Love Loves Unity

@root2branches

My whole life, it has made me sad to observe us all as a people (the U.S.), because we have a bad habit of choosing more reasons to divide thand we do to unite. After last-year’s debacle, it occurred to me that the issues we’ve been facing are largely due to a lack of love.

As Christians, we have 2 jobs: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. But this love is not according to how we think it should be, but by the example shown to us by Jesus. While it may have seemed that He was just doing His own thing, Jesus’ every word and deed were trainings that He passed on to the 12 disciples who He sent out to “tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives” (Pastor Jason Schifo) around the world, starting on their own home turf.

It’s written this way in Matthew 10:7-8 (NLT): Jesus told the disciples to…

Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. GIVE AS FREELY AS YOU HAVE RECEIVED!

As freely as we have received our salvation by grace (for God so loved the world, right?), we are being sent out to give the same love to the world by the same grace that has saved us. We are to be tenderly caring for the bruised and hurt lives which, I’d wager, sums up the entirety of the planet! This tender care will help to heal the sick emotions, raise dead hearts, and replace the rampant evil of this world with God’s goodness. This tender care is simply love.

LOVE

If we ask the internet, we can find anywhere from 4 to 8 different types of love, depending on who’s answering. Today, I only want to focus on one type – the unconditional, Godly type of love – Agape.

Agape is a love that loves without changing or getting frustrated – it never runs out of love. It gives of itself without demanding or expecting anything in return. It is a love so enormous that it can be given to the unkind, the unpleasant, and even the unlovable. It is a love that loves even when it is rejected or neglected. This love gives and loves just because it wants to. The most important detail about this love is that it cannot and will never fail.

The love God asks of us has nothing to do with how we feel, but has everything to do with what we say and do…and how we execute both. True love is always demonstrated by action, and is thus a verb. In fact, how much we love God is, quite accurately, measured by how well we treat people. By this scale, love is the only circumstance under which any group of people should EVER be lumped together. But, in our selective love (measured by our feelings), we are missing our target which is every person we will ever meet. We are often more concerned with whether or not someone deserves our love, and that is a question that we were never supposed to ask.

GRACE

In a commentary on Ephesians 4-7 from knowing-jesus.com, I’ve summarized the following:

The point of grace is NOT giving people what they deserve. For example: instead of killing us all off because of our sin, God showed us grace by giving us a mediator and redeemer through His word which is Jesus Christ. This is our best example of grace.

The most important component of love is forgivenessEach of us, having been saved by grace, have a personal responsibility to be gracious – that is, our behavior should always be that which honors God and our positions as ambassadors of the new covenant who is…you guessed it…Jesus.

By grace, we are to demonstrate tolerance and humility of mind to one another and to do so in Godly love. We are to make allowances for each other’s short-comings and to be diligent to uphold the unity of the Spirit as shown to us by Jesus in His life, death, and resurrection.

We are to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things (2 Corinthians 13:7) for Christ’s sake. And by God’s grace, we are to bind our hearts together in love for the honor and glory of God. To be clear, our brothers and sisters in Christ are not the only ones we are to bear in love. Otherwise, God would have given us explicit instructions on just who to exclude.

Grace must be received in humility, carried securely, and shared liberally…without reservation.

UNITY

Love and grace: these two things create the vehicle that leads us to forgiveness, and forgiveness is the gas in the engine that will drive us straight into unity.

You see, before there can be any unity, there must first be reconciliation. To do that, love and grace must be applied with a very heavy hand. This reconciliation is so important to our healing as a nation because we can only really succeed together – united, if you will.

Unity is a thing that should happen because of diversity, not in spite of it. Our differences play a large part in what makes this life worth living. Our strengths are supposed to cover the weaknesses of others, not point them out or make weapons of them to validate our personal perspectives.

Forgiveness – the asking of and giving of forgiveness is going to have more effect than any policy change or new law. We are already under the new law, right – the new covenant fulfilled by Jesus’ love for us…?

If we are obeying the commandments to love God and to love our neighbors, we will become less concerned with another person’s religion, political affiliation, lifestyle choice, or any other easy surface target to, instead, become more mindful of the life struggles we all must endure (differently, of course) and allow ourselves to simply love people right where they are and let God handle the rest.

The way of this unity is to realize the value of every human life – to acknowledge that if God had no purpose for a person, He would not have bothered to create them. Our failures to see, acknowledge, and respect the value in others we don’t agree with, understand, or like actually hinders the building of great and marvelous things that we could all be benefitting from. We should all be setting places at our tables for these values.

LOVE + GRACE = UNITY

My dears, there is a difference between feeling welcome and being made to feel as if you are at home. It is the extension of both love and grace that creates this distinction.

My exhortation to us all is that we ask ourselves in every encounter (good, bad, uncomfortable…hostile even), “Am I just letting this person in my space, or am I offering them a seat at my table?” To get to this question, we might first ask, “Am I just pandering to this person with lip service, or is my heart breaking for them?”

Every person we encounter – no matter how new, old, endearing, or irritating the relationship – is precious cargo. I’m sure we could all easily think of people who might be the exception, but Jesus never thought so, and I can prove it. John 1 says that in the beginning was the Word (Jesus is the Word), and goes on to say that nothing that was made was made without Him. This includes the human being – you, your family members, friends, acquaintances…enemies…

Being as God creates nothing without a purpose, let me repeat this: if the people we disagree with, don’t like, or are disgusted by had no value in the eyes and kingdom of God, they simply would not exist.

As we all do, in fact, exist, we have to acknowledge that intelligent and intentional design in all of us – that we each consist of heart, mind, body, and spirit. More importantly, each of those pieces are so easily broken. So, as careful as we would like others to handle us when we are not at our best, we – as ambassadors of Christ – owe that same care to the world.

There is no other way to care for this bruised and hurting world than to love it with all our hearts, all our minds, all our strengths, and with all our unified might. We don’t have to make it fancy, and we don’t need a global stage. All we need is to be willing to speak, smile, know, and reach for those right here in our own backyards.God bless you, and may His love lead you to those in need of the grace we all so desperately desire. This love will be hard, but it will be worth it.

Overwhelmed For What?

The planner.

The planner with all the meetings, appointments, work hours, to- do lists, and an insane amount of sticky notes to plug any holes left in the day.

People, what are we doing?

Why are we doing all of this? Are we okay?!

We’ve got all manner of supermom and superdad things to do that MUST be done in order for us to feel that our day has been fruitful. At least this is what we are learning from our society.

As a budding missionary who needs a part-time job to help sustain my family, I have recently stepped back and taken a good look at what an average day looks like for me. What I see is an impending train wreck if I don’t learn the difference between productivity and busyness. You see, work is honorable and fulfilling, but toil is absolute drudgery, and that is how life feels when it is too cluttered and overwhelming.

So, what to do? Cry, complain, embrace the mania, or just lie down in defeat? I’d rather not (although there have been tears…lots of tears).

I am, however, a huge fan of dealing with problems rather than hiding from them. Full disclosure: I have been known to run at break-neck speed only to find myself right back where I started just to end up doing what I should have done in the first place which was to deal with it so it wouldn’t be a thorn in my side anymore.

5 Steps Through a Cluttered Life

Accept that You cannot do Everything Yourself.

Life has enough problems on its own without our behaving as though we have control over every aspect of life. We simply don’t. We only have control over our decisions, and the rest is a marble run. The question I am learning to ask is this: Why would I rob God of His willingness to do my heavy lifting if I just trust and obey Him? Just who do I think I am here? The verse doesn’t simply say that I can do all things. It says the I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phillipians 4:13). Running on my own strength and counting on my own intelligence is a master plan for the loss of my own mind. And like I said, I’d rather not, thank you.

Is it Really a Priority?

Not everything is an emergency. If we look at the people around us who seem to have it all together at all times, it can be very easy for us to feel the apprehension that comes with the feeling of not measuring up. So, we try to be super heroes in ways that are not fitting to our lifestyles. This needs to stop. Your life is your life, and the things that are important to others don’t have to be important to you. We all have needs, but why are we trying to satisfy them all at once like life is some kind of get ‘er done Olympics? As a wise woman once pointed out to me, it is highly probable that the Proverbs 31 woman hardly did ALL of those things at once. She prioritized!

Are you asking yourself what’s important to you? What comes first, the job or the family? Do you need to focus on your spiritual health or your physical health? Only you can answer those questions for the life God has given you. Whatever the answer, you can trust God to fulfill His promises no matter how difficult the journey.

What Steps are Taken from One Thing to the Next?

Everything is a process. Even something as simple as making our morning brew requires a process: add water, add grounds (or pod), grab mug and fixins (if you like), wait, pour, sip! That’s an entire process. Imagine what would be in your mug without the water or the mug itself. No? Yeah, I don’t want to imagine it either. Coffee is fantastic and the process of it becoming my go-juice is almost as good as the drink itself.

That’s why it is so important to pay attention to the details of making something happen. The only thing ever created out of nothing was the Heavens and the Earth, and even they came with a plan and happened in a particular order (Genesis 1-2). So, whatever items remain on your to-do list, be sure to ask yourself what it will take to actually do them.

Check Your Baggage

Oh, the baggage of life! And it’s not even ordinary baggage when we are overwhelmed. Somewhere in the forest of lists is that all-important list of things we wanted to do, started, but never finished. When we look at them from an organizing perspective, do we even need to do these things if it has been 5 years since we started…and stopped? Even if we still what to do it, if we know we cannot right now, why aren’t we tucking it away for such a time as we are able or until God provides? On the journey of our lives, unnecessary baggage causes much stumbling and falling. Let it go…for now or all together.

If it is yours to have or do, God is better than free 2-day shipping. It will be exactly what you need and exactly when you need it.

Get Motivated

How, you ask?

Answer: I have no idea!

I do know this: not all things require the same motivations. Sometimes we can be emotionally motivated, and at other times, we can be motivated by different things like money, survival, passions, or any other reason we might have for making our decisions. The key is in your knowing why you want or need to do anything on a daily basis. Disclaimer: if you don’t know why you are doing something, it might need to be re-evaluated as to whether or not it even belongs in your brain. When you know why you are doing something and that reason really matters to you, you have the perfect recipe for motivation.

If you need to address your physical health, why is it important to do it right now? Do you just not want to die, or do you just want to look better in those jeans?

If you want to go for that promotion, why do you want it? Do you simply want to make more money? Are you chasing a title, or are you answering a calling?

If your bed needs to be made, why do you bother making it (yes, even the little things have reasons)? Are you OCD, or is this just what you’ve always done? Is it as simple as you just want a tidy home?

Whatever you need or want to do, let your reasons be honorable ones that edify you, edify others, and edify God.

Being overwhelmed is a big part of the grey space we can so easily find ourselves in. Having so many things undone or waiting to be done can fill us with the kind of anxiety that takes our attention away from God and makes us start trying to tackle our mountains on our own – with no power, no guidance, and no protection. Is that really how we want to live?

My dears, not every priority is yours. Not everything that is yours is a priority. Look closely and decide what has to happen right now and what really can wait until tomorrow. As my kids seem to think, just because it’s on your plate, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it.

Be blessed

New Year, Better Love

My dears,

It’s pretty easy to find an image, article, or witty meme to express just how heinous this year, the now undoubtedly historic 2020, has been. A good writer would provide a good recap here, make a few tasteful jokes about it all, relate a little bit, then make a perfect-10 landing with a very wordy form of we’re all in this together. But, I’m not a good writer. I’m a storyteller.

While we have been focused on our woes, God has been topping off cups that have been long overdue for hefty refills. In our autonomy and sentience, we make it easy to forget about the lilies of the field – the needs and desires being fulfilled in spite of the rat race we insist on running, desperately toiling to satisfy ourselves in business, home, and community when satisfaction is not, has never been, nor will it ever be our job. That’s God’s business – providing for, guiding, and thoroughly loving His creations. And so, it was. While we were scrambling trying to figure out how to adapt to the good, bad, ugly, and wild aspects of this year, God seemed to up His relationship game, and if we are paying attention, we will notice the overflowing cups of love and grace, literally, all over the place.   

Psalm 145:16 boasts that God opens His hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing. No exceptions are listed.

So, when the Puckett household had a rather messy entanglement with the Coronavirus, the last thing expected was the destruction of a friendship over ethics. The fears surrounding this virus (and other things, of course) have brought out some very interesting character details in people we thought we knew, and I have to be honest when I say that I wasn’t even ready for some of my own, the worst of which was completely cutting off someone who loved me because I felt like my boundaries were disrespected. It was rude, and it hurt her badly. To even greater shame, this went on for several weeks with God disturbing me about it before I decided to gather my spine and call in an attempt to be understood and validated (Really, Adi?).

I didn’t even call this person to better understand her, and it’s a little sickening thinking about that detail as I’m writing this. I called her with my desire to be justified in my ugly behavior. Yuck!

This poor woman’s heart poured out over the phone in the form of tears and a desperation for us to not lose one another. I have to praise God for her tears in spite of the pain she was experiencing, because it pierced my heart, and suddenly, the desire to be understood disappeared in the shadow of a greater desire for my friend to not be hurting. Hearing her apologizing for something she was completely unaware of was almost too much because that feeling is an all too familiar one. So, I made myself listen to that suffering, watch the real-life train wreck my hands caused, and I then wished silently that I could take her place. Her broken heart broke my heart and God slipped into that crack and immediately aligned my desire with His own desire which was to rightly love my friend. Period.

This is the moment in which God revealed that the real problem was that in the years we have known each other, our relationship was simply not close enough for us to have avoided the errors that had been made. When I spoke this, she quickly admitted to not understanding how vastly different we are, and in that lack of awareness, decisions were made that had hurt me in ways she never would have expected. And in truth, her decisions had been quite harmless, but I had allowed my programmed defense mechanisms to go before me instead of going in heart first. My dears, that is bad business all day long.

As we reached this clearing in the forest of malcontent, we determined to work harder toward a healthier friendship with one another, blessed each other, and called it a night. Of course, like usual, as I drifted off to sleep, God’s word fell into my spirit:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed“.

James 5:16

I called her again the next day with a suggestion; that we enter into a private Bible study together. Lunch and Jesus, right?! I mean, what better way to really get to know someone – to establish a true, concrete relationship with one another – than to do so through the eyes and ears of God? In response to the suggestion, my dear friend was overjoyed and we both committed right away, kicking off the study that very week. Since then, every Wednesday with the exception of Christmas Eve, we have met in my kitchen over lunch with our Bibles, books, tears, laughter, struggles, desires, encouragements, and loving chastisements.

The things we have learned about each other could not have come about any other way than through the prism of God’s enduring love and desire that we have good relationships on this earth with one another. I only thought I loved her before, but now I just adore her and never want there to be a time when I can’t call her up to be goofy or bawl my eyes over silly human stuff. And I never again want her to feel like my love for her is conditional. The very idea that I did that to her still makes me cry, and I don’t want God to ever let me forget the view of her from His heart. His commandments for us to love Him and to love one another are not mere suggestions. They are the two most important ingredients to our abilities to persevere through this life with hope, grace, and unity – not just for our own sake, but for that of others and Jesus Christ.

I recall this story in this year of my life because it was full of lessons that must be shared. I need to share that God is bigger than politics, viruses, skin color, upbringing, socioeconomic status, or any other petty thing we could ever cook up to separate ourselves from one another out of fear, personal convictions, or whatever excuse we come up when we fail to love rightly. And let there be no doubt: Next to the greatness of God, every bit of the nastiness within our human condition is petty, and pettiness is not in the makeup of an ambassador of Christ – or simply a decent adult human being, for that matter.

So, as we careen, at break-neck speed, into 2021, I would like to encourage all of us to love harder than we ever have before – to rebuke pettiness in the name of Jesus so that in every interaction with those in our lives, we choose love EVERY time without exception. On my own mission to love rightly, I resolve never to consider myself infallible as if by virtue of this mission I am above anyone else in my treading of the same ground as everyone else, but to instead strive every day to check my gut (the goofy defense mechanisms I’ve had to live on but no longer need…get it?) against the word of God, and only that. I resolve to listen better, to look deeper, and to hold tighter to Jesus so that I don’t get lost in my own garbage. My dears, I desire the same things for you.

May your new year be full of lessons from the Lord in all things love, in all things grace, and in all things unified for the sake of Him who loves us from the depths of the earth to the limitless expanse of the Heavens! May your choice be joy in all circumstances, no matter how bad, because the source of that joy is Jesus, for Wonderful is His name!! I pray that the Lord enriches our relationships with Him and with others no matter how much it seems the world is burning down around our ears. I pray that He gives us resolutions of purpose, substance, and endurance so that our next steps forward will leave imprints of triumph, victory, and everlasting hope. Amen!

Here’s to a willfully happy and graciously blessed 2021. God bless you all.

Graciously yours,

Adi

As Your World Spins

Are you stuck?

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Ephesians 3: 20-21

Are you feeling like everything in your life is spinning all around you, and it’s all going so fast that you can’t reach out and control not one single element of it all? I’m telling you: I get it.

Seasons of life can be so unpredictable and so much of it really is out of our control. That can be such a horrible feeling when we know how intelligent, creative, strong, and resilient we are. It begs the following questions: If I’m so awesome, why are these things so hard to control? Why am I so depressed? Why is my anxiety constantly getting the better of me? Why aren’t my children listening? Why is my spouse grating my nerves so badly? Where did I put my motivation, and what do I do with it when I find it? WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON?!

Life changes can increase the intensity of these questions, and the bigger the change, the faster the spin seems to be.

My 19-year old daughter has finally left the nest to start her own journey through life – without me! While I can’t say that it was too soon (it was quite overdue, actually), the void she left in my heart has been emptier than her bedroom was before it was transformed into the office I’m sitting in right now. Of course, I know it’s time for her to fly, and I also know I have to let her. We are close, though, and not hearing her sing through the house every day is almost more than I can stand some days. In this transition of life, all other parts of it just began to spin.

I no longer knew what to do next. I had no idea just how much of my mind and heart my child occupied while under the roof with me. The talks, the laughter, the arguments, the snacks we shared while everyone else was asleep, the borrowing of make-up or nail polishes, the tears, the joy, the struggles – all gone. What was I supposed to do to fill all the space these things occupied? Who is going to catch her if she falls too hard? Who is going to help her avoid so much of the pain and uncertainty of this life? Who is going to mother-hen my child?

These questions led to God using book shelves to bring it all back into perspective.

My daughter and I are both avid readers, and while our tastes in literature differ, there is a little bit of crossover. While helping her clean the books out of her room, I found some titles she no longer wanted but was happy to let me add to my own living room library. Of course, this meant that I would have to reorganize the whole thing since my OCD simply wouldn’t let me just add them to the shelves and call it a day. As I was finishing up, my husband walked through the room, and I asked him, “What do you think?”

“About what?” he asked. “I just reorganized all the books and décor on all of these shelves,” I replied in shock that he didn’t notice a difference at all. “What difference does it really make?” he asked. “It’s not like we can actually move the furniture around or anything. The layout of this house is crazy, so we’re stuck with everything the way it is – FOREVER!” Now, my first thought was not very kind at all, but on the heels of this unpleasant thought, I heard a whisper: “Bloom where you’re planted.”

While I have this statement on a cute coffee cup, it was suddenly not cute or inspirational. It was absolute truth! So what if we were silly enough to buy a ginormous sectional sofa that can only go in the room one way? So what if those book shelves can only be where they are until we get rid of them or change houses? So what? Why can’t I change what I CAN change? Why be so focused on the weight and magnitude of the depressing big picture when I can find joy in the creativity God gave me and let Him handle the things that are completely out of my control – things like my precious adult daughter whom I love with my whole being.

No, I can’t move the sofa, the book shelves, or the television. I can put all my books in order by subject matter and go even further by making sure they are in alphabetical order. I can also rearrange the video game consoles and put the pictures of my and my husband’s parents in a new location that will better showcase their beauty. To put the icing on the cake, pieces of my daughter’s artwork have found new homes along these reordered shelves.

In my worry and anxiety, thinking I wouldn’t be able to pass by my child’s room without bursting into tears, my spirit was quieted by a promise that has allowed me to sleep soundly ever since.

“She’s mine now,” whispered the Lord to my heart. He reminded me of the promises He has already made good on in this life – how time and time again, He has made a way when I didn’t see one. As He has been a light in my darkness, He promises to do the same for my sweet girl.

So, don’t worry. If your world is spinning, just reach out. God will put the thing in your hand that you need to do next, however small or mundane. When that happens, simply do it. You will be in awe of how He will start settling one thing after the other, calming the storm as only He can. You DO NOT have to fix everything, and there are so many things in this life that you’re not even supposed to control. So, open your hand and let God give you the little things you can control while He does the heavy lifting. He is strong. He is mighty. And not only is He able; He is also willing to do above and beyond all we could ever ask or think.

Now, the hard times before no longer matter. Angry words and dramatic fall-outs are distant memories as I simply look forward to the relationship I will have with this grown woman who I get the honor of calling my daughter. This coming weekend, my child will be cooking me a whole meal from her own kitchen for the first time in her life, and while simple and mundane, this is her next thing, and I could not be more proud.

Intentionally Planted

|Every Thing for a Purpose and a Purpose for Every Thing|

It’s such a good thing that labels come on the items and products we buy. We know what’s in a can of peaches because it says so on the label. Even if it hasn’t bloomed yet, we know what kind of trees we’re about to spruce our yards up with because of the label hanging from the young branch. If only we were born with such labels. I consider it an unfortunate fortune that we do not. 


In a conversation with my daughter recently, we discussed talents and patterns of behavior we share, how differently they manifest, and their purposes. I dream a lot! They are very vivid, and I always believe that dreams are the way God chooses to talk to me because while I’m sleeping is the only time I’m guaranteed not to have anything to say in response. I would say the same for my chatty daughter as well as she is also a dreamer. 

In our discussion, I shared that my dad also dreams. To this, my daughter says, “Oh, so that’s why God made him your dad; so you would have the dreams and use them for God”. It was stated very casually, but it wasn’t received that way. Suddenly, I could see a well-known piece of scripture in active parts. 

God’s word says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). As a person raised without her mother and father, it has been easier to see them both through hurt and abandoned eyes. I cannot, however, ignore the fact that God wastes nothing! For all their wrongs as parents, that’s not all they are. My dad is a very intelligent man, full of fantastic ideas, and insanely hilarious. My mother is musically gifted, and even her speaking voice commands attention. On her best day, she is gentle of heart and quite charming. Many of the qualities listed have been gifted to me and inherited by my daughter, seemingly by simple genetics. God is not simple in His intentions, though. Everything He does has a purpose. 


In spite of all the things that can disrupt or destroy a parent/child relationship, nothing stands in the way of God accomplishing His will. As believers, we do not have to be the sum of our painful experiences. If we believe in the grace, mercy, and sovereignty of God, then we also have the luxury of believing that He indeed has plans for us (Jeremiah 29:11) and that He is faithful to make them happen (Philippians 1:6). Believing these truths is what makes it safe for us to accept the good in the midst of the bad. 

Unfortunate circumstances will always exist, but how fortunate are we that we have a Father who looks ahead of us and paves our way through this life, letting nothing go to waste…not even our suffering. For in our suffering, we are being conditioned to use the good things given to us with responsibility. We get to learn how to use our voices, hands, and even our dreams by the words and the might of the Master who created us. 

We are not born with labels because we are not yet complete until God has completed His work in us. The most beautiful part is that His work in us began before we were ever born. To that, I am not only grateful to God for being so intentional in His design of me. I am also compelled to say, “Thanks, Ma and Dad…just as you are”. 


In text references: 

Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV) “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” 

Philippians 1:6 (NKJV) “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”

When My Kid Sees A Cop

I would hazard a guess that we all get a little sweaty in the pits when we see flashing lights in our rearview. It’s just our gut reaction to the possibility of getting a hefty ticket or maybe something worse, depending on the circumstances. As adults, we have so much to consider when encountering law enforcement, but children don’t have bills, vehicles, or homes. So, why are they having gut reactions to the sight of police lights or uniforms?


I call my step kids ‘bonus kids’. It took a while, but they have done wonderful jobs of accepting me in their lives, and they have learned to trust me with some of the goings on of their minds. In fact, some things just fall right out of their brains. While taking them to school one day, we passed a police officer who had a car pulled over, and the oldest, a 13-year old girl, blurted out, “I hate cops!” This simple statement was said with such venom that one would assume she has already had some kind of horrible experience with law enforcement that had left a bad scar on her heart. She hadn’t, of course. She is a high-achieving student who never lets herself slack in her school work, hardly ever has to be made to do her chores, and chooses to be respectful even if she’s mad as a hornet. Not once, in her young life, has she placed herself in a position to have anything to do with harsh disciplinary action.


When I asked her why she hated cops so much, she said it was because they [cops] are always just messing with people, and that they [cops] seem to only pull over or arrest black people. The best I could say in the moment was that part of the job of law enforcement was to interfere with any crime committed by people of any color, but I did understand if it seemed to her that black people suffered at the hands of the police more often than white people in her world. It did, however, feel important to point out the fact that from the moment a police officer leaves his home wearing his uniform, he has a target on his back. It is simply the nature of his job. Under that uniform, though, he’s just a guy who eats, sleeps, and lives a life just like the rest of us. Someone loves him. Someone wants him home safe. I suggested she try to look at him as just a man doing his job. It sounded like sound advice, but I didn’t know if it was clear enough for her particular brand of upbringing. She nodded, and I could tell that she understood what I meant, but there didn’t seem to be any real acceptance. I can’t say that I blame her.


Her mentality regarding law enforcement comes from the unfortunate circumstances of her having to go from our home to that of her mother on a regular basis…from a suburban conservative home to a liberal inner-city one. Because of the information our kids are exposed to on social media, it’s really hard for them to know what to believe. Throw in the concrete beliefs and passionate opinions of their parents, and these poor kids form their own version of what they think the truth is even if the words aren’t their own. Obviously, the opinions of her inner-city community have more weight because it looks like her and speaks her language, whereas the community surrounding our home is nothing like her. It makes sense that she would be confused and unconvinced by someone who does not live where she lives 50 percent of her time.

She needed a better answer…an answer that could meet her on her level and give her a real-world perspective. No matter what I thought of, it never seemed enough. So, when a police officer found himself in my workspace in a coffee shop, I didn’t hesitate to ask him the question that had plagued me ever since that interesting trip to school. After introductions and a little small talk, I asked him what he would like for our children to know about his life as a police officer in the current state of our nation. His response was so good.


He just wants our children to know that, outside of his choice to be a police officer, he lives a normal life. He breathes oxygen, cuts the grass and (I have to quote this) “picks up dog poop” like most other homeowners with a family and pets. He made no mention of the details of his job. He talked about himself as just a man in a uniform. He also mentioned that when his shifts are over, he just wants to go home. I imagine that he wishes everyone he had to pull over or arrest knew these things about him…that he is just a man who happens to work as a police officer. I say this because he freely acknowledged that an irresponsible driver or a suspect wants to be known as just a person as well…a person who made a bad (or even horrible) decision, but a person nonetheless. The empathy required to acknowledge something like that was refreshing coming from a person who, on sight, would strike fear in the heart of a 13-year old black honor student who has been taught to fear him.

Empathy is supposed to create new eyes that see people and their circumstances more clearly. These new eyes should be capable of looking beneath surfaces and seeking the whole picture. These new eyes are low in cost and only require caring enough to have conversations that matter…to listen for the purpose of understanding and manage our encounters with one another accordingly, even in the face of danger. The pay off is often much bigger. Seeing the faint smile on the face of my bonus kid while sharing this story was well worth what had to have been no more than a 5-minute conversation. I do not want her to be afraid, and if I can alleviate her fear in the slightest, I will do so. In fact, I will also do what I have to do to help her see the whole world…not just opinionated pieces of it.


That’s the twist here: the officer and the suspect both have families. They both want to be treated like human beings, regardless of which side of the line they are on. Somewhere in the clouds of blue cries for order and black cries for justice, we have lost sight of these facts.

Now, I do not know what kind of police officer this man is, but I do know his name. I also know that he loves coffee and hates picking up dog poop. In the interest of teaching a child how to really see people and have compassion, that’s a perfect place to start.

Thanks, Officer!

It’s OK to be a Chicken

4 Steps to Pushing Through Fear

Fear is the thief of growth and change that we cannot afford to feed. We can’t kill it, but we can put it so far in the background that it loses its power and ill-gotten authority over us.

An entire life can be consumed by fear in ways that stops all growth, all change and all good things. Sure, every doggie gets a bone every once in a while, but fear cancels the option for a daily influx of good, meaty and tasty bones. Some of us are afraid of failure. Some of us are afraid of success. Some of us are afraid of the dark. Some of us are afraid of the light. Whatever our fears, they gain more power every time we choose not to face and make war with them.

It’s OK if you’re a chicken. What’s not OK is failing to live it in spite of the fear. It is a normal thing to be afraid of the unknown or to be wary of a situation, but there is a great benefit to trying anyway because the only thing that can fail is a try. So, when we don’t bother trying because we’re afraid of failing, we cheat ourselves out of discovering new areas of ourselves and those around us, taking new opportunities, or gaining new life and work skills. Also, in a very twisted way, we can even cheat ourselves out of love and care because we are too afraid to be vulnerable. Lastly, and maybe the worst thing, we cheat ourselves out of functioning in our purpose even if we don’t know what that is yet. We will never find it if we’re always afraid to walk outside and look for it.

So here are a few ways to handle the thief blocking the entrance to your life:

Name it

If we want to conquer our fears, we need to first identify them one at a time. Whether it’s a fear of heights or a fear of loneliness, we have to call it by its name if we ever hope to make it obey us. When a boss, leader or authority figure wants something, they don’t just blurt out a need. They go to their subordinate and say things like, “Hey Dave, I need you to take care of this.” or “Hey Kate, do you have this done?” We identify the person and then we state our request. When you approach your fear and call it by name, it becomes more vulnerable to you because now you know its name. An even clearer example may be calling our poor children by their entire government name when they’re in trouble. When they hear their whole name, they know that mom or dad is serious, and that there will be no room for disobedience.

Define it

Knowing our fears and knowing why we are afraid are often two different things. In order to better instruct it, we have to figure out why that thing bothers, frustrates and frightens us so much. If you have a fear of traveling, why? Are you afraid of crashing? Are you afraid to be too far away from your home? Are you afraid of traffic or crowds? For these or any other reasons, why do these reasons exist? Take a look back. Really dig deep and look for the root of that fear of traveling. When you find it and understand why, you’ll be able to reconcile that root with what is going on now.

Run and Tell it

If we were capable of conquering our fears alone, we’d be rid of all of them by now. Whether we like it or not, we all need help. Now that we’ve identified and defined our fear(s), we have to put ourselves in a position of authority over them. In my experience, the best way to do that has been through prayer to give myself something to focus on that I know is bigger than my fear. If you’re not there yet, that’s perfectly fine. You can always phone a friend, coach or mentor who can help you talk, cry and shake your way through it. A friend, coach or mentor who can pray for you is a bonus. However you choose to tell it, make sure that the person you tell will never be OK with allowing you to stew in your fears. Make sure they love you enough to push, pull or drag you if you need it. You can be angry and even afraid, but the choice will be yours to work through it or live in it.

Surrender it To God

When you surrender it, you’ll be lighter, and you will begin to move forward. It will be difficult the first several times, but each time you take a step, your fear gains less and less control, because the perfect love of Christ will begin to cast it out (1 John 4:18). Whatever you are afraid of will still exist, but over time, the space in your mind for it will become so small that it will soon find itself out of real estate. It won’t be because you’ve become a better person, a saint or a boss. It will be because you will have learned to trust God more than you believe your anxieties. You will be afraid, but you will choose to go.

This is my personal formula, born of my preference to know the way things are made and how they work. The only way I understand to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) is to let God help me wrestle my fears into submission. Not all of us are that brand of bold, and that is not a problem. Whatever equation or process God gives you, however long it takes, you get a total of 365 days in a year to wake up and make decisions that can change your life for the better or for the worst. The reality of just how many opportunities we are given to make those decisions doesn’t weigh that much until we realize that God really understands our natures when it comes to fear. He even addresses it often. 

Get up and take your first steps.

It will be difficult the first several times, but each time you take a step, your fear gains less and less control, and you will have more and more power over your decisions. The fear won’t change, but your mindset about it will change. Whatever you’re afraid of will still be there, but over time, the space in your mind for it will become so small that it will soon find itself out of real estate. It won’t be because you’ve become a better person, a saint or a boss. It will be because you’ve learned to love yourself and others more than you’re afraid. You will be afraid, but you will choose to go, do and say in spite of the fear. Instead of just a chicken, you will then be an armored chicken…aware of the risks but willing to take them.

Hello world!

I am very excited to settle into my new home here at WordPress! Thank you all for sticking in there with me and supporting me with all the love, laughter and wisdom. I trust this journey is about to get even more incredible for all of us, and I can hardly wait to see what’s next!