Wrestling with Meekness




Few passages in Scripture are used to share the teaching of Jesus as often as the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5 opens the scene for us. Great crowds of people had followed Jesus from all around Galilee. As He saw them, He moved up into the mountain with his disciples and began to teach them. (The location of this passage is believed to be a hill in northern Israel in the Korazim Plateau.)


The teaching goes on through the seventh chapter of Matthew, but the teaching begins with what is called “the beatitudes.” They contain the essence of the Lord’s teaching, seemingly simple lessons to help us live a good life as his disciples that would lead us into everlasting life with Him.


Reading these verses reveals how difficult they are to accomplish − impossible for usunless He is at work within us. Each “blessed” highlights the hope we have in the Lord to work in and through us if we welcome Him into our lives. Apart from that hope they also point to our fallen nature and inability to attain them.


At a time when wealth and power were in the hands of a few, the beatitudes reflect the paradox often found in the teachings of Jesus. The very qualities not revered in the current society or cultures are the ones that would result in the blessing of God.


The first of those listed − blessed are the meek − is one of the ones we fail to understand most often. The word ‘meek’ is not one often used in modern language today and when we look up the definition we see words like ‘quiet, gentle, submissive’ and unconsciously we add ‘weak’ as a descriptor in the list.


Presuming weakness is synonymous with meekness can tempt us to a lack of enthusiasm for its pursuit. Strength is a virtue we look for in others and ourselves and our faulty understanding of meekness doesn’t put it on our list of things we most desire despite it being one of the Lord’s attributes.


animal-animals-backlit-236636Meekness means laying aside striving, a stubborn refusal to accept a path we did not choose, not insisting on our own way, letting go of the imagined sense of control we have over so much of our lives.


A few weeks ago as we attended the college baccalaureate of our oldest grandson. The title of the sermon for this service was “The Might of Meekness.” I cannot recall a more significant sermon on this topic as the speaker challenged the graduating class and their families to look at meekness through a more accurate lens.


The impression of the message lingers on, but one sentence punctuates the theme and continues to echo in my thoughts:


“Meekness is the acceptance of the Master’s hands on the reins without fighting.”  

Rev. Rufus Smith IV


Rev. Smith repeated this sentence throughout the sermon and emphasized those last two words, without fighting.” 


How often do we finally relent and yield to a path we did not choose? Even if we do, I suspect few of us (me included) do so “without fighting.”  Instead there are more often black heel marks for a long stretch as we resist the unchosen path before us.


That struggle exposes how tenuous our trust is. Letting go is not easy, but as I was reading something by Lisa Wingate recently, she pointed to the value of learning to do so:


“The most important skill in life is to learn the acceptance of that which you have not planned for yourself. Discontent, if watered even the slightest bit, spreads like choke weed. It will smother the garden if you let it.” 

Lisa Wingate in The Sea Keeper’s Daughter


Accepting what we did not plan for ourselves is how we operationalize what the pastor said − …”the acceptance of the Master’s hands on the reins without fighting − and helps us cross the finish line.




















Clogged Pipes



Few things can compare to how a plumbing issue with clogged pipes can upend our day. Usually there is mess involved and often it happens at the worst possible time − when company has just arrived, we’re packing to leave on vacation, there’s a new baby in the house, or someone is ill − and costs more than we had in the budget.


All of a sudden the flow of fresh clean water that we barely think about stops. And who knows who the best plumber is who can be at our home within the hour?


In recent years many of us have heard about the word “flow” relating to a state of mind.  A flow state happens when a person is ‘in the zone’ and fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus while performing some activity. It’s become a popular topic in positive psychology, but I wonder if the experience has been around for a long time and we just didn’t label it as ‘flow.’


Have you ever experienced it in your spiritual life or your daily quiet time with the Lord?


It can feel as if your prayers and the Word fit like a glove with whatever is going on in your life and before you even know it, a worship song is running through your mind as well. You feel righted and refreshed. Even though you didn’t plan to take a lot of time for this daily discipline, you find yourself lingering there.




Perhaps that is when we get most fully immersed in the gospel.


Eventually we start to recognize the gospel is not about us establishing a relationship with Jesus, but about Him establishing a relationship with us.


We see that relationship is not just a consequence of our believing information about Him and accumulating more and more of it as a means to the maturity we hear about and hope for. A dawning revelation points to the truth that Jesus is entrusting himself to us and revealing himself to us in a relationship like no other.


In the letter to the church at Galatia, Paul writes that we know God first because He knows us!  He made us and knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. If we know Him, it is because He has revealed himself to us through Jesus.


Our part is to make a choice about what we believe about Him after that.


Once we make that decision, the whole of our life with Him consists of getting to know Jesus better and better.


It’s no wonder that our relationship with Him is sometimes compared to marriage. Once I made the decision that I loved my husband and wanted to marry him, the rest of my Ecrement-15 (2)life with him has been about getting to know him more and more. (That still happens after 54 years!)


It’s that ‘getting to know you’ that little by little transforms us from who we were before. Until that happens we cannot fully understand that knowing Jesus ultimately changes everything about us.


The gospel is a unique and personal experience, but it is not private. His handiwork becomes increasingly evident in our life to those around us by how we live it (or don’t).


If we fail to give place to developing that unique intimate relationship, the information we have gained will never be actualized. It will be data and as we accumulate more of it, pride may develop about what we have acquired while we may not sense his presence or joy within us. Clogs will develop instead of flow.


What He longs for us to experience is the essence of the gospel in the depth of our being.


The gospel comes to us in order that it might run through us (flow through us).


“ Believe in me so that rivers of living water will burst out from within you, flowing from your innermost being, just like the Scripture says!”

John 7:38 (TPT)



What Cost Freedom?




Today in the United States we pause to celebrate Memorial Day.


This is not a new post, but as I paused to consider writing something new for this day, the same words echoed in my heart, mind, and spirit to share again. I hope its understanding remains ever fresh.


Most will celebrate it with picnics, boating, ball games, swimming, family, and friends. A few will pause for those remaining public celebrations to commemorate the day. Fewer still will visit the graves of those fallen for the sake of freedom or know when this commemoration began or the cost for those who gave us the freedom to celebrate it.


Originally it was called Decoration Day and that is the name I recall when I was a young child. It’s purpose? To provide a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America.


It was born out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed the day officially on May 5, 1868, and asked that the 30th of May 1868 be designated for the purpose of strewing the graves of those who had died in the defense of their country with flowers and flags.


Most of us would not recall that Memorial Day began with that bloodiest of all United States wars. The country would be torn in two with the Union of the North raising an army of 2,128,948 and the Confederacy of the South mustering a total of 1,082,119 troops. It was a war that would be fought in thousands of places from southern Pennsylvania to Texas, from New Mexico to Florida with the majority of the battles fought in Virginia and Tennessee.


Between April 12, 1861, when Fort Sumter, South Carolina, was fired upon until April 9, 1865, when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at the McLean House in Appomattox Court House, Virginia, 620,000 would die for the cause they believed in. They would die from combat, accident, starvation, and disease. Of that number, the three-day battle on the fields around Gettysburg, PA, in 1863, would see the largest number fall. A total of 51,000 would be dead by the end of the battle.


It can be easy to forget how significant the losses were during the Civil War. Yet, our love for freedom would stir the hearts of others to serve in battles far from our own coastline. In World War II 405,399 would give their lives following the brutal conditions faced during World War I when 116,516 would fall in battle.


Of course these would not be the only battles where men and women would give their lives for the cause of freedom. In Vietnam we would sacrifice 58,209 and in Korea we would lose 36, 516.



To establish this nation, 25,000 would die in the Revolutionary War. Another 20,000 would die in the War of 1812 and 13,283 in the Mexican War. The Spanish-American War would result in a loss of 2,446.


More recently 6,626 would be lost in battle in Iraq and Afghanistan with another 258 falling during the Gulf War. And the numbers continue to climb in different places around the world as too many seek to rob others of freedom or pose a risk to all.


How much do we value this freedom? How much do we take it for granted or use it to serve our own ends rather than for the good of our brothers and sisters?


When we speak of a fight for freedom, men and women, despite their fear or condition, held the value for liberty and the release of tyranny so foremost among their beliefs that they were willing to leave those they loved most to serve those they had never met.


IMG_1762As I took time to visit a small country cemetery in Ohio near where I live, I was struck as I always am by the number of American flags that had been placed on the graves of our veterans. This cemetery is adjacent to a church founded in the 1840’s.


In the oldest part of the cemetery where the gravestones are often not readable, I found flags adorning the graves of two Civil War veterans. One had died in 1865 and another in 1866. I read their names: James Turner and James Shaw. I wondered what they had seen in their time on the battlefield and if their deaths shortly after the war came as a result of wounds that never healed.



We can never repay the debt we owe to so many.


We can also never repay the debt we owe to the One who came to give us grace and freedom from sin, the One who suffered for us at great expense to purchase what we could not gain without His payment.


In the midst of all the fun and celebrating we may do this day, let us not forget to be thankful, to sober our hearts, to give thanks for so many who gave all they had for our sakes. Let us also thank God for His love beyond measure in what He sacrificed for us.


Freedom is never free.


Others will always want to take it from us, to enslave us. Let us remember to cherish it, not abuse it for our own selfish ends, or fail to recognize the responsibility we have to uphold and guard it as a result of the great cost paid to grant it.









Mishaps of Myopia



The precious gift of sight is likely one of our most valued senses. Even if we are born with imperfect vision or suffer an injury of some sort, modern medicine offers a great deal of help to regain the very best vision possible.


My husband started to wear glasses in the sixth grade due to myopia. If you can’t recall what that means, it is commonly called nearsightedness and results in not being able to see things at a distance clearly. Reading a book will not be a challenge, but seeing a board in a classroom will be.


A year ago when cataracts developed and he had laser surgery, new multi-focal lenses were implanted that gave him excellent vision without glasses for the first time since early childhood. What a gift! He still sometimes reaches up for glasses that are not there.


pntx9586Modern medicine can provide a wide variety of interventions to help us physically see, but there are other challenges where we can be myopic as well as what I just described.


How well we observe or note other people with whom we have contact can also show myopic tendencies.


Like it or not, most of us see the world and others from our point of view and our own experience and current situation. Empathy or lack of it describes how well we can identify what someone else is experiencing.


Comparing us or our situations to others can happen easily, but that doesn’t boost empathy even though it may result in sympathy or pride. Comparing ourselves can distort how accurately we see the other person and what they are experiencing.


If life is going well for us, we might miss the struggle someone else is encountering or minimize it. We might even make judgments about why they might be having a hard time and believe it is a result of some fault of his or hers.


If our life situation is difficult or full of struggle, all of our energy can be consumed in just getting through the day or night and we often can miss someone else’s struggle. If a person is doing well, we might miss the truth that they had a major struggle as well at some point or will.


Hardship finds its way into every life. It’s just much easier to see our own than other people’s.”

Lisa Wingate


Lisa Wingate’s statement is one that can reveal we may be myopic.


We see a smiling man walking into church holding the hand of an adorable little boy and we think of our own life of childlessness and miss that this little boy was adopted after years of infertility and thousands of dollars spent on medical treatment that left his parents bankrupt.


adult-close-up-dress-2269739We notice an older woman sitting alone in a coffee shop. She is bent now from arthritis, her clothing is out of fashion, and her shoes are scuffed and worn. We may see her as “less than” and not take time to speak to her and miss that she is a retired violinist with the local symphony who traveled the world over.


How often do we miss the powerful stories of others because we are myopic?


For as long as mankind has walked the earth and stories have been recorded we see that living is comprised of continuous change. Seasons of hardship and seasons of fruitfulness, seasons of health and seasons of illness are all a part of the deal.


“Life is a process of storms and rebuilding, of fires and regrowth, of loss and gain.”

 Lisa Wingate


Joseph was the favorite son of a patriarch and was blessed beyond measure, but his myopic brothers missed that what made him special to his father was really the loss of his beloved wife, Rachel. They missed that his exuberant descriptions of his dreams came from prophetic gifting and some inexperience with how to share them.


Esther was an orphan with no hope for a future when her Uncle Mordeci adopted her to live with him in exile. Her future looked bleak as she walked the streets of Susa in peasant clothes. Most would not have noticed her as they passed her, but when she was taken to the palace of the king to become a part of his harem her beauty and character gave her favor. She became queen and through her courage and the wise counsel of her uncle, she influenced the king to save her minority from certain destruction.


Jesus was born in a barn of common parents, but He was the Son of God who showed us who God is because He was and is God.


John Piper gave a powerful message in 1998 entitled, “Open My Eyes That I May See,” based on Psalm 119: 17-24.


The key to the mishap of myopia lies in the words of his title “open my eyes that I may see.”














The Dilemma of Delay




Few things can demonstrate our challenges with patience more than when we face a delay. Despite planes, trains, and cars going faster than ever before, they still cannot guarantee we will not face a delay. And it doesn’t stop with traveling. It happens any time there is something we want or believe we need and it doesn’t happen “on time” (our time).


Delay is a bold reminder that we are not in control and we don’t need to be a ‘control freak’ to struggle when we face it.


In our modern day culture we expect everything to happen quickly. The technology of our day helps create that illusion. We “instant message”, use the drive-through to pick up our Starbucks, microwave, tweet, and listen to more books than we read. All are designed to help us while we are “on the go” and to access anything and everything we need while doing so.


The problem is that technology still breaks down. We are so tied to our computers, iPads, and smart phones that we are almost helpless when they break down, a server crashes, or we lose one of them.


And it isn’t just a technology issue that creates delay. Construction barrels and detours closed-construction-road-305264slow us to a crawl or stop for minutes or hours. The weather’s fickle predictability (despite satellites) delays and cancels flights, trains, buses, and cruises.


More and more medical portals are designed to keep us in touch with appointments and test results that we are eager to receive, but using them is too often still a grab bag and not nearly as easy to utilize.


Vacations can reward us by disconnecting with time, but they pass too quickly and sometimes still do not release us from the grip of time.


I have experienced more than a few delays in my lifetime and have had a front row seat to others in my family who have had them as well. Recently I watched as our oldest grandson waited to receive an acceptance from a medical school that appeared to be very much delayed.


How easily we can forget (if we even know) that delays serve a purpose. The delay in our travel plans sometimes helps us avoid an accident or some other thing far worse than being later than we wish. A delay on getting a job we hoped for can sometimes mean a better offer comes through.


africa-camels-desert-90407Delays are not new to humanity.


Long before cell phones and jet travel, speed limits and computers, humanity had to wait and face delays. The Bible shows us many examples.


An angel was delayed on the way to Daniel for 21 days. A child didn’t arrive for Sarah and Abraham until they were very old. The children of Israel were delayed in slavery in Egypt after Joseph’s death until Moses was raised up. Entering into the Promised Land was delayed 40 years. Making a list of all the delays in the Bible would be an intriguing exercise since we most struggle with delays that come from God.


When prayers are not answered, answered as we wish, or in a timely manner, everything in us can struggle with questions about God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and love for us.


One of the most poignant passages in the New Testament is told in John 11 when the close friend of Jesus (Lazarus) becomes ill and then dies. Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus, are in sorrow and know if Jesus had been there this would not have happened. They had seen Jesus heal others and knew He could do it.


More upsetting perhaps was that Jesus knew Lazarus was sick and delayed going to his bedside before he died.


While reading this passage I noticed a note about the passage that offers so much wisdom to the dilemma of delay:


“The discipline of delay is one of the hardest lessons we must learn as followers of Jesus, especially when it is God who does the delaying. Only grace can enable us to accept God’s rich vocabulary of answers to our earnest prayers − “yes,” “no,” “not yet,” or even “yes, but it’s going to feel like no” − because we trust that he “is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.” (Eph. 2:30)