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Would we give thanks for fleas?

Would We Give Thanks For Fleas?

I recently read a short biography about the ten Boom sisters, Betsie and Corrie. While these godly Dutch women and the way they lived, even in Nazi concentration camps, is wholeheartedly inspirational, there is one story about their faith that always blows me away. 

Corrie and Betsie were in their 50s when they were shipped off to concentration camps after hiding Jews in their home during World War II. While Corrie would eventually be released and live past 90, Betsie would later succumb to illness in the camp. But while they were there, the sisters were determined to make the most of their suffering, sharing the Gospel and the love of Christ as much as they possibly could. 

While Corrie and Betsie are both giants in the faith, the type of women I aspire to be, thankfulness and forgiveness came to Betsie very, very quickly, while for Corrie it often took more time. At one point when they had been moved into horrifying conditions, a rancid bunkhouse crammed full of hundreds more women than the capacity allowed for, Betsie encouraged Corrie to still give thanks for everything that was around them. For being kept together, for the proclamation of the Gospel, and for something unexpected: Betsie told Corrie to give thanks for the fleas. 

And give thanks for the little creatures that made their lives more miserable, they did. 

Weeks went by, and the ten Boom sisters wondered why the little worship services and Bible studies that they held in their bunkhouse were never broken up by guards who would certainly dole out even more brutal treatment as punishment. In fact, guards simply never stopped by during these times. 

Finally, the sisters learned what was keeping the guards out of the bunkhouse. The Nazis were worried about picking up fleas. 

The burden that they still gave thanks for became one of their greatest God-given blessings and defenses. 

Scripture calls us to have thankful and grateful hearts, praising the Father in all things. Am I the type of woman who would give thanks even for the fleas? I know I’m not right now, but that’s who I want to become.

shadowed photo with text

Groaning To Gratitude

A few nights ago, I pulled into a parking lot. I was on the phone with someone, listing my problems and groaning about how the day had gone. 

An hour later, I was driving out of that parking lot. I was struck with the sunset. The city lights starting to flicker on. The feeling of being ALIVE. 

A deeply rooted gratitude that just started flowing out into prayer. And that simple shift from groaning about my life to thanking God because of all the things that I could still be grateful for radically shifted the trajectory of my evening. 

A day or two later, a newsletter I’m subscribed to included this very timely quote from Maya Angelou: 

“Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards, and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this… So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

While Angelou’s words ring true, Scripture is even simpler: 

“Rejoice always…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:16-18).” 

Groaning and grumbling and complaining stacks up, but so does gratitude. They both impact our hearts, but only one turns our hearts toward joy, toward Christ. Shifting from groaning to gratitude is a choice – let’s choose it.

signing of the declaration with text

What Can Hamilton Teach Us About Learning?

For the past few weeks, one word has taken over the internet and the dinner table conversation across the country: HAMILTON. 

An on-demand world means that Broadway has now entered our living rooms, and the release of the live recorded production of Hamilton on Disney+ is the most recent development. However, this one show isn’t set apart simply because of its innovative music or diverse cast, but because it is based on historical events. While not perfectly factual, it documents the beginning of American independence by focusing on one Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. 

(Full disclosure, I have the soundtrack playing in the background as I write this. The music is VERY good.) 

Now, there are certainly people who watched Hamilton and took it at surface level. They watched it, were entertained, and then turned it off and walked away without another thought. And that’s okay. 

But the musical sparked curiosity in the minds of others. What were the actual political stances taken by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton? Why was Angelica so excited about Common Sense by Thomas Paine? After rapping about it so much, what role did the Marquis de Lafayette actually play in the French Revolution? 

In this capacity, Hamilton serves as a case study on learning. It doesn’t matter what form knowledge comes in – what matters is what is gained from it. If having rap music on repeat can drill important pieces of American history into our heads, all the better. But maybe we all can learn much through not only music, but movies, poems, art, podcasts, or anything other than lengthy books. 

To be sure, we should always fact check what we are learning, no matter the source. Alternative forms of learning can often take artistic liberties that make the facts less precise. But once we make sure our facts are in order, these resources are wonderful tools in growing our understanding of the world. 

We live in a culture where constant learning is undervalued. If things like Hamilton can help change that, we should be all for it. 

Kelvey's April - June 2020 reading picks

The Quarterly Reading Roundup: 2020 Q2

Anddd we’re back! As you know, this year I’ve started a new series (but can it really be called a series when it only occurs four times a year?) that highlights some of the best books I read every three months. 

Here are my picks from quarter two of 2020: 

The Vanishing American Adult by Senator Ben Sasse

To be totally honest, I’m wrapping this book up right now. But Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) is not only my favorite person in Congress – he is also an amazing author and historian. His diagnosis of America’s coming-of-age crisis is analytical and accurate, and his ideas on how to chart a new course are phenomenal. As a young adult, this book has left me not only thinking about how I want to raise my future children but how I can set a better path forward for myself even though I’m already in my twenties. 

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson

I am desperately in need of grace at every single moment of my life, and Wilson writes for those of us followers of Jesus who are thankful that Jesus has it all together because we know we never will. I don’t usually quote Amazon summaries, but a line about this book (from the Amazon link above) was accurate: “For the believer who is tired of quasi-spiritual life hacks being passed off as true, down-and-dirty discipleship, here is a discipleship book that isn’t afraid to be honest about the mess we call real life.” 

50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren W. Wiersbe

To start with just a small critique, the targeted audience for this book is obviously pastors and many of the people featured are pastors most of us have not heard about. However, even with that knowledge, this book was extremely encouraging. I loved being able to read short biographies of so many giants in the faith, and have resources listed if I wanted to learn more about specific figures. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, so we should allow their lives to urge us on. 

What books are you reading?

crates with white text

Let’s Take Ideas Out Of Their Boxes

Okay, pop quiz. What box would you place the following ideas in? 

The best solution for hate speech is more speech, not less. 

Demilitarize the police. 

Excessive and wasteful taxation is theft. 

Climate change is a real problem. 

The right to bear arms shall not be infringed. 

Drug legalization/decriminalization would lead to a more equitable criminal justice system. 

Religious liberty should be protected. 

Immigrants built America and we should knock down barriers to legal immigration. 

Free markets lead to freer people. 

Okay, what boxes did these check? Liberal? Conservative? Libertarian? 

I don’t know – I pulled them all at random from a box titled “Kelvey’s political beliefs.” 

Have you noticed that shoving ideas into strict boxes makes us reluctant to pull from the boxes that wear labels we don’t like? We prejudge the idea based on what it falls under instead of on the merit of the idea itself. 

Instead of right or wrong, factual or nonsensical, reasonable or radical, we let the labels do the talking. And these labels often make us swerve away from an idea if we deem it too out-of-step with the rest of the boxes we like to dig through. 

And you all know the feeling of agreeing with an idea that is boxed in with a label you don’t like. You cringe a little bit, wondering, “Did I really agree with something that ____ thinks?” 

We like our boxes because it takes the hard work of analyzing ideas one-by-one away. It’s much easier to sort boxes than it is to sort all their contents. It allows us to lazily claim whole boxes as our own instead of pulling together a worldview composed of individual ideas. 

Let’s make things harder on ourselves. Let’s think some more. Let’s take ideas out of their boxes. They were never supposed to be labeled and sorted like this anyway.

Just because you're moving and living doesn't mean you're growing or progressing.

All Motion Is Not Progress

Smack dab in the middle of a public education policy diagnostic summary, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) writes in The Vanishing American Adult, “All motion is not progress.” 

Simple. Profound. True. 

Have you noticed that humans tend to act like we’re sharks? While some sharks are certainly able to stop moving and still get oxygen, there are many species that must keep moving in order to pass water through their gills and get oxygen. If they stop moving, they stop breathing. They move just to stay alive. 

We often act like the latter. 

We think that as long as we keep moving, we’re living, even progressing. Whether this is in the personal habits of the everyday citizen or in the halls of Congress, mere action is equated to growth and improvement. But is that accurate?

Motion isn’t necessarily progress. Pulling from a larger perspective, just because Congress passes a bill does not mean things are progressing or improving. The bill could certainly be (and often is) something that is burdensome and regressive, offering more problems than solutions. 

On a personal level, just because we’re going through our days and weeks does not mean we are progressing at all. How many of us get to the end of these time periods, wonder what we actually accomplished, and write it off as okay? I know I am too often at peace with stasis instead of analyzing it for opportunity to actually move forward. 

Movement doesn’t mean that something is actually happening, changing. We need to, I need to, start questioning ourselves on this idea. Where are we going through the motions in our lives, expecting that to propel us forward? Where are our lives static? Where do we need to compel ac? 

Left to our own devices, we would all fall into meaningless motions and become blind to the lack of progress those actions produce. Let’s challenge ourselves to become more intentional in our ways, our motion, and look forward to the growth that produces.

state of justice with text

The Place Where Perfect Justice Lives

Right now I’m angry, furious. 

Angry at injustice, angry at authoritarian policy, angry at the government, angry at the moments where I feel uncomfortable in the midst of all this, angry at people who inflict violence in their anger, angry at people who think that others have no right to be angry. It’s often not a righteous anger, but it feels good to hold onto it, like something steadfast in the midst of all this.

While preaching on Micah 6:8, my pastor defined injustice well: Injustice is sin with power. It’s taking something that already stands in defiance to the ways of God and layering more weight upon the victim through their powerlessness. And Micah 6:8 summarizes God’s direction for His people on their response to such injustice: “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (emphasis added)”

The pursuit of justice in America is worthy. And the pursuit feels good. Every conversation, every written word, every bit of legislative advocacy, every moment spent processing how my heart needs to change on the subject of justice, especially justice for black Americans, feels like following through on the Phillippians 4:8 call to dwell on the true, noble, and right.

But in the midst of this, I’ve had the lyrics to Slain by Beautiful Eulogy running through my mind. You should listen to the full song, but this specific excerpt has dwelt side-by-side with Scripture in my heart lately:

Let’s also talk about the throne where perfect justice is /

It sounds insensitive and some will hate the stench of it /

But the church is not faithful if we fail to mention it /

We worship a God who can speak to the world’s pain /

Pure salvation for us came through the Lamb who was slain

Injustice exists because sin does. To be sure, I’m not using that line as an excuse to sit back and wash our hands over the push for social reform. Sin is the cause of every evil we see in society, and yet we still pursue legislative reform for things. 

But what you and I and all of us need to be reminded of is that there is only one place where perfect justice lives. There is only one place that will ever see injustice totally slain and righteousness falling like rain. There is only one place where perfect love and kindness dwell. 

That’s before the throne of God. As we pursue justice in America, let us also be faithful to declare the God who is perfectly just and the Savior who bore that justice so that we might be shown mercy.

We need a functional life, not just one dedicated to achieving goals.

Let’s Work Toward Functionality, Not Just Goals

I remember a time in my life where I would regularly get up at 4:45 a.m. and be at the gym by 5:15 a.m. to grind out a hard workout. 

Oh, the ambition of younger me. (Yes, four years qualifies as ‘younger.’)  Continue reading “Let’s Work Toward Functionality, Not Just Goals”

cross at sunset with text

Thank Goodness Jesus Is Emotional

It’s hard for me to grasp that Jesus loves me. 

I can line all the facts up in my brain but my heart still has a hard time seeing the full picture. Part of it is simple awe that the One who breathed out galaxies cares for me. And, that sort of stunned disbelief is obviously rational in this context. Like King David asks in Psalm 8, “What is man that you are mindful of him…?” 

But I think my difficulties don’t stem from a proper feeling of awe as much as they do the cultural stereotype of the emotionality of Jesus. Think about it. We often paint Jesus as always even-tempered and calm, even serene. And it doesn’t feel like someone like that could truly and deeply and furiously love me; it feels more like they would just smile at me and pat my head. 

I can’t be the only one that feels uncomfortable when the perfectly tranquil Jesus that lurks in the back of our brains is contrasted with the actual Jesus of Nazareth written about in Scripture. The Jesus that was so passionate about honoring his Father that he flipped tables, the Jesus that wept over his dead friend. 

Portraying Jesus as emotionlessly tranquil is misleading and needs to be rejected. Not only was Jesus fully man, but he was fully God, and the strongest emotions of Scripture are used when talking about the Father. He is jealous. He is furious. He laughs. He is compassionate. 

And He loves. 

Thank goodness Jesus is emotional. Thank goodness his emotions are perfect. Thank GOD that he LOVES me. 

I was copying Scripture earlier today, a practice that forces me to slow down and think about the words, and this passage from Romans 8 seems particularly fitting to close: 

 

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 37-39)”