Category Archives: five minute friday

Who are We Reflecting? Thoughts on Micah 6:8

How we treat others matters. Who do we reflect?

God called Israel to be partners in the journey toward restoration of this broken earthly kingdom. The purpose for everything they did was to point others to “I am.” But, unfortunately, the reflection became tainted with sinful characteristics. Greed. Lust. Pride. Coveting. Oppression. Cheating. They compromised their identity and It wasn’t a good look.

God reminds them:

For I brought you up from the land of Egypt,
    and redeemed you from the house of slavery;
and I sent before you Moses,
    Aaron, and Miriam.
 O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised,
    what Balaam son of Beor answered him,
and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,
    that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.”
Micah 6:4-5

What they did:

Can I tolerate wicked scales
    and a bag of dishonest weights?
Your[c] wealthy are full of violence;
    your[d] inhabitants speak lies,
    with tongues of deceit in their mouths.
” Micah 6:11-12

What God wanted:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly[a] with your God
” Micah 6:8

Being shaped into God’s fuller reflection involves some contorting. We adapt to the posture of sinful choices. Until we realize, like the Israelites, that God loves creation too much to leave us misshapen.

N.T. Wright writes about the distinctive way that people viewed early Christians, “They picked up their rule of life from the Jews, via Jesus of course. The Jews had those texts, those scriptures, which kept on circling back to the belief that there was one God who had a special concern for the poor, the sick, the outcast, the slaves….Their communities, by and large, practiced a kind of extended family life. The early Jesus followers got hold of that, but extended it to the increasing and increasingly diverse, “family” of believers. People watched. Wanted in. Sought to replicate it.

He has shown us what is good. Lord, shape us into your people.

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Why We Can Adapt to a New Normal Again

“That’s not how we normally do it.” As a substitute teacher, I am often confronted with that phrase as I begin a task in the classroom. The teens, seem to roll with the change. The younger kids? Not so much. They thrive on routine as a framework of security.

All of us, to some extent, need regular rhythms to inform our days. They remind us of purposes outside ourselves. My kids don’t always want to take the garbage can to the curb every Monday night but they do it because it shapes their purpose in our family and contributes to the helpful rhythms and functions of a community.

However, sometimes, the routine changes. If a holiday falls on a Monday, garbage day moves from Tuesday to Wednesday. It means we adjust by writing it down and changing our routine. We recognize that the extra day benefits the garbage collectors so their work week doesn’t start until Tuesday. And we learn that flexibility is an important learned skill.

Currently, everyone around the world is grappling with flexibility. The perceived “normal” structure which frames our lives is changing. Truthfully, without a pandemic, it can happen at anytime. Nothing is guaranteed. And if we reflect on our lives, we recognize that we have encountered numerous seasons of “normal” that all look different from each other. And without realizing it, we adapted. Even when those “normal” places felt exhausting, inconvenient, and confusing. We did it because Jesus breathes life into us through all times and all places.

This “new normal” may look different for us as individuals, communities, and nations. But rather than clinging to the familiar frameworks as idols, let us instead cling to God’s mercies as we learn to adapt again. We have been there before. And so has God.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9

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How Paradoxes Become Purposeful: Gleaning Wisdom From Ecclesiastes

Paradox appears around us. Even in scripture.

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 1:3-8)

Originating in the Garden of Eden, humanity has sought control over life this side of Heaven. Seemingly, tasting the full knowledge of good and evil promised security. But we are the created. Not the Creator. Thankfully.

Left to our own devices, our vision of “good” is skewed.

The passage from Ecclesiastes reminds us that God’s goodness may not resemble our expectations. Living in undefined territory feels uncomfortable How can something seen as “good” paradoxically become “not good” in a different context? Messy boundaries demand surrender to a greater understanding of creation. How about the Creator? (My ways are higher than your ways).

Currently, we struggle with “a time to refrain from embracing.” Knowing that scientific evidence points to the life-giving properties of touch and the sacred nature of our relationships with one another, refraining from touch seems to run contrary to God’s design.

But what about those paradoxes?

Perhaps, we can reframe them as purposes rather than paradoxes. Scripture attests to times when touch was life giving and when it was not. When it was life giving to weep and when it was better to laugh. When we hold onto one action for the sake of security, it becomes an idol. Letting go and embracing it’s alternative, allows us to trust that God is by our side in the midst of it all.

May we continue to seek the Holy Spirit as we navigate the messy parts of life. Knowing that what may seem purposeful for a neighbor may not be for us. As we do that, we recognize that God really does have the whole world in his hands.

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How Distractions Become Idols

The rabbit holes lure me.

They are everywhere. As I attempt to navigate my days around them, I wonder what I might be missing. Voice bytes of those who have descended down their openings beckon me to investigate them too.

However, delving in leads to following tunnels that may lead to nowhere. The hole morphs into a corn maze. And before I know it, I have become distracted. Large amounts of time were consumed with nothing life giving in return.

Tish Harrison Warrens’s words in her book, The Liturgy of the Ordinary, whisper, “How you spend your moments is of course how you spend your days.”

I pray for wisdom and discipline to keep my eyes focused on what’s worthy of investigation. When to recognize that I have let the quest for information become my idol. I need to focus my gaze up at Jesus rather than down into empty holes.

Changing my rhythms allows me to prioritize and discern my movements. Where are my steps leading?

Justin Earley offers these practices to help reshape the mind, soul, and body.

“Turn you eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace…”

Alan Jackson

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Why I Need To Clothe Myself with Jesus

Facing difficult circumstances is nothing new. Illness, political upheaval, death, and devastation unfold because we live in a world in process of restoration. Earth groans and so do we.

How we respond bears witness of where we place our hope.

I’ll admit that this week, I have struggled to show it. Long lines at the grocery store, , not finding items in stock that I seek, and having my rhythms interrupted have all pressed in upon me. The temptation to react with impatience creeps in. But I remember:

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

Lauren Winner, in her book Clothed in God, writes about wearing Jesus. “He is the school uniform that erases boundaries between people. Or at least that is the kind of clothing Jesus wants to be. When those of us clothed in Him trespass boundaries in His name, we allow Him to be that school uniform; when we put up walls in the name of Jesus, we are turning the Lord into an expensive designer dress.”

Yikes! The last thing I want to do is be portraying that Jesus to others. So, I surrender to Jesus all that I can’t control and pray that Jesus is seen as my garment when: I stand in the grocery line. Look for a parking spot. Wait for someone six feet from me to decide what they need from the shelf. Because Maybe they will realize there is more to this Earthly life than they are experiencing. And what I’m wearing becomes a residence of the Holy Spirit.

So I am trying hard to empty myself and “wear” Jesus. All his beautiful non-cultural conforming design. Because others need to see more of Him and less of me.

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Embracing the Opportunity the Church Has Right Now

Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:15

We, as the Church, have an opportunity. A glorious one.

As the world stumbles through its days, weariness sets in. Darkness looms. We live in unpredictable times. All that seemingly appeared to secure our feet in this earthly realm is falling away. Though everyone’s loss is different, we feel the weight of grief. We are in this together.

Recognizing our obligations to one another has been a characteristic of God’s people since the beginning. Sharing about my experience last year reading through the Old Testament, “… as I read the Old Testament again, so much stood out for me that didn’t in previous studies. The themes of welcoming the foreigner, and the counter-cultural ways in which we should treat each other, spoke to me in verses that I had previously glossed over. The more I come back to these passages, the more I see how much we, as the church, still have to learn about loving others. The question is: How will we respond?”(

In this crisis, we have an opportunity to not just wash our hands but other’s “feet.” To be the Church is to offer ourselves to serve others with the skin of Jesus. However that looks: sewing masks, working as medical personnel, calling on neighbors, acknowledging others’ fears and grief, advocating for the marginalized falling through systemic loops, and calming our children.

So as people prepare to celebrate Easter in a way that didn’t fit expectations, let us hold out the hope. Show others why we embrace a kingdom that seems upside down. As Ann Vos Kamp writes in The Broken Way, “A Christ-shaped life is not a comfortably shaped life, but a cross-shaped life.” May we all squint from the glory that radiates.

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How We Can Support Families of Kids with Special Needs Adjusting to Quarantine

We all belong to each other.

In these days of social distancing, my soul and my body miss the daily connections. Specifically, I am aware of the absence of those with whom I engage in my routines. As a substitute teacher, I float around to different schools but because of repeated contact, these students and staff impact me. Our familiarity with one another cultivates trust and intimacy. I am aware of the struggles they bring to the classroom.

We are all adjusting to this new normal. And we are all losing something something. For my friends who receive specialized instruction, school provides a network of professionals who strive to help students build their skill sets. These social workers, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech pathologists, paraprofessionals, peer buddies and teachers form a “village” to help families help their kids become confident and more independent.

For the families of these students, the quarantine brings about changes in routine which is difficult for many of them, E-learning is not something easily done independently. For the parents, helping their children process the adjustment is challenging.

Parents of these students: I see you. Not literally but in the faces of your children in my mind. I pray for you. Know that I miss them and am a better person for having the privilege of being in their presence.

For the rest of us, consider what you can do to make life a bit easier for families in this situation.

  • Ask about food preferences and order a delivered meal for them
  • Send them a gift card for pizza delivery
  • Send a card to the student
  • Offer to run errands for them. Getting away may be difficult for them
  • Pray for them

“Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Phillipians 2:3-4

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Why I’m Trying Not to Worry About Tomorrow

Last night, I panicked. For the first time since the news of the spreading Coronavirus began infiltrating every media venue in which I engaged, a shock of fear hit my chest. An image across the tv screen pierced my soul. The reality of the landfall hit of the storm became real. Each day, I felt the gut wrenching consequences inch closer.

People diagnosed in my community.

Graduation ceremonies cancelled

Communities quarantined

Jobs lost, businesses closing

And it all felt too much. It felt as if the world was spinning out of control and I wanted off.

But God speaks into my fear: “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34

I remember that encountering unexpected circumstances is nothing new. Navigating life in this place naturally leads us to crossroads and detours. The temptation to depend on human driven logic to maintain control lures. We jump to grasp our hands on anything that may prevent the catastrophes playing out in the mind. Those items become our “golden calves.” As Michelle Reyes says ” There’s nothing saying that our stash of toilet paper, food, disinfectant, or hand sanitizer will save us. It’s one thing to be prepared; it’s another to ascribe to the objects we buy a magical aura of protection. ”

So I am choosing to trust God. Even when I know the future is unknown. Even when hardship surrounds me and inches closer. Because God holds me through each day no matter what happens. And that promise is enough.

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Navigating Life Involves a lot of Left Hand Turns

I prefer the unobstructed views.

As I sit in the passenger seat of my blue minivan, I can feel the tension as my son arrives at the intersection. He is navigating the path to get his driver’s license. When he comes to those crossroads. the opportunity to make a left hand turn unfolds. As well as an often obstructed view.

I remember the anxiety involved in making a split second decision that carries serious consequences in a heartbeat. Like my son, I prefer to have time to ponder. But time isn’t always in our favor.

As children, we cling to predictability. It brings comfort and security. Sure changes occur. However, the landscape is somewhat familiar and choices seem relatively simple. In addition, the pace of life relatively slow.

Then the horizon expands as does the number of choices. And the realization that life is made up of a lot of left hand turns begins to materialize. We recognize risky decisions occur everyday.

Sometimes, we are afforded a fuller view than others. Sometimes, we are afforded more time than others. And sometimes, we have to make life altering decisions in a matter of minutes.

But the alternative is to not move forward at all. To let fear overwhelm and keep us in place. Jesus liberates us from spiritual paralysis.

“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.” Philippians 4:6-7

Left hand turns should not be avoided. Making decisions without the full view are necessary in this life. But we can cling to the reminder that God is with us as we navigate through it.

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How Van Goh’s Talent Points Us to God

We can learn so much from him.

A few years ago, my daughter and I ventured down to the Art Institute of Chicago to view a special exhibit of Van Gogh’s paintings. He is one of our favorite artists because because of his colorful moving works of art as well as his “scandalous” eccentric personality.

It is widely believed that he struggled with mental illness. That reality, combined with (or perhaps because of) his ability to see the divine intersect into the landscape of our everyday lives, resulted in his unique portrayal of the world.

His life story is fascinating and once you become aware of it, his pictures emerge as sacred messages of the way heaven intersects earth. We can hold onto the hope he held because in Van Gogh’s terms, we are “companions in sorrow.” He often pictured people in their wearied states in order to get the viewer to resonate with them.

But he always infused the image with hope.

Yellows, scenes (the “Sower”, orbital shapes (“the galaxy”), vibrant colors and strokes, and hints of light became venues of depicting that we are part of a bigger narrative. One that points to a Creator and Sustainer who interacts and watches over what is created.

Carol Berry, in her book Learning from Henri Nouwen and Vincent Van Gogh, writes, “Vincent, as a true contemplative, could see beyond the surface of things and reveal the metaphorical implications of the material world. He could sense the eternal message in the temporal. This is what he hoped to be able to convey through his art.”

Van Gogh’s talent incorporated all aspects of who God made him. He inspires us to not only see the landscape of our lives through the lens of our Creator but to come baring our souls to however we are called to God’s purposes.

How do you see the Divine in your view right now?

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