Beware of the Easy Days

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We all love a day that has no drama or undue stress. We can relax and enjoy the day. Oftentimes we look toward vacation days or weekends for such respites from the daily challenges of life and work. There is something about being able to let down our guard and just chill out that appeals to most of us.

Even when we plan for such days or times away, many of us have had these plans and desires upended. Flights get delayed or canceled, construction on the highway sends us on an endless detour, a sudden storm halts all modes of transportation, or someone gets sick. Our hope for an easy day, weekend, or vacation disappears like a vapor.

We continue to long for easy days, lazy days. We want someone else to be in charge for a while.

Sometimes when such a day comes together, we lean back in a hammock and let thoughts roam, or we sit on a patio as dusk falls and listen to the sounds of the night commence as the last rays of the sun slip below the horizon.

We stop paying attention and cuing into anything but our own reverie.

It can be natural to forget there is an unseen world around us where a battle is raging for our soul. Our archenemy never sleeps and is always seeking who may be off guard and lured into his devices.

It can happen to the best of us who love and serve the Lord. If it happened to Kind David, it can happen to any one of us.


David, the Goliath slayer, the one about whom songs were written and sung throughout Israel, was a mighty warrior undefeated in battle with God on his side. But then in 2 Samuel 11 as spring came and all the kings were going out to battle, David sent his chief of military operations, Joab, and all his servants and mighty men out to battle while he remained at home. Didn’t he deserve a day off now and then?  He had trained mighty men of war, certainly they could manage without him this time. Perhaps they could, but maybe he couldn’t manage to handle his leave from battle as well as he thought.

Here he is relaxing on his roof on a beautiful day and the archenemy sees his chance. David’s eyes gaze upon the beauty of woman bathing and lusts after her. He sends for her to be brought to him. She is Bathsheba, wife of one of his mighty warriors, but no matter. The enemy has already stirred David’s lust to a fever pitch, and he takes her to his bed and then sends her home. Did he really think no one would notice and that he would not get caught?

Even if no man or woman saw the deed, did David think God was off on vacation and missed what he did?

As I was reading this passage, I took note of the wise comments in the footnote to this story in my Bible:

“There is no point in life’s journey so dangerous as when one has arrived at a comfortable place and lowers one’s guard.

Sin seldom shows itself all at once, or even as sin at all. The temptation to sin is usually more subtle than that. But once in its grip, one is taken to places one never intended to go and held longer than one ever intended to stay.”

It’s been said that any fool can lose a battle. You just need an opponent who is weaker, but it is a questionable talent to lose a battle when you start off with all the advantages.

History gives us numerous examples. It happened to Lt. Col. George Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn despite his strategies and belief that the attack he planned would be a surprise. It happened to Napoleon when he ran short on supplies and sought to retreat from Moscow after he decided to invade Russia. It happened at the Battle of Antietam during the American Civil War as well and the list of such battles could go on and on. Over and over again when one side was underestimating the opponent or resting and not on watch, a rout took place.

You may be saying that our archenemy in the spiritual world is far stronger than you are and if you do, the enemy knows he is likely to win. He knows then that you have forgotten that our triune God and all his angels fight on our behalf. Our responsibility is to stay on watch and call on Him when those subtle temptations begin.

Peter understood that well. He had a history of faltering when the enemy was sneaking around. His recommendations are key to keep in focus on easy days:

“8 Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping.

9 Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith.

10 The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ – eternal and glorious plans they are! – will have you put together and on your feet for good. 11 He gets the last word; yes, he does.”

1 Peter 5:8-11 (MSG)

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The Book of Lost Friends

Lisa Wingate has a special way of inviting you into historical fiction that fascinates the reader from the first page to the last. Her newest book, The Book of Lost Friends, is no exception as she opens our awareness to life ten years after the end of the Civil War in Louisiana (1875) through what is discovered by a teacher quite by accident in the small town of Augustine, Louisiana in 1987. Wingate tells a captivating tale with a centerpiece of history not widely known by most of us.

Benedetta Silva (known as Benny) is a first-year teacher who arrives in the small rural town of Augustine for a subsidized job she hopes will pay off her student loans. Even her graduate studies in English have not prepared her for her role as an English teacher in this town. It takes no time at all to discover how suspicious everyone is about this newcomer and how unhelpful they can be in helping her find housing, The home she is finally able to rent is a shabby small home built on a corner of a run-down plantation of old next to a cemetery. Finding help for the leaking roof or much of anything proves challenging before she even meets her students.

The students in her classroom are far off the usual students for Benny. They are rowdy and largely uneducated in the basic subjects of reading and math. The curriculum is not suited to their learning level and yet the board of education made up of the town upper-class elite expect her to teach these students everyone has given up on. She soon learns no teacher has lasted long in this position and the principal is of little help in giving her wise direction.

Even with all this, Benny is determined to help these students everyone else has written off despite prejudices of all kinds that she bumps into at every turn whether in school or the town even though it is 1987. Her own family history is one she has sought to set aside as a result of her broken family and a history shrouded by supposed involvement with Mussolini in Italy during WW II.

When she walks the cemetery next to her house and begins exploring beyond the hedges onto the property of the plantation her interest is piqued. The local restaurant is where she meets a lively character named Granny T who begins to reveal more about her students and introduces her to a woman named Sarge who can fix her roof when Benny cannot get a return call from the owners of the home.

Little by little she discovers more about the life in the area in the post-Civil War years full of chaos and uncertainty for the wealthy, the poor, the slaves now freed, and those who would want to keep them in tow and hide the stories of their abuse and the mixture of the plantation owners and their offspring of both white, black, and mixed racial heritage. Many of her students have these persons as their ancestors but know little of the heritage that holds them in the lowly status they live.

Discovery of how former slaves began to search for their family members who had been sold off at various times and places gives Benny a hope of how she can captivate her students and get them involved in education through research to uncover the history of the area including those buried in hidden graves beyond the town cemetery next to where she is living. 

In the process Benny discovers the advertisements the former slaves posted in various places and ultimately compiled and published in the Southwestern Christian Advocate, a Methodist newspaper. The ads looking for lost family members published there are read in churches across the country and shared from one person to another. This discovery by Benny turns out to be the key to unlocking her students’ attention and get them involved in their stories and things they can be proud of as well as grieve. 

This part of Lisa Wingate’s story set in 1875 features one of these searchers she creates, Hannie Gossett, who was a slave on the plantation where Benny now lives. The story Hannie tells opens the readers’ eyes to the tragic heartbreak of those whose lives were shattered by slavey and separation from family members. It also looks at how these very tragedies open the door to learning, reading, research, and more in Benny’s 1987 classroom even though the elite of the town want to keep the truth buried.

This book is captivating and powerful in the parallel stories with Lisa Wingate’s skill at bringing all the intersections of the two periods together. It is well worth the read as Wingate weaves factual historical data with her fictional characters and storyline.

What Habit Will You Feed?

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We all have habits. They are things we have done for so long they have become a common tendency for us to do or practice. Some of those are really good things like a healthy diet, exercise, or a consistent spiritual life of commitment to our beliefs and faith tenets. Others are not so healthy like biting our fingernails, failing to follow through on things, being insensitive to the needs of others, or making judgments against those we may not even know. In both cases, if they are habits, they are not so easily changed or altered since the habitual practice of them seems to cement them day-by-day.

Two other things that we take less notice of is how we anticipate or speculate on what may happen next regarding almost anything or everything. Those two are similar except anticipation more often tends toward positive things like looking forward to a birthday, special trip, a new house, or bonus at our work. When we speculate it often tends more to risks and expecting something we don’t want or wish for. Which one we practice can lead us down two different paths – one will be optimistic hope and the other will be a sense of foreboding and fear or dread. 

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Some things we practice start out innocuous enough so we don’t see for some time they may be drifting away from little impact on us. Most of us know that is true of our devices now used commonly. Cell phones, computers, tablets, and more are tools we started using for convenience for work or needed tasks but have morphed into a life of their own now if we are honest. We use them in relationships more than phone calls or notes and letters. We get caught looking at them when we are with others more than attending to the person we are with. We get addicted to playing mindless games on them or watching video clips without much thought about their impact until it’s sometimes too late. 

Another example that has (for me) changed over the years is my habit of reading the news. I grew up reading the news and hearing it on the radio and loved it because I love history and today’s news would soon become tomorrow’s history and I was curious about local and world events. When TV came along, those habits remained with the addition of a half hour newscast each day that actually was able to highlight only a sampling of what newspapers contained. Before we knew it that appetite was being fed by a 24-hour news cycle on multiple channels that didn’t seem bad at first and we barely noticed our local newspapers were getting thinner until they often disappeared (and with them the awareness of our own community happenings). We noticed even less that all these hours became filled less with factual reporting and more with opinions or snapshots that weren’t giving us the whole picture and were meant to draw us in again and again like a movie.

Were we like frogs in a kettle not heeding the change in the temperature we were swirling in? Did we notice how it was impacting us? We weren’t hearing many of the good things along with not so good things and headlines became darker with the potential of foreboding and fear. If we did notice and we tended to healthy intakes other places, we likely failed to notice the impact of them for some time unless we tuned in to what our conversations were highlighting. They too often focused on the sensational headlines that were more often like something from a bad movie whether it was business news, or the latest crimes committed. Good things or people rarely made the cut.

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We began to get even our personal medical news via our devices from various portals that gave us test results and lab results often before our physicians had seen them or could explain them to us. There were many words in them we didn’t have knowledge of and some that zapped us immediately like “abnormal.”  The result was often speculation on our part and invariably it opened the door to the worst-case scenario. That was especially true during and since the pandemic where headlines contained only the most gruesome numbers and we were isolated from positive aspects and people and fed a steady diet of bad news.

There was an enemy of our hearts and souls drawing us into a downward spiral too often without our realizing it because it made sense to us in our increasingly hopeless world view highlighted in every research poll reported. If we opened that door to speculation the enemy’s power grew and if we were paying attention at all, we could feel it.

In a world of chaos and ever-changing headlines of mostly disasters, our choices of what we feed toward one path or the other can make a big impact on our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Whatever we feed grows and becomes a habitual practice hard to break. We see that when we try to reign in our use of devices, we are now dependent on for nearly everything. 

In a world of chaos and ever-changing headlines of mostly disasters, our choices of what we feed toward one path or the other can make a big impact on our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Whatever we feed grows and becomes a habitual practice hard to break. We see that when we try to reign in our use of devices we are now dependent on for nearly everything. 

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How do we escape? It begins by unplugging from what we are being fed that got us to that sense of foreboding. How many times do you need to watch the latest crime or stock market reports being repeated on every news source every hour or less? It gets stronger when we turn our brains back on and stop accepting what these sources are telling us about what to think or believe about ourselves and the world and recognize there is an agenda going on if only to sell us what they are offering and keep us tuned in. It gets healthier when we recognize this sound bite news world is giving us snippets versus the whole story we read in the newspapers of old and that all sources on the internet are NOT reliable or the best (no matter what we are looking up to find out). We help ourselves after checking the medical portal by not jumping to conclusions about the words until we can get a knowledgeable explanation from our physicians.

It grows by feeding the spiritual foundation of faith and getting outside of all these other things to listen to good music, take casual walks listening to the birds and noting the creation around us, having coffee with good friends with phones set aside or turned off for those minutes. It includes noticing the beauty of the sunrise and sunset, the delicious taste of our favorite tea or coffee, ice cream or other delight. All these get us back in touch with the real world outside the matrix that is trying to be pulled over our eyes at every turn.

 If we let it happen, we discover God is still there and nothing that Is happening has caught Him off-guard and He has our provision and the grace for this moment and the next.

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It Can Be So Easy

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It can be so easy and simple in a time when it seems few of our values or beliefs, our principles, or traditions, are shared commonly with others. Our perceptions happen in a split second as do our judgments. It makes the world of communication more complex and difficult than it may once have been. Perhaps this season of speedy modes of communication has fueled much of it. A text or post on social media can happen quickly and sometimes on impulse without checking spelling or much thinking.

In another era when letters and notes were penned as the most common form of communication, it slowed the process down and usually the writer reread what was written before sending it off to the receiver. That once happened more often with email when it was new to us. Then we wanted to be sure it said what we meant and how we meant it more often. Now we are prone to react to whatever is impacting us.

The results are evident everywhere as we misperceive, get hurt or offended, and are then tempted to react all over again. We get baited to then become defensive and justify ourselves without much consideration of what we may have shared that got that reaction and it starts long before we learn to read or write.

A child is playing in the backyard and the neighbor child who used to come over ignores our invitation to join her on her swing set. The child might be tempted to think the neighbor child doesn’t like her any more without realizing the other child did not hear her or that they are going to be leaving with a parent soon and can’t come this time.

This can be a great opportunity to help a child consider other options than might first come to mind if we take the time to talk them through the situation. The result might help them next time to not take something as a personal rejection and learn a tool that can be useful all through life. It may take a few extra minutes but be worth so much for the next time it happens.

Sometimes not saying anything gets interpreted as something the child or we as adults didn’t mean at all. It can happen in so many ways. Someone shows up late for our party and we can be tempted to feel slighted with no awareness of traffic, a possible flat tire, or a dozen other things that may have happened. After all, isn’t the world about us?

Once upon a time, we operated more commonly on something called “the Golden Rule” which posits that we should treat others as we would want to be treated. It seemed to serve us well for quite some time but rarely is it quoted or spoken of now. The Golden Rule, known also as the Ethic of Reciprocity, was arguably the most consistent, most prevalent, and most universal ethical principle in history.

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Writers of the famed Encyclopedia Britannica tell us the origin of this principle:

Golden Rule, precept in the Gospel of Matthew (7:12): “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you. . . .” This rule of conduct is a summary of the Christian’s duty to his neighbour and states a fundamental ethical principle. In its negative form, “Do not do to others what you would not like done to yourselves,” it occurs in the 2nd-century documents Didachē and the Apology of Aristides and may well have formed part of an early catechism.  It recalls the command to “love the stranger (sojourner)” as found in Deuteronomy. It is not, however, peculiar to Christianity. Its negative form is to be found in Tob. 4:15, in the writings of the two great Jewish scholars Hillel (1st century BC) and Philo of Alexandria (1st centuries BC and AD), and in the Analects of Confucius (6th and 5th centuries BC). It also appears in one form or another in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Isocrates, and Seneca.”

How and when did we leave all this behind? Perhaps that is not so important as the consequence of losing it little by little in the modern era when we also seemed to slip away from studying history and all it could do to help us navigate the present and avoid some mistakes in the process.

It is noteworthy that even though its origin in scripture that ties it to Christianity and is often referred to in that context, that it was universal across many faiths and cultures beyond that and earlier than that. Some scholars take it back as early as 2040 and 1782 BCE or to Greece in 400 BCE.

As recently as 1988, George H.W. Bush laid out a vision for a “kinder and gentler nation.” How far nations and the world have moved from such a vision, but even in small ways we could perhaps impact our corner of the world. We could listen longer and ask questions before leaping to conclusions and remember that every opinion we have is not a universal accepted one. Without giving up our own beliefs, we could seek to understand before seeking to be understood as Stephen Covey reminds us in his principles of being effective as a person.

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It starts in small ways that are actually big by being less critical of someone else and how he or she does something for you. It can begin by noticing the haggard look at a checkout counter and thanking the clerk for helping you and offering a smile instead of never even seeing him or her as a person not so different than you may be.  It can happen when you slow down long enough to hold open a door for a busy mom, an older person, or just anyone at all. It only takes that long to make a difference if we will choose what would bless us and bless someone else.

It may not mean others will follow you if you adapt your consideration in such ways, but it will demonstrate your character and it is the one you are responsible for and will be judged by others on.


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Are you a grumbler?

Most of us would prefer to say we are not, but it is more likely that we have all been guilty of grumbling from time to time even though the degree and frequency of our grumbling can definitely vary.

To be exact, grumble is a verb defined as follows:

“complain or protest about something in a bad-tempered but typically muted way”

Sometimes others may not hear us do it as we walk away grumbling under our breath about something that didn’t go our way or frustrated us. It doesn’t absolve us of the action or attitude, however.

When I was growing up, our home had a copy of the famed series, Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime Stories, which were originally published in the 1920’s. (No, I am not that old!) There were 5 volumes and each in a different color with short stories packed into each that always had a lesson to learn tucked within the story.


When I became a parent, the books moved to my house and a bit later I passed the volumes on to our daughter. It is somehow fascinating that all these years later some of those stories are still etched in my memory.

One of those that I recall especially well was entitled “Little Miss Grumbleton” and was about a cure for grumbling. The little girl in the story has a habit of grumbling. As a result of this bad habit, she has a consequence of being required to eat a meal she complained about when it was set before her. You see the meal was cold and not very tasty when it came time for the next meal. Everyone else in the family was enjoying a delicious hot meal while she was required to eat what she had not eaten the previous meal.

As the story goes, the little girl never makes that mistake again and is cured of the habit of grumbling. Who wants to eat a cold meal that was left on the table for hours when everyone else is enjoying a fresh hot meal?

Grumbling has been around since mankind was created and tends to represent a lack of gratitude. We see it in lots of places in the Bible.

One of the places we most often think of is in the book of Exodus with the Israelites as Moses goes about following God’s plan to be freed from slavery and enter the land He promised them. It can be easy for us all these years later to be critical of how they handled this “adventure,” but if we consider what their experience had been for more than 400 years we might discover our responses might have been similar.

Think for a moment. Pharaoh’s chariots chase you and thousands of others and there you are facing the Red Sea. Panic would be a given and then God parts the waters and you walk safely on dry ground to the other side. As you look over your shoulder as the last person reaches the shore, the waters fall back into the path you just walked on and all those chasing you are destroyed. You see God show up in a big way and likely expect He will have your back in the days ahead.

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But then you are out there in the wilderness and the water you brought with you is nearly gone. Your animals are thirsty and so are you. It has been three days in the desert without water and they arrive at a place called Marah where there is water, but it is undrinkable. They are upset and frustrated and the grumbling starts and builds. Most of us would be the same.

They had seen the Egyptians destroyed in the Red Sea and were following the pillar of cloud God had provided so they must have known He was aware of their location and what the landscape was like as well as the condition of the water at Marah. This was their first big test and they were not handling it well.

What these people had experienced during the plagues in Egypt and the destruction of the Egyptian charioteers at the Red Sea caused them to expect they were going to continue to move along without difficulty.

As a result, they failed to trust God to provide the water even if they couldn’t humanly see how He would do it. He had demonstrated what He could do many times over, but trust was still not resident within them.

You might be thinking it was so obvious that it should have been clear to them that God would provide, but ever since the Garden of Eden mankind has faltered in trusting God’s goodness.

Grumbling and complaining when our expectations are not met has been a long-standing habit for us. It continues to the present day and it gives evidence to a flaw to trust or have faith.

It can be difficult for us to determine if we are experiencing a test or consequences of being involved in something we should not have gotten involved in.

Our challenge is to remember God is good no matter which it is and He is there to lead and provide for us even if it is something that is extremely difficult to face. 

When we fail to remember God’s goodness, trust and faith falter easily.

“The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.”

Psalm 145:9 (NIV)