The Dangerous Place of Loneliness

Wise thinking leads to right living; Stupid thinking leads to wrong living. Fools on the road have no sense of direction. The way they walk tells the story: “There goes the fool again!”

Ecclesiastes 10:2-3 MSG

Whether you are alone in a crowded room or struggling in isolation trying to connect with real people, loneliness is something we all face at different times in our lives. How you choose to handle it can change the course of your entire future. There are predators right now banking on you getting it wrong.

Loneliness is a dangerous place because we want connection so desperately that we often bend our rules to get it. In today’s post, we will talk about the dangers to avoid and some positive ways to tackle loneliness when it comes.

If it is a normal part of life, how is loneliness dangerous?

Loneliness becomes dangerous when it is coupled with isolation, bad thoughts, and negative influences.

In isolation, we tell ourselves we are ugly and unlovable. We build up others to be our arch nemesis, and we seek retribution. In extremes, this plays out as gun violence, suicide, online scams, and so much more.

Is it really extreme to connect loneliness to violent, tragic behavior? I think not.

A recent study found that loneliness brought on by social isolation can profoundly alter one’s brain chemistry, shorten longevity, and even bring the onset of serious illnesses. Another study argues that suicide rates are increasing since all the social isolation of the Covid-19 pandemic. Suicide and social isolation are now considered public health crises.

4 Ways to Counteract Loneliness

Read The Bible

When your heart is discouraged and your mind fills with negative thoughts, the Word of God is living and active to cut through the noise.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12

Reading Scriptures that encourage you to take control of your thoughts and think positively will help you keep perspective in the hard times of life.

Meet People In Real Life

As long as you are being careful, there is nothing wrong with having friends online. Several friends I dearly care for are online, overseas, and in places where I may never see them in person. With that being said, I reserve my deepest friendships for those whom I can see in person.

I think it is important to be able to trust others in person. I don’t tell my personal business to the entire world—even if I do get quite transparent here to all of you. The truths I struggle with on a daily basis, I talk to a few close friends about.

Some people have social anxiety. Some are afraid of meeting others because of Covid-19 and all its variants. Bottom line: you can’t let fear control you. Challenge yourself to do something different that makes you meet others.

Get A Hobby

If you struggle to meet others, the easiest way to do so is through your hobbies. Find something to do that is not isolating you or keeping you online.

If your hobby is gaming, look at what you like about that game and how you could do something positive in real life with it. If you are an active shooter gamer, maybe there is a gun range you can practice shooting at or some hunters you can connect with and go hunting. If you are a VR and lifestyle gamer, maybe there is an animal shelter you can volunteer at and meet people there or a short course at the local community college that speaks to your enterprising, creative, and entrepreneurial spirit.

If you are really good at handmade crafts, find a group that likes to craft together and donate to charity. Consider making stuff to sell and setting up at a craft fair. You can make more than money from that hobby; you make friendships with other crafters.

Get Outside

Exposure to sunlight is said to increase the brain’s release of the hormone, serotonin, that makes you feel happier, calmer, and more focused.

Think about that! Your body’s basic chemistry is telling you that it is not good to be inside all the time.

Go for a walk around the block. Go to a park or nature reserve, take a picnic, and spend some time there. Jump in a kayak and explore the river. Put on a harness and scale a rock wall. The world is your oyster.

Final Thoughts

When you challenge yourself to do something positive and different, you change the norms that you have been living in. When you change your norms, your life becomes better almost overnight. When your life becomes better, you attract people you want to be like and be around. When you start spending time together, your loneliness loses its voice.

Being busy doesn’t end loneliness. Being vulnerable with people you can trust does.

Mankind was not built to live life alone. Find people you are interested in that can uplift you, and invest the time it takes to earn their trust. Use your words to communicate clearly, and be patient with the time it takes to develop that connection into a deep relationship.

Godmothering: The Power of Mentoring To Change Lives

“Profound Accord” by Tracey Penrod

A year ago or more, I bought this print from my friend Tracey Penrod. The image spoke to me of friendship and motherhood…of dreams yet to be fulfilled. I kept both the impressions and the artwork to myself until today. With permission from the artist to reprint her work here, I tell you that today, this image speaks to me about mentoring others.

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is about giving back to the world some portion of what you have learned in it. When I write to you, dear reader, it is my attempt to help you learn and grow from my experiences.

But, actual mentorship gets more personal than a conversation like this. Mentorship is face-to-face and walking out life together with someone that can learn from you.

Why Do You Need Mentorship?

If you are young, the Bible says you are supposed to be mentored (into godly character and living) by older, more experienced Christians. So, in part, you can say mentorship is a part of developing your faith. But it is more than that.

To be a mentee makes you have wings to fly in your business, relationships with others, and personal life. It helps you more clearly define who you are to yourself and others. That clarity is immeasurably important–especially in business–because you have to be able to advocate for yourself to get ahead in this world.

Why Should You Be A Mentor?

If you think back to when you got started in your adult life, you did not do it alone. You had parents, teachers, or other business owners answering your questions. Most of the time, they did that all for free just to help. That is what mentorship is: selfless sacrifice for the good of others.

If you still don’t get it, think about how you want to be remembered and celebrated when you die. Will your funeral be Ebenezer Scrooge with one faithful employee that shows up–if you are lucky? Or will it be Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose passing was felt around the world and, when he died, a funeral train carried his body 3000 miles through 9 states for people to gather at the tracks and say farewell to his body as it passed.

What I find surprising about death is how much it tells you about the person. You learn things you never knew about them when they were alive, and you find out just what they meant to you emotionally.

Such was the case with my friend, Juanita Green.

What is a Godmother?

It wasn’t till she passed that I realized who she was to me. Juanita was a godmother to me, and by that I mean she poured her life sacrificially as a mentor. Pastor Jim Wall, the Senior Pastor of The Bridge Church, used 1 Corinthians 4:15-17 to show us that the church “is desperate for some spiritual mommas and daddies”. Do the needs of the early church still stand true today? The answer is: absolutely!

Lisa Bevere coined the term “Godmother” for this in her latest Bible study, Godmothers. It means someone who is investing actively in the lives of other people around them. They do life with these people and show them God’s love in practical ways. They invest even to the point of taking a risk because they see value even when it isn’t there yet. They make sacrifices and sometimes live frugally because it is more important to them to make other peoples’ dreams come true than their own.

Show God’s Heart

1 John 2 has some strong words for those who claim to know Christ but hold on to hatred and unforgiveness towards others. I have to admit–I struggle with this one two. What it is trying to say is that God is not a god that plays favorites; if we want to be like Him and claim to be his, we have to be less and less prejudiced with our love. It also means that we have to be willing to forgive when people mess up–because they will…we all do. If you are honest with your own relationship with God and you show who you are with actions not just words, you will exhibit the character of a person who is what they say they are. THAT is a person people will follow and trust.

Make Room For Love In Your Timeline

All throughout the New Testament, Paul’s letters open and close with reminders of what he did in the presence of the people he was writing to. They also talk about people he left or sent to them as examples and witnesses of what he was saying. All those verses are good examples of what it looks like to make yourself available. Paul wasn’t always able to physically be where someone needed him to be, but he was always with them in spirit. I think that is an important thing to note because we all struggle with time management. Nevertheless, he made it a point to make time to communicate to the people he cared about. We should do likewise.

When is the last time you sat down with the people you loved and spent quality time with them doing something they cared about? When have you last told your loved ones that you love them? As a mentor, you need to be clearly communicating all that to your loved ones, but you also need to be available for the people you mentor.

Being a spiritual momma and daddy is about every interaction you have. It’s being available and sharing your life–not just leading a meeting.

Jim Wall, Senior Pastor of The Bridge Church

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 gives us a picture of what this looks like in a family setting. It shows us parents who make their faith a part of their everyday living. They teach their faith to their children and children’s children. They set up reminders around the house of the goodness of God.

How does that translate into mentorship?

Mentors need to see themselves as spiritual parents and grandparents. They should make faith a part of their everyday lives and live it out with their mentees in a true honest friendship relationship.

Believe To The Point Of Taking A Risk

Every great person in the Bible had someone believing in them when they were not yet great. That is what Jesus did with the disciples—especially Peter. How could Christ look at the man that would deny him three times and still say, in Matthew 16:18, that he would be the rock on which the church would be built? He said this not just because he was God. He said this because he believed in Peter and saw his potential even before there was evidence of it.

To be a good mentor, you have to be willing to do the same thing. Sometimes you have to trust someone when they are not currently getting it right or being trustworthy. This can be a risky thing to do because sometimes you have to invest in them in ways you don’t know how they will end up. Paul did that with a former slave in Philemon 1:18-19. He offered to pay off the debt he owed for him! And guess what happened to Philemon after that? Scholars believe he went on to pastor a church that changed a whole city!

The Risk Reward is a Legacy

The legacy you leave behind when you are a mentor is the people you invested in. It is their lives living on after you, leaving a mark in the world, that you have made different. Whether that is one life or one million doesn’t matter. What matters is that you didn’t keep it all to yourself. What matters is that you took the risk to gain the reward of a legacy of lives touched by your presence in it.

That is the risk Juanita Green took at the end of her life. She did not always live life well, but at the end of it all giving and mentoring was the refining fire of all her former selfishness (as she would have called it). She was not the first important mentor in my life nor will she be the last, but I think it is important to note here that she left the impression she did on me in just four months. It doesn’t take a lot of time to make a difference that changes a life for a lifetime. It just takes a heart open and willing to love.

A father [or mother] who serves the destiny of others above serving his own, will, in the end, fulfill his destiny.

Pastor Bill Humphries

Why You Should Block Your Ex

Poem read by author, Rebecca Whitman

You told me every word on your mind, no filters–

And nothing that I needed to hear

You filled silence with your incessant need for attention–

And nothing that asked about my life

You made countless promises, filled my heart with hopes and dreams–

And nothing that took action in five years of waiting

You called and claimed you changed, threw a bone at my wants and interests–

And nothing that reflected them as your own in your voice or character

You left me second guessing my best decisions–

And nothing but a wound so close I’m left…

bleeding out…


I phone a friend and find life–

He binds my wounds and gives me hope again

but his heart

is closed to mine.


I think of all the love I shared with you, and I realize it wasn’t nothing–

but it ended in nothing.

I’m tempted to pick up the phone and try again–

then I read about the eight years we tried and failed and know…

there is not enough life left to repeat it.

For all the love we shared that was real, I wish you well–

May you find a heart that gives you rest and welcome; May her love for you be warm and ready

May you give her the best of you–healed and whole because that’s all a new love deserves

not the ghost of regrets with mine.

A Love For All Seasons

True love is not a flash in the pan; it is something that sparks within friendship and grows into a roaring camp fire. All the water in the world can’t douse its flame. It burns endlessly. A love like that is worth waiting for, fighting for, and protecting.

Eugene Barilla and Song of Songs 8:4;6-7

This is for the friend whose fire is yet to be...

You found me…

In the Winter of my discontent when all my hopes for love felt jaded and I saved myself through freezing to -22⁰C.

You thawed me…

I came to life for you–the first colorful buds of Spring opening cautiously, scared to trust the scorched earth with their beauty and light.

You watered me…

The heat of your Summer as you encouraged and celebrated my dreams brought my garden to bloom.

You harvested me…

In the beauty of Autumn, in the fields full and ripe for picking, you saw the beauty in me and harvested my love for your own.

You give me an all seasons love…

You open yourself to me–unafraid to lay all secrets bare. The sparked flame of your love burns away the baggage of mine and I reciprocate gratefully.

Green Acorn: A Prayer

We certainly associate Spring with growth, but Autumn is the start. We have to shed our leaves and let things die for them to grow anew.

Millie, editor of Sylvia magazine
Reading by author, Rebecca Whitman

What will you start in me today, Lord?

What gentle bud will cocoon its life and wait for Spring? What leaves will shed and rot to feed the root of this dream? What branches will You prune from me because they bare no fruit? Will it be a wandering branch of thought or a whole arm out of touch with the mission?

I wait and listen…but I’m a little scared too.

It’s been a fear unsettled since I returned here, yet I want You to unearth it. Uproot it like the weed it is and water me with the Miracle-Gro of Your presence. I feel like I can’t hide away enough in You. Isn’t that part of the evidence here of transformation?

I give you…everything.

I surrender everything I have because I know it is a gift from You–a resource given to use not hoard. I know you will take care of me and get resources to me if you know you can get them through me.

I work through my waiting.

I pursue greater trust in You. I write down my dreams, and I’m not afraid to dream big with You! I make plain the steps to fulfill what I can, but, ultimately, it all falls apart without Your hand.

I have looked up at the sky through a world full of acorns.

I have seen the light through the leaves and let them fall on me. I have let brown acorns root and take residence where they should not have been, while the good green ones fell away from me. Why was my soil not good enough for their seed? Why did some other woman grab them with her earth, become their lover–their mother of children?

My ground, though aged and weak, has rested. The once stripped soil is fertile ground once more. I wait–with thanksgiving and expectation–for tomorrow’s planting and harvest. I thank You, Lord, for the green acorn You have chosen and are preparing for me today.

Shared Memory

I remember the sticky sweet smell of blueberry pie

filling grandma’s kitchen when we told her, and the hushed

smile when she saw the ring.

She pulled me close and whispered her approval:

You caught yourself a good one, girl. I’m glad. You deserved it.


I remember the hardwood floors, and the way we danced

in the living room before the children came–and still do

as they’re sleeping.


I remember the fish in the bathroom wall. The swirling blue

we painted below it. Our faces aglow

laughing

waiting to see the awe and wonder

of our children in their own aquarium.


I remember the way you first held my hand:

slow and gentle,

afraid to be touched but hovering to touch mine.

You warmed to a long sought-after embrace,

mellowed by wrinkles and tears, strengthened

by a life well lived together.

Now your hand is paper thin; a ghost in mine.


I hold the vapor of you, relive

every memory of our shared past, wish

I had you sooner, thank

God that I didn’t miss you–

that you were mine!

A Biblical Perspective On Caring For Aging Loved Ones

When I was very young, maybe five, I visited my great-grandmother. She was crippled with arthritis and bed-ridden and she scared the crap out of me. She said, “come here let me squeeze the puddin’ out of ya'” and I thought she really could squeeze the life out of me. Of course, I know better now, but that doesn’t change the fact that my only living memory of a woman I would later love and respect is one of fear and retreat.

When I was a little older, I used to visit nursing homes with my parents. We would sing old hymns and dad would preach a short sermon. Then we would visit the rooms and pray with anyone that needed it. I remember the people would smile and mumble along to the familiar tunes. They were especially happy to see young people and stared at my sister and me as if they could drink in our youth through exposure. I remember they smelled like moth balls and looked a little frightening with their sagging jaws and skin.

When I became an adult, I volunteered at a nursing home to help teach a lady to paint. I went into her room and talked to her about her life and shared with her some fun techniques to try with her art. I got to know her and some of her life story. She didn’t seem old or scary, she was experienced and interesting with a strong, healthy mind. I thought of her as a friend. One day she had bad headaches and couldn’t see me. One day turned into two. Another day she was fine and happy to talk again, but she told me she didn’t want me to “waste my time” coming out there. I got busy and stopped coming for a while. The next I heard, she was dead and gone. I never got to say goodbye.

I think humans are funny about age. When we are born, we think it is adorable when babies are covered in drool, spilling their food, and making messes. We have compassion for their short-comings and reward every small gain they have because it is progress. But when all these things happen with an adult, we treat them with fear and disdain. We invest in plastic surgery, exotic pills, and drastic health care programs to try to stave off getting older. Nothing stops the inevitable.

It’s one thing to deal with the effects of aging personally, but what about when our parents are getting older?

My pastor, Andrew Price, says there are four stages that aging parents go through.

  1. First, they become grandparents and enjoy being able to invest in their kids’ kids without all the hard work of day-to-day parenting.
  2. Second, they become retirees and get to reap the rewards of hard work and investments. They have time to relax, travel, and enjoy life. They make great mentors for others at this stage.
  3. Thirdly, they realize they can’t do all they used to do and they have to start relying on their kids to do some things for them. During this role-reversal stage, parents worry about having enough insurance and money to cover their needs and children struggle to care for their parents without treating them like children.
  4. Fourth, they become completely dependent on others for their care. In this stage, parents are no longer able to care for themselves, so the kids have to arrange for care for them. This can become a financial and emotional burden for everyone.

Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
    and parents are the pride of their children. Proverbs 17:6, NIV

There is a lot of joy for stages one and two here, but I feel a deep sadness for stages three and four. Some may say it is because dealing with aging parents reminds us of our own mortality, but for me, it is more personal than that. My parents are my heroes; I’ve always looked up to them. They are barely into their sixties, yet I am living through part of these later stages with them now because of their health.

It is hard to see your heroes get knocked down.

It is hard to see them depend on people for their basic care. It is infuriating when those people also don’t care about doing their jobs well...if at all. Strangers will never know the value of your loved ones or care to know their story the way you do.

What is also hard about stages three and four is realizing that the person you love may not be with you much longer. You’ve gotten used to life with them in it. Now you feel cheated to think they won’t be there for the rest of it. At some point, whether you want to or not, we all have to say goodbye and try to live without our loved ones. It’s not easy.

I’ve had to say goodbye to more loved ones than I care to think about, and I have never been good at it. I’ve realized that I have a lot to learn from old people, even the mean, and scary ones.

Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.  Psalms 90:10 NIV

Some Lessons I’ve Learned From Older People

First, take care of your health. The stuff you put off when you are young catches up to you when you are old. It pays back with interest…negatively.

Second, spend quality time with the people you care about. If you didn’t care to get off your phone and play with them when they were young, why should they care about taking time out of their busy lives to visit you when you are old?

Third, be encouraging to your children. No child deserves to be put down by their parents. If you can’t be nice to them and encourage them into being a better person, you probably shouldn’t have been a parent at all. Don’t be surprised when no one comes to your funeral.

Fourth, plan ahead. Save what you can save. Invest what you can invest. Life costs more when you are older.

Fifth, don’t live with comparisons and regrets. You can control your choices but you can’t control them for someone else. You gain nothing from holding back on your dreams and goals or comparing what you have to what others have. At the end of the day, Facebook lies, Twitter glimpses, and Instagram only shows the cropped shots. If you get too caught up in what others have, you will end up scared and wasteful with what you do have.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot… What do workers gain from their toil?  I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.  He has made everything beautiful in its time. 

He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.  

I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear (revere) him.

–Ecclesiastes 3:1-14, NIV

What Love Looks Like: A Biblical Perspective On Romantic Relationships

One day during my teaching career, a student came to visit during my office hours. This particular student had been struggling with more than her fair share of life issues, and it left her seriously questioning her identity and value. She had returned to self-harming as a result of the stresses in her life, and she was very angry at the people she said she loved. As she shared with me the depth of hurt and anger she is battling through, I felt God whisper in my heart: “How much love is enough love?”
I encouraged her to pour love, grace, and patience into the relationships challenging her–especially to the person she was most angry about. Then I felt the conviction myself.
In God’s eyes, there is no limit, no end, to love. Could I say I had been as forgiving, patient, or kind with my love? Probably not. I found myself looking at love in a whole new way.
The Dream and the Lie
Most of my youth was spent wishing for a handsome prince who would see me and pursue me like a precious prize to be won and treasured. I imagined him on a white horse in a suit of shining armor riding up to my front door. Then I imagined him in a long dark cloak blaring love songs from a boombox outside my window–total John Cusack 80’s style. When a man puts his heart on his sleeve and is brave enough to make his feelings known to a woman–when he risks public rejection and heartbreak to win her–it is a beautiful and powerful thing. I always dreamed of a love like this and never appreciated it when I had it.
Women today are more likely to cripple a man than to give him an opportunity to shine. We dumb down our standards and dress like dime store whores because we think that if we show more and ask for less, we will attract the Prince Charming of our dreams. We don’t just holler from street corners either; we go out seeking him. We chase men down and lure them in with deceptive double-talk and sensuality like we think a real man will want to be played more than he wants pure honesty.
Don’t Play Games
Real men don’t play games. Real men are honest and tender with hearts that crumble when they are lied to or cheated on. Real men have standards and attach like glue to a good woman when they find one. If their hearts are ever broken, they are twice as hard as a woman’s to rebuild because it is harder for them to trust again. Real men have a dream to be someone’s hero, but they doubt they will ever really meet the mark. They tell themselves they are losers more than any woman ever will. Real men have real physical needs; they might fall for a cheap whore for a moment, but the idea of marrying her and having kids with her repulses them. Real men need time with other real men. They juggle responsibilities to their jobs, their homes, and their hobbies, and they hope a woman will understand their need for downtime without being clingy or feeling ignored.
Treat a Woman as Treasure Divine
When a man gets the opportunity to love a woman the way she deserves to be loved and the woman reciprocates that love to him, the result is a love like what we see in Proverbs 31. The Proverbs 31 woman was greatly respected in the town. She was known for being wise, resourceful, and trust-worthy. The Bible says that her husband had full confidence in her–he trusted her–and he talked highly about her to everyone in town. When a woman gives a man the room to be a man, it unlocks a part of him he didn’t even know he had. Her encouragement inspires him to believe in himself and do more to provide for himself and for her. That’s what happened when Ruth gave herself to Boaz on the threshing floor. The love of a good woman gives a man wings to be the best version of himself. When he can rest in her love–when he can truly trust his love found a home with her–he will feel less like a loser and more like a hero in his own world.
Women Need to Nurture Superheroes
There is a reason why little boys dress like superheroes, cowboys, and sheriffs; they are hard-wired to fight for and defend something important. Little girls dress up as princesses not to be damsels-in-distress, but to be ladies encouraging princes to have something important to fight for and defend. Parents, let your little ones dream big dreams and pretend to be superheroes. Encourage their belief in themselves and in their importance in the world because they really ARE the key to saving the world. The very hope of the world–the message of salvation through Jesus Christ alone–rests on us. Boys and girls are meant to grow up and become real superheroes. We are Christ’s ambassadors, and God is making his appeal to all mankind through us Christians (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Furthermore, the love God has for each of us individually shows its fullest expression on Earth in the marriage of men to women.
Love Like Jesus
When I am closest to Christ through reading the Bible, prayer, and worship, I feel his presence wrap around me in tangible ways. He brings me flowers and chocolate and we sit and enjoy a sunset together. He brings me rain and cuddles up to sleep in with me. He pulls back my hair and whispers how beautiful I am in my ear. He helps me make the bed and encourages me that I can finish that quilt to make it up next time. He encourages me to try new things and challenge myself. He tells me a joke to hear me laugh. He shows me an array of colors to remind me that he is an artist too. He knows my deepest thoughts and longings. He holds me when I cry, and he’s brave enough to love me when all I have for him are shouts of “why?!” Christ loves me with a never-ending, patience. His love is a love that can’t get enough of me. He sees beyond me to what I will become, and he loves me despite all my failings. His love is the love I took for granted and never appreciated when I had it. The good news is that this love was ready and waiting for me when I turned back to it.
I believe that Christ loves me–and all who accept him as Lord–like this so I will have a tangible example of how to show his love to others. It was his idea that I made my apartment into a honeymoon suite for my sister and brother-in-law when they were first married and too poor to get away anywhere. It was his idea to leave special gifts in the mailboxes of my co-workers at Christmas. It was his idea to talk about love today because someone somewhere needed to hear these very words: God sees you, He knows you, and He loves you right where you are right now.
Dear single hearts, I challenge you to begin to celebrate the love of Christ in your life. Let him fill your heart with the wealth of his great love for you and teach you to be a whole person and happy in Him. My friend Bill Rose Jr. is writing about and teaching on this in his sermon series, “Vows”. I found it very helpful. You can check it out here.
Dear coupled hearts, I challenge you to begin to celebrate the love of Christ in your relationship. Let him fill your heart with the wealth of his great love for you and show you how to treat your mate like a treasure. Nurture goodness and virtue in your mate and see how that returns blessings to you as well.
Dear parenting and teaching hearts, I challenge you to begin to celebrate the love of Christ in your relationships with your children and/or students. Let him fill your heart with the wealth of his great love for you and show you ways to share that love with them. Let him show you ways to nurture greatness in them because your influence is far greater than you know or can see right now.
Dear lost hearts, if it’s been a while since you felt Christ in your life–or if you have never made that first step of commitment–I challenge you to begin your journey today. We live in a sinful world, but God chose to redeem those that believe in him through the death of his one and only son (John 3:16-17). We have all messed up and fallen short of the perfection and glory that is in God, but if you believe and confess that Jesus Christ is the one and only son of God, that he died to save you from your sins, and that he was raised to life again, then you will be saved (John 3:16-17; Romans 3:23; Romans 10:9). Let someone know about this new commitment! I encourage you to find a good Bible-teaching church where you can grow in your faith walk with Christ and find encouragement to leave your old ways in the past. If you need help finding a place to connect, or you want more information about Christianity, comment your concerns below.
Thanks for reading!

The Love That Came At Christmas To Heal Us

Around the world right now, trees are decorated with lights, precious trinkets we call ornaments, and wrapped boxes we are anxious to open. Music and food we reserve for just this time of year are shared and relished with family and friends. We hurry to shops and parties we don’t bother with the rest of the year. Then we slow down with a cup of cocoa, a blanket, and a Hallmark movie to feel the magic that anything truly can happen this time of the year. We take longer baths, we sleep in and read books in bed, and we dream of snow all to pamper ourselves. Now is the time of year when we relish the things we have accomplished and the ones we hold dear and seek to show them our love with our gifts and our time.

But none of this gift would be ours without Jesus.

Once upon a time two thousand or so years ago, there was a baby born in a barn because there was no room for him elsewhere. He was wrapped in rags and laid in a feed trough because it was the closest thing to a cradle and diapers in a barn back then.

He was no ordinary baby because he had no ordinary father. His mother was a woman so young that she was practically a child herself. She became pregnant while she was engaged to another man; she became pregnant by God.

I imagine she was a beautiful woman, but beauty would not have been enough to save her from the shame and punishment of an unwed pregnancy. Still, her betrothed loved her dearly and chose to protect her when he was told the news. Not only did he protect her, but he believed with her that the baby was a gift from God not a betrayal with another man. He accepted the role of a stepfather and chose to love the son she carried like it was his own.

A wicked king got word that a baby was coming that would be a greater king than any on Earth, a king of all kings. He didn’t like that, so he made a decree that all the male children in the land should be killed. Many innocent babies were slaughtered, but the young king of kings escaped unscathed.

The young king was born in meager surroundings to parents who could never offer him the riches of a palace. He came at an unexpected time in the middle of a journey to a destination that had to change when news of the wicked king’s evil plans reached his parents. Before he was a minute old, he was challenging and changing their world.

I imagine it was not easy to raise a son knowing he was also the son of your God. How could they instruct the one who was there when the Earth was formed from the black void of the heavens? What could they possibly teach him that he didn’t already know himself? They taught him love. His stepfather taught him the tools and skills of his trade, carpentry. His mother likely taught him manners and social skills. If he knew better than they, he did not show it. He chose humility and obeyed them.

The God child did not come into the world for a fun adventure. He came to meet specific people in history and fulfill a prophesy to restore right relationship between God himself and mankind. He didn’t care about taking any king’s throne; he cared about making a way for all kings and commoners to approach God again (something they could not do when sin entered the picture in the Garden of Eden).

The God child, Jesus Christ, chose to die a tortured death with his hands and feet nailed to a Roman cross with nails the size of railroad spikes. It was a death reserved for the worst of criminals, but he did not do anything to deserve it. He chose to die in this way so that he could symbolically suffer for the sins of all mankind and pay the penalty of their sin in their stead.

The sacrifice worked, but it did not come easy. As he pressed against the nails and broken bones, he struggled to breath and slowly suffocated. In a dry voice barely more than a whisper, he said, “it is finished.” The earth shook violently as he breathed his last breath. Inside the temple where religious ceremonies were performed, the veil representing the separation between God and man was ripped in two from the top down. Heaven and earth were echoing the victory of the dead king of kings.

Jesus Christ was buried in a stone tomb large enough to bury a man’s whole family. A giant boulder was rolled in front of the entrance and guards were made to stay behind and keep anyone from coming and trying to steal the body away.

If the story ended here, the redemption would have ended there too because no one outside a certain group of people knew his story. God had bigger plans; he wanted to save the whole entire Earth–including people who didn’t know him yet and people like me and you who weren’t born yet. He would have to do that through the testimony of people that knew him, people that had scattered to the four winds in fear and hiding when he was crucified. He had to find them again and tell them what he wanted them to do.

For three days, Christ laid in the tomb cold, lifeless, and wrapped in nothing but rags much like the day when he was born. On the third day, the tomb burst open from the inside. Warrior angels rolled away the stone and Christ walked out, fully alive and robbed in white.

Christ found his hidden followers and spent forty days with them before he went back home to Heaven. He spent those forty days with them so there would be no doubt in their minds that he was fully alive again. He told them to go into the rest of the world and tell people about him and the hope of forgiveness and love he had restored for them. The followers did what he asked them to do.
This Christmas as you celebrate the holidays with joy, remember that the Christ in Christmas came to save your life too. If you have not chosen him as the leader of your life, it is not too late to do so now. He said that we all fall short of what we are supposed to be and cannot be made right without him. He said that if we confess what we have done wrong, he is faithful and just and will forgive us and cleanse us from our sins.  Open your heart and talk to God today.

Merry Christmas!

Do We Love To Hate Or Hate To Love?

“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart.”–Nelson Mandela

I have always played my political cards close to my vest. I don’t advertise my party affiliations not because I am embarrassed of the person I voted for in our last Presidential election but because I have learned that doing so brews hatred. For similar reasons, I avoid watching the news. Nevertheless, I don’t have to monitor my Twitter feed to catch the pulse of our nation; I read it every time I enter my classroom.

My students are over saturated in news media. They are constantly watching and reading about people on social media and streaming channels. This does not mean, however, that their education is a quality one. They know more about George Michaels than they do about George Washington.

What are they really learning?

What are they really watching?

My nieces–who are still between the ages of 7 and 13–recently showed me some shows they were watching on YouTube. In the show, blocky Minecraft-like characters wobble around hitting each other while screaming and laughing and singing silly songs. The show is supposedly made by video gamers sharing their “craft”, but it has no substantial value. It does not encourage craft in gaming. It does not encourage healthy social behavior. It does not help my nieces become better human beings. I have seen some adults watch the same types of shows and games and call it “informative”. At the risk of sounding like an old-fashioned, out-of-touch person on a rant, let me just tell you that it is mind-numbing crap.

There are voices out there on the internet to fit any slant you want to hook into and believe–in any language you want to hear it in. If you think the government is corrupt and out to hurt you, there are websites and shows you can watch to support that point of view. If you think one racial group is always the enemy of another group, there are plenty of channels to support your view. Several guest speakers are lining up to help you rally a protest on that idea too. If you think the media is biased and corrupt, go underground and find an unfiltered channel sneaking out the “real truth” to you. If you care little about the rest of the world, that’s okay too; Hallmark has some nice, happy endings for you.

No matter where you sit in the spectrum of perspectives I just mentioned, you have a place in the United States of America, and that place is protected by the first amendment of the Constitution. If you have never heard about the Constitution of the United States, if you have never read it, Google it; it’s online too. Before you burn that flag or bend a knee during the National Anthem or spit on all things American again, realize men and women have a long history of fighting and dying for your freedom to do just that in this country. If you protest a country that gives you the freedom to protest, what exactly is your point? And if you hate this country so much, why are you in it?

So much of what I see today is angry people with no sense of their human history. History should be our friend and allie, not the thing we avoid like the Black Plague. Instead of blindly believing the many filtered voices offering “truth”, we should all pursue truth from the source. Watch the speech and read the document; don’t just accept what others tell you about it. Don’t just spout racist ideals like bullies in a school yard when you don’t even understand half the words you are using.

What started all this anger, and what fed it into a raging wildfire? I believe it started in childhood with the way we chose to raise our children.

Right now, generations are closer in age then they have ever been before. Children are raising children who are raising children. Clueless, overwhelmed adolescents leave babies to parent themselves through devices and social media. Those babies grow up without social skills or the confidence that the world is their oyster. For them, the world is against them and every person in it is set out to hurt them. They stumble into adolescence and adulthood, get pregnant, and repeat the cycle of what happened to them. They seek to redeem their world through the spoilage of their child and end up acting more like a friend to them then a parent. If I were raised like this, I’d be angry too.

How can we stop the cycle?

How can we show each other more love than hate?

Warrior Woman Part 1: What It Means To Be A “Helper” Of Men

Eve is given to Adam as his azer kenegdoor as many translations have it, his “help meet” or “helper.”…But Robert Alter says this is “a notoriously difficult word to translate.” It means something far more powerful than just “helper”; it means lifesaver.”The phrase is only used elsewhere of God, when you need him to come through for you desperately…. Eve is a life giver; she is Adam’s ally. It is to both of them that the charter for adventure is given. It will take both of them to sustain life. And they will both need to fight together. –Ransomed Heart Ministries

I remember the first time I ever learned about the “help meet”. I was doing a deeper study of the creation story in Genesis through a book from the Matthew Henry Bible Commentary. These books were massive, by the way, and filled shelves in my dad’s study as well as the studies of several other pastors I would come to love and admire over my lifetime. They weren’t just popular, they were the resource pastors were taught in school to consider a go-to for understanding the word of God. But Matthew Henry’s style of explaining the Bible was different. He was smoothly poetic at times and, other times, fiercely wordy. He read like a cross between Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis, and I imagined if I saw him, he’d have a long white beard and a gentle smile because that’s what wisdom looked like to me when I was a child. So this kind old Moses told me that there was a divine purpose for why Eve was made from a rib of Adam in the creation story.

…the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved. —Matthew Henry, commentary on Genesis 2:22

I grew up with this knowledge that I was something truly designed to be special and treasured in this world. I was anxious to find my Adam and, like most little girls that feel this way, walk out the relationship of love and nurturing that God intended for us. I remember filling journals with my ramblings and questions: Is it this guy? Is it that guy? Again, like so many of my peers, I filled myself with shame for this longing. I felt utterly pathetic to not have a date by my sixteenth birthday, and completely worthless when he still didn’t show by my twenty-first. It is embarrassing how much I searched for him—and how much I had to say about it. I walked head first into a lot of hurt because of what C.S. Lewis calls the vulnerability of love.

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”  –C.S. Lewis “The Four Loves”

Our hearts were meant to love, but sometimes love is a battlefield.

Pat Benatar would say love and romance is about fighting with and hurting the one you love, but it’s really supposed to be more like how Warren Barfield sings it; love is not a fight but it’s something worth fighting for. That song came out of a place of real hurt and real healing. A change of perspective didn’t just save the Barfield marriage; it saved the marriages of others who heard the song. You can read more about that here.

Women everywhere are uniting in excitement over a new Hollywood heroine: Wonder Woman. In this film, the role of a kick-butt rescuer is given to a woman. There is a scene in the film where Diana–Wonder Woman–goes out into battle in World War I to rescue enslaved people on the other side of the Germans. To rescue them, she has to cross No Man’s Land, a place where no man has been able to cross alive. No. Man. While the men are telling her not to go, Diana drops her cloak and runs into the war.

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Images credited to the film “Wonder Woman”, Gal Gadot. Warner Brothers, 2017.

Diana is a fierce defender of truth and justice. She fights for love because she sees fallen mankind from a godlike perspective and wants to restore them. She can see the victory before it happens because she knows the source of her strength is with the gods, and she trusts that the gods want mankind to be healed. Diana is a symbol of what the Christian woman is supposed to be.

In Christ, we have a higher calling to love and battle. We are called to intercede for the lost as representatives of Christ in the world (Ephesians 5:1-33; 2 Corinthians 5:20). We are called to fight for others with strength and courage (Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Deuteronomy 31:6). Why? Because Christ is calling back his Creation from the fall (Colossians 1:15-23).

I’ll admit that my first experience with this symbolism did not set well with me because she was fighting like Azer-Kenegdo (pronounced Azur-ned-go) with or without a man beside her. She didn’t stop to have a pity party that her Adam was not there to fight life with her (what I would have done). No, Diana ran out to battle alone because she knew who she was and what she was fighting for. I believe Christ is calling us to be bold for him and, in the same way, pursue our purpose in the world.

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Images credited to the film “Wonder Woman”, Gal Gadot. Warner Brothers, 2017.

The good news is that Diana isn’t left to fight alone. An Adam does show up for her. The point, though, is that she was not dependent on him to live out her purpose in this world. In fact, sometimes she has to fight alone even when she has him (that’s a story for another day). In the same way, ladies, God is calling us to rise up and see and join the fight.

To learn more, consider following the 14-Day FREE Devotional, The Heart of the Warrior, on the YouVersion Bible app. This devotional is based on a great book by this title written to tell the man’s part of the story. You can read more about it here. The Eldridges are well-known for their books on this subject for both women and men: Captivating, Becoming Myself, and Wild at Heart. You can read more on their website here.  Last but not least, you may want to consider a full getaway emersion experience here.

Rockin’ Summer Row-by-Row Experience: My Journey Into Sewing & Quilting Part 2

As class ended, I didn’t want to leave my new friends…and new passion for quilting. I was midstream designing another quilt on our last day of class when I heard about Row by Row Experience 2015. Row by Row is a quilting challenge that happens annually across the US where quilters travel to various shops to collect patterns and make quilts. The first quilter to use eight or more of the 9 x 36 rows in a finished quilt, wins a stack of fabric. If they use the row from the store they turn their quilt in to, they win an extra prize from the store as well. This year, all fifty states and parts of Canada participated.

My Bobbin Robin (the mascot of the 2015 Row by Row Experience and a contest in herself) was branded by most of the shops I visited.

My Bobbin Robin (the mascot of the 2015 Row by Row Experience and a contest in herself) was branded by most of the shops I visited.

A collage of some of the quilting work I've done since class.

A collage of some of the quilting work I’ve done since class including my first quilt, a runner of drawings done by my nieces, and the start of my own Row by Row water themed quilt.

The idea of throwing travel and quilting together over the summer was a win-win for me. I bit hard on the idea like a fish on a hook. By summer’s end, I traveled all over eastern North Carolina, parts of South Carolina, and all over eastern Florida for patterns. Telling my friends and family members about it had patterns coming in from Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Oregon too. Some of those helpers have bitten the quilting bug themselves now as well. 😉 By summer’s end, I had over 30 patterns and the beginning of a water-themed queen size quilt.

One surprising fact about quilt shops: they are all uniquely different and all uniquely happy, even if they are close together. In one area of Raleigh, NC, for example, there were four shops within a few minutes of each other, but each carried very different materials and supplies from the other. Quilt shops are specialized to certain niche markets and maintain clientele through customer service.

A collage of shops and shopping with my mom and sister.

A collage of shops and shopping with my mom and sister. Notice the bus tour crowd in the bottom corner at Calico Station, FL.

I don’t know if it is the “your husband called and said you can spend all you want here” signs or the bright, colored fabrics, but I rarely found a sour faced, curmudgeoned quilter. Quilters invest in fabric and pattern stashes with pride. They shop in groves (even bus tours), little two-by-twos, or individually. Quilters are young and old, pop artists and antique traditionalists. We are a wide and varied group, but a happy one.

If we count the cost of how much we spend in quilting, we may not be so happy, but I believe we quilters are happy because we feel fulfillment when we sew…and there’s no price tag for that. We are also happy because quilting generates friends. From the old days of quilting by hand in large circles around a loom (which apparently my great-grandmother and grandma did) to going to classes and working on machines to shopping and sharing pictures and ideas with strangers, quilting is a universal language of love.

Rockin’ Summer Row-by-Row Experience: My Journey Into Sewing & Quilting Part 1

A few months ago, my mother and I signed up for a quilting class at our local quilt shop, Thistlebee. I had no experience sewing, but she did. My mother grew up sewing her own clothes and even made her wedding dress. I, on the other hand, didn’t even own my own machine. I was ambitious and didn’t know it.

On a work trip through Little Switzerland, I found a cute little quilt shop. The owner stood in the doorway on double crutches and said to me, “you’re a fabric artist, baby, I know you’re coming in here”. When I told her my story, she told me hers. She had lost everything, and now she was selling away her personal fabric stash to build a life for herself. When I told her I was planning on taking the quilt class and sharing my mother’s machine, she said, “wait right here, baby”, went home and brought me back a machine.

Charlie's Quilts in Little Switzerland, NC.

Charlie’s Quilts in Little Switzerland, NC.

The 1980s Singer given to me at Charlie's Quilts.

The 1980s Singer given to me at Charlie’s Quilts.

I was blown away by this stranger’s generosity and odd prophetic ability to look at me and see me as an artist with fabric. I accepted her gift, and had it serviced and working good as new before the class began.

Joining the quilt class was a good decision. It was good bonding time for mom and I, and we also made good friends at the shop with the instructors and shop owners. Mary Ellen, the shop owner, helped me figure out fabric measurements for the designs in my head. Pat, our teacher, helped me square up my work and learn to love my seam ripper. I went from not sewing at all to sewing a straight line to reading patterns, learning quilt tools, and designing my own quilts. Thistlebee became my home away from home, and something mom and I looked forward to sharing together.

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Mom working on her quilt while Pat helps square up some other work on the ironing board

Pat teaching us quilting lines

Pat teaching us quilting lines

Mary Ellen at the register looking out into the shop from the classroom.

Mary Ellen at the register looking out into the shop from the classroom.

As class approached its end, I realized I would not get my project done in time (I redesigned the project from the original lap quilt to a full queen quilt). I didn’t want to disappoint, so I designed, pieced, and finished a small tabletop pinwheel quilt instead of the rail fence we had started. This little quilt was a big hit in the class (Pat and Mary Ellen wanted to keep it), and it has since been used to teach math in my classes. When I see it now, I smile. I think about Pat and Mary Ellen and Charlie and mom; all the ladies that opened the door for me to learn how to quilt.

My first quilt (designed and pieced in a couple weeks)

My first quilt (designed and pieced in a couple weeks)