said.  I agreed wholeheartedly since it was only three days after the domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol.  Then, she reminded me that we still have to keep going forward.  I agreed again.  

This woman was happy.  Effervescent even.  You could tell just by the way she talked.  I’m not sure exactly what I said next, but it must’ve been something about her outlook.  Because then she said when people hear her story, they wonder why she is so positive.  Quickly, she told me she’d suffered abandonment and abuse as a child but that her grandparents had cared for her and raised her to overcome.  I was taken aback.  She got ready to move on with her work.  But before she left, she said we had to be a blessing to each other right now.  I told her she’d definitely been a blessing to me.  

I don’t know her name.  I should’ve asked, but it all happened so fast.  In less than five minutes, she left an indelible impression on me.  For people like me, who tend to feel things deeply and intensely, it’s hard to know what to do, what to say, how to be in the face of recent events.  Sometimes, it’s difficult to feel happy.  But the woman at Target showed me a way to take a small step forward by initiating a conversation rooted in kindness and encouragement.

Many of the books in the New Testament are letters from the apostle Paul or attributed to him by his followers.  Twelve of those letters begin with some variation of the greeting, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Romans 1:7.  In some of those letters, Paul addressed serious conflicts within the church.  He did not shy away from calling out behavior that he found problematic.  He provided advice on ways to advance the cause of Christ and interact more peacefully with one another.  While Paul’s words were not perfect, he attempted to provide a path for the members of the churches.  But every time, before he got to the heart of his message, he started by wishing them grace and peace from God and Christ.  

We, as a nation, have a lot of issues to address in the coming years.  These problems have been building for a long time and will not be resolved overnight.  And each of us will decide what role we play in the reckoning and recovery.  We cannot shy away from the situation.  We cannot ignore it or give up.  But maybe, we should model Paul.  We should hope that we experience God’s grace and peace while we engage in the tough work ahead.  

The woman at Target had hope, and she was willing to share that with me, a stranger.  She gave me a sense of grace and peace, and I felt that God was present in our interaction.  Let us go into our communities wishing grace and peace upon each person.  Then perhaps, all of us will feel God’s love living inside of us as we work together for a better tomorrow.  

God, Forgive Us


I am writing this at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, on one of the darkest days in our nation’s history.  I didn’t think this would happen – honestly.  I thought the rioters would stop at the doors of the United States Capitol.  These people were not protesters.  They were terrorists.  I didn’t think we would witness insurrection of this kind on our soil.  I am simply flabbergasted.  And aggrieved.  My heart is heavy for our country.  

Today is Epiphany – when the church celebrates the day the Three Wise Men met the infant Jesus.  They followed the star that appeared at Jesus’ birth, brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and bowed down to worship Jesus.  The Magi experienced Epiphany because they came to realize that Jesus was God in human form on earth.  As such, epiphany is defined as a moment of sudden revelation or insight.  

Unfortunately, today’s moment of sudden revelation and insight was not positive or beautiful or magnificent.  When President Trump won in 2016, I heard many people claim that Trump was God’s anointed.  I never believed that.  He is an amoral, vile, disgusting human being.  He could not be God’s chosen.  To me, Trump symbolized how the United States has idolized wealth, guns, bigotry, misogyny, racism, nationalism, ignorance, etc.  Trump has been fomenting hate and rage for over four years.  He tapped into the nation’s hideous underbelly.  Today was the culmination of his words and conduct and those who blindly follow along.  

This is a moment of reckoning.  We, as a country, are selfish; we do not care for the poor and the downtrodden; we are hateful to one another; we do not try to understand someone who is different from us; we brutalize people of color; we do not love as God loves.  We are lost in the wilderness.  God weeps for us and wants us to ask for forgiveness of our sins as a nation.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve never personally done anything wrong – we are guilty as a community, as a nation.  We should be ashamed of ourselves and what we’ve become.  

I do not care if you’ve traditionally called yourself a Republican or Democrat.  We must all vehemently reject the violence but also the motivations that underlie and built the foundation for these terrorist acts.  People love to believe that America is God’s nation.  Not today.  We must wake up.  We must repent.  We must experience an epiphany.  We must learn from today.  We must begin the process of digging deep into our nation’s soul and eradicate our sinful nature.  We must try to show God that we are sorry and that we will try to do better.  We simply must, or we will fall.  God, help us.  God, hear our prayer. 

How Do We Use Our Energy?


When I opened my laptop the other day, I realized that I’d failed to close several tabs from the night before.  In addition to ten Word documents, the internet search engine was still open.  But the message at the top caught my attention because it said, “Page was not reloaded because it was using significant energy.”  I was impressed by the computer’s analytical ability to determine that it should not reload the page in question because it would deplete its energy.  If only we could just as easily decide when we should not reload particular thoughts or memories because they take too much of our precious energy.    

Instead, we often waste our energy reliving, rethinking, and reanalyzing the past that we cannot change.  Or, we spend significant time plotting, planning, and pretending we have control over the future in order to fend off an all-consuming fear of what might happen.  Sometimes, we feel we can’t determine how we spend our mental and emotional energy.  And while depression or anxiety at times may influence us, we can choose whether we expend our energy on positive or negative thoughts and emotions many times.  What harmful pages in our heart and minds do we reload regularly, wasting our reserves of energy?     

As we enter a new year after enduring one that challenged everyone and devastated some, the familiar words of the Lord replay in my mind: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.  . . . Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:1-3 & 18-19.  God reassures us that we belong to God and that God is with us when, not if, we go through terrible situations.  God asks us to look forward to the new things that God will bring to us and not dwell on the past.  I’ve found comfort in these verses during some tough times in my life.  In the midst of facing those challenges, I clung to the promise that God would hold me up and bring me to a new place eventually.        

Perhaps in this new year, we can resolve to be more aware of where we direct our energy.  Do we spend our efforts dwelling on the past, reloading the pages that damage our psyches?  Or can we spend our energy focusing on the good things we have in life, practicing gratitude, and hoping for a brighter tomorrow?  This won’t always be easy.  But if we become more conscious in following God’s direction to set our minds on the new and wonderful things God will do, then we might find that our energy is renewed and becomes a reservoir that sustains us.  Thanks be to God.