When Father’s Day Sneaks Up and Kicks You in the Gut

Anticipating Father’s Day is hard for me, and likely for many of you. I enjoy most holidays, but this one always gets me. I miss my husband, who was the safe, wise, and strong place for our kids (and me). I miss my dad, whose huge smile, kidney-chopper hugs, and overflowing Bible verses always made things feel okay. As I watch my grandkids on the ball fields, soccer fields, and tennis courts I picture Wyndham’s countless days of coaching and his constant encouragement for the underdog. He was a dad extraordinaire, sensing when his kids needed his words or hugs. He would so love watching their kids play (and graduate!). They were his pride and joy.

But I’m a lucky one. A blessed one. I had a father who loved me and showed me Jesus, and a husband who loved God wholeheartedly, loved me, and loved his family with a fierce and tender compassion. I guess that’s why it is hard to pass by the cards for Fathers in the stores without purchasing one, or why it’s sad to not think about what I will cook on Sunday.

Some of you never knew an earthly father, had an absent father, an abusive father, or could never measure up to a father’s dysfunctional demands. Wow. That is some kind of hard. I’m so sorry. Some of you lost dads early in your life, and some are watching your father’s health deteriorate before your eyes. It stinks. It really does.

I sometimes feel a little lost approaching this celebratory day. To be honest, I was happy last year to have virtual church on Father’s Day. It made it a little easier. When I feel a little lost in loss, for some reason I find it helpful to plan a special commemoration. I’m not sure why, but it helps me in my losses to commemorate and celebrate. Perhaps it will you, too. So, I plan to “share” a special meal (by myself, by choice) with the dads in my life. I’ll pick up a steak to eat, medium rare, in their honor…because that is what they would enjoy. I’ll probably talk to them a bit, telling them why I love and appreciate them. But then I will turn to another father, to the Father who is always there and who stays with me, even with these weird conversations. He never leaves and he always cares. This is my Father who never dies and is always the same, yesterday, today, and forever. I may detect a tear in his eye, too, because I know he hurts with me. I will thank him for my husband, for my dad, and for my son and sons-in-law who are fabulous dads.

I will then tell him what a good, good Father he is, even though I don’t always understand his goodness. I will thank him for staying with me in the storms, as my solid rock. I will thank him for holding me tightly with his mighty hand and lifting me up from the ashes. I will thank him for holding me close to his heart. I will tell him he is kind, trustworthy, generous, full of love, holy, self-sacrificing, and crazy creative with the world he fashioned. He is a good, good Father. He somehow walks with the living (me) while also walking in another dimension with my physically deceased but spiritually alive husband and dad, who I can no longer see. I believe they are as alive or perhaps more alive than I am, just in a different sphere. He is with them, and he is with me. Of course I can never fully wrap my head around this concept; it is too beautiful for me and beyond human comprehension.

Abba Father, I wish you a wonderful Father’s Day…it is your day, every day. And Wyndham and Dad, know how deeply you are loved…and always remembered. Every day.

A Big Transition…A New Chapter

A thriller, a comedy, a tragedy, poetry, a fairy tale, and a historical narrative all rolled into one. This is the book I am writing as I continue walking “jeaniesjourneys.” Thankfully, God is the author and perfecter of my life story (Heb 12:2), and we are writing this thing together. I’m starting a new chapter. A scary chapter. An exciting chapter. A sad chapter. A happy chapter. A chapter requiring faith. Lots of it.

For a while, I have known I would sell my house. It is time to downsize. Amazingly among ministers, I have been one of the few to stay in a house for a long time, over thirty years. My kids went through their elementary, middle school, and high school years based from this house. My grandchildren have visited my house as newborns and most recently the oldest as a high school graduate. They have slept over, played in the park across the street, and built their own memories. My youngest son, who spent his first twelve years in Romania, walked through the front door of this house as a member of our family in August of ‘98. It is more than a house. It is a home. At our wedding, Sam Laing, who now has his own health challenges, read this poem which now hangs on my wall. heap of living It’s authored by one of my favorite poets, Edgar Guest. I will include several stanzas:

It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home,
A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam
Afore ye really ‘preciate the things ye lef’ behind,
An’ hunger fer ’em somehow, with ’em allus on yer mind.
It don’t make any differunce how rich ye get t’ be,
How much yer chairs an’ tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain’t home t’ ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o’ wrapped round everything.

Ye’ve got t’ weep t’ make it home, ye’ve got t’ sit an’ sigh
An’ watch beside a loved one’s bed, an’ know that Death is nigh;
An’ in the stillness o’ the night t’ see Death’s angel come,
An’ close the eyes o’ her that smiled, an’ leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an’ when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an’ sanctified;
An’ tuggin’ at ye always are the pleasant memories
O’ her that was an’ is no more—ye can’t escape from these.

Ye’ve got t’ sing an’ dance fer years, ye’ve got t’ romp an’ play,
An’ learn t’ love the things ye have by usin’ ’em each day;
Even the roses ’round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they ‘come a part o’ ye, suggestin’ someone dear
Who used t’ love ’em long ago, an’ trained ’em jes’ t’ run
The way they do, so’s they would get the early mornin’ sun;
Ye’ve got t’ love each brick an’ stone from cellar up t’ dome:
It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.

Let’s just say there has been a heap of living in this home…by us, and likely by some of you who have sat at our table and in our living room. Joy and laughter have rung within these walls, as has precious time around a loved one’s bed, knowing death is nigh.

It is time for a new chapter, so I put my house on the market for showings last Tuesday. On Thursday, I sold it. my for sale sign

I have learned that home is not really a physical place, rather it is a place of rest in the deepest part of my soul; a place that only God fills. I carry home with me wherever I go. The memories of loved ones and conversations, good food and fun, arguments and conflict resolutions, soul-searching conversations and discovery, the mundane and the thrilling, sickness and health, laughter and tears….the memories are in my heart and will go with me wherever I go all the way to heaven, my ultimate home.

That said, I soon realized the stark reality that selling my home would bring. I would have to land somewhere. I prayed fervently for the best place to land… to cut expenses in preparation for my pending retirement, and to provide meaningful ways to serve and love God and people, helping as many as possible make it to heaven. To be honest, something within me questioned whether I should go to a remote place where I could tell people who did not yet know about the amazing news of Jesus. However, given the fact that I don’t know other languages and that my first priorities next to Jesus are my children and grandchildren, I knew I would stay local and contribute to remote places in other ways.

Local turned out to be about an hour and forty-three minutes from my current home. I plan to move to Connecticut, near my daughter Kristen and her family. She said it was “her turn.” While it is so hard to leave so many I love here and there are so many precious (as well as difficult) memories, I feel the Spirit’s guidance and commendation on this new chapter. Through my wonderful realtor (Kristen), I found the perfect place, ten minutes from her family, that fulfills more wishes for a home than I could imagine. Small enough to be cozy but large enough to host friends and family, full of character and charm, near water and town, and full of so many other “hugs” from God. And, to top it off, there is a studio apartment next to the house—the perfect place for Jacob. We are both excited about our new adventure.

roses in my yard

roses in my new yard, overlooking the park across the street which begins the Riverwalk.

Who knows what all will be written in this new chapter, but with God editing it I am in safe hands. I suppose the upcoming chapters will contain the various genres mentioned above, but thankfully I know how the story ends. Meanwhile, I pray that the heap of living that takes place in my new home will bring joy to many, especially to God. My friend, Susan, who is currently in Connecticut helping her son’s family as he recovers from extensive cancer surgery, rode by my new house while her son was in surgery. Just as she pulled up to my new house, she got the call that the surgery was a success. So, she named my house the “good news house.” I like that name. I think I will stick with that. Please pray for me in this transition as I move to the “good news house.”

150 Naubuc Ave

Saturday Studies, Monday Musings, and Wednesday Welcomes

My blog will take on a new format, at least for a while. As often as possible, I plan to post personal thoughts on Mondays, share blogs, profiles, and writings of others on Wednesdays, and on Saturdays share things I have been learning.

My graduate studies over the last couple of years often felt like a drink from a fire hydrant. I recently reflected back on the classes I took and some of the books I read. I won’t bore you with some of the tomes of required reading, but today will share some of my favorite books from the past year and a half.  I simply love to read and to learn. Some books I listen to while in the car, some I read on Kindle, but most books I like to hold, underline, and dog-ear the pages in such a way that I can’t even sell them to a used bookstore. It doesn’t really matter, because I hate to part with books anyway. It’s just a thing. I so “get” Paul’s desire for his books.

Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
I sent Tychicus to Ephesus.
When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments. (2 Tim 4:11-13)

I have an annoying (to me) habit of reading several books at the same time… on Audible, on Kindle, and with several always open on my coffee table. I’m not sure this is a good practice, but it happens.  If you have read some of these, I’d love to hear your favorites and what you gained from them. A few of these I have not finished, and three I wrote. 🙂 I put an asterisk by my favorites, though that was difficult. Also, I organized them under the categories of spiritual formation, personal and church growth, service, history, Bible study, suffering and heaven, women, next-generation, and writing. I find book recommendations super helpful, so feel free to send your recommendations along.

Whenever I am asked about what I have learned in my graduate studies and why I went back to school I sometimes haven’t known quite how to answer. So, in future Saturday posts, I plan to share (interview style) reasons I went back to school, and some takeaways from each of my classes. Summarizing the classes has been a helpful exercise for me, and hopefully, some of my takeaways will encourage you, too. I realize Saturday’s posts might not be your cup of tea, so if not, hopefully, some of the other days will be more encouraging for you.

Book Recommendations from 2020 and early 2021 by topics

Spiritual Formation

A Testament of Devotion by Thomas R. Kelly

Celebration of Disciplines by Richard Foster

Discipline for the Inner Life by Bob and Michael Benson

Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation by Robert Mulholland and Ruth Haley Barton

Invitation to Retreat: The Gift and Necessity of Time Away with God by Ruth Haley Barton

Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank Laubach

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer *

Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton *

Living God’s Word by Duvall and Hays

Living in Christ’s Presence by Dallas Willard

Prayer by Richard Foster

Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser *

Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton

Satisfy Your Soul by Bruce Demarest *

Seasons of the Soul by Bruce Demarest

Shaped by the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation by Robert Mulholland Jr.

Streams of Living Water by Richard Foster *

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton *

The Allure of Gentleness by Dallas Willard

The Art of Forgiving by Lewis Smedes *

The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

The Good and Beautiful Community by James Bryan Smith

The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith *

The Kingdom Life by Dallas Willard, Keith Meyer, and others

The Kingdom of God vol 3 by Tom A. Jones

The River Within by Jeff Imbach

The Transforming Power of Prayer by James Houston

When the Soul Listens by Jan Johnson *

With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray *

Personal and Church Growth

40 Days of Decrease by Alicia Britt Chole

A Meal with Jesus by Tim Chester

A Praying Life by Paul Miller

All the Feels by Elizabeth Thompson

Discipline for the Inner Life by Bob Benson Sr and Michael Benson

Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero *

Get Your Life Back by John Eldridge

God is Stranger: Finding God in Unexpected Places by Krish Kandiah

God of the Towel by Jim McGuigan *

Holy Ambition: What it Takes to Make a Difference for God by Chip Ingram

Margins: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swensen *

Self to Lose—Self to Find: A biblical approach to 9 Enneagram Types by Marilyn Vancil*

Spiritual Discipleship by Gordon Ferguson

The Call by Os Guinness *

The End of Me by Kyle Idleman *

The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning

The God-Shaped Brain by Timothy Jennings

The Master Plan of Discipleship by Robert Coleman (I find this helpful every year)

The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by Comer *

Think Like Jesus by George Barna

Transforming Discipleship by Greg Ogden

Wednesdays with Wyndham: Godly Wisdom for Everyday Life by Jeanie Shaw*

With by Skye Jethani *

Service

A Spirituality of Caregiving by Henri Nouwen

Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa *

In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen

The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving by Jeanie Shaw and Friends*

 History

Markings by Hammarskjold

Becoming by Michelle Obama *

John Wesley: Optimist of Grace by Henry Knight

John Woolman’s Journal by Ernes Rhys

Reviving the Ancient Faith by Richard Hughes

Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram Kendi *

The Life of Alexander Campbell by Douglas Foster

Bible Study

Abusing Scripture: The Consequences of Misreading the Bible by Manfred Brauch

“Bema Discipleship” Podcast by Marty Solomon *

Exploring our Hebraic Heritage by Marvin Wilson *

Jesus: King of Strangers: What the Bible Really Says about Immigration by Mark Hamilton

Living God’s Word: Discovering Our Place in the Great Story of Scripture by Scott Duvall

Malestrom by Carolyn Custis James *

Misreading Scripture Through Individualist Eyes by Richards and James

Origins by Douglas Jacoby and Paul Copan (Kindle) *

Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes by Kenneth Bailey

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg *

Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now by Walter Brueggemann

Searching for a Pattern: My Journey in Interpreting the Bible by John Mark Hicks *

Spirituality of the Psalms by Walter Brueggemann

The Beast that Crouches at the Door by Rabbi David Fohrman

The Blue Parakeet by Scot McKnight

The Epic of Eden by Sandra Richter *

The Forgotten Jesus: How Western Christians Should Follow an Eastern Rabbi by Robby Gallaty

The IVP Bible Background Commentary (good resource)

The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey

Suffering and Heaven

A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

All Things New by John Eldridge *

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Daring to Hope: Finding God’s Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful by Katie Majors

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst

Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference by Philip Yancey *

Preparing for Heaven by Gary Black

Shattered Dreams by Larry Crabb *

The Problem with Pain by C.S. Lewis

The Sacred Journey: Finding God in Caregiving by Jeanie Shaw and Friends (coming soon) *

The Scars that Shaped Me by Vaneetha Risner

Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Timothy Keller

Women (The are the most recent I’ve read, though I have a bookshelf and Kindle full of nearly a hundred books from my studies)

A Woman Called by Sara Barton *

Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles by Kathy Keller

The Bible and Gender by ICOC teachers

The View from Paul’s Window: Paul’s Teachings on Women by Jeanie Shaw *

Women in God’s Mission by Mary Lederleitner

Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal by Carroll Osbourne

Women Serving God by John Mark Hicks *

Next Gen

Faith for Exiles by David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock *

Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship by Holly Allen

Meet Generation Z by James Emery White

You Lost Me by David Kinnaman

Writing

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

On Writing Well by William Zinsser

Style Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph Williams

More Good News

Happy New Year dear friends. It has been quite the year, but as I look back I find so many blessings from God. Also, thank you so much for your encouraging words concerning “Wednesdays with Wyndham,” including pictures you have sent of you while reading it. I have loved those. They have warmed my soul and lifted my spirits. Thank you! 

I’ll share more on future blogs, but today I want to share some more “literary” good news.

There are now three ways to get “Wednesdays with Wyndham.” It is now available on Kindle, as well as paperback. I also received a box of books so that I can sign them and then arrange a way to get them to you. Just let me know if you would like a signed copy mailed to you, or if you are local and want to arrange a way to pick one up.  I’ll include the links for the paperback and Kindle versions.

Also, for anyone willing, Amazon reviews are quite helpful for letting more people know about the book. In fact, books don’t get much outside attention until there are numerous reviews. I would truly appreciate any reviews you wish to offer, especially encouraging ones 😊. If you go to the book on Amazon, you can write a review. My prayer is that through this book, faith can be strengthened and ignited—and hearts encouraged and fed.  

Here are the links to both the paperback and Kindle versions. Happy reading! In a future blog, I will be sharing some of my favorite books from 2020 as well as a new blog series.  

Paperback:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08PLBX4XL

Kindle:

 

 

The Last Word

While “the last word” can describe a pushy eagerness to be the first and last to express an opinion, it can also be a message for another’s good, to communicate love. Sadly, the first example can be heard around us everywhere, physically and virtually.

Wyndham’s last words to me were “I love you.” Certainly, there were details of life we talked about earlier, but his last words expressed the heart of our relationship. These words are what mattered the most, to him and to me. I treasure those words. He used them daily when he could talk, but he had not been able to talk for months. So, when he somehow got these words out before he died, they were even more precious to me. While I remember so many details about his wisdom and passion for God…I remember these words the most. I carry our relationship of love with me always. His last gift to me was a diamond necklace, which he entrusted Sam to purchase. Even though he knew I am not a “jewelry person,” he wanted this remembrance so I would keep him close to my heart. And he is, always, close to my heart.

According to Jesus’ last words, He wants us to remember He loves us and will be with His sons and daughters. The fact that God’s first and last words were a blessing shows me once again the depth of His love. This moves and touches my heart.

What were Jesus’ last words? I had often thought His last words were the great commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20. But those were not His last words. His last recorded words were in the form of a blessing as He ascended to heaven.

When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.
Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
(Luke 24:50-53)

Luke expounds on Jesus’ ascension in Acts as he quotes Jesus saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Was this the blessing Luke recorded? We don’t know. Jewish blessings usually invoke a gift or token of love, which the gift of His Spirit certainly is.

While we don’t know the exact words of the blessing as Jesus ascended, we know He raised His hands and blessed His disciples. We understand that they knew that He would somehow be with them through His Holy Spirit, though they did not yet understand how. And we know that they left His ascension rejoicing and praising God. That’s how God’s love affects us when we understand it.

Interestingly, the first recorded words from God to humankind were a blessing (Gen 1:22) and the last words from Jesus to humankind were a blessing. Learning from Jesus, I want my first and last words to communicate love. Because He loves, I can give love. I want my words to be a blessing to others. To communicate love.

This causes me to ask myself: What are my first words to others when I see them or greet them? What do they communicate?

What are my last words? What do they communicate?

Remembering that Jesus loves me and is with me brings me great comfort. His love allows me to show love to others.

A Jewish blessing is found in Numbers 6, describing God’s heart toward His people.

GOD spoke to Moses:

“Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the People of Israel. Say to them,
GOD bless you and keep you,
GOD smile on you and gift you,
GOD look you full in the face and make you prosper. (Numbers 6:22-26 MSG)

I love this blessing. I love the thought of God blessing me and keeping me. I thrill that He would smile on me and gift me, looking me full in the face. Amazing. God’s love touches my heart and gives me great joy. This blessing has been put to song, which has become a great encouragement to me. I pray as you listen, this encourages you as you remember God’s heart toward you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ55mDL7dA0

A Love-Hate Thing

I love “Papa’s bench,” the memorial bench I purchased that was placed at the reservoir five minutes from my house. I often walk and pray around the two-mile perimeter surrounding the lake while Denver frolics and fetches sticks from the water. I chose a bench because I wanted a place to “sit with” Wyndham. I didn’t want a cemetery; I wanted a nearby place with nature’s beauty and fishable water.

The bench went into the ground while I was visiting Kristen in Connecticut. The town employee, who has been extremely kind and thoughtful throughout the process, called to tell me it was in the ground. Hearing that I was away, he put tape across the bench so I could cut the tape and also so that no one would sit there before I did. See what I mean? He is thoughtful.

I arrived back in town the next evening right before dark. I was tired and hot after my drive home. I grabbed some scissors to cut the tape and walked down to the bench that I told you I love. I cut the tape away, sat down, and cried. Ugly cried. I talked out loud, some to God and some to Wyndham. I told God I hated the bench. I never wanted a memory bench. I wanted Wyndham. I loved it, and I hated it. All mashed up together. After a good cry and talk, I settled down on the bench. The reservoir was low, emptier that I had seen it in a long time. No wonder my town has a water ban in effect. Also, the sweltering heat from the previous few days encouraged grass to grow in the water, and I didn’t like how it looked. I didn’t like much that evening, as is likely obvious by now.

In the quiet evening, as I sat still, I began to hear what sounded like a waterfall. As I looked up, I saw water gushing into the lake. I told God…”Okay, I get it.” You see— I felt just like the low, way too empty reservoir…with ugly weeds growing to add insult to injury. And yet, God reminded me that He makes a reservoir possible by being the stream of living water. He will fill my empty reservoir—not with a slight trickling of water drops, but with a forceful gush of living water sent by His Spirit. (As I attached this picture of the outpouring water, I noticed the reflection of the shape of a cross with power lines attached. Oh ,the allegory here…God really wants me to get this message.)

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
(Jn 7:37-39)

(Interestingly, and adding even more depth to this amazing promise from Jesus, is that Jesus said this on the last day of the Feast of Sukkot, which included a water ceremony and chanted prayers pleading for rains for the harvest. Jesus was ushering in a new way of thinking.)

I must remember this new way of thinking, remembering that He continually pours love into my heart through His Spirit (Rom 5:5), like that water gushing from the source.

Somehow, my town knows when to turn on the water flow when the reservoir is low.  How much more does my God know when I need a fill-up? If my reservoir isn’t full, this also affects other people, not just me.

I’m happy to have a bench that I love and hate. I need physical reminders of memories. I think that is why there are so many celebrations recorded in the Bible, so many parables told, and stones of remembrances collected. We all need reminders.

Oh, and another little reminder from God to share. Later, I think it was the next morning, I was speaking with God about how difficult it can sometimes be to feel His presence. After all, I had talked with, lived, with, touched, and talked with Wyndham for forty-five years and now I have memories. With God, I have talked with Him for years and have His Spirit and His Word, but I have never seen Him or physically touched Him. That’s hard, and I think is why Jesus says “blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.” (Jn 20:29)  I told Him it is also hard to not know what it means to be in the spiritual state after death, and though I know Wyndham is with God, I felt a need for reassurance that all was okay. I asked Him if He could please let me know this somehow. I didn’t need to understand it, I just needed to know all was okay. This is all I said, as I did not really even know what I was asking.

After I prayed, I got up, picked up my phone, and had a message waiting from a sister in another region, Kathleen Johnson. This was her message to me. “Jeanie, in my quiet time I thought of you. As I was praying to God I had such a strong feeling that God wanted me to pass on to you that everything is all right..”

If that is not the Spirit at work, I don’t know what is. Of course, I cried in gratitude.

And now, every time I sit on the bench that I love and hate, I not only remember Wyndham, but am reminded that Jesus is my stream of living water…and Wyndham is more than all right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Were You There? A deeper look into an African American Spiritual

Were you there?

A moving African American spiritual. A daunting question.

The questions this song asks give me pause. Each verse asks if I was there when they crucified my Lord; when they nailed Him to the cross; when they pierced Him in the side; and when the sun refused to shine. These questions are followed by the phrase, “sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.”

This popular spiritual has its roots in the communal slave experience, appearing in 1899 in William E. Barton’s Old Plantation Songs. The lyrics stem from the deep love and appreciation for the cross, common to the African-American slave community.

As I read or sing these lyrics I realize that of course, I wasn’t there, but this is not the point of the questions. The questions are asked so that I can go there in my heart and mind, remembering the sacrifice Jesus gave for me and consider my response to that sacrifice by the way I live today.

These questions function as an anomnesis, which from the Greek means “to remember.” Author David Bjorlin writes, “It calls the community to re-member the past to the present, to bring these historic events to bear on the now and make them part of our story…to bring the past events of Christ’s suffering and death into the present and transform us in its light.”[1]

Author James Cone, in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, tells of the centrality of the cross to the African-American community. This song, penned in days of slavery, takes on an even deeper meaning for the African-American community as it remembers the slave experience at the root. Cone writes, “In the mystery of God’s revelation, black Christians believed that just knowing that Jesus went through an experience of suffering in a manner similar to theirs gave them faith that God was with them, even in suffering on lynching trees, just as God was present with Jesus in suffering on the cross.” This allowed them to have hope in Jesus’ promise that he would be with them because of his resurrection power.[2]

As I write these words, I pause to let them sink in a bit. They are hard to write.

Were you there?

If I put myself there with Jesus, it changes my world view and the way I live each day. This is how I strive to live, though I too often fall short. Also, If I try to put myself there, in the roots of this hymn, it can change my perspective toward others.

In the memoir of African-American pastor and civil rights leader Howard Thurman entitled, With Head and Heart, Thurman recounts his meeting in India with Mahatma Gandhi. Before he and his wife left, Gandhi asked them to sing this hymn to him. Gandhi noted, “I feel this song gets to the root of the experience of the entire human race under the spread of the healing wings of suffering.”[3]

In the horrific video of the murder of George Floyd, the image of the three officers standing by while Floyd cries “I can’t breathe” haunts my soul. They were there. And they did nothing to stop it.

I pause to ask. What if I was there? Would I have done everything in my power to stop it? I’d like to think so, but since I have not done everything I can to stop racism….it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble. And repent.

I think all the way back to times when I was a young girl and saw bathrooms labeled “colored” and “white” and walked quietly into my privileged restroom without a word. Why, when in high school during desegregation and I was caught in an ensuing riot did I worry much more about my own safety than ever seeking to understand the pain that my new fellow students felt by having their neighborhood school, teachers, and all they had known close their doors, to never reopen again?

Immaturity perhaps. But immaturity indoctrinated in a root system of inequality, injustice, and white privilege. I think I must tremble some more.

Before leaving Ghandhi’s tent, Thurman asked him what he thought was the greatest barrier in India to the spread of Christianity. Gandhi answered, “Christianity as it is practiced, as it has been identified with Western Culture, with Western civilization and colonialism.”[4]

Let that one sink in.

Thankfully, a final verse has since been added to the song. It asks, “Were you there when He rose up from the grave?”

How thankful I am for this verse, as Jesus provides the only true source and direction for love and unity. In The Cross and the Lynching Tree, Cones emphasize the victory in the cross as he declares, “while the lynching tree symbolized white power and ‘black death,’ the cross symbolized divine power and ‘black life’—God overcoming the power of sin and death.[5]

Though I haven’t experienced African American history, I, for one, plan to “go there” to better understand the history of systemic racism and ways this shameful past still affects my present. It will likely involve some more trembling and some speaking up.

Thanks be to God there is a way out of the power of sin through Jesus’ willingness to “go there” for me. He went there. All the way to the cross. He was there, giving His life.

I wasn’t there when He rose up from the grave, but because He did, He can now be here with us. Because of this, I can be transformed more into His image each day, holding to the hope He brings. He provides the hope for change. Desperately needed hope.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being                    transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord,           who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17-18)

I invite you to listen to the Three Mo’ Tenors’ rendition of “Were You There?” Perhaps it will touch your heart just a little deeper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhGYD1svTM4

[1] David Bjorlin, “History of Hymns: Were You There?” Discipleship Ministries: United Methodist Church, Vol 17, March 2016.

[2] James H. Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 21-22.

[3] Howard Thurman, With Head and Heart:: The Autobiography of Howard  Thurman (NY: Harvest; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1979), 134.

[4] Thurman, 135.

[5] Cone, 18.

Finding and Feeling the Pleasure of God: New Chapters

Transitions never stop.

Chapters end and new ones begin. In each transition I find new opportunities to grow. I recently shared on Facebook about my graduation, the end of a chapter. I prefer to use the word “commencement.” A new beginning. I want to express a heartfelt thank you for your encouragement, and I especially thank God for the snowfall during my virtual commencement (and a few weeks ago on my birthday) that I believe were special tokens of encouragement from Him. Snow was always a cause for celebration for Wyndham and me. Ending this chapter of life was bittersweet but also opened new doors for finding and feeling the pleasure of God as I try to please Him. (I am discovering more each day the meaning of friendship and relationship with God…pleasing denotes relationship.) I describe this bittersweet ending in a paragraph from my very last assignment, a reflective one.

This paper is my last assignment before I graduate. As I write this sentence, tears stream from my eyes, remembering the journey I have traveled over these two years. I worked on my assignments each night after I got my husband settled in his hospital bed. I would turn on the television for him, usually sports, and work for four or five hours, beginning at about 9:00 pm, with him by my side. He was my greatest encourager and was so proud of me. The last year, when he could no longer talk, he graciously let me read him my papers while I asked him if he thought they were good or needed work. No matter how many more drafts I would write, he would always nod or blink with approval. How I miss those nights. I watched my husband transition from physical life to spiritual-only life. As he transformed throughout this process, so did I. As I finish this paper, my heart fills with emotion because this last assignment marks the beginning of a new chapter. I liked the old chapter, and it feels hard to turn the pages. Once again, I am called to live fully for “today.”

This class, my last class, was also held during a global pandemic, a time in history like none other I have known.  It seems fitting that I end my coursework with a study of God’s new covenant.  I deeply feel the “now, but not yet” paradox of the riches of God’s grace. As I complete this journey, I look forward to continuing to learn until my last breath. I cherish the comradery of community. Since my earthly journey is still in progress, I look with eager expectation to what lies ahead as I strive to finish well, all the way into the arms of my God.

 New chapters: God puts things on our hearts when we listen and ask for His Spirit to reveal His desire as we move forward with Him. This past Monday morning and last night marked the end of a six-week workshop spawned by such an urging from His Spirit. Sometimes, moving forward feels like putting square pegs in round holes, but this past six weeks felt like putting square pegs in square holes. When that happens in our lives, we feel the pleasure of God. I love Eric Liddell’s fitting quote from Chariots of Fire, “When I run I feel His pleasure.”

I feel that way about both learning and teaching. My heart sings. I love continual learning, which I think is crucial for teaching. I love connecting when teaching, and I love watching God work in individual lives, including my own. In my previous post, I spoke of a workshop I wanted to begin called “Navigating Home: A Longing Fulfilled.” I had no idea if there would be interest, but there was. A lot. We had two workshops, one Monday morning and one Tuesday evening. These were filled with some truly amazing individuals who left me inspired, further taught, and moved in my heart—calling me higher for God.  If felt we journeyed together through these classes by digging deeper into our lives, in the Bible, and with each other as we dove into the topics of our identity; rejection, shame and guilt; vulnerability, intimacy, and trust; loss, grief, and healthy, godly relationships. For all who contributed to these times, I thank you and look forward to another, different session in the not too far future.

I will be repeating this workshop again, starting within the next week or two, so please let me know if you are interested in joining. (There is no fee.)

I will also be sharing more things I have been learning through the journey over the past couple of years in upcoming posts, but for now, am thrilled to find ways to serve that make my heart sing.

What moves your heart? What makes your heart sing? Likely, it is something that springs from God’s gifts mentioned in Romans 12:5-8, all of which all are meant to help us love better.  We all have God-given gifts, and when we find ways to use them to please God, we begin to feel His pleasure. I pray we all find our square pegs for the square holes and keep transforming to be further shaped for God’s pleasure. As a result, we also feel the pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

Just for Today

One day at a time. Each day.

This is how I strive to live. I’m not always successful, but I have made a lot of progress. I began learning this routine a couple of years ago when I knew that any day might be Wyndham’s last. So, I strove to make each day the best it could possibly be. This practice gave me a new perspective on daily life, even though I should have always held that perspective. It was a good way to live then, and it is a good way to live now. In so many ways, this perspective has helped prepare me for this strange time, when one day blurs into another.

Today, I can choose to be grateful. Today, I can choose to be filled by God. Today, I can choose to set my mind on things above. Today, I can give and serve. I can do this today. And then again tomorrow, I can do this today.

There is a reason that Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us today, our daily bread” (Mt 6:11). There is a reason that God gave manna to the Israelites; a food that lasted for one day. There is a reason the word “manna” means “what is it?”  According to hebrewuniversity.com, “When the heavenly bread began to rain down, in the original Hebrew the people of Israel asked: “Ma’n Hu?” {?מן הוא} – English for “what is it?” and that is the origin of the name “manna” (In Hebrew the name is “man” {מן}).”

Many “rainy” days of late, we are also tempted to ask “What is it?” We often don’t understand what these days of isolation will mean, but we can be assured we are given enough to meet our needs, one day at a time. We can choose our responses to the challenges of each day, difficult though they may be. The hard thing about life is that it is just so “daily.” How will I navigate this “today” that I am given? In reality, today is the only day I know I have (James 4:13-15), so I must be content for this day. Today, I can choose to graze the green pastures and walk beside the still waters described in Psalm 23. Please watch this short meaningful video describing the reality of the green pastures spoken of in Psalm 23.

I realize, when viewing through Middle Eastern eyes, just how close I must stay to the shepherd. As God’s sheep, I am not just plopped down into a lush field, but I am lovingly led to what I need for today. Even in trials. This keeps me tied to a relationship with the shepherd, and keeps me close enough to hear Him. No wonder God longs for us to stay close to Him. He knows what happens when we wander. David makes this plea in Psalm 95:7 (RSV)

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice!

Hearing his voice allows us to live each day to the full.

Last year I wrote a book about daily choices we face in life. If you are looking for a book to read, I hope this might offer you some hope while living each day to the full. I just clicked on the link and discovered it’s over half off right now – $4.99. https://ipibooks.ecwid.com#!/Every-Day-Is-a-New-Chance/p/94782189

Also, two new books are coming soon. I’ll let you know when soon.

For those still desiring to attend a “Navigating Home: Finding Your Place to Belong” workshop mentioned in my last blog, two sessions (one in the morning and one in the evening) are now in full swing. We have completed two sessions, and I am inspired by the lives of the women involved. When these are over in May, I plan to offer it again, so stay tuned.

May you have a beautiful day in your green pasture, staying close to the shepherd.

 

Navigating Home: Finding Your Place to Belong

Workshop Offering: Navigating Home: Finding Your Place to Belong

I have pondered my home of late. Sadly, it could be called “the house of a widow and an orphan,” because that’s who lives here. I don’t like either of those words, because they both denote distress, as James 1:27 states. Those words don’t really define us, but is impossible to be (or have been) categorized as either without having experienced great loss and pain. We all long to belong, and yet sometimes we can feel a nagging discontent, even when we are “at home.” Perhaps during these days of isolation, the longing to feel “at home” while at home intensifies.

Several years ago, I conducted numerous multi-media workshops that resonated with many. These workshops were entitled, “Understanding Goose: For anyone who feels empty, rejected, or different.”  (The goose part of the title comes from various goose related anecdotes scattered throughout the workshop. They are illustrations based on the true story of a goose that longed to belong to my parents. In the workshop, I discuss issues of loss, rejection, intimacy, trust, identity, guilt and shame, and control. I also discuss various ways these issues affect us and where they come from while looking at ways Jesus can fill these empty or broken places.

My frustration in this workshop has been that I have only had the time to present it in a three-hour one-day session, which feels insufficient. Because of this, and because we are all at home for a while, I am planning to try an online venue for the workshop.

I would like to offer this six-session workshop 1 (or perhaps 2) time(s) a week (TBD) for 4 weeks via Zoom. I have renamed the workshop: Navigating Home: Finding Your Place to Belong.

This workshop is a revision of my previous workshop. It will be offered for free on a first-come basis for up to twenty participants. I will deliver six 30 to 40-minute multi-media lessons on the topics, followed by some discussion.

I have yet to set the time, depending on what is best for you. I can set aside:

10:00-11 AM Eastern time on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday

7:30 PM on Mondays or Tuesdays

The beauty of conferencing is that you do not need to be local to attend. If you are interested, please either PRIVATE MESSAGE me on Facebook or email me at shaw.jeanie@gmail.com. ****Please include your name, email address, phone number, AND the days and times you can meet.

I will be in touch with you and look forward to this time together.