Perils of Lost Connection



During the pandemic we have faced more than one or two challenges, but beyond the virus or job loss, perhaps the most significant has been the loss of connection most of us have experienced – with our life as we knew it, our family, our friends, our places of worship, our work place, our way of life.


If we ever doubted that we were designed for connection with one another, we don’t doubt it now.


As I contemplated that, I was reminded of a story that resonates with where we are now. To glean from it, we need to go back to about 445 B.C. and look at Nehemiah, a Jewish man living in exile as a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia. His position points to his trustworthy character and he continues to serve the king after the exiles return home, but he is interested in what is happening in his homeland and asks the king to allow him to go to Jerusalem to see how things are going for the exiles that returned to their homeland.


He is sent out with favor and position to help govern the province but what he finds there shows him how great a challenge is ahead. The walls and the city of Jerusalem are in a heap of rubble. The exile has lasted long enough that the original law and how the city was to be laid out and governed has been lost on the exiles and there is great opposition to what needs to be done to reinstate what God intended Jerusalem and its people to be.


Those who challenged rebuilding did what our adversary seeks to do today – raise doubts. They didn’t want a radical leader of sound character like Nehemiah to succeed. Our enemy doesn’t want us to do so either.


His tools?  He wants to fuel doubt about our ability so we don’t use our gifts and risk stepping out, to worry about the future and lack courage, question the timing of what lays before us and give up, thinking it isn’t time to move ahead on the Lord’s calling on our lives. In short, the adversary wants us to give up before we start and that line of assault exposes weakness in our foundation.


Back then Israel and most nations gained success and strength by the cities and walls they built to protect their culture, way of life, and belief system from those who would seek to overtake them. Any city who was attacked saw their walls destroyed at the outset so they could easily be defeated. Israel had forgotten where their strength lay – in God Himself to fight the battle. (That can happen to us as well.)


The people (like us) were fatigued and as Vince Lombardi once said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”


Those people back there in about 445 B.C. had needs not unlike ours as we may feel weary after months of an upended lifestyle and world. We need confidence in God, watchfulness and prayer, and steadfast courage. You see, the people of Israel had lost connection with God, each other, and their identity.


What does that word connect mean? When used as a verb, it implies action and means 1) to become joined; 2) to have or establish rapport; 3) to pin or fasten together; and 4) to place or establish in relationship. When the word is used as a noun it means: 1) a relation of personal intimacy; 2) continuity coherence; or 3) something that connects or transports.


Back in Jerusalem when Nehemiah arrives, he finds they have started rebuilding the city walls – hence, the taunts from the neighbors who were not in favor of this project.


Nehemiah sees what’s happening and goes out at night and surveys what is happening in order to look at the strategy needed to move beyond the current state of affairs. One of the things he observes: people are working on the walls during the day and how far apart, they were while working. It would be easy for their enemies to slip in and overtake them. They were too far apart so they were undone in no time.


Nehemiah sees defeat will come in the midst of lost connection.


It can happen to us as well.


Nehemiah’s strategy was impeccable. He organized them so that half of those working on the wall did construction and the other half held spears and shields, bows, and coats of mail while the leaders stood behind the wall as watchmen who observed any movement of the enemy and would blow a trumpet to warn of an ensuing attack. He noted they were still too far apart so the sound of the trumpet was needed to cause all to rally to the point of the enemy’s attack.


With this strategy in place they worked from dawn into the night while someone was always guarding the places broken down on the walls.


In this time of lost connection for us in 2020, too many of us have become isolated from the sources of support. It can be easy for the enemy to invade our territory and cause us to feel weary and defeated or chase what John Eldredge calls “less wild lovers” – other things to comfort us, God is the wildest lover of all.


What is crucial is for us to shake ourselves and be alert to what connection has been lost beyond those outward evidences of staying at home, not meeting family and friends, not worshipping together and more. To resume our place on the wall, to stand in the gap for ourselves and others, and regain connection on the spiritual battlefield that no pandemic can destroy.


God made us for radical relationship with Him and each other. Few things have challenged that or the expressions of it more than the current pandemic. Our Advocate is calling us to stand up, reach out, and to look up.


Be a watchman.



What About Your Relationships?

Photo by Odonata Wellnesscenter from Pexels


What shapes your relational world?


That has as many answers as there are people because many influences shape how we view relationships, value them, and choose them. I know many of you will respond by sharing the perspective of introversion versus extroversion or give me a number from the popular Enneagram material out there. My clinical studies in graduate school gave me a deep dive into a variety of tools to look at these aspects of ourselves, but too often we use them as absolutes or reasons for how we do or do not respond in relationships.


If we are believers in Christ, there is something, Someone, greater that should inform our relational choices and decisions. If Christ lives within us and is radical as I noted in a previous post ( then shouldn’t our relational interactions look more like his?


I know you have heard or read the statement, “Relationships are everything.” I first read it in a book written by Dr. Tim Clinton, but others have taken credit for coining it as well.


The challenge of the statement as so many of us would nod our heads in agreement is whether or not there is evidence of it in our lives. If it is a core belief, then it will show up across the spectrum of our lives and may not look the way we initially might describe.


IF relationships are central to us, we won’t just pursue those we like and feel comfortable with, those that are more like us. We also won’t say we have passion for relationships if the only way we connect with those who are different is by formal donations or ministry projects. In those scenarios we are not moving into much of any depth as Jesus pursued relationships.


If Jesus is the model for radical relationships and that means getting to the core of things, the root of things in a relationship, then ours should resemble that.


He had relationships that were certainly deeper with his disciples who traveled and worked with Him throughout his earthly ministry. What is important to recall is the twelve He chose would likely not be on our list if we wanted to change the world. They were not leaders of the day, well-educated and trained. They were common men, rough around the edges in more than a few ways, and would likely not have passed the resume test we might write.



Yet these were his closest relationships. With them He shared the depths of his heart, emotion, and wisdom.


Time and again Jesus chose people we barely notice, let alone interact with.


Too often after we come to know Him our relationships settle into a pattern of primarily hanging out with others from our church who think like us, dress like us, share the same values as we do, and so on. There is nothing wrong with that, but do they energize us?


What made Jesus so different relationally that He would choose these 12 or take time to really be with people and go deeply into their lives beyond giving alms to the poor?


“Most of the people who are at the center of the Gospel narrative have no place in our lives. What does that tell us? Jesus took people whom you and I would mindlessly pass on the street, people we would never choose to be in the same room with, people from the very margins of society, and he placed them at the center of the narrative we call the Gospel. They came to him in a hundred guises – the sick, the poor, the despised, women, children, and sinners of every type – but in each of them Jesus saw a child of God.”

Matthew Kelly in Rediscover Jesus


Yes, we need people to do life with, care for our hearts, and support us on our journey, but is that all there is within us?


The people Jesus hung out with and spoke to along the way were outside the social norms of society of that day. Consider the list of those who were considered nothing but made it into the canon of scripture because He took note of them. That list will amaze you if you take time to review it. There is little wonder that “Gospel” means “good news.”


One example of a radical relationship was the one described in John 4. Jesus is resting by a well and we read the unfolding story of the Samaritan woman. It is quite a story indeed for many reasons. First would be that Jesus chose to speak to a woman and then she was a Samaritan in the bargain before we even get to what we learn about her lifestyle.


Many of you know that story, but don’t let that stop you from a fact Matthew Kelly points out: “This is the longest recorded conversation between Jesus and any other human being.”


I am one of those who places a high value on relationships, and they are many and varied. I have a long way to go to be as radical in them as Jesus was, but one thing I know to be true about myself – the relationships I had with students with learning problems, home problems, and layers of issues not only challenged me, but energized me.

Photo by Rob Blair


The relationships I had with those who came to seek my counsel when I worked as a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor for more than 25 years energized me as well. They were broken in more ways than I will name, many were not readily welcomed into churches, most were bound in sin of one sort or another, but seeing the possibilities in each one if they could see it, could see what Jesus showed me, was the greatest experience I could have imagined.


Someone might say it was because I tend to be an extrovert who is more likely to be energized by people, but that was not it. It was watching as they grappled with their station, brokenness, and sin and then see the good news of the gospel transform them – not because I shared the four spiritual laws or asked the questions I know that are a part of various good evangelistic programs – because Jesus in me loved them and saw that glimpse of a child of God, spent time with them, and met them on the level ground at the foot of the cross.


I want to be relationally radical. That is when I get most excited. 


If any of us really want to be radical relationally – really really – then we must remember this:


“The types of people we avoid and ignore are the types of people Jesus was most interested in.”

Matthew Kelly


That ragtag group of 12 unlikely world changers, the disciples Jesus chose, over time grew to be more like Him and changed the world forever.


What the world needs now – whether it is in our neighborhood, church, business, job, or any other place – is to discover the truth of the Gospel lived out through radical relationships.


That will change the world and it will change us in the bargain.


Photo by Fauxels








What Are We Missing?



We have so much stimuli coming at us from so many directions. Even in the midst of a pandemic it continues in a variety of ways alongside a time of being shuttered in our homes with more potential quiet and stillness as we watch from our closed-in places while the world upends itself.


In the midst of a devotional time as I was considering these things the thought came to consider what is happening behind what is preoccupying us. What is going on behind the scene that is playing out and blocking a more accurate complete view? That is likely the more important story that we must not miss if we are to be radical in our lives as believers.


I have heard more than a few refer to this time as an upending, chaotic, confusing, and disorienting time (along with many other descriptors). They all fit, but there are two other words that come to mind as well – roiling (not a word I commonly use) and reeling. I needed to look at the definition to consider what the Lord might be nudging me to consider.


Reeling is not simply a dance form, or something connected with fishing, but there is a connection to those definitions. Reeling is described as “to pull or draw by winding a line or reel” or to do so “without pause, continuously.”


The definition of roiling felt even more significant – “to render turbid by stirring up sediment, to disturb or disquiet; irritate; vex.”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels


It can be too easy if we are watching avidly or casually the many news reports about what we can and cannot do, what the numbers look like, how much the curve flattens, etc., to have these things consume us even if we see the impact on the world beyond the illness itself.


If we are radical, we must be careful to discern when our silence becomes stagnant apathy and we miss the bigger picture unfolding before our eyes and instead of despairing take greater hope for what it portends. There is truly a time to be silent and a time to speak and in this I am not referring to protests or the like because our lives have been scrunched into less life than we were living a few months ago.


Over and over again scripture calls us to be watching and watchmen on the wall and I don’t think it is talking about the latest headlines or health department figures. We are being called to watch, pay attention to, and discern the spiritual unseen world around us that is winding up for what biblical prophets point to.


Their words written so many centuries ago tell us that there will be this kind of reeling and roiling. Behind the pandemic so many other things are being stirred up (sediment brought to the surface) that leave us agitated and off balance. Our focus can take us down rabbit trails leaving hope eroded and missing the promises of the signs of the times the prophets and Jesus also noted in his ministry on earth.


Is it possible that the roiling and reeling is serving a purpose not just of evil dark forces at work, but also to awaken us to the earth’s condition and our own as well?


Is it possible as we spend more time trying to listen that our response to what we hear should not be silence but speaking about the hope we have beyond whether a vaccine is found, or the right medications are found to eradicate the virus?


Photo by Rob Blair

Should we be less focused on what man is doing or not doing, pointing fingers of blame or derision, and more focused on warning that a bigger drama is unfolding in our very midst?


As our places of worship are quiet as we rely on virtual attempts to connect, are we missing grappling with questions such as – where is God, what is this all for, or how can this be part of God’s plan as a God of love and goodness?


Have we wrestled with trusting Him even though so much doesn’t make sense and we feel as if we are caught up in some movie whose ending, we fear?


Have we needed rest from the pace of daily life? 


Yes, and most of us see that now more clearly than ever.


Have we needed to alter that pace and noise in our lives to learn to listen better? 


Yes, without question. But does that mean we huddle in place passively waiting for however the movie ends?


We may not know how this episode ends, but we know about the end of the movie if our foundation is the Lord. If the movie is nearing the end with the climax riveting us to our seats, then we are called to action and must listen for the role each of us is to play in that.


This week I read a quote that refocused me on what radical disciples of Christ must not miss at this moment in time:


“Hope is a response to the future, which has its foundation in the promises of God. It looks at the future as time for the completion of God’s promise. It refuses to extrapolate either desire or anxiety into the future, but instead believes that God’s promise gives the proper content to it. But hope is not a doctrine about the future: it is a grace cultivated in the present, it is a stance in the present that deals with the future.”

 Eugene Peterson

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Photo by Rob Blair








How Radical Are You?



I would love to be a fly on the wall as you answer this question.


Many of you will likely say that you aren’t radical at all and view that word with a negative perspective. It might sound like shouting out your opinions and beliefs, always going against the grain, joining a protest movement, being rude and more. Perhaps some of you would admit you are or at least you were “back in the day.”


I would be one of those in the first group for most all of my life. I tend to follow the prescribed rules, obey the traffic laws, adhere to the societal norms, and don’t step over too many lines except for a couple of speeding tickets over the course of my lifetime.


Recently as I was reading a book by Matthew Kelly I started to reconsider if that was true of me. I also started to realize I was more radical than I might have thought and really wanted to be that way. I just never used that word to describe myself.


Oftentimes those who know me would tell you I am passionate about what I believe and those whom I hold dear. They might say I can be direct as well among a list of characteristics observed by them, but never the word radical.


Matthew Kelly writes this about the meaning of the word, radical:


“What does radical mean? It means to get to the “root” of things.”


Hmmmmmmm! That is true of me and I am guessing it might be true of some of you who would never see yourself as radical.


Kelly’s thesis suggests that if we are disciples of Christ and look like Him that we would be radical.


“Jesus was a radical – and his life and teachings are a radical invitation to something beyond what most of us have settled for in our everyday lives.

Jesus was interested in getting deep down to the root of things. He was interested in what was essential – not the fluffy periphery, but the core, the center, the heart of things.”


Consider just a few examples of the questions Jesus asked when He walked the earth:


“Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-20)

“Do you believe?” (Matthew 21:22)

“Do you want to get well?” (John 5:1-15)

“Why are you so afraid?” (Matthew 8:26)

“Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:26)

“Do you still not see or understand?” (Mark 8:17)

“Are you also going to leave?” (John 6:66-67)

“What does scripture say?” (Luke 10:23-28)

“Who touched me?” (Mark 5:33)

“Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17)


Those questions are not the usual “small talk” questions we ask or are asked, are they? Reading them nudges me to own that even though I am somewhat radical, I am not nearly radical enough. Jesus cut to the chase without shouting or condemning someone who knew less than He did or believed something different or even nothing at all.


Jesus came to love – YES! But He also came to show us truth and be truth that we could see, hear, touch, and know. Matthew Kelly says it plainly, “Truth is radical.”


Maybe that is part of the problem each of us faces.


Do we hold to the truth in its deepest form in every situation even when it means being less diplomatic than most of us have been trained or learned to be? Do we always share the truth when we are asked something in a casual conversation whether that be if we like a person’s new haircut or where we stand on a moral or political question or does our fear or desire to be liked cause us to stretch things a bit or ignore the question entirely?


A closer look at the life of Christ shows most all of us that He is in every way different from man despite coming to earth as man.


“Jesus didn’t have a casual relationship with the truth, and that is radical. He was interested in getting to the root of things. Through this lens of truth Jesus places everything in its proper place, bringing order to every aspect of life, and demonstrates the true value of things. We all yearn for this divine ordering. The challenge is to surrender and allow God to put our lives in order. The fruit of this surrender is the peace and joy that we all desire.” 

Matthew Kelly in Rediscover Jesus


How might we and those around us be different if we really became more like Jesus?


Would our conversations focus on the small questions such as “how are you”, “what have you been up to”, or “what’s new”?  And would our answers be small as well using words like “I’m fine”, “not much of anything” and the like?


If that is where we stay, our relationships will remain casual at best and we will never really have the opportunity to know deep relationship born out of the radical love, grace, mercy, and truth that Jesus modeled for us.


Let me leave you with a question Matthew Kelly asked for us to ponder:


“When was the last time you had the courage to seek out the root of an important issue?”


Our Mother’s Stories

Photo by Dinh Pham on Unsplash

Few words are tinged with as much emotion as the word “mother” or whatever form of that word is what you call her. No Mother’s Day card can fully capture the significance of that relationship and when we come to celebrate that day, we each can have a variety of emotions.


Our mothers weren’t perfect even though some of us will tend to idealize them on special occasions. They were first of all human with all the weaknesses and fallibilities that can include. As a result, as we think of them, each of us can tend to wish there were things that were different, we wanted more of, or wanted less of.


Our mother’s stories come to us in bits and pieces. They come in what we see and hear as we grow up or what we think we see or hear and whatever those things imply to us. They come to us in what stories she may share with us as well as what other family members might say.


Over time we begin to piece these bits and pieces together much like a patchwork quilt that forms the overall sense of her that we have. We choose various colors and patterns in different seasons and decide we have a pretty good sense of who she is, but in between those bits and pieces, the colors and patterns we chose, are a great many gaps. So, what we know is far from complete even if we ask her to tell us about herself.


The lives of our mothers are a complex tapestry and despite some of you who might protest, she will always be a mystery.

Photo by Javid Naderi on Unsplash


My own mother went home to the Lord 25 years ago this June and I am more aware of these truths than ever before. And those gaps are key because they are often what most shaped who she became and what we believed about her. Those are things we wish we could ask when she is no longer here to answer even if she would trust us with those parts of her.


I know many key events in my mother’s life, but the gaps are ones I wish I knew.


One day when my mother was a freshman in high school someone came to her classroom door to tell her she and her two older sisters needed to go home because their house was on fire. I know that part of the story, but what I don’t know was what happened inside her heart and mind when she heard and later saw the place where all her memories had been made lay smoldering on the ground. I knew the fact and all that she and her family had were destroyed except what they were wearing and her saxophone that was at school, but what happened in her heart and thoughts that day are more of a guess on my part.


I wonder about that as I think about her and how she had no interest in older things or pieces of furniture or antiques. Was it because she had none of those that she decided she wanted only new up-to-date things because they could more easily be replaced?


Each of my mother’s family members stayed with a different person until the ruins of the home could be cleared and a new home built. That is a fact, but what was that like for her, with whom did she stay, and how often did she see her sisters or parents?


There are other bits and pieces of her story that I know well, but gaps are there for each of those as well.  I believe that is true for most of us. We were the children and often we did not know her secret dreams and disappointments, her fears and regrets. The problem is that some of us missed there were gaps and chose to fill the gaps in with what we thought (actually guessed).


adorable-boy-child-1006103Too often that led to idealizing her or demonizing her. We too often made judgments about those gaps instead of letting grace fill them.


As we became adults some of those misperceptions changed or softened when we became aware of our own journey as an adult woman whether we had children or didn’t. Maybe that came because we were aware of our own failures. No one had ever spoken about failures except that they were to be avoided and were bad.


I love what Chris Fabry penned in Looking Into You:


“I think failure is the exit ramp just before the town of success…And it’s true. You take an exit. It’s the wrong one. You turn around and get back on the highway. Sometimes when you fail, you’re a lot closer to your destination than you think. The failure helps you understand this.”


None of us will ever know all of our mother’s stories, what shaped her into the woman we knew (no matter what emotion she stirs or stirred in us). What we can celebrate is that no matter what we missed or how she didn’t meet all of our hopes and dreams, the Lord met us in those and we discovered there was only One who is perfect and perhaps that is the point of the gaps, the “if only”, the disappointment, or the thought of joy about her.


I think if my mother could remind me of something this Mother’s Day, it might sound a bit like something else Chris Fabry wrote:


“The past is like grace. It’s not enough to know about it. We all know what happened back there. Grace allows you to see yourself in the light of the past, but not in the shadow of it. You see the truth about yourself, your need.”


My Mother – Delight Mae