The world continues to unravel in disheartening ways. I am praying for justice and peace and revival, and I hope you are too. Jesus is the Creator and Redeemer. He is our constant companion; He gives wisdom, transforms and enlightens. Apart from Him we can do nothing. A year or so ago I read The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton. It’s an incredible book and made me wonder if I’m supposed to take the Tennessee or Alabama bar exam and become a public defender. It strikes me as about the oddest thing in the world that I could do that. The fact that I have a law degree almost feels like a weird little lie I sometimes tell. Anyway, praying and asking God what I can and should do.
But on a lighter note, if you’d haven’t read last week’s blog, you can scroll down or click here. It’s kind of a prerequisite for this week’s, and plus, I think it turned out pretty good.
By means of background, my lovely niece, Caitlin, has two babies. Brooks is almost two-and-a-half, and Maisie is five months. If she FaceTimes me, I answer — almost without exception. Because if I wait and try her back, with two babies she often can’t answer. So if I’m on a walk with friends, I answer. If I’m just stepping out of the shower, I answer. Yesterday she called and I was out and about.
As she was telling me the latest sweet and hilarious little stories from Brooks, a group of young girls, maybe college-aged, walked by in such extensive PPE that you’d think they were giving one another Ebola tests. But they were just casually walking and talking together, through their face shields.
I turned my phone around to give Caitlin a quick glimpse.
“Wow,” I said. “Hazmat suits.”
Her little face narrowed, her eyebrows flashing concern.
“You like them,” she said, sweetly.
“Ahh, you are right,” I answered. “I do like them.”
That was the end of it. We went back to babies and catching up and laughing.
Do you have relationships like that? Do you have someone who will remind you, “You like them.” Not brow beat: “You hypocrite, I thought you said you like people.” Just a gentle but faithful reminder?
I hope you have people like that. And I hope you are that person for others. We all need accountability. We all need spurring.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
I’m not much of a Netflix binge-er. I have a hard time getting into any shows. But I do like watching movies with my boys, and once in a great while, I will even watch a movie alone, usually on an airplane. Anyway, last week I watched It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I loved it. Tom Hanks was a very convincing Mr. Rogers. The same day I finished watching the movie, Will read me a quote from a book. He’s an obsessive reader and I benefit from him sharing tidbits he knows I’ll appreciate as he tears through everything from leadership to history to theology. Honestly, one of my favorite things is to be sitting beside my reading man and hear the words, “Listen to this…” Last Saturday, Will read to me about Joe Girard, who was evidently the world’s greatest car salesman. Girard claimed the secret of his success was getting customers to like him.
Each month he sent every one of his more than thirteen thousand former customers a holiday greeting card containing a personal message. The holiday greeting changed from month to month (Happy New Year or Happy Thanksgiving, etc), but the message printed on the face of the card never varied. It read, “I like you.” As Joe explained it, “There’s nothing else on the card. Nothin’ but my name. I’m just telling ‘em that I like ‘em.”
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
We laughed about how this tactic actually worked, and then Will said, “I wonder if Bob ever sent cards out or anything.”
Bob Staples is our brother-in-law (my sister’s husband). In a sense, Bob is the Girard of his generation. He has sold cars for decades and has the most loyal customer base imaginable.
“I doubt he sent cards,” I said. “He wouldn’t need to. He genuinely exudes, ‘I like you.’”
It was just an off-handed remark, but the truth of it, coupled with the “I like you-ness” of Fred Rogers has really left me thinking about how important this is. Bob is handsome and kind, but I bet his customers keep coming back again and again because they feel liked. In fact, it’s not just a feeling. Bob likes people. People know when they are liked. People like to be liked. Do you shed an “I like you” vibe wherever you go?
In today’s culture, even though we have added that little thumbs up button, there’s a real void of liking. We seem to be obsessed, more than ever, with who we CAN like and new demarcations arise almost daily. You are NOT wearing a mask? I don’t like you. You ARE wearing a mask while driving alone in your car? I don’t like you. You left your house when you could’ve stayed home? I don’t like you. You refuse to affirm or condemn exactly what I affirm or condemn? I don’t like you.
But gentle, dear Mr. Rogers had it right in his sweet little song:
I like you as you are. Exactly and precisely. I think you turned out nicely. And I like you as you are.
Some people like Bob Staples and Fred Rogers have a much easier time liking people. It doesn’t come as naturally to everyone, but it helps to remind ourselves that each and every person has been made in the very image of God and is worthy of dignity and respect.
Of course, Jesus took the concept much further. Not only are we to love our neighbors as ourselves, the standard is even higher than that. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44 ESV.
How are you doing on loving your enemies? Are you praying for those who persecute you? I don’t think you can without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Yet, with God all things are possible!
Thanks for reading! I like you! And I hope you have a fabulous weekend loving and praying for even your enemies.
P.S. The picture above is from five years ago but illustrates just how much Bob exudes “I like you.” This massive dude, Brian, was in a gym where Bob was shooting hoops with my sons. In a matter of seconds, and in a very subtle way, Bob made such pals with Brian, that Brian played along with telling Sam, who was seven, that Bob had whooped Brian in a wrestling match. Brian even suggested that he had gotten that big in hopes of having a rematch with Bob. It was priceless, and yet Sam found it so believable that he was extremely concerned about how his Uncle Bob would fare in the rematch!
I hope you are having a fabulous week. My two younger sons finish school today. Sam started smiling from ear to ear the second he opened his eyes. I’m hoping and praying that after today zoom school is about as common as a snow day. Please Lord Jesus!
Have you been encouraging and receiving encouragement more than usual these last couple months? I hope so. I’ve been blessed by sweet words, perfectly applicable Scripture and hilarious memes. I’ve also heard some of the best stories. A well-told story with humor and a spiritual takeaway is like my love language. God has been so good to give me a steady supply, even when social interactions have been more sparse than ever before.
Plus, I just love when God’s fingerprints are on the smallest of details. A while back a friend from church gave me the New Morning Mercies devotional by Paul David Tripp. I flipped through it but did not start reading it on a regular basis till just recently. It’s deep and encouraging, and seems to particularly apply to the issues of the day. On April 22, I took a picture of that day’s devotion and texted it to my niece, Caitlin. I knew she’d love it.
This was her response: “This is gold. Thank you for sharing. A game changing perspective.”
But here’s the crazy thing. Later that day Caitlin’s friend, who happens to live in Taiwan, texted her the same exact page.
God is in the details. Sometimes we have to look a little harder than that, but He is always there.
He is our Creator, Redeemer and Companion. We do not need to wonder who we are or why we are here, our Creator has told us. We do not need to worry that we don’t measure up — we don’t. But thankfully our redemption is not earned, it is given. We do not need to worry about being alone, we never are. For the believer, Jesus is our constant companion in this life, and upon breathing our last breath here we will see Him face-to-face. What exactly do we have to fear?
Encourage one another. Love one another. Know that your Creator and Redeemer is also your Companion. Look for God’s fingerprints in the details of your life, but when you do not see them, trust that they are still there. As Paul David Tripp says, “Hope does not put us to shame.”
But now says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Psalm 43:1-3a ESV
When you pass through the waters, He is there. He is calling you, and calling you by name. He created you, redeemed you, and He’s with you always, even to the end of the age. Hope does not put us to shame. Praise God.
How many texts do you get a day? I just scrolled through mine, and even with nothing on my calendar, there are quite a few daily threads. It is such an efficient way to communicate and I am grateful for how it allows checking in with friends near and far. But, don’t you miss good old-fashioned letter writing? My dad wrote to me pretty faithfully when I went away to college, and my husband and I wrote many letters during the long-distance periods of dating. But I hardly ever get a letter anymore. Oddly, this week, without any special occasion, I received three handwritten notes in the mail, two of which were from teenagers to whom I am not related, one girl, one boy. Teenagers writing thoughtful, handwritten notes in the year 2020. What a hopeful sign!
Last week I quoted Elisabeth Elliot in my blog which prompted me to flip through The Shaping of a Christian Family. In the book, “Betty,” as my 93 year-old friend/trainer knew her, talks about the legacy of letter writing within her family.
Of the tangible legacies my parents left us, nothing seems to me more remarkable than their letters—both the number and the content…Mother began to write to Phil and me twice a week in 1941 when we went away to school. I am sure there was never a week in her life from September of 1941 until she began to lose her mental powers in the mid-1980’s that she did not write to her children.
When Jim Elliot was killed, Elisabeth’s mother sent a string of letters. One letter contained these words:
Bets, my darling, perhaps even TODAY you will be with your dear one! May the hope of His coming be wonderfully precious and strengthening to us all. I can only say with Job, “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away — BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD.” He has promised that we “shall know hereafter” what He is doing, but till then let us “love Him, trust Him, praise Him”…
Katharine Gillingham Howard (Elisabeth’s mother)
Can you imagine reading that letter after your husband of only two years had just been murdered? Mrs. Howard was clearly heartbroken for her daughter but she did not shy away from pointing her darling “Bets” to the truth. I wonder if this too is a lost art? I think maybe it is.
And as it happens my wonderful firstborn son came in my bedroom just a few minutes ago to tell me he was done with his last class. High school is over. He’ll head off to college this fall. I hope I can be one tenth the letter writer that Mrs. Howard was. I fully realize that food will need to be included with my letters to get them read. But whatever it takes, right?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 6:5-7 ESV
We know all about sitting in the house, walking by the way, and lying down. That’s kind of the definition of my recent life. I hope my reminders from these days have planted seeds, because now is the time for my oldest to rise up. Praying that even when my daily proddings dwindle to a few texts, calls and letters that he’ll choose to love God with all his heart, soul and might.
Who can you sit down and write a note to today? Who might benefit from the reminder that “the hope of His coming [can] be wonderfully precious and strengthening to us all?” May we love Him, trust Him, and praise Him today and every day!
I am excited to go back to my blogging roots, to return to that which is really the backbone of this twelve-year endeavor. After all, very few people on this earth are as skilled as I am at humiliating themselves. And since God is so so good, He gave me a humbling yet somehow still delightful experience just this week.
I spent the first two weeks of Zoom school with the boys at the beach in Florida. Since it was still foggy and rainy at home, the sunshine and ocean breeze did us a lot of good. Will was working especially long hours and had the peace of knowing he wasn’t bringing any illness home to us. I got to walk along the beach (the sidewalk never closed) each morning, and ride bikes with Sam at lunchtime. But we missed our man, and came home just in time for “spring break.”
Fortunately by the time we came home, the fog had cleared out and I started walking almost daily at a local park. The playground is closed but the walking path has remained open. It is the only flat place to walk on the mountain and a loop is just less than a quarter mile.
A few weeks ago I was admiring the determination of a tall, older gentleman walking the same loop in the opposite direction. Even though we passed each other many times, we never spoke. He just kept pounding out the miles. I was in awe. “Well,” I told myself, “I certainly can’t leave before he does.” So I followed his lead, and kept going. I don’t count laps but roughly keep track of time. We were there for a long while. Finally, the gentleman left. I did one more lap and headed to my car.
As I approached my car, I realized the gentleman was still sitting in his car with the window rolled down.
“How far did you go?” he called out. I sheepishly admitted my only goal was to keep up with him. We chatted for a few minutes —socially distanced of course— made brief introductions and realized that we attend the same church. He also mentioned that he is 93 years old and always walks three miles!
That night I told Will about how I made a new, 93 year old friend: Addison Soltau.
Will is a pretty heroic pray-er. He gets up early in the morning and reads his Bible and prays. Not sometimes. Not oftentimes. Every single day. On the rare occasions I stumble out of bed early, I often find him on his knees praying. He keeps a list in his car that he also takes to the gym. But since the gym has been closed he’s been using a prayer list on our treadmill.
When I told Will about Addison Soltau, he said, “Oh, I pray for a Roselynne Soltau.”
A few weeks passed and I saw Mr. Soltau a few more times. I loved chatting with him, and would always tell Will that I got to see my new friend again.
“Well,” Will said, “I’m praying for Roselynne everyday.”
So that’s all background for the mortifying moment that happened on Monday. Mr. Soltau and I were at the park walking and I decided to tell him about Will praying for Roselynne.
“Tell me who Roselynne is,” I said, certain she was related but unsure how. Mr. Soltau’s face was expressionless. “My husband prays for Roselynne every day,” I continued. Still, there was a confused look upon Mr. Soltau’s face. “She’s on the LMPC prayer list,” I added nervously, questioning if two unrelated families could have the same uncommon name.
“I hope not,” Mr. Soltau answered with a wry smile. “Roselynne was my wife but she died last August. I think she’s now probably praying for him.”
I didn’t know if I wanted to laugh or cry, but I did know I wanted to kill my husband. I apologized profusely, but winsome Mr. Soltau just told me about his dear wife of almost seventy years like nothing out of the ordinary had transpired.
Do you think people in heaven pray for those on earth? Most of my life I have not believed this to be true. But I changed my mind in 2017. Just a day or two after my mother passed away a friend sent me a devotional that referenced how Elisabeth Elliot believed her mother in heaven prayed for her. Elliot explained, “Since I know that Mother talked to Jesus about me all the time while she was here on earth, why should I think she’d stop doing this now that she is with Him face-to face?”
How can you argue with that?
So maybe Mrs. Soltau does pray for Will, but I’m certain she prays for dear Mr. Soltau. Perhaps his lovely demeanor itself is answered prayer.
E.M Bounds wrote, “God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. They outlive the lives of those who uttered them.”
If I believed deep down that God uses my prayers to shape the world, that my prayers will even survive my earthly death, then how much more of my extra time at home would I use to pray?
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV
And do make sure, should you choose to use a prayer list from your church, that it’s NOT currently dated July 28! I can testify that praying from very outdated lists can result in extremely embarrassing exchanges.
Have a fabulous weekend!
P.S. Almost unbelievably when I emailed this to Mr. Soltau to review, I learned that he went to school with Jim and “Betty” Elliot. In fact, even before that Mr. Soltau’s father and Elisabeth Elliot’s father were friends. In His loving kindness God often reminds me that the world is indeed very small and that He orchestrates it all.
I hope you’ve had a lovely week. A glimmer of normalcy occurred at our house last night with some intense sports arguing over the NFL draft. Sports arguing was a hallmark of our daily existence pre-COVID, and honestly I can’t say I’ve really missed it. Sports cheering? Yes! Sports playing? Oh my yes! But I’ve not been longing for the perpetual and sometimes heated debate over the worth of every athlete in every sport.
So, yes, this is my last testament, not in a morbid personal sense, but in terms of the pandemic. I’m promising myself, and you, sweet faithful reader, that this will be the last time I sound off about the pandemic. I’ve written about it for all of March and all of April, but next Friday will be May. Spur will therefore be a no COVID-19 zone. However, since this is the last time I’m letting myself weigh in, this post is longer than usual.
Mourning with those who mourn is a foundational tenet of the Christian life (this is a great article on it). Sadly, it is not a practice consistently on display in today’s culture. I mean sometimes it’s easy to sympathize: the case of that gorgeous little five-year-old who died in Detroit. Her parents are both first responders and she was their only child. It’s a heartbreaking story. Who wouldn’t mourn with them?
But a different set of facts played out in Ohio. A guy doubted the severity of the disease on Twitter and then died from it. The response was stunning: “karma is a B*%#H” and “got what he deserved” were representative. The poor family was planning to livestream his virtual funeral for friends and family, but all the mean-spirited condemnation made them change their minds. Fortunately, there is a cure for self-righteous hard-heartedness: “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 11:19 NIV. Hallelujah, God can change hearts. I can’t. I tried to soften a hateful Facebook friend just this week. It’s futile. I can’t change a single heart, even in my own home. Why do I so often forget that only God can do that? We need to be praying for revival.
More than a month ago, when it looked like we would have major and widespread shortages of ventilators, I wrote about how important it is to have end-of-life discussions. If I were seventy-five or older, my preference would be to die at home. An increased use of “home care” was also the strong recommendation of a group of Italian doctors in a March 21, 2020 NEJM Catalyst article. But I am not at all convinced such options are being thoughtfully analyzed.
I volunteer at my local hospital holding NICU babies. Obviously that program is suspended right now, but when I was training to do the NICU program they showcased another volunteer opportunity. They have volunteers who sit with people who are dying and would otherwise be alone. Can’t we do something like that with people who already have coronavirus antibodies? Chattanooga has not yet experienced a surge, by God’s grace, but can’t New York City hospitals implement something?
It just seems crazy to me to have so many old people hooked up to ventilators, alone, when one study suggests only 12% will survive. Are families able to make educated and informed decisions? The default to extend life no matter what is not a philosophy to which I ascribe, and I worry that some of the horrific aspects to this whole situation could be avoided if we engaged in candid conversations. It’s not PC to talk about how we’d like to die, but in years gone by pneumonia was even described as old man’s friend. Emotionally charged discussions are counterproductive. I am praying that families will have wisdom in looking at the reality of death in a loving and honest way. Let’s not live in denial and let’s pray for revival. May droves of people open the doors of their hearts to Jesus who stands there knocking. After all, as Frederick Buechner so aptly quips, for the Christian, “The end is life.”
Loving your neighbor is, of course, an even more foundational Christian belief than “mourning with those who mourn.” I have been thinking about what this looks like in the midst of a highly contagious viral outbreak. It would be terrible to knowingly or even negligently expose others to the coronavirus, but the discussion of the unknowing, non-negligent transmission has gone off the rails. I’m sure you’ve seen the vitriol of those who condemn leaving the house for any reason.
If I get behind the wheel of my car tanked that is reckless endangerment, and clearly not loving my neighbor. If I get behind the wheel of my car sober, it is nevertheless possible that I could kill someone. Having no such history, I could still stroke or seize and plow into a pedestrian. It’s unlikely, but it’s possible. Still, it is not unloving or even inconsiderate for me to drive. We need to soberly analyze the rate at which we might be infecting others. There are loud voices who would have you believe that living your life is akin to driving drunk, that it is reckless endangerment to society. Again, highly charged emotional discussions are not remotely helpful. Using common sense and thinking through the potential impact of our actions are part of loving others. We may hold those who intentionally or negligently transmit the virus legally liable, but people are going to have to start living again at their own risk. It won’t look the same for everybody, just like not everybody chooses to swim at an unguarded beach. I’d love to know of someone who’s written on this more extensively from a Christian ethics perspective. I will certainly keep thinking about it, but I promise I won’t post about it again!
The bottom line is life has never been and will never be safe. God numbers our days and directs our steps. We can’t ever take “every precaution,” but we can take some, so we should be discerning about which ones. And on a macro scale, it’s no longer really debatable if completely shutting down the economy was the most neighbor-loving thing to do. It wasn’t. The resultant suffering is already enormous. I am praying that leaders will right our course and be wise, openly weighing unintended consequences. It is hard to even imagine that being the reality, but I am praying for it regardless.
Heavenly Father, help us all to number our days aright, that we may gain hearts of wisdom (Psalm 90:12). Help us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15), and may we love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18). In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.
Did you know there is research that suggests the way we are intentionally prolonging the duration of the virus could potentially raise the death rate by 50%? Obviously, flattening the curve is another way of saying elongating the curve. The goal being not to directly save lives — it’s not a cure for the virus after all. The goal is to make it last longer so that there are enough ICU beds to go around. As an aside, I was talking to a young mom recently and she told me she thinks most Americans understand “flattening the curve” to be a means by which we save lives directly. I don’t know how anyone could look at the graph and not see that it is only changing the duration, but she was convinced that people don’t understand. I really hope she’s wrong. People don’t think flattening the curve itself saves lives, do they? How would that even work? What would be the mechanism? We’d have to wait for a cure or vaccine. No one thinks we could actually do that, do they? What would the unemployment number be by then? Of course, I am still praying that God will make it just disappear one day. And who knows, He may. I so want us all shaking our heads in wonder saying, “Only God!”
But back to the way in which we are attempting, at the direction of experts, to artificially manipulate the curve. This manipulation could result in a peak in winter, which could cause the death rate to increase dramatically. I’m not suggesting this would happen. But I am very much in favor of potential unintended consequences being part of the discussion. Instead, we march forward without any pushback or questions for fear of being labeled uncaring. It’s disturbing, to say the least.
And, for me, the worst thing about it is the self-loathing.
I don’t know how many iterations there were of Candid Camera, but when I was in law school twenty-ish years ago, it was my favorite show. I think the intensity of studying lowered my threshold for hilarity, and it’s always been pretty low. Anyway, an episode from that era is one that Will and I still quote with fair frequency.
The joke was set up like this: a man, who has swam laps every morning for decades, arrives at the pool one day to find out that a new policy had been implemented. All of the lap swimmers were now required to wear life jackets. The man is infuriated, and explains that the policy is absurd, that he has been swimming laps at that very pool for years and years. The Candid Camera guy deadpans and explains nevertheless that’s the policy. He hands the swimmer a clumsy-looking orange life jacket, like you’d be issued on a cruise ship.
The swimmer, while strapping on the life jacket says, “I am NOT cooperating!”
And the Candid Camera guy perfectly and nonchalantly quips, “Well, you seem to be.”
It’s absolutely hilarious. Or it was, till 2020 arrived and I realized I am that guy. I feel like in my spirit I am fighting decision-making based on fear instead of evidence, but at the same time I’m strapping on the life jacket. It is so shameful.
I want to rip the life jacket off and set it ablaze.
Literally the worst thing that could happen to me as a follower of Christ is to meet my Savior face to face. And really that’s not even right. The worst thing that could happen is I meet my Savior face to face a few years earlier than I otherwise would have. Uhhh, okay! Sounds good to me. Sounds real good to me. May I die embracing truth and living courageously. May I never ever live in fear.
I honestly don’t even know how we got on this track. Why in the world would we voluntarily destroy the future of our children to pretend that we are avoiding deaths? If Whitney were still alive maybe she could use that unreal talent to remind us that the children are indeed our future. And there is no avoiding death. I’m gonna die. You are gonna die. Healthy young people are at essentially zero risk from the coronavirus. Why on earth would we be forcing them to stay home? It’s a course of action that is guaranteed to cause human suffering. Meanwhile both the models and the experts are proving to be tragically wrong, and to an utterly mind-boggling degree. The nosedive of civilization makes time of the essence. We are in desperate need of truth-tellers. We need courageous decision-makers. Where the heck are they?
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me. For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield. Psalm 5:8-12 ESV
Psalm 5:8-12 ESV
Sadly some of the loudest voices in our culture are those with open grave throats. Be sure to avoid them, and seek refuge with the Lord. He is our faithful shield. He is where we can sing for joy.
Rejoicing that this life isn’t all there is, and praising God that He loves me even in my most unlovable moments, like when I strap on the lemming’s lifejacket instead of cling to Him.