What Else Is Different?



In these days, weeks turned into months, there has been more time to think and consider a long list of things if we have chosen to do so. Such exercise can draw out more noteworthy points greater than the obvious ones in clear evidence. And it is these things we must learn and take with us for whatever may befall us in the future, for these will help us weather those future storms.


One difference was the theme and focus on my recent post, “It’s Different This Time” (pamecrement.com/2020/05/27/its-different-this-time/) that points to our inability to gather together in places of worship to strengthen and encourage one another as we look to God during the current pandemic.


But there is something else – a shadow that lurks – that is meant to undue us and this is an enemy we must defeat lest it destroy us.


This enemy creeps in among us and between us. It whispers in our thoughts and sneaks into our dreams. It shouts at us in headlines, mocks us on social media, and erupts across fences between neighbors or at long-cherished family dinners.


At first, we did not recognize this enemy in our midst or how we served its purposes. It was just something we thought or believed, an opinion we expressed that somehow picked at the threads that wove us together beginning to create a small hole.


Even if we noticed the small hole, it was so small that we shrugged off any concern we might have about it because the woven fabric was so sturdy and had been a comfort and blessing to us through so many hard times that it might seem logical that a small hole might appear.


What we failed to do was look at the whole of the woven fabric from so long ago. If we had done so, we might have seen other small holes were showing up throughout the fabric and would soon destroy it if action were not taken.


How foolish to be only focused on one small part and miss the bigger picture, but the enemy knew the weaknesses and we gave ourselves as instruments for his purposes.



We let our opinion become fact.


We decided your opinion had no value and should be corrected. When you would not hear our logic to refute your opinion, we shut you out and labeled you so others would see and devalue you.


How could we forget that seeds of disunity could undo us – undo friendships, families, churches, businesses, organizations, and nations?


When did our opinion become a model for everyone else and so important to us that we would allow it to begin to destroy what we hold most dear?


This time is different also because even in trial we refuse to come together to face a common enemy because our opinion is right and yours is wrong. Each word that comes from our mouths or social media adds to the chasm beginning to appear.


Leaders from long ago warned us of such things and argued that to do so would expose our peril.


One figure in American History understood such dangers. Wisdom should cause us to recall that other time and place that nearly destroyed the United States when the opinions and beliefs about slavery brought us to the brink of destruction as a young country.


Yes, Abraham Lincoln could give us wise counsel.


On June 16, 1858, 1000 delegates were gathered in Springfield, Illinois, for the Republican State Convention. They chose an unlikely candidate to run against Stephen Douglas. The backwoods lawyer would stand and give a speech that appeared radical and would forever be remembered for its inclusion of a statement by Jesus in three synoptic gospels. He spoke boldly regarding the division slavery had created and he was defeated in the election for the Senate, but his words still echo across history and some say they propelled him to later become the sixteenth President of the United States.


A portion of that speech reads:


“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.”


Lincoln’s passion for unity was not defeated when he lost his bid for the U.S. Senate and he would once more stand and call for the best from his countryman at his first inaugural address on March 1, 1861:


“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”


The newly sworn President spoke these words to appeal to the best instincts of the citizens of the nation as the better way to navigate the storm of the civil war that lay ahead.



What appeal might we need to stem the tide now as the voices raised against one another are not about slavery, but about the opinion on so many things we seem to hold more dear than the nation that allows us to express it – the opinion we must express even if it erodes the one to whom it is addressed?


We must never be silent in the midst of evil that threatens to undo us, but should we not be cautious about labeling an opinion shaped in ways we may never know as evil itself?


And when we consider this, it must start while we are on our knees before One who is more righteous and just than we rather than to point to what may be wrong with anyone else.


Of course, there is evil and injustice aplenty as there has always been, but when opinions are labeled as either of these, we lose the significance of the very things we should oppose.


It is time to listen long and seek to understand before we put our own opinion up as fact.











It’s Different This Time



Living in the midst of the current pandemic has brought so much turmoil and uncertainty to most everyone. We hear it on the news that speaks to us over every venue. We hear it from online blogs and articles, and we talk about it with friends over various media or at six feet of distance.


We have faced other difficult and challenging times and come out on the other side of them weathered and stronger for what we faced. We are reminded of those during this time to encourage us we can do this again during this hard time and that is likely true for most of us, but this time feels different.


Most of us can recall other times of crisis that extended to the whole of our country or the world for there is no doubt there have been tragedies of epic proportion since the world began. Some of us are old enough to remember world wars that threatened to destroy everything in their wake.


Most of us can point to cataclysmic natural disasters in our own area and across the world – tsunamis, earthquakes, drought, cyclones, volcanoes, tidal waves, hurricanes, tornados, landslides, floods, and more. Too many have experienced them over and over again.



If you live in the United States, you can name a lengthy list of crises that we have all been impacted beyond any of our own personal challenges and tragedies (how many would depend on your age). A fairly short list would include the attacks of 9/11, images of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the Challenger explosion happening on TV before our eyes, assassinations of President John F. Kennedy (later his brother Robert Kennedy) and Dr. Martin Luther King, unrest and riots during the Civil Rights movement and opposition to the Vietnam War.


Each shocked and horrified us, created fear and uncertainty about how safe our world really was, and left us questioning what we could count on. We may have read about other tragedies in the past, but they do not give us a complete sense of what the ones we experience will be like. Reading about one of these cannot fully prepare us for living it. That has been true if we tried reading about the pandemic of the Spanish Flu of 1917-1918 era to help us in dealing with what we are living through now.


As the weeks and months have continued, I asked myself what seems so different about this one.


Leaders from all levels of government, medicine, and clergy have sought to buoy us up with their words and recommendations, but it was then that it occurred to me what is different this time and how it makes this feel dissimilar to other times of crisis.



In all those other times, we were encouraged to come together as a people whether as a neighborhood, city, state, nation, or world. We were encouraged to come together in places of worship to hear from spiritual leaders, take comfort in being together, and sense we were not alone in the anguish we felt or the discouragement and fear that threatened to overtake us.


This time, this crisis, we are asked, told, or ordered to stay apart, keep distance and more isolated, and not meet in the places of worship that have always rallied us together to face trouble in the past.


How often many of us recall seeing and hearing a seasoned and respected Billy Graham address us with his wisdom, encouragement, and comfort.


Some of us recall some of his words as he stood in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. after 9/11:


“We come together today to affirm our conviction that God cares for us, whatever our ethnic, religious or political background may be. The Bible says that He is “the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles.”

“But today we come together in this service to confess our need of God. We’ve always needed God from the very beginning of this nation. But today we need Him especially. We’re involved in a new kind of warfare. And we need the help of the Spirit of God.”


If you have not read that message recently, it might be helpful to review it now.


I remember that crisis of 9/11 well. I was working on a church staff then and in the midst of those agonizing images of planes flying into the towers, we shuddered and feared what would come next, but we also left the offices and went to the prayer chapel, joined hands together and prayed. We held each other and as the hours went on, more and more people came to the church.


Yes, we know and knew the church, the body of Christ, is not a building, but it is a source of comfort and encouragement as we gather together to face whatever evil is afoot. Joining our voices, our hands, our arms around one another we are strengthened in intangible ways that help us bear better whatever is ahead.


This time has been different because we have not been able to do that and without realizing the full extent of why we long for it so much, we discover it is because it was the one thing missing from every other tragedy we have faced.



This time we have needed to rely on phone calls, texts, virtual gatherings of various types – all done while we are alone and apart from one another. Words like “we’re all in this together” fall short of what we felt at other times when we could be in one place at one time together to face them. We have said goodbyes to some we love through windowpanes of glass. Some of us have agonized at not being able to be with those suffering and dying in hospitals


We hope we will get through this difficult time and someday things will be more as they once were. Our character will be shaped, our values intensified, our foundations rebuilt, and hopefully we will never forget the precious gift we could not have during this time that was a part of all the other times.


Yes, this time is different for us and the difference is consequential. It’s why we feel as we do.


God is with us as always, but this apartness points to how much He desired and designed us to be together. Perhaps that is what the author of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote these words:


“23 So now we must cling tightly to the hope that lives within us, knowing that God always keeps his promises!24 Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. 25 This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing, because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.”

Hebrews 10:23-25 (TPT)


In whatever ways we can…










What to Read Next…



Since I have always enjoyed reading, I don’t get hung up on the question of whether I SHOULD read or not because I love to read. The problem is to determine what to read because I like a lot of different kinds of books.


I have three large sets of bookshelves in my house and currently there is no room to add another new book. Since I am out of bookshelf space, that means I will need to part with a few since I continue to discover new books I want to read and keep on my shelf for at least awhile. Books are sometimes like friends that stir up memories of the adventures the author invited me on.


I am not sure when I really began to love to read, but I do know it is love that has grown throughout my lifetime. Ask me some of my favorite authors and I will have more than a few come to mind. In some cases I have read every book written by an author.


When I was in school whether elementary, high school, college, or graduate school, there were many books that I HAD to read that I did NOT love. They were necessary to teach or inform me of things I needed to learn or know. I still own and have on my shelves a few of those, but I am not sure why since I don’t choose them when I am trying to decide what to read.



During those earlier days when I could steal a few minutes away from required reading, I loved diving into a good fiction book that would take me from my routine and stir my imagination about places I had never been, people I had never met, foods I had never tasted, jobs I had never explored, and so much more. I also loved historical fiction and still do since it made the history I loved seem more real and personal somehow.


When I was a young wife and mom, I still loved those great escape novels to add adventure to my days, but I also started reading books about how to be a better wife, a better mom, a better cook, a better house cleaner. The latter selections were helpful, but focused more on what I was doing than on helping me see who I was more clearly.


When I became a Christian, there was a wide array of choices from devotionals to books on doctrine and theology or how to gain healing from our wounds or how to face various trials.


There were inspirational books and books meant to teach me something. There were also more translations of the Bible than I had known existed as well as debates about which were the most accurate according to the Greek or Hebrew. Along the way, I likely acquired a good many books and tried out most of the translations in different seasons of my life up to the present exposure to The Passion Translation.



My choice of books to read is primarily guided now by one question. Does it nourish me in some way, in some aspect of my life?


If the book nourishes me, it becomes a cherished friend that I never loan or give away.


What books nourish me?


I still have a varied appetite. I LOVE great recipe books with photos that go with the recipes to show me the final goal and I enjoy books on healthy eating and exercise, aging well, current politics, biographies, classical novels from Jane Austin and others, as well as a good romance.


The books that nourish me most are those that impact my heart and spirit.


I am always on the hunt for those and there are authors I especially love, but truthfully it is when I sit with God’s Word in my lap or on my iPad with a good cup of coffee or tea that I most want to linger in my red chair in the morning. No matter how often I read it, I find something new or different that I had not seen before.


I know IT (God’s Word)  hasn’t changed, but perhaps I have.


Perhaps it has changed ME.


Actually, I am quite certain it has!


Craving Comfort


Photo by Kristina Paukshtite from Pexels


How often we crave comfort!  Each of us may have a better sense of that in recent months when so much of life has changed for us but make no mistake, we desire it from the day we are born until the day we die.


Comfort means we are at ease, free from pain or constraint. It can refer to a lifestyle, a sense of well-being, and the absence of distress or grief. Considering what it means, there is little wonder that we crave it from the beginning of our life until we leave this world.


We learn at the moment we are born that comfort is something that is temporary and not always something we can attain ourselves. As a baby we must wait until someone chooses to comfort us with food, clean diapers, or closeness in the arms of our mother. Each of these things relate to physical or emotional distress for which we desire comfort.


It can be said that many times we want life to be easier, experience fewer bumps in the road, or roadblocks on the path. We want to be comfortable in any number of ways and we long for it to an extent that if what we seek cannot be attained, we look for a substitute – often in something to soothe that becomes an addiction of one kind or another.



As I read scripture, I see time and again that the Lord offers comfort in the midst of sorrow or distress, but I have not read that He wants us to be comfortable. Scripture repeatedly notes that in this life we will have trouble of many and varied kinds. That all goes back to the original Garden of Eden where what was better seemed not quite as good as it might be to Adam and Eve. But it also goes even farther back when an angel named Lucifer decided he wanted to be an equal to God and challenged Him on that point, totally forgetting his place as a created being by that same God.


Matthew Kelly suggests one reason Jesus doesn’t want us to get comfortable:


“The reason is simple, profound, and practical. He doesn’t want us to forget that we are just passing through this world. We are pilgrims. When we get comfortable we start to behave as if we are going to live on this earth forever – and we are not.”


I don’t know if that is what the Lord believes on this point, but what I do believe is that He is more concerned about the content of our character than the comfort of our day-to-day experience. Character comes through facing adversity head-on, from sacrificing what we might want or wish or at least being willing to wait.


Challenging times expose things about us we would not discover when we are at ease. Challenges reveal what we value, whom we trust, and the firmness of our foundation.


An infant faces delays in gratification at the outset. He or she must wait on someone else to respond to crying (the only source of signaling distress). That waiting begins to build trust (or not) that parents are reliable and will respond to the need or it will result in a sense of hopelessness when needs are not met or only met inconsistently.



Learning to delay gratification must be something important for us to learn because there are more than a few scriptures that laud doing so. Just a few examples would be:


  • And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23 (ESV)


  • “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33 (ESV)


  • Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 (ESV)


  • Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church. Colossians 1:24 (ESV)


Denying ourselves also gives us an unexpected asset – it reveals our blind spots.


“The constant denial of self in small things gives us the clarity of heart, mind, and soul to see the present for what it really is and the future for what it really can be. This self-denial also allows us to see ourselves for who we really are, and to see in ourselves that best-version-of-ourselves that God created us to be. This daily denial of self allows us to see that we are sinful, but also opens us up to the grace we need in order to overcome our sinfulness.”

Matthew Kelly in Rediscover Jesus


ani-kolleshi-640938-unsplashIn the midst of the coronavirus pandemic if we have submitted to government leaders, we have been asked to deny ourselves many of the freedoms and things we enjoy and might take for granted. None of us knew it would last this long when it began. Few of us have not experienced more weariness, frustration, discouragement, and more as it has continued and at the point in time whether we stay in or go out much uncertainty lays ahead of us


We didn’t exactly choose to deny ourselves. We did (if we did) choose to submit to the request to do so.


What have we learned in the midst of discomfort that can be helpful when this time passes? How can it serve us for the next time comfort is taken from us?




Blind Spots


Photo by Luca Nardone from Pexels


One of the challenges of driving a car is remembering the blind spots that can easily get you into trouble when you are out on the open road. The problem is that even if we know where they exist in our particular car, they are easily forgotten when we are on our way to a destination with the music jamming or our podcast rolling.


Thankfully car manufacturers knew the risks and ultimately developed a host of safety equipment on our new cars beginning just a year or so ago on most models. These include various cameras to see in our rearview mirror and catch a car or truck barreling up on either side of us. Those side mirrors have cameras that see what we may miss in blind spots and alert us with lights and sounds so we are not caught in a dangerous collision.


We are blessed to have two cars in our family. My car had been the newer of the two and had an excellent rear camera that I had come to appreciate, but last year when we moved to a new model for my husband it came with the side cameras to catch the blind spots (plus some other bells and whistles) and keep us safer on the highways. Mine did not have those and I could never have fully guessed their value until driving with my husband on longer road trips to see either of our married children who live a distance from us. More than a few times on an interstate or turnpike these side mirrors and lane departure alerts provided us with information we didn’t have or even always know we needed.


The car that is primarily for my use was the usual “trip car” because it is a bit larger to help stow luggage and various little things we take on trips to visit children and grandchildren. But the new car has now taken over that role due to all the safety features from which we benefit.

Photo by TOKYOQU on Unsplash


Being behind the wheel of a car is not the only place we can experience blind spots, however, and the ones we have within us do not come with handy cameras and GPS cues to help us navigate without incident or accident.


“This is the truth: We don’t see things as they really are – especially ourselves. We all think we have twenty-twenty vision in life, but we don’t. We don’t see things as they really are.”

Matthew Kelly in Rediscover Jesus


 No matter what age or season of life we are in at present, each of us has more than a few things that influence us in the present and move on into the future. And these blind spots come from more than a few sources that can give rise to stumbling blocks like fear, rejection, anxiety, insecurity, and more. But some of our dreams, goals, and fervent hopes can create blind spots as well that prohibit us from seeing ourselves accurately.


But those last things are good things, aren’t they? Yes, but if our dream is to sing on Broadway and we don’t recognize we always sing off pitch, we have a major blind spot as we keep auditioning and singing and hoping the big chance will come.


Blind spots sometimes reveal themselves over time as we grow. Our hope to become an ace fighter pilot reveals a big boulder stands in the way when we recognize we struggle with being in confined closed spaces – like the cockpit of a jet fighter. Our insecurity and fear of rejection stops us from risking writing that book we always dreamed of despite the encouragement of others about our writing ability.



I think these examples give you a view of some of our many blind spots.


The bigger challenge is how we can identify the blind spots we do not see are there at all because it is only then that we can begin to work on them, so they become steppingstones instead of boulders getting in our path.


One thing we can count on as Chris Fabry so clearly notes:


“…God has this funny way of stretching and changing and pushing us toward things we don’t want to face. I don’t think the past is something we deal with as much as it deals with us.”


Matthew Kelly identifies three keys to dealing with blind spots in his book, Rediscover Jesus:


  • Humility – You see humility is what makes us teachable and, in its absence, we are deluded into believing we see ourselves and situations as they really are.


  • Docility – Every moment of the day if we are the Lord’s, the Holy Spirit is prompting us to do or avoid this or that, but only if we become docile (according to Matthew Kelly’s definition of the word) can we benefit from that prompting. Some might prefer the word yielded, but here is how Matthew Kelly defines docile: “to listen deeply and be coachable.” You choose the word that works for you, but the meaning is clear either way.


  • Judging – We all are tempted to and often do judge others without recognizing that doing so puts us in the position of pretending to be God. We tend to believe our opinions are right and become the standards from which we make decisions and judgments.


Blind spots are common with us all and they tend to lead us toward biases and prejudices as well.


The love, grace, and mercy of Jesus is available for each of us to liberate us from these blind spots and know despite our flaws and failures that He chose us and loves us and gave us his name.


One of the tragic consequences of blind spots is that they get in the way of deep radical relationships.


The Lord invites us into the most radical of relationships with Himself so we can radically love others as He does.


Can we trust Him to show us and accept what we discover?

beautiful-bloom-blooming-414083 (1)