Category: Resources (page 1 of 12)

How do we Change the Story of Racism in America?

I vividly remember the day Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. April 4th, 1968.  Not because I was horrified. Because it interrupted my t.v. program.

My younger brothers and I were watching T.V. in the small den at the back of our suburban house when our program was interrupted by the news. We were ticked! What in the world could be more important than Bozo’s Circus? As we goofed around, loudly moaned and complained about Walter Cronkite, my mother stepped in front of the T.V. With tears running down her face. She spoke to the three of us who were shaken to see our mom so impassioned, her voice raised in anger.

“STOP IT! RIGHT NOW! A great man who has been courageously fighting for everyone in America to be treated with dignity has been shot! This is a terrible day for our country and we need to pay attention!”

I haven’t posted any thoughts on the recent events in Charlottesville, or the angry, divisive rhetoric in our country because frankly, anything I write seems too little, and in my mind, too obvious…too easy. After all, who am I, as a white, privileged American, to think I have  anything helpful to say??

My thought process goes, “Writing something on social media is empty courage. What will it accomplish? It will only be read by those who agree with me. And I can’t possibly have any tiny understanding of the situation.”

Talk is cheap, right?

But then I am reminded by my friend Todd, of the MLK quote, “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

Privilege means we have the freedom NOT to think about this if we don’t want to. But if we turn away,  we participate in the sin of indifference. Privilege when it comes to race, is unearned access and the freedom to ignore what is uncomfortable. I don’t want that to be me.

“The stories we own…we get to write the ending. We as a country need to own the story of white supremacy.” Brené Brown

In order to own this story, we need to start somewhere. Here are a few of my ideas. Please add your own in the comments!

  • Build relationships

This can be a challenge because most of us live in our homogenous bubbles. For John and I it has meant reaching out and building a relationship with a local Imam, Asad Zaman. Recently, when a mosque here in the twin cities was bombed, it was John who our friend reached out to be the voice of a peacemaker to Christians at a subsequent rally.

The question I keep asking myself is “Where can I be involved in a community with people different than me?”

  • Read up – here are a few resources that have been helpful to me.

The Sin of Indifference  – an article by Ruth Hayley Barton

Small Great Things – a novel by Jodi Picoult about an African American nurse and a white supremacist father whose child dies in her care. This book helped me better understand white privilege.

Just Mercy – I’m halfway through this book that is accurately described as “A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.”

  • Choose humility. Listen, and listen more to the oppressed. Listen longer than is comfortable.

 

  • Name it. Yes, there are situations that are a matter of perspective. There are times to agree to disagree, but when anyone, created in the image of God, is abused, is treated with anything less than the utmost respect, is the victim of injustice and hate, it must be named as evil. Unacceptable. Period.

“I want a white nationalist to feel uncomfortable in my church. I want him to feel like ”’Ooh, this is not a place where I can express white supremacy freely. Where I know it’s looked upon as sin and not looked upon as just a political difference.’” – LeCrae

  • Pray

Here’s a place to start.

“To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world.”

I know my understanding is woefully limited. I confess I have often avoided the uncomfortable conversations that are necessary for healing. I acknowledge I have benefitted from white privilege in many ways I’m sure I’m ignorant of. I ask forgiveness from my brothers and sisters of other races. I want to do better.

These are just a few of my thoughts. What would you add?

 

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Summer Soul Food

Hey Friends,

I know I’ve been MIA on the blog recently, but I’m guessing you’re out seizing summer joy and don’t mind a little less in your “in box”! As a result, this is a looooong post!

I’ve been prioritizing speaking, prepping a new set of devo cards, and another writing project I only recently have had the courage to call a “manuscript”. Yikes it’s scary to say that, and yet I also feel total peace regarding what happens with it. If God can use it “out there” I trust it will get published. If He has other plans I’m fine with that. I’m thankful for friends and mentors who have been coaching me along in this process!

 

Speaking of needing each other… John and I always do a lot of hosting in the summertime because our back yard provides a great space for gathering folks. We have had a big tent I told you about before, but it’s so old it started to leak when there was rain, and since rain was predicted last week when we were hosting 32, we bought another tent. Here was the problem. It was a LOT more complicated to set up than our previous one (I am so thankful for a husband with infinite patience!).

 

It was super hot with one million percent humidity as we struggled to get it set up. At one point I asked John what time it was, and he said, “No worries, they’re not coming tip 6:30.” Imagine the look on our faces when we had just finished the job and were sweating like pigs and our guests walked around the corner of our house at 6:00!

Anyway, one of the benefits of hosting a lot of potlucks is GOOD RECIPES! My friend Michelle brought this amazing salad and was gracious enough to give me the recipe, so I thought I’d pass it along. It is delightfully different!

Wheat Berry and Fruit Salad

1 Cup wheat berries

Dressing:

3 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs water

1 ½ Tbs cider vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp each salt & pepper

¼ Cup dried cranberries (craisins)

1 large apple cut bite size

1 Cup seedless grapes halved

½ Cup diced cheddar

  1. Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan.

Add wheat berries; reduce heat, cover and cook for

45-55 minutes until tender. Drain well.

  1. In a large bowl, whisk oil, water, vinegar, mustard, salt

& pepper. Add dried cranberries and warm wheat berries.

Toss to coat. Let stand 10 minutes, tossing occasionally,

for flavors to absorb and wheat berries to cool. (If you want

to make ahead and serve cold, cover and refrigerate up to

1 day).

3. Add remaining ingredients to bowl; toss to mix and coat.

Serves 4   (Can be served on a bed of lettuce.)

I preached at CPC on Jesus and the feeding of the 5,000 a couple weeks ago, and I wish I had thought to use this video! With Jesus everybody’s welcome, nobody’s perfect, and anything can happen!

 

I’ve been reading a lot this summer, but I really hate to review books because I think personal taste, values, your current season of life, and circumstances can skew how you feel about a book.

However, my talented friend Steve Wiens has a new book coming out August 22nd called “Whole”.  

The description of this new book is: “For Christians who lament the brokenness in themselves, their neighbors, and the world around them, Whole offers a rallying cry to pursue wholeness together.”

I think Steve’s strength is in the questions he asks – the 5 questions of restoration he addresses in the first half of the book, and the discussion questions at the end of each chapter make this a read that would be good for group discussion.  Steve models a commitment to self-reflection and vulnerable sharing throughout which will encourage others in your small group.

If you like considering the different meanings behind the original Hebrew text, looking for new connections, you will like this book.  If you like contemporary retelling of ancient stories that highlight the movement from brokenness to wholeness, you will like this book.

If you are into spy novels, I recommend this complicated, intriguing book, ” I am Pilgrim: A Thriller”. It’s excellent, but be forewarned…there is some graphic violence and the pieces don’t start to come together til about page 245. I can’t imagine the time that went into researching this book!

One last thing…I’ve been doing more on Instagram, and recently posted this quote. I have several friends who are in very, very hard places where it seems their thoughts and prayers kept spinning in a circle of despair. Can anyone else relate?

I’ll close with part of a blessing from Suzie Larson:

May you be honest with God about the hurts in your heart. May you discern the difference between grief and self-pity. May you be okay with not always being okay. God will one day wipe away every tear from your eyes, but until then, He wants to help you walk this journey with peace in your heart and assurance in your soul. He is with you.

 

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When Everyone is Looking For You

Yesterday I was shopping, cleaning, cooking – preparing for family who would arrive from out-of-town for a week-long visit. I multi-tasked, prepping everything along with all the regular “stuff” of life like meetings and writing assignments.

Creating time and space to connect with friends or family takes discipline and intentionality, but as we sat with dessert on the patio last night, I thought, how sweet the rewards.

It’s easy to go on “auto-pilot” with relationships, especially with Jesus who is so…polite. He never pushes His way in. Never demands time with us. He waits for us to come to Him.

Last week I introduced some devotional cards a friend and I have created around this theme, “Come”.

This morning, here’s the card I sat with.

If you are a mom of toddlers, or a boss, or a planning an event, I know you can relate to these words!

This verse comes after a very full 24 hours of ministry. Jesus gets up early and goes off alone to pray.

In Mark1 there are three places Jesus uses the word “Come” – each of them very different in context, but each of them speak to me of a reason why it was so important for Him, in the midst of crazy busy, to be alone with His Father. Here are three reasons for us to come to Him too:

  1. Imitate and Model

In Mark 1:17 Jesus calls the disciples, “Come follow me.”

Jesus invited (and invites) people to follow Him, but even He needed to be replenished in order to continue to lead.

People are watching us. They are following us. In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul writes, “So imitate me, watch my ways, follow my example, just as I, too, always seek to imitate the Anointed One.”

2. Power up

In Mark 1:25 Jesus defies evil, casting out a demon, saying with confidence, “Be quiet! Come out of him.”

When we spend time with Jesus we are reminded that this same authority that gave Him power, lives in us through His Holy Spirit. We may be weak, but “greater is He who is in [us] than he who is in the world.”

3. Remember

In Mark 1:38 When the disciples find Jesus He says they will all head to some nearby villages for Him to preach because “That is why I have come.”

Time alone with the Lord grounds us and reminds us of our purpose. As I read God’s Word He tells me again who I am and whose I am.

Which of these do you need most this morning?

Do you know a graduate or a friend who might like a month’s worth of cards inviting them to  come away with Jesus?

 

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Soul Food for the Redeemed

Hey Friends,

If you’re new to the blog, I try to take most Fridays to share a hodgepodge of resources that may be encouraging, interesting, beautiful, or funny. This week I’ve been thinking about the word, “redeemed.”

I love the word, the image, the value of God as our Redeemer!

The dictionary defines redeem: “to make (something that is bad, unpleasant, etc.) better or more acceptable” or “to recover ownership of by paying a specified sum”.

 But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1

I had a friend years ago who used to buy her clothes at a resale shop as a tangible reminder that she, like her clothes, had been bought back by Jesus.

And then, there’s this…

Isaiah 53:1-2 describes the joy of the redeemed this way:

The desert and the parched land will be glad;
    the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
    it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
    the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord,
    the splendor of our God.

And then this picture on Instagram illustrates it.

Recently I received an advance copy of the book, Redeeming Ruth, to review. Meadow Rue Merrill writes with journalistic authenticity and detail of her family’s response to God’s prompting to adopt a young girl with disabilities from Africa.

Counter to our desire to paint everything as “up and to the right” in the Christian life, in spite of their sacrifice, this family suffers and loses. Nevertheless, they trust a good God to redeem their pain in ways they didn’t choose, and may not readily understand. This is a story of obedience and hope.

As I read it, I thought of so many friends living hard stories. I thought of my friend Emily who also adopted kids from Africa, and I gave my copy to her. I asked her to share her thoughts below.

As the mother of an adopted daughter, I resonate with much that Meadow describes in her book. She is honest about the journey towards, in and through adoption- a rare view inside what it truly means to bring a child from a hard place into your home. One strong theme in the book was that redemption comes only through suffering and how Meadow and her family chose to take on much of Ruth’s pain – emotional, physical, mental – so that Ruth could move towards health and wholeness. This is a hidden cost of intentional relationships, not just limited to adoption.

Redeeming Ruth is a great read for anyone who has trusted God with an important piece of life – whether a dream, a hope, a fear or a relationship – and has had that piece get crushed or remade or unearthed in a new way. Trusting God doesn’t mean everything is going to turn out okay. Our hearts may be bruised along the way, but He will be with us.

Redeeming Ruth releases May 1st. 

Soul Food for the Beloved

Before anything else this weekend, ask yourself: What does it mean for me to “live loved”?

What does your life look like when you are living confidently out of your true self – a beloved child of God, regardless of titles, circumstances, losses or gains?

When I was asked that question recently I thought of the total freedom of being unselfconscious (like when I dance along with Ellen and Michelle Obama) I think of the Message paraphrase of Mt. 11:28-30. I feel like I live lightly, freely, in the unforced rhythms of grace.

My friend Kathy has a wonderful blog, and recently she posted this song. Take a listen while you think about YOUR answer to the question.

So we’re at the end of week 2 of the Spring It Up mutiny against March! Personally, I’ve be fortunate to add “Escape to Florida” as an additional prompt, but before I did, the day 3 prompt was: Clean out one drawer, shelf, or closet. Make room for spring!

So, in an effort to force myself to complete this, here is what I did. I dumped all the clothes from 3 drawers in a mountain on my bed so I would HAVE to do something in order to go to sleep that night.

Then I did the Joy? No joy? method of sorting and folding (Remember Emily doing this on Gilmore Girls – a Year in the Life?).

I loved this that I saw on Instagram 🙂

Last Sunday we hosted people for a brunch, which may be my favorite meal. I tried a new blueberry/banana muffin recipe I found on Pinterest, but it wasn’t a keeper. However, I will share with you ONE OF THE BEST SECRETS EVER.

Are you ready?

COSTCO CINNAMON LOAF!! (not online) Scathingly brilliant and soooooo delicious! I have a friend who buys it and re-wraps it in foil so it looks like she baked it. And it freezes GREAT!! Trust me and you’re welcome!

Along with the so-so muffins and delicious cinnamon bread, we had a version of the salad I posted recently, bacon/brown sugar wrapped smokies, and two kinds of quiche.

Years ago when I was growing up, we had a young couple move in next door to us. The woman was beautiful, artsy and classy and loved all things French. Her name was Madeline and my mom and I were in awe of her. She invited us over and made this crab quiche that became a family favorite.

Madeline’s Quiche

1 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust (I pre- bake about 10 minutes at 400)

Mix and pour into pie crust: 

1/2 cup Hellman’s Mayonnaise

2 TB flour

2 beaten eggs

1 ts. salt

1/2 cup milk or 1/2 and 1/2

8 oz. shredded swiss cheese

7 1/2 oz can of crab (I honestly like the fake crab the best in this, and use more than called for)

Bake for 45-60 minutes at 350 til firm and slightly brown.

(you can make the filling the night before and then pour it in the crust and bake it in the morning)

If you don’t follow thedailyst on Instagram, you should. Have you guys seen this yet??? Just the BEST!!

 

Lastly, I’ve been doing a Bible study on the tongue which made me think of this quote (YIKES!):

Have a delightful weekend!

with joy,

Laura

Soul Food to Spring it Up!

Monday I wrote about an experimental mutiny against the month of March and invited you into our Spring it Up challenge.

I really hope you’ll join in for part or all of the days. You can still print up an attachment of all the prompts and put it on your fridge. Send me pictures and/or post on Instagram or FB with the hashtag #springitup!

Here are my adorable friends Ally and Kit dressing pink on Day 1.

We had our small group on Tuesday night and did 2 of the challenges at once. I encouraged everyone to wear pink, and we brought things that made us think of spring.

I made the recipe that has been our little family’s go-to for spring.

D.C. Spring Ham and Asparagus Sandwiches

Brace yourselves because the directions are a bit complicated.

  1. 6 slices of deli ham (a little thick – 1/8″?? I don’t do math)
  2. 6 slices of swiss cheese
  3. a bunch of asparagus
  4. a package of dry Knorr Hollendaise sauce mix
  5. 2  tubes of Pillsbury crescent rolls

Cook the asparagus to tender crisp.

Open the crescent rolls and pinch together every two triangles to make rectangles.

Layer a slice of ham, a slice of cheese, and 3 stalks of asparagus on each rectangle. Roll up and pinch dough to seal. Put seal side down on cookie sheet.

Bake according to crescent roll instructions.

Mix up hollandaise sauce and drizzle on top of finished sandwiches. Bam! Done!

Heather brought sparkling pink lemonade, Cara brought tulips, Cathy brought a late Valentine gift wrapped springy, and Molly made a wonderful easy salad – berries, goat cheese, spring greens, and raspberry vinaigrette dressing!

This past weekend John preached on stewardship of our bodies, and included an interview with our friend, Lee Blum, who has a powerful story of overcoming an eating disorder and continually wrestling with the question of “How do we live out of our true self, not how the world says we should be or look or act?” 

(If you can’t see the embedded video on your email, click on the title of the post and open in your browser)

Lee Blum Interview (short version) from Christ Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.

Lee has also written two gripping books, A Table in the Darkness,* her memoir, and Brave is the New Beautiful *, in which each chapter is focused on a different characteristic of courage. Lee “weaves reflections from her own journey with inspirational stories from everyday women who chose to take off their masks and live authentically.”  It also has great discussion questions at the end of each chapter. I highly recommend both books and suggest you consider “Brave” for a small group if you’re looking for some honest discussion.

If you’re reading this on email or on your phone and want to comment, just click on the title and then scroll down!

*Some posts on this blog contain Amazon affiliate links – I receive a tiny commission on any purchases you make from links, but I’m not paid to recommend any particular item. I’d never include a link to anything I didn’t own or feel great about endorsing.

Soul Food When There’s No Holiday to Celebrate

Ohmygosh ohmygosh! I don’t know about you, but February and March about kill me every year. Stay tuned cuz I’m working on something that I hope will sparkle the sox off us in March and carry us through. Meanwhile…

Two great books I’ve been reading…Highly recommend them both!

First, Jesus Outside the Lines: A way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides by Scott Sauls. I love this fresh look at Jesus who won’t fit into our boxes. Here are some of the chapter titles:

Red State or Blue State?
For the Unborn or for the Poor?
Personal Faith or Institutional Church?
Money Guilt or Money Greed?
Affirmation or Critique?
Accountability or Compassion?
Hypocrite or Work in Progress?
Sexual Freedom or Chastity?
Hope Or Realism?
Self Esteem or God-Esteem?

“I am too conservative for liberals, and too liberal for conservatives.” – Everyone who follows the whole Jesus.

In Holding onto Hope, Nancy Guthrie uses her own personal story of grief as a prompt to look at the life of Job. There is an 8-week Bible study at the end.

This week I met with the leader of a local World Relief office to see how our church can help with sponsoring families, tutoring, providing legal clinics for refugees. I loved this story…

Many of you have probably seen this, but it’s such a day-brightener I just had to include it. 

Lastly, a cozy, soooo easy stew for winter nights, or for sharing with a new mama or someone who just needs a meal! 

4 Hour Beef Stew

In a large baking dish put:

  • 2 lb. stew meat
  • 1 medium onion cut up
  • 1 stalk celery cut
  • 6 carrots cubed

Blend together:

  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 2 Tb. tapioca

Sprinkle this over the meat and veggies. Add 1 can peas and 1 can condensed tomato soup (spread over top)

Cover tightly and bake @250 for 4 hours. Serve over Pillsbury canned refrigerator biscuits.

I pray you have a fabulous weekend with glimpses of God’s everyday graces.

*Some posts on this blog contain Amazon affiliate links – I receive a tiny commission on any purchases you make from links, but I’m not paid to recommend any particular item. I’d never include a link to anything I didn’t own or feel great about endorsing.

Soul Food For Valentines Day

I don’t care if you’re married or single or widowed or dating or whatever…in my mind Valentine’s Day is a chance to remind everyone that God’s banner over us is love, that God Himself is our ultimate husband, champion, warrior, shepherd, redeemer…

What better reason to celebrate, right?!

Spoiler alert: Not to be sexist, but if you’re a guy, or if you’re in a season with toddlers and NO TIME even to go to the bathroom, or you hate recipes or being “crafty” you may want to delete this right now. Ok, I’ve warned you…now carry on.

A couple of years ago at Easter, my friend Heather gave me this vase within a vase, filled with multi-colored jelly beans on the outside. I thought it was so cute I decided to adapt the idea for Valentine’s Day. Warning: Unless you choose a candy you don’t like, it’s hard not to eat the decorations 🙁 !

I’ve made star shaped croutons to give away at Christmas before, so I thought I’d try heart shaped ones.

Parmesan Croutons

English Muffin bread

Olive flavored cooking spray (I used butter)

Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

Place slices of bread on jelly roll pan and put in freezer for 30 minutes. Remove and use small heart cookie-cutter to cut croutons (I found them at Michaels).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat bread stars with cooking spray. Toss bread stars with cheese, salt, and pepper. Bake 10 minutes or til golden. Put in cellophane bag to accompany soup you drop off for a new Mama.

This salad recipe from my friend, Kitty doesn’t call for croutons, but it’s awesome and seems Valentiney 🙂

Salad part (you figure out how much 🙂 ):

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Green onion
  • Either raspberries or strawberries
  • Crumbled bacon
  • Blue Cheese
  • Candied pecans or almonds

Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing

1/2 cup raspberry vinegar

1/2 cup salad oil

1 t. salt

1 t. dry mustard

1/2 cup sugar

Blend in blender and add poppy seeds

I’m hosting a couple of gatherings over the next week so I pulled out the bunting I made last year.

 

The Most Neglected Mandate for Troubling Times

Confession: I probably gripe  5  10  15 times for every one time I pray for our leaders. Yikes!

I’m thankful I have friends like Kathy, who remind me how neglected and how important this practice is.

1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (‭1 Timothy‬ ‭2‬:‭1-4‬ NIV)

Ouch!

What if every time we started to say something critical about our leaders, we prayed for them instead?

My friend also sent this powerful prayer, written for the inauguration by Duke Kwon. I have prayed through the whole thing a couple of times, but now am going to write out a section each day in my journal to pray ig. It was written for the inauguration, but is applicable for all leaders at all times. You can just insert other names or “our leaders” if you want. I hope this will be a helpful resource for you too.

The original post appears at the Grace Church website, which can be accessed here.

GRACIOUS GOD,

We pray on behalf of our nation this day, as Mr. Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Sovereign Lord, we “lift up our eyes to you, to you who sit enthroned in heaven” (Ps. 123:1).

We pray for our new President (1 Tim. 2:1-3). As he takes the Oath of Office, we pray he may do so with humility, a clear conscience, and due consideration of the weightiness of so solemn a responsibility (Jer. 4:2Ps. 24:4). As President Trump begins the execution of the Office, we ask that you would bless him with “the fear of the Lord” — a reverent sense of dependency and accountability that would become a well-spring of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Please protect the President from the many seductions of power: the will to “win” at all costs (Mk. 10:42-45), retaliation towards enemies (Rom. 12:17-21), exploitation of the weak (Prov. 22:22), failures of faithfulness to one’s covenant of marriage (Mal. 2:14). In particular, we ask that you would guard the President’s marriage. May his devotion to his wife Melania grow and flourish.

We ask that you would give the President the character and skill to lead our nation effectively. Restrain all foolishness and evil in the meditations of his heart, the words on his lips, and the work of his hands (2 Thess. 2:7Eccl. 4:13Matt. 15:18-19). Pour into his heart such virtues as prudence, compassion, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). Make him a lover of truth (Ps. 51:6). Grant him grace to repent of wrongdoing when needed (2 Tim. 2:25). We also ask that you surround the President with friends and advisors who are just and wise (Prov. 19:20).

Please direct and “channel” the President’s heart, guiding it according to your Word and will (Prov. 21:1). We pray that the policies of President Trump and his administration would promote human flourishing in our nation and around the world. We ask you to grant President Trump your justice and your righteousness (Ps. 72:1, 12-14). In the coming four years, please protect the most vulnerable and marginalized members of our nation, whether through this administration’s policies and priorities or in spite of them. Send your Spirit and pour out your loving-kindness upon the orphan (including the functionally parentless), the poor, the immigrant and the refugee, the unborn, the elderly, the racial minority (black and brown neighbors in particular), and many others who are too often diminished and forgotten (Deut. 27:19Ps. 139:13-16Prov. 14:31Zech. 7:10; Jas. 1:27). Indeed, we are bold to ask, by your kind providence, that by the end of the term of this Presidency, our nation would be by certain measures more equitable, more compassionate, more humble, more generous, and more alive to your great grace. Jesus, could you please do this? Not because we are righteous or because we deserve it, but because of your mercy (Dan. 9:17-19).

We pray for ourselves, too. We ask that you would “inaugurate” in our hearts a readiness to offer whatever honor that is due to his Office (Rom. 13:1-71 Pet. 2:17) — not least, for those who are followers of Christ, by praying for the President with earnest petitions and appropriate thanksgiving (1 Tim. 2:1-3). Help us to remain zealous to do good (Gal. 6:9). Keep us vigilant against evil (Rom. 12:21Gen. 4:7). Save us from both political triumphalism and apocalyptic despair. Sustain our hunger and thirst for righteousness and grace (Matt. 5:3-6).

And we continue to pray for our nation’s healing after a terribly divisive election. Yes, we pray for civic unity, particularly among Christians of divergent political persuasions (Jn. 17:20-21). But even more so, we ask for grace for the process by which unity is forged. We pray for truth-telling, charity, empathy, repentance, and mutual understanding. We pray not for a negative peace marked by an absence of tension or disagreement, but a positive peace marked by the presence of hope, equity, and a Godward regard for one another as fellow image-bearers. Heal us, O Emmanuel.

O Lord, on this Inauguration Day we place neither our ultimate trust nor our ultimate fears upon President Trump, a “mere mortal” whose heart is directed and re-directed by your sovereign will (Prov. 21:1Isa. 40:23Ps. 56:4; 146:3-4; Matt. 10:28). “Others besides you have ruled over us, but you alone do we worship” (Isa. 26:13). You are the King of the nations and the true Lord of history (Acts 17:26Ps. 22:28Isa. 40:21-24). Indeed, “you alone are God” (Ps. 86:10). So we gloat not; we despair not; we shrug not. King of kings, we place all our hope and trust in you.

In the name of Christ and for his glory alone,
AMEN.

 

5 Tips I’ve Learned From Great Gift-Givers

This post may be a little untimely. After all, you’re probably not thinking about Christmas shopping for next year.

But maybe you have friend with a birthday coming up and who doesn’t love giving and receiving gifts just because it’s Monday, right?

Or maybe you’re an employer who can’t give your team a raise, but wants to encourage and acknowledge their hard work.

I’m super easy to buy for because so much delights me! Give me a copy of Country Living UK to lose myself in and I’m as happy as if you had given me a car. (I’m really not a car person, so that’s probably not a fair comparison.) But not all people are so easy.

Anyway, whether you’re easy or not, don’t you know people who are just awesome gift-givers? I want to learn from them, so this past Christmas I paid close attention to gifts that particularly delighted me and made some notes.

Here’s are 5 things I came up with:

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