Thankful It Takes a Village for Adults, Too
Thankful

Regardless of your political persuasion or opinion of the author of a book by a similar title, I’ve learned “it takes a village” for adults, too.

It’s been more than a year since I experienced the most significant loss of my life. The loss of my better half left me feeling disconnected. Not only disconnected but helpless and overwhelmed at all the things it took two people to handle over forty years.

That’s when my village stepped in.

It started with the memorial service as friends created the photo slideshow, decorated the church fellowship hall, and provided a generous meal for 300 people.

In the year that followed:

  • A neighbor volunteered to pressure clean and seal my driveway and then repaired and adjusted all the sprinkler heads in the irrigation system.
  • This same neighbor repaired 2 patio doors and my garage door and cleared my gutter of wayward plants.
  • A friend repaired a leaking doorframe.
  • A friend from church repaired a couple of leaking faucets.
  • Another friend from church arranged for the maintenance and repair of my lawnmower – and took care of the pick-up and delivery.
  • Two friends from church trimmed palm fronds and seed pods around my home.
  • A friend from my previous church repaired a broken roof truss.
  • Another neighbor spent hours replacing my garbage disposal and kitchen faucet.
  • That same neighbor arranged for the repair of some minor body damage on my car.
  • Yet another neighbor brought meals many times.

And this list is by no means complete.

Even contractors and service personnel—total strangers—went above and beyond to provide not just what I needed but added little extras with a dose of kindness.

With each act of compassion, my sense of feeling overwhelmed dissipated.

These experiences taught me it’s okay to ask for help. I was so used to helping others that asking for it seemed foreign…and somehow wrong. But what was wrong is the pride that didn’t want to receive what God had equipped others to give. Equally important, by not asking, I was denying others the blessing of being a blessing to me.

That joy and blessing flowed both ways.

In Philippians 2:4, the apostle Paul wrote, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (ESV).

So my question to you is, where are you in your village? Are you feeling overwhelmed, but reluctant to ask for help? Are you wanting to help, but don’t know where to start?

Your village needs you. It needs you to both give and receive. John Donne understood this when he wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

And the Bible tells us Christians are all members of one body—the Body of Christ. “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (I Corinthians 12:26 NASB).

This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for being a member of the Body of Christ. And I’m thankful for my village.

Who’s in your village? Are you giving and receiving?


 
Things Aren’t Always What They Seem
Autumn in Florida: things aren't always what they seem.

Autumn is here. Splashes of red, orange, and gold punctuating a green canopy. Falling leaves blanketing lawns. A nip in the air and hot apple cider on the stove (or in the microwave!). Sweaters and scarves become go-to accessories.

Or not.

Here in south Florida, the only red and orange we see is found in flaming sunsets across blue skies. There might be the occasional falling leaf, but for the most part, the only thing blanketing our lawns are grass clippings from the last mowing. And we’re not quite ready for hot apple cider. Cold water and iced lattes are still the beverages of choice. Sweaters and scarves? Not for another few months, when a “cold front” slips through and the temperature dips into the 50s and 60s.

Things aren’t always what they seem, are they? Autumn in south Florida is less like a different season and more like a cooler version of summer. Yet, if you’ve lived here long enough, you can sense the subtle change in the air. A bit of a breeze. A lessening of the humidity. Of course, there are man-made indications, as well. Children back in school. Halloween displays in the stores and Christmas decorations lurking in the aisles that used to contain patio chairs and barbecue supplies.

People are not always what they seem, either. We make judgments based on assumptions and past experience, often arriving at the wrong conclusion.

The bully in school may be compensating for an alcoholic father. The neighbor who keeps to herself may be afraid for anyone to see her bruises. The coworker who eats lunch alone because he doesn’t want anyone to know that he can’t afford to join his colleagues at the local restaurant.

But God sees what we can’t see, and knows what we don’t know. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

The problem isn’t just that we make wrong judgments. It’s also that wrong judgments are made of us. I’ve been misheard, misconstrued, misinterpreted, misunderstood, and misjudged countless times. Still, I have a choice. I can lash out in my hurt, dishing out payback, which I’m sorry to say I’ve done more often than I’d care to admit. Or I can remember I don’t have all the facts and ask God for the ability to view that other person with His perspective.

Autumn in south Florida:

  • Sunscreen at the beach
  • An iced latte at the Starbuck’s drive-through
  • Flip-flops or bare feet.

Yup. Things aren’t always what they seem.


 
Christians and Halloween
Christians and Halloween

Ghosts and witches. Jack-o’-lanterns and black cats. Scary masks and things that go bump in the night. Typical frightening Halloween fare. But the day is not called Scary-ween.

So what is the “hallow” in Halloween?

Hallow is not a frequently used word these days. When something is hallowed, it is sacred or holy, set apart from common use. We think of the phrase, “Hallowed be your name” from the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9. When we pray this, we are asking God to set apart His name in a special way. To hallow God’s name is to treat it reverently, approaching it as most precious.

Yet a holiday that has the word hallow in its name is celebrated with representations of goblins, witches, and vampires. Children—and adults—dress up and beg for candy, threatening “tricks” if they don’t receive what they want. These threats are usually harmless. However mischief and vandalism have long been associated with Halloween and the night before Halloween, often called “Mischief Night” or Devil’s Night.”  While these activities can include pranks such as toilet papering houses and trees, they can escalate to egging and ultimately to vandalism and arson.

Halloween has its roots in an ancient Celtic Feast called Samhaim. It began as a druid celebration of the beginning of winter and was believed to be the one night each year when spirits of the dead walked the earth. Spirits of family members were welcomed and honored, while other spirits were warded off with the use of costumes and masks to impersonate an evil spirit and avoid harm.

Christians and Halloween

In an effort to stem these activities, the early Christian church chose November 1st as All Saints’ Day and renamed October 31st All Hallows’ Eve. Christians taught that costumes and masks could not protect them from evil spirits. Protection is found only in Jesus Christ because of His victory on the cross over sin and death and the devil.

Yet as the centuries have passed, we find our culture celebrating Halloween with all the verve of the ancient druids. Debates rage in churches as to whether it’s appropriate for Christian families to allow their children to trick-or-treat. Are costumes okay as long as they’re not scary? Are alternatives such as Harvest Festival costume parties the answer?

Maybe we’re asking the wrong questions. Perhaps we should focus once more on the Hallow of Halloween. The world sets apart one day to glorify evil spirits, mischief, and vandalism. We can rationalize these activities, or we can choose to set apart the day to hallow the name of our glorious God. We can use this day to remember that Christ alone is our protection from evil. Where we have the opportunity, we can share the truth of God’s Word. People still need to know that not only is God holy and set apart, but He sets apart His children to represent His light in a dark world.

What are your plans for Halloween?


 
The Cross and the Supreme Court
Cross

Happy 243rd birthday, America. You’ve changed a lot in those 243 years. In some ways for the better. In other ways, not so much. But one of the most significant changes is in how the cross is perceived in our culture.

For centuries, the cross has been an undeniable symbol of Christianity. It represents the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. People who identify as Christians erect crosses on church buildings and in cemeteries. They wear crosses around their neck as jewelry.

So it’s not surprising that those hostile to the cross of Jesus Christ want it removed from public places. What is surprising—and sad—is the rationale for the recent Supreme Court decision.  And many Christians are cheering the decision without realizing the danger of the underpinning argument.

The American Humanist Association (AHA) had asked the Supreme Court to require removal of a 40-foot tall, concrete cross in Bladensburg, Maryland. The cross was originally a private venture to honor local men who died in World War I. The AHA protested the cross’s presence because it is located by a public highway and maintained by a government agency.

The Supreme Court rejected the claim that this was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. But here’s the kicker…the Court said this cross was essentially historic, not religious.

Justice Alito did say, “The cross is undoubtedly a Christian symbol, but that fact should not blind us to everything else that the Bladensburg cross has come to represent.” He added, “The image of a simple white cross developed into a cultural symbol of the conflict….The adoption of the cross as the Bladensburg memorial must be seen in that historical context.”

They permitted the cross to remain because it was cultural and historical rather than just religious. Let that sink in for a moment.

Judge Alito’s decision did note, “Its removal or radical alteration at this date would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of a hostility toward religion.”

Well, at least we have that. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m thankful for the supportive Court decision. Yet I’m torn because of the apparently diluted meaning of the Cross of Christ.

Sadly, this is the culmination of decades of nominal Christians going through the motions of religious activity without any heart change. Wearing cross jewelry because it’s fashionable or socially acceptable, yet devoid of association with the substitutionary death of our Redeemer.

Today, many people identify as Christian by default. Because their parents are Christian. Or because they go to church twice a year, on Christmas and Easter. Or because they’re not Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or Muslim, yet they still have a general belief in God.

The power of God’s Word, His redeeming work through Jesus Christ, and His ongoing work in believers through the indwelling Holy Spirit all seem to get lost in the default choice. People check one box because the others don’t quite fit. It’s no wonder the meaning of the cross is leaning more and more toward a cultural and historical context than a religious one.

Am I glad the Bladensburg Cross is allowed to stand? Absolutely. But I’m also sad that it’s allowed to stand while being slowly and inexorably stripped of its essential meaning.

When you see or wear a cross, is your understanding of it filtered through a cultural perspective or a biblical one? If it’s just cultural, you’re missing out on both the central meaning of the cross and the Person it points to.

What does the cross mean to you?


 
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