Justice, Mercy, or Both?

Look around. Listen to the politicians. Read the headlines. Talk to your neighbors and coworkers. It won’t take long before two themes emerge.

Justice and mercy. But rarely do these two words occur in the same sentence, or even in the same conversation.

There’s a lot of talk about justice. Criminal justice. Social justice. We have a keenly developed sense of what we think is right and wrong. We demand justice for ourselves and for those who need us to stand up for them.

Problem is, we can’t seem to agree on what justice looks like in every situation. What does justice look like for illegal immigrants? Or for babies developing in the womb?

It all depends on our worldview and the values we espouse. But if we’re honest, we have to admit that even if we hold a biblical worldview, we fall short in executing righteous judgment. Because there’s only one righteous Judge.

Then there’s the subject of mercy. I was challenged this week from the Beatitudes to consider what it means to be merciful. “Blessed are the merciful…”

Mercy.

I love the sound of this word when it applies to me. Who doesn’t want to receive mercy? On the other hand, not many of us want to extend mercy.

Most people, myself included, prefer to hand out judgment. You’ve wronged me? I want you to receive the consequences of your actions. My natural inclination is not toward mercy…unless I am the recipient.

Still, there’s at least one Bible verse that includes both concepts, justice and mercy, in the same sentence.

Micah 6:8 (NIV) tells us:

“What does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

We’re to act justly. Not demand judgment, but act with justice. Consider the other person’s circumstances and respond with justice, despite our own opinions or preferences.

We’re to love mercy. Interesting, it doesn’t say extend mercy. It says we’re to love it. Some translations use the word kindness instead of mercy. Because mercy is meaningless if it isn’t demonstrated in a tangible way.

But there’s a third part: “Walk humbly with your God.” In many ways, this is the most important phrase in the verse—the phrase that ties it all together. If we have a right view of ourselves in relation to the God we belong to, then justice and mercy will flow out of our relationship in Christ, prompted by the Holy Spirit who indwells us. Will we be perfect in our execution? Not even close. But we’ll be moving in the right direction.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Still, there’s a hitch. The verse begins by saying this is God’s requirement for us. And the fact that it’s a requirement tells us it doesn’t come naturally. For if acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God flowed naturally, we wouldn’t have to be commanded to do it.

They’re not natural. They are intentional choices.

And perhaps, before we take on the problems of the world, we need to start closer to home. With our spouses and children. Our family and friends. The people we work with Monday through Friday and the people we worship with on Sundays.

What would life look like if we really did—intentionally—act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God?

Let’s find out!


Running Out of Time

Running Out of Time

We’re careful about how we spend our money. And we’re careful about exhausting our energy reserves. We’re also careful about how we spend our time…or are we?

When I worked in the corporate world, I taught training sessions on time management. The components of time management in the business world are well known. Prioritizing, planning, and staying organized are all habits of an efficient person. And all for the goal of saving time.

But what are we saving it for? What if time isn’t a thing to be managed? What if the purpose of time is something else?

All too often, I’ve fallen into the trap of viewing life as a rat race, filled with things I have to do and crowding out the things I want to do. It’s so easy to forget that we get to do life together. It’s a privilege. And a joy.

Yes, we have responsibilities and jobs. Obligations and chores. But what if those duties are simply components of our life that provide the resources and abilities to do the things we want? To be with the people we want to be with?

Jobs and careers consume us. So we come home exhausted, only to face a never-ending to-do list. Worse yet, studies have shown that we spend less than 2 minutes a day in meaningful communication with the ones we love. I don’t know about you, but most days I feel as if I’m chasing the clock. Constantly running out of time.

It’s so easy to lose balance. To forget that work isn’t meant to consume us. To forget how important the people in our life are to us.

Until they’re not there anymore.

Time is a limited resource. Once it’s spent, it’s gone. Never to be reused. Never to be recycled. And never to be recovered.

Enjoy the time you have with the people you love. Relish the moments. Create memories to savor. Memories that will keep those people emotionally close even when they’re no longer physically close.

So pay attention to the prompting of the Holy Spirit when He nudges you to make that phone call. Meet that person for coffee or lunch. Take time to listen—really listen—to your spouse or your children instead of turning up the volume on the television.

Gratitude is my “one word” for this year. Be grateful for what you have and who you have. Prioritize the important over the urgent. People over phones. Face-to-face interactions over Facebook posts.

People aren’t perfect. Life isn’t perfect. And time is limited. The people in your life won’t always be there. Be grateful for the time you have with them…while you still have them.


Real Life…In Community

It happened again. I had spent the afternoon on the computer, working on some projects. Then I did a quick scroll through Facebook to catch the latest news.

What I saw were beautiful photos of a double rainbow over our town. And I had missed it.

Sort of reminds me of a recent car commercial on television. Maybe you remember it:

Unlike the girl in the commercial, I don’t spend all day on Facebook or other social media. But I do spend most of my days in front of a computer. I’m usually preparing Bible study lessons or writing. (And yes, participating in social media, too!  😉 ) So I’m thankful for friends who remind me to participate in real life. For those, among others, who:

  • hiked with me in the Rocky Mountains (thanks, Debby!)
  • introduced me to kayaking (thank you, Barbara!)
  • climbed the Jupiter Lighthouse with me (thanks, Russ!)
  • hosted my first Passover Seder (thank you, Susan!)
  • taught me how to play croquet (thank you, Linda, Lisa, and Sharon!)
  • invited me to an art gallery (thanks, Jane!)
  • took me to my first county fair (thank you, Karon!)

Real life happens in community.

That’s what the Church is, too. A community. Brothers and sisters in Christ who come alongside other Christians so that no one is left on the sidelines, doing life alone.

King Solomon understood this when he wrote,

“Two are better than one,
because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls
and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm,
but how can one keep warm alone?
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone,
two will withstand him—
a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV).

And the apostle Paul recognized our need when he wrote:

“And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,
encourage the fainthearted,
help the weak, be patient with them all”
(1 Thessalonians 5:14 ESV).

I’m glad my community ensures that I don’t just write about life…they make sure I live it, too!

Who is your community? Connect with them this week!


Christmas Memories

Putting up our Christmas decorations is a simple enough task. Bring in the boxes from the garage and spread their contents around the house. It should take a day at most. But it’s not so simple for me because of the memories evoked by the decorations and ornaments…

A sign posted by the front door welcomes visitors and wishes them joy. It was given to us by Russ’ godmother, someone we look forward to being reunited with in heaven.

Two wreaths hang on our double front doors, made by a friend. She’s not a sister by birth, but she’s a sister by choice. When we moved to Florida 13 years ago, it was mid-November and we knew we wouldn’t have a Christmas tree that year. She and her husband set up their tree right after Halloween so we could celebrate together before the move. They also gave us many of the ornaments that now hang on our tree.

Speaking of the tree, we have several handmade hardanger embroidery ornaments made by another friend. She and I met in junior high school. She’s a world-traveler. Her first overseas assignment with the State Department was in Romania the month Ceausescu’s regime toppled. She’s worked around the world. Now she’s in Ghana, and we’re both grateful we can keep in touch through email and Facebook.

A flamingo ornament hangs on our tree. That doesn’t sound strange, considering we live in Florida. But this one has a story, too. Northern friends sent it a few years ago. In NY, we enjoyed Trivial Pursuit game nights with 2 other couples. A booby prize – yup, a pink flamingo – went to the losing couple, who then brought it to the next game night. A Trivial Pursuit ornament hangs near the flamingo, sent by another one of the couples.

My very first ornament also hangs on our tree – an angel given to me by my godmother when I was 8 years old. Someday I’ll be reunited with this precious woman, too.

There are a few ornaments commemorating my career in NYC, including a miniature Staten Island ferryboat. Our first Christmas is commemorated by 2 ornaments – one of them given to us by a friend from college.

Several ornaments are souvenirs from our travels. Rather than purchase generic souvenirs, we brought back Christmas ornaments. Of course, there are also ornaments from family members, and several from my husband with backstories I’d rather not share publicly!

However, even before we set up the tree, the first Christmas decoration we display is always the nativity. Our set started when we purchased the manger and the holy family during a vacation in Colonial Williamsburg 20 years ago. The display has grown to about 50 pieces – the manger is now surrounded by the bustling town of Bethlehem.

A winter tableau takes up another table. There we have ceramic carolers handmade by a friend I met in junior high school. We’ve continued our friendship through today.

A small holiday chair made from a craft kit sits next to the carolers, made by a friend I’ve known for more than 40 years. I have her and her family to thank for introducing me to the Lord Jesus Christ. Other things from her adorn our home, as well. A candy cane afghan. A stuffed snowman. Nutcracker candlestick holders.

This list could continue for many more pages, but you get the idea. I almost didn’t write this post for fear of offending others because space limitations prevent me from mentioning all their gifts. So many ornaments and decorations remind me of a lifetime of relationships with family and friends. Some live across the county, some live across the country, some are no longer with us, but all have touched my life and are remembered with love.

Now that I write this, with all the memories, I’m surprised it takes us only 3 days to decorate for Christmas!

What Christmas memory do you associate with your decorations?


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