Cooking Dinner

by Tamara Glasner

When I was a newlywed, I could make a boxed cake, and a dinner salad, and could set a mean table. That was it. 

When we got back to our condo from our Hawaiian honeymoon, Lawrence taught me to cook eggs. His mom helped me kick it up a notch with gifts and tutorials from cookbooks. 

My heart longed to host—but the anxiety it produced was a real hindrance to joy in our home. So much so, that at one point Lawrence looked at me and said “I don’t want to have guests over anymore if you get this nervous, its not worth it. Its too hard.”

I didn’t blame my new husband for not wanting anyone to come over. As long as I was cooking, and as long as it was just for me and him, I was fine. However, as soon as you threw another person in the mix, I turned into another person.

That said, I knew God had called us to community in our home. The Bible commands us to open our homes in hospitably which I write about in Creating a Sanctuary; Hosting with Peace. 

Needless to say, the Lord helped me let go of control. Cooking dinner became a natural, “good-enough” (not perfect) event at the end of each day. 

But I still had room for growth. When my kids grew older the opportunity for conflict grew as well. All of a sudden they were wanting to ‘get in there and create.’ That meant messes. That meant doing what they had in their minds, not what was in my mind. I had a choice. I could set strict boundaries and control the environment, or, I could let them explore and learn in the kitchen.

“If you will let them go and enjoy creating in the kitchen, it will bless you and bless them,” The Holy Spirit whispered.

I listened. 

I let go.

It blessed me.

It blessed them.

Today, all grown up, the girls have catered weddings and retreats.  Larry and I are pampered with personal chefs when they are around. I barely have any work to do at all, unless I want to. 

And they have fun. There is peace between them when they cook, not because they are naturally non-confrontational (my girls have no problem voicing their opinions!), but because they have practiced working together for so many years. At this point, they instinctively know how to manage their emotions in the kitchen process, and not create a zone of control and tension. They are way ahead of the game compared to where I was when I was their age.

Ultimately, letting go of being a controller of your kitchen paves the way for peace in your home. Your guests will instinctively know that your home is a stress free zone. That their presence did not make waves or inconvenience you in any way. The freedom for everyone to participate in the meal and the fun of working together creates bonds of friendship and family, and while the meal may not be perfect, it will undoubtedly taste much better and be healthier because it was made in an atmosphere of love and acceptance. These things matter.

Looking back, if I had let the enemy set the tone for the atmosphere of my kitchen, it would have remained my kitchen unto myself, by myself

I would have had the kitchen in my control, but would have lost all this beautiful wonderful connection to my children and others. It would have become a pretty lonely place, instead of the hub of the home, the place where secrets are shared and burdens lifted while dressing a salad or kneeling bread.

To create a place of refuge at the end of the day, make your kitchen a nourishing space physically, a rejuvenating space spiritually, and a memorable space emotionally. This will create a sanctuary, even while you’re cooking dinner.

SERVE SOMEBODY

By Lawrence Glasner

“Well, it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” 

Bob Dylan

A small Los Angeles firm hired me in 1990 after I passed the California Bar Exam. With a growing family to support, I was eager to prove myself, succeed, and generate enough income to buy a house and the stuff of life accompanying it. The firm’s three partners were a good twenty years ahead of me in terms of career and family, each grounded in the Christian faith. I appreciate how extraordinary it was to have these men mentor me looking back after three decades.

They paid me a low salary compared to what I would have earned from the large national firm offered me coming out of law school. But they incentivized me by paying production-based bonuses. The more revenue I generated the more I was paid. Two years into the practice, I was billing significant hours, settling contingency fee cases and developing my own clients. The reward? A generous car allowance, multiple raises, big bonuses, a firm loan for a down payment on our first home, and partnership in three years.

I worked longer and later hours, sometimes spending Saturday at the office, and discovered the law of diminishing returns. My productivity dropped like a rock falling off a cliff after working fifty plus hours a week. I turned counter-productive, losing creativity and the peace of mind to plan and strategize.   

The effect on my wife and kids was the worst part. When I’d get home late, long after my wife and kids finished dinner, the house felt empty. It was difficult to reintegrate into family life and I went days and days spending no meaningful time with them.

But God had mercy on me by having the senior guys keep their eyes on me.

One afternoon, two of them cornered me in my office, shut the door and laid down the expectation. “Don’t hang around late because you think you’re impressing anyone. You’re not. This is not a sprint.  It’s a marathon. There are exceptions, but we expect you to finish your work, organize for the next day and go home and take care of your family.”

I took their advice to heart.

I had friends who worked in large firms who lived at the other end of the spectrum, billing 2,200 to 2,500 hours a year. Late nights and weekends in the office.  Extensive travel. Something gives. There’s always a cost. A marriage. Relationships with kids. Health….

Jesus taught, For your heart will always pursue what you value as your treasure. The eyes of your spirit allow revelation-light to enter your being. If your heart is unclouded, the light floods in. But if your eyes are focused on money, the light cannot penetrate and darkness takes its place. How profound will be the darkness within you if the light of truth cannot enter! (Matthew 6:21-24, The Passion Translation)

Do me a favor.  Get alone, somewhere you can think and pray. Spend a moment and ask yourself: Are money, power, and reputation my core motivators? Ask your wife, a trusted friend the same. If the answer is yes, your direction and motivation oppose the momentum of the Kingdom of God. Worse, you are practicing idolatry and engaged in syncretism. “How can you worship two gods at the same time?  Hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t worship the true God while enslaved to the god of money!” (Matthew 25:23, NKJ)

Success and personal achievement can be marvelous blessings, the sign of God’s favor, and the fruit of hard work and integrity. But unless the love of Christ compels our performance, work is idolatry.  I strive to work at the Lord’s pleasure. I want one thing. I want to hear Him say, Well done good and faithful servant, you were faithful over a few things…(Matthew 8:36, The Passion Translation). I am not always successful, but I am improving year by year.

If you are not driven by a single-minded, wholehearted devotion to serving God at work, it’s time to change direction and repent. Ask God to forgive you for letting him slip into second or third place. Dump the idols of selfish ambition, greed, and pride on the cross and leave them there. Confess to a trusted friend or pastor and ask them to hold you accountable. Reorder your priorities and realign your heart to the people and matters you know matter. You might need to set limits at work or recreational activities distracting you from time with God, family, and committed friends. You might have to change your job or career.  For what use is it to gain all the wealth and power of this world…at the cost of your own life?

I’ve spent years struggling in the gray zone, living with mixed motives, my attention away from God, my wife and kids. We suffered. But the Lord gave me grace to repent and make things right. Not an easy process, but worth it in eternity.

Psalm 19

by Tamara Glasner

May the WORDS of my mouth and the THOUGHTS of my heart BE PLEASING to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:14

Words! 

My words! 

EVERY SINGLE WORD coming out of this mouth? My mouth. Wow.

I am on a quest to make every word count for good. That means I am going to need to speak a lot less. If every word I speak and every single thought I think is going to please the Lord, it’s going to take some effort on my part. 

It means in those hard moments…. I will need to take a moment to be quiet and NOT speak, rather than just blurt out what comes into my mind. It will mean I will need to take a few seconds before responding to ask the Lord for help with WHAT WORDS should be spoken and at WHAT TIME. 

“Joy comes to a man with the reply of his mouth. How good is a word at the right time!”

Proverb 15:23

The wise words, the kind words, the patient and thoughtful words… The words that do not break, but build, that are not hard, but tender, that are not mean, but kind. The words that restore moments, rather than destroy them. 

Words begin with our thoughts. It is no surprise that the psalmist cried out for his thoughts to please God, too. What goes on inside always makes its way out somehow. 

Thoughts! 

We have thousands of thoughts throughout the day and all of them are to please the Lord! Another WOW! 

I believe that we can change the course of our lives by agreeing to think the thoughts the Lord desires. This leaves very little room for thoughts of disgust, criticism, anger, jealousy, judgment, self pity, etc.  

Today, my husband Lawrence and I were having our morning coffee in bed as we do devo’s and worship before getting on with our day, and we were talking about allowing the Lord to surround our thoughts with His love! Our thoughts are important to the Lord. They can lead to goodness or they can bring separation and death. So today I choose to capture my thoughts and ask our wonderful Lord to lead my thoughts to Him in EVERY SINGLE situation. There is NO ROOM for ugly secret thoughts. Time is short. We only have a few years on this earth… We should spend them thinking thoughts permeated in the spirit and truth. From such thoughts come wise words that produce life. 

I’m not there yet… but I am getting better. Love does transform hearts, thoughts, and words. 

LOVE is a crazy, beautiful, powerful, gift from God our Father. He IS LOVE, and it is His desire we love well, everyone around us, with our thoughts and words! This may mean listening more and speaking less and discipling our minds to think the very best!

How else will we as believers in Yeshua make a real impact on the world we live in today? 

We are called to watch what we think and say and be people who others can depend on to not act like the world. Let’s get out there and get loving with our words and with our thoughts! With His help, you can do it, and so can I! 

Mama T

The Great Exchange

By Tamara Glasner

The last few weeks have been extra trying for us here in the US. I have found myself meditating more on the scripture than usual. I have found myself calling out to the Lord to make my heart softer. Larger. Kinder. More alert. More engaged. More sensitive to others. Less distracted. Less foggy. I have asked for tender understanding of my fellow man and a deeper relationship with Jesus. 

The tragic, avoidable violence and loss of innocent life all over our country has placed us in a season of mourning. We live in times when sin is no longer sin. God’s blessings that He has richly poured out on us as a nation have served to steer us away from God rather than draw us to Him in thankfulness and praise. We have forgotten who we are and where we came from. We have lost our compass. In response, I want to be humble and pray for forgiveness. I love this land and her people. This is a precious land to our Father. He loves when we go low and repent so He can bring healing.

I must repent for not speaking up. For not noticing the enemy sliding in through the back door.  For contributing knowingly or unknowingly to my nation’s turning away from God. I must repent for not loving God or others as I should. The tough love that corrects, the gentle love that comforts, and the untiring love that stays when everyone else leaves. 

“And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.” (Daniel 9:4-6)

If the last few years have revealed anything, they have revealed a need for collective repentance, a need for deeper understanding and courage to walk in God’s ways, and a serious need that we are filled with His love for others as never before. More love for Jesus, and more love for others. 

When times of trouble and stress come, a natural human response is to shrink back. Instead, as believers, we have the opportunity to grow and “take up space,” to speak up, to love the unlovable, to demonstrate our value for human life, freedom of religion, and the freedom to raise our children as we see fit in safe, healthy, nurturing, Christ-like environments. 

Don’t shrink back, mamas! Grow, grow, grow, through repentance, through active love, and through courage. Ask the Holy Spirit for His special “miracle-love-grow” to give you the energy and wisdom to run the race He is asking you to run. He is never empty. Jesus runs on full. HIs kingdom is always increasing, even in times of darkness like our present time. He has plenty to pour out. He is the life giver. 

Lead us our dear, precious Lord through the hard times to love You and know You and walk with You so close that we are running on FULL to pour out love on others.  

Jesus is truly powerful to heal and love you so much that you can’t help but love others in a way that transforms lives, families, communities, and ultimately, nations. See if there is any wicked way in you, then repent. Confess your sin to the Lord, turn away from the negative pattern or behavior, and welcome His presence to heal you and align you with His Word and His plan. 

He is so sweet to forgive. He is the good shepherd. He cares for his sheep. He LOVES his sheep. We are the sheep. 

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. (Psalm 32:5)

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)

Much love,

Tamara

A Letter from Iona

When I was in the brink of growing up, and since, I thought ‘well, that’s that’. I had read all the staples of a girl’s childhood, classic and contemporary. Juvenile favourites had been fondly slid back onto a shelf, grown out of but not forgotten, beloved, but with that bittersweet smile that this was an end. I had exhausted all the books I could love like that, books by contemporary authors no longer having that power to speak right to me and touch that part of my heart for the first time again—just the gilded path of classics now. 

Or so I thought. 

You have no idea what Sandpiper has meant to me. 

By the end of Chapter Five, I was smiling so wide it hurt, absolutely delighted in  the purest and strongest sense of the word. And throughout the rest of the book, when I wasn’t laughing, I was tearing  up or crying in several scenes. You know why? Because your story is alive, real in a way I have not come across in so long. 

Piper, Edie, Peter, Horatio… the crew, Piper’s parents, Fredrick… Harry, Katrin, Lorelei, and Grace…even smaller but no less important characters like Rolf and Gertie. They were real people to me–characters you made me care about intently. There was no need to spoon-feed emotions like in so many recent writings, sighing softly in happiness or holding one’s breath just came naturally. As I listened, I was among the world you spun with your pen as it came to life with the narration. 

Your book inspired me to hope more, trust more, and live life even brighter than before. Genuine, real, and insightful, you touched my heart again and again. 

Voyage of the Sandpiper is a voyage of a book. It was a lovingly-crafted, sails-to-the-wind journey over uncharted waters.Watching Piper grow from an unsure, out-of-depth young girl with one foot in the water, to a bold young woman learning to sail the storms of life was an adventure I cherished. Edie’s own ‘growing-up’and setting sail, well, all of the characters paths, decisions and dynamics. (I was memorising quotes from our first session!)

I feel proud to have been a part of this eccentric, loving family…at least for a little while. I can’t wait to peak into more of their lives. 

Sometimes I felt certain lines in the book were spoken straight to me: words I didn’t know I needed to hear, and those C.S. Lewis moments of, “What, you too? I thought no one but myself…

We need more kindred-spirit books in this world. Books you want to quote to yourself and friends. Books that highlight family (and sister!) relationships. Books that inspire and nourish, both creatively and spiritually. I cannot thank you enough for this story.  As a writer I know what it can be like to uncover special words for the eyes of the rest of the world, and so please know, that this story you gave wings has flown right into my heart, and will nestle in many others to come. (And also, from a writer’s point of view, you inspire me in the brave, genuine, real love in your writing.)

When I finished I was speechless, not in lack of words but because I had so many. I cannot pack all your story meant to me in a single email  all my favourite scenes and lines, but I can wrap it up in that classic, ever-used but  ever-genuine 

I love it.

I will rein myself back now and tell of the audio. Can I say, the narrator’s voice and style just grew on me more with every listening! Without ‘too much salt’, the narrator brings Voyage to life, in an exciting audio that’s both engaging and colourful. Malana and I both thought Ellie did an amazing job, with such a wide grasp of accents and ages and a perfect Piper. Also, as a side note, she read theYiddish dialogue so well it sounded natural to my inexperienced ears! 

It was a real blessing from God to be able to dive into the world my mother and sister had known and loved first, before my vision even allowed me to yet read it myself.

Thank you so much.

Excited to take wing with reading Seahawks

Iona B, UK

Coming Out Gold

by Jessica Glasner

My history with fires goes way back.

In 2007, I was one of the Westmont College students trapped in the Murchinson Gymn for 15 hours while firefighters lined the perimeter of the building and the roof with hoses while a savage wildfire swept through our campus.

The fire came so quickly, there was no time to evacuate the campus nestled in the foothills behind Montecito. We could feel its heat from inside the gym. All the girls had to use the men’s locker room because the trees over the women’s restroom were on fire.

We faced death that long night, and when we emerged, the smoke lingered in our skin and hair and nails for weeks.

As the years went on, the fires kept coming. The Gaza War and Operation Pillar of Defense in Grad School in Israel. My father’s triple by-pass and battle with sepsis.

Relationships that didn’t happen. Relationships that did.

And then came 2018. The ultimate trial. In the blink of an eye, the State of California was set ablaze.

The Thomas Fire.

The Carr Fire with its fire-nados, those twisting, terrifying, flame throwing whirlwinds.

The Camp Fire wiped out an entire town.

The Woolsey Fire.

The list goes on and on. It was the deadliest, most destructive wildfire season on record. We self-evacuated three times and watched as our friends and loved ones lost homes and property.

By the time it all ended, I felt like a National Emergency had been called in my soul, not just my state. Nothing felt right. I felt as charred and devastated as the land I love.

Going through the fire is hard. But unlike Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, instead of a quick visit to the fiery furnace, I had moved in. And the fire kept getting hotter, and hotter.

As the heat grew in intensity, doubtful whispers plagued my mind.

Will you still love Me? Will you still trust Me?

There was a lot I had brought with me that was burning up. Misplaced hopes and dreams… ideas about the way my life should look by now… unmet expectations… props I used to make myself feel secure… one by one, up in smoke.

All I had left was Yeshua and myself stripped bare, illuminated in the glow of the flames. Would I make it through? Would I keep the faith? Would I trust him and believe he was right there with me? Would I come out stronger? Would I come out at all?

Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. 

You never saw him, yet you love him. You still don’t see him, yet you trust him – with laughter and singing. 

Because you kept on believing, you’ll get what you’re looking forward to: total salvation. 

The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. 

The Messiah’s Spirit let them in on some of it – that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamored to know who and when. 

All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves – through the Holy Spirit – the Message of those prophecies fulfilled. Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this! 

So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives.

1 Peter 1:7-17 (The Message)

There is a scene in the pilot episode of Little House on the Prairie where a wildfire threatens to burn up the Ingles rough cabin and everything they’ve spent the last year building on the Minnesota Plains. Mary, Laura, and Carrie hide in the cabin while Ma and Pa do everything in their power to put out the flames sweeping up the prairie. They reach the breaking point, that moment where it is obvious their efforts are futile.

What are two people in the face of a raging brush fire? Nothing.

Nothing without God, that is. Caroline Ingles screams knowing the end is near, and then, there is a crack of thunder. A raindrop. Two. A shower. The heavens open and God is merciful. The Ingles are spared.

What’s more, they are stronger than ever.

I saw this scene a couple of days ago. I cried. They made it, but by the grace of God alone–And I made the conclusion that a pioneer only ever makes it by the grace of God alone.

I am pioneering, what exactly, remains to be seen. But I have set out to find a place to plant and to harvest, a place of safety and creativity, a home for new sounds and fresh words. That means I will face fires. By the grace of God, what I build will withstand them, and his rain will preserve what I’ve built that’s worth preserving.

The rain is coming. I smell it in the air, I imagine I feel the drops falling from the sky. I’m going through the fire, and God willing, I’m coming out gold.

Kind of old school… but Beckah’s song is for today. Enjoy.

CHANGE THE TONE OF YOUR HOME: THE POWER OF A THANKFUL HEART

by Tamara Glasner

There are many sounds that come from a home. Sounds of laughter and love. Sounds of joy and peace. Sounds of closeness and trust. Or, alternately, sounds of strife, anger, and hurt. Though you may not know it, you have the power to control what sort of music comes out of your house. And it is as simple as choosing whether to be thankful or not. 

Sharp tones are softened by thankfulness. A thankful heart does not express meanness, criticism, or harshness.

A thankful heart sounds like peace, acceptance, love, and kindness. 

Who wants to live in a home where the tone is peaceful, accepting, loving, and kind? Where you are not constantly attacked without warning. 

I certainly do! And miraculously, living in such a home is 100% possible, if you cultivate a thankful heart.

Steps to thankfulness: 

  • Mindfully trade criticism and quick comebacks for appreciation.
  • Refrain from nitpicking.
  • Remind yourself what you are thankful for daily.
  • Catch yourself when you start to get annoyed with your family and laugh it off. We all have habits that may grate on those we live with. Showing grace and generosity towards our weaknesses and quirks is an open door to enjoying life together.
  • Practice saying nice, encouraging words to everyone in your house, several times a day.
  • Don’t take over, fix, or impose your ideas of what’s right or how to do things. Let the people in your home be free to create and express themselves the way God made them. (I.e., don’t control others.)
  • Train your mind to be thankful above and beyond any other response. 

Lawrence and I have had lots of practice breaking free from destructive patterns of complaining and criticising each other. Little jabs, judgemental looks, and know-it-all postures quickly erode trust and are a sure fire way of having a terrible home life. 

We all are in our homes a lot more now. We are around each other a lot more than we have been used to in the past. If there was ever a time to change the tone of your home, this is it. 

Don’t be afraid to stop the voice that is bringing everyone down. Take it seriously and communicate that criticism and complaining is no longer going to be acceptable at your home. 

Take it from me, filtering your thoughts and words through LOVE will literally deepen your love and affection for your spouse or those you live with, and make the sounds coming out of your walls ones you want to listen to.

Restorative Justice

By Lawrence Glasner

Mirislov Volf, the Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture, wrote “Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans and myself from the community of sinners.”

Man, it’s hard to forgive. I had no grid for it, no impetus. Forgiveness made no sense. Forgiving someone in a position of trust who’d betrayed me over and over seemed unfair, even irrational!

The Prophet Micah tells me what God expects. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. And the Son of David teaches, firsthand, “For if you forgive others their sins, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

So, how to forgive? Really forgive? Volf pulls the curtain back, revealing a liberating true truth:

“The practice of nonviolence requires a belief in divine vengeance. When we know that the torturer will not eternally triumph over the victim, we are free to rediscover that person’s humanity and imitate God’s love for them.” Id.

For us that means to treat others (like everyone) fairly and with dignity, as members of the human community. It means I must never marginalize or exclude another human being because all of us are made in the image of God.

No, I must forgive, recognizing the truth that there is justice from a just God who will ultimately hold our abusers to account and exercise retribution.

My job is to help restore people to God and one another. My job is not to make them suffer for how they’ve hurt us.

Retributive vs. Restorative Justice

Under our Constitution, anyone accused of a crime has the right to due process, a right with its roots in our Judeo-Christian heritage. It is the right to a fair hearing before a neutral tribunal where the accused has an opportunity to be heard, to state his case and present evidence. Without due process we’d live subject to despotic kangaroo courts, punished for thought crimes and independent opinions; or destroy each other in an endless cycle of personal and violent retributive justice known euphemistically to lawyers as self-help remedies.

Left to our own devices, we can go to far extracting a pound of flesh. That’s why retributive justice, i.e., punishment for crimes, for exploiting the poor and vulnerable, should be in the hands of responsible governing authorities whose job is to keep us safe by deterring crime and punishing criminals.

And ultimately, God is the one who, and ultimately who will judge all and sentence us at the end of time. Heaven wrote payback and violent revenge out of our job descriptions. “Vengeance is mine, and retribution…” thus saith the Lord. Deut. 32:35. And Romans 12:19 Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

So, what does the day-to-day justice God calls me to exercise look like? It is a restorative justice. Restorative justice actively seeks orphans, widows, the poor and oppressed aliens, the sick and imprisoned to bring relief and make things right. Restorative justice makes other people’s problems my own. When I bring isolated people into my home, give money to folks in need, visit and encourage prisoners, welcome and honor people from other countries, and bring healing to the sick, and fight for the human rights of the oppressed, I am walking out my God given call to restore justice to the world.

Restorative Justice: The Evidence of Faith

Though not salvation itself, restorative justice is the hard evidence that we are in Christ and our faith is alive. It is the prison minister, the Good Samaritan spending his time and money to save the life of the traveler, Mother Teresa, and the retirees who deliver meals-on-wheels to shut-ins. It is inconvenient. It is God’s work.

When this truth dawned on me as a young adult, I realized my parent’s frail humanity for the first time. My dad, a Depression kid, couldn’t stand against my mother’s wiles with origins in her own abusive upbringing. And in fits and starts, bits and pieces, with counselling and prayer, I started forgiving them. The process took years and they are long gone. But the three of us, by his grace, finished strongly with great mutual respect and love. The bonds we formed as healthier adults were far stronger than the damaged ones of my childhood.

James teaches us, “If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well… For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Let’s get out there and do justice. Let’s make our neighbor’s problems our own. Let’s forgive our parents, siblings, spouses, betrayers and enemies. Let’s be generous and forgive and forgive again and again. Let’s do this recognizing that in Heaven, the folks we’ve forgiven and served will thank us, and that non-repentant bullies, torturers, murderers, racists, rapists and oppressors and their ilk will get their just desserts because God is just.

And vengeance is His.

Quote: Mirislov Volf, Exclusion and Embrace. A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1996

Go Where the Peace Is

By Ali Morris

When I moved back to my hometown of San Diego, CA, in 2017, I had some big, lofty dreams for myself. It wasn’t that they weren’t possible; it was that I had given God a really short timeline for making them happen. I gave Him my timeline. 

In those first few months of living with my parents, I was jobless and mostly friend-less. My siblings, all much older than me, were busy driving kids from school to soccer practice or learning what life with a newborn looked like. About ten minutes down the road, my childhood best friend was doing just the same. 

And so, I woke up early each morning, shoved a laptop in my “work” bag along with a few pens, a notepad, snacks for the day ahead, and off I went. I’d spend a few hours checking email, doing research, designing my website, or deciding if I would take a journalism or children’s lit class when the semester started at the local University.  

As I crossed items off my list, my days began to end earlier and earlier. Where once I woke up eager and excited for the day ahead, proud to finally say I was a writer, even dressing for the part, now I felt lost. I had the uncomfortable sense that I had nothing to do and nowhere to go. Which, in many ways, was true. Instead, I found comfort in the embrace of my newborn nephew while binge-watching the latest mini-series releases on my sister’s maternity leave. 

When I moved south to San Diego, my long-time roommate and dear friend, Cheryl, went north to Los Angeles, California. We both made moves that allowed us to pursue dreams we’d been working toward for a long time. For me, having the support of family and less pressure to hustle allowed me to work on writing. For her, to try her hand at acting meant thrusting herself into one of the weirdest, trendiest, sunniest places in the world. She loved it. 

Alone, we had each other. We talked on the phone a lot back then. Partly because she was trying to process the new friendship she had with her now-husband, but also because we were both trying to figure out what we were doing. No one seemed to understand our lives. We found solace in long calls and trips between our respective cities. 

Despite the newness we were both in, Cheryl never seemed to doubt where God had her. I, on the other hand, had no idea what God was doing.  

I wondered, I debated, I questioned my calling and my purpose. I regretted my decision to move; I was curious if God would ever really do anything of meaning with my life. Was it all for nothing? Was it worth the cost? I struggled to explain what I was doing to anyone else because the reality was, I didn’t know the answer.  

My heart was weary; my soul felt burdened.  

And then, during a conversation with Cheryl, one mostly focused on boys (one in particular) and whatever internal drama I was wrestling with that day, she said, “Go where the peace is.” 

As a peacemaker, that made sense. It cut through the tension I’d been living in and reminded me to check in with my heart. Beyond that, it reminded me to check in with the Lord. When I decided to move back home, it was in a season where I felt more settled, being in tune with the Lord, not influenced by my emotions or circumstances. I had been seeking the Lord’s wisdom in how to move forward, and I felt peace about my decision. 

Months and months later, I was in a very different place. Emotionally I was overwhelmed, spiritually I doubted if God was in it with me, and literally I was living with my parents for the first time since my senior year of high school. Up was down, down was sideways, and my insides were in turmoil. Peace was somewhere buried underneath it all. I’ve learned since, that we don’t often make our best decisions under stress. 

“Our brains are wired to be more reactionary under stress. This can mean that in tough moments we reflexively narrow and simplify our options to all-or-nothing extremes… The minute you find yourself between two extremes, assume that both are limited, step back, and build a broader menu of options. That’s where you’re likely to find your optional choice.”

Ron Carucci, Stress Leads to Bad Decisions. Here’s How to Avoid Them, Harvard Business Review 

And yet here I was, totally stressed, questioning everything, making extremes of my circumstances and what I would do next. Becoming a writer was either working, or it wasn’t. Moving home was either a bad idea or a good idea. There was no in-between, no nuance, no room for God to do what He does best and get creative with my willingness to step out in faith. I had taken it upon myself to write my own story, but God is more in the business of setting our hearts toward Him so that we might experience His majesty. When we do, the story writes itself. 

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:2, BSB 

“Go where the peace is,” Cheryl declared. Or in my case, stay where the peace is

Oof. 

At that moment, I did a gut-check. It brought me back to when I had decided to move back to San Diego after 13 years away, confident that God would be with me in the journey ahead. It’s not that He wouldn’t have been with me if I had moved to LA with Cheryl or stayed exactly where I was. But as I took a step of faith, I knew God was more concerned with my obedience than where I was going.

Those first few months of wandering through San Diego sent me down a spiral. I started with clarity and confidence and ended up covered in brambles with dirt caked up my shins, twigs stuck in my hair, and a work bag shoved somewhere under my desk. My eyes veered off course, off Jesus, leading me through thicket after thicket, a lost sheep with wolves around every corner. 

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home.”

Luke 15:4-6

In the midst of that late-night call, God found me. He picked me up and put me on His shoulders. He brought me home and reminded me to stay where the peace is. Where He is. To trust that He is with me and will guide each step I take, even the ones that feel like a giant leap of faith. There have been a lot of those in the last four years, but mostly a lot of little ones. When you follow Jesus, you will experience a peace that surpasses understanding (Philippians 4:7). Even when life gets shaky and there are wolves nipping at your heels, God promises to never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). We need only to be still and trust that He is God; His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Allison is…
the founder and creative director of Dear and Love. She is a writer and editor specializing in content production for nonprofit organizations and anyone passionate about helping others. Currently Allison is living many lives as a ghostwriter and working on developing better sleep hygiene. Please no dogs. You can read the long-winded version here.

Watching Our Words

When I was younger, my parents would often share the verse, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver”(Proverbs 25:11). And I would nod knowingly because I’d heard it before. They would explain briefly that it meant to be careful with your words—use them well, in right ways, and at the right time. I understood that part, the meaning, but not the illustration used. I always thought that the second part of the verse was simply a pretty image and would, in passing, wonder why that particular image was so important. It is only recently that I began to reconsider that passage and realized that the writer was describing an image made of materials that required great craftsmanship and care. 

Take the silver setting. The melding and molding of silver into a beautiful shape—whether that of a latticed basket, picture, or a setting of filigreed jewelry—would take incredible skill. The golden apples could either depict literal apples that were considered sweet, sweet-smelling, and healing to the person who held it—and would have required great care in the process of cultivation in a dry, semi-arid climate—or it could refer to skillfully-done gold filigreed spheres set in silver, like jewelry. Either way, the portrayed image depicts something that would require patience, care, skill, and attention to design and detail—whether in cultivation or crafting—for days, months, or even years before the items could be combined together into a setting of beauty. The silversmith, farmer (or goldsmith) had to learn how to do the work and then take the time to do the work well. Perhaps, the work was done from a place of solitude, with the intention and expectation that it would be enjoyed by others in the time to come. 

Viewing that verse in this way, leads me to imagine that the work of speaking a word well and in the right season takes preparation, and is not something simply done in a moment. A word rightly spoken means behind-the-scenes work to prepare our tongues to say the right things. It’s easy to think that it is simply about making our words pretty in the moment, but I believe that it also implies undergoing a period of training…willingly. There is a carefulness to saying meaningful, powerful, life-altering words at the right time. 

Do we want to become careful with our words, so that we know how to speak the right words at the right time? How do we make our words “fitly spoken”? There is a verse in the book of Isaiah that I think speaks clearly to this process and how we can be people that are careful with our words and that speak right words to others. Isaiah 50:4 (NASB) reads: 

“The Lord has given me the tongue of disciples, 

So that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word

He awakens Me morning by morning

He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.”

When I first read this verse, I thought “Ok, Isaiah is talking about himself and his role as a prophet. Makes sense.” Then, as I began to study it, I realized that the speaker was acting in a servant-like role. I felt myself looking at the text and asking, like the eunuch from Ethiopia in Acts 8:34 who, reading from another Servant song in Isaiah 53, asks, “Was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?”

I believe the passage most clearly relates to the “Servant of the Lord” who is referred to in several passages throughout the book of Isaiah. For example, in Isaiah 42, the Servant of the Lord bears the Spirit of God and brings justice to the nations. Isaiah 50:4, and the few verses that follow, is distinctly separated from the verses before it, such that some of our English translations demarcate it with a subtitle that indicates that the Servant is speaking. 

The Servant describes himself as having a tongue like that of a disciple—like one who has taken the time to listen, to sit at the feet of a teacher and gain wisdom. It describes a level of deference, a willingness to be trained in how to speak, to be trained as one who is taught—in order to become a teacher. It’s not a robotic repetition of something, but a posture of discipline from which a disciple speaks. A disciple has learned how to speak and because he has learned how to speak, he knows what words to say…and when to say them. He therefore has the ability to sustain a weary person (affirm or enable that person to keep going) with a word. Wow. 

The second part of that verse describes a process. In the mornings, the Servant sat before God (Mark 1:35) and then He would hear what God was saying and speak what God would say (John 7:16). We see the examples of this in the Gospels, and it becomes so easy for us to relegate this again simply to the role and character of Jesus in the earth. Yes, He demonstrated this so powerfully in His earthly ministry, and we can’t do it how He did, but we are called to imitate Him. In the servant song itself, the Servant describes His tongue as like that of a disciple. I read what follows, then, as a characteristic that all disciples should have. 

Whether someone is a disciple of Christ or not, we all as people learn how and what to speak from what we observe, listen to, and “awaken our ears” to. We have an opportunity for that to be from a place of wisdom.  

So, how do we apply this? Seeking God in the morning, we can pray that He opens our eyes to see others (those weary and suffering) with compassion and that He stirs our hearts with a noble, pleasant theme so we can speak words of life to those that need it (Psalm 45:1). Secondly, we can ask God to open our ears to hear His heart and His words for the people that we will speak to or encounter that day—and each day. Lastly, we can ask God to train us to teach others with our words, to give “faithful instruction” (Proverbs 31:26), because “there is [so much] healing in the words of the wise” (Proverbs 12:18).

The world is weary. So many people need words from those who have learned how to use words in a way that bring life, restoration, and empowerment. Put simply: “Anxiety weighs down the human heart, but a good (encouraging) word cheers it up.” (Proverbs 12:25). We are reminded to give a good word to build others up according to the need of the moment, so that it will benefit those that listen (Ephesians 4:29). Fitly spoken words. 

We are justified by our words; do we speak in a way that reflects our discipleship? We speak from what’s in our hearts; have our hearts been awakened with compassion? Have we learned to curb ‘empty’ words? It is not always easy. The Servant passage in Isaiah 50 later describes the scorn and rejection that He faced. But we have beautiful promises tied to our words written in the scriptures themselves, that show how we overcome. 

I’m reminded also of a poem by the late W.S. Merwin called “Language.” In the poem, he describes the words that we no longer say and the ones we’ll never say again and how “We need them./ Like the back of the picture.” In one interpretation of this (though it may not be his), the words we choose not to say remind us of where we’ve been, how we’ve grown, changed, and, hopefully, become better stewards of our words. In his poem, the words we never use again stand ready to bear witness (to that transformation), “trembling already for the day of witness.” 

Another beautiful image.

-Rebekah Lynn