Maybe this is a good place to start

  Every time I see another person say “suck it up” or “stop whining and move on,” I feel more bereft than before—because those statements show that people don’t get it. This isn’t about politics, and suggesting that my sadness isn’t valid is belittling. Honestly, this response only underscores the reasons I’m upset in the ...

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Every time I see another person say “suck it up” or “stop whining and move on,” I feel more bereft than before—because those statements show that people don’t get it. This isn’t about politics, and suggesting that my sadness isn’t valid is belittling. Honestly, this response only underscores the reasons I’m upset in the first place.

Since hearing someone else’s story always changes my understanding, I’m sharing mine with you. I’m sure there are plenty of people who are whining and pouting and just like to be mad. But there are lots and lots of other people who, I think, feel much like I do. Our rights may not be compromised, but we see that those of others might be, and we feel the pain on their behalf.

If anything unusual happened during these past few months, it is that people went public with their thoughts and opinions and our social media environment helps remove social filters. Which should be good. We want honesty and authenticity, right? Except that in so many cases the thoughts and opinions exposed were ugly. Downright hateful and mean and insulting.

(I know this goes both ways, although among my friends, I’ve seen next to nothing of the sort coming from the liberals and tons of bashing from the conservatives—but many of the conservatives I know tell me that all the liberals are hateful and violent. And that’s exactly my point. When we make broad generalizations, we’re insulting actual, specific individuals. Most of us are not extremists, and general statements like that are, quite simply, not fair. And I’m genuinely sorry I didn’t realize that sooner.)

Am I happy with the outcome? No. I accept that Donald Trump will be my President, and I will try to give him a chance. But my political disappointment is no more extreme than that of a conservative when Obama was elected. About half the time, simply because of the way democracy works, we will all be disappointed. No big deal.

Am I grieving? Yes. But the reason is not because “my” candidate lost the election.

It is not because Donald Trump was elected. It’s because grief is sometimes the appropriate response when something is lost. It’s right to feel sad when you see wrongs and injustices.

These past few months, we all witnessed new levels of hatred and division, name-calling and bullying. As I watched the results pour in on Tuesday night, I started to cry because I realized that the conclusion of the election will not conclude the problem.

We’ve seen too much to go back. We’ve seen who we are—as a country, as different political groups, as a Church. Maybe Trump didn’t cause the ugliness in individual people but he inherently, by his own words, gave permission to people to speak out. They felt comfortable letting others see parts of themselves they would have once kept hidden. And now millions more feel acute rejection—because even if, as a Trump supporter, you’re not hateful or bigoted, Trump’s victory seems to many to be an endorsement of those traits.

When people are hurting, we—as Christians—should feel empathy and sorrow. It’s not sadness about Democrats “not getting our way.” It’s about having compassion for the millions of hurting people who need to know that even though Trump won, we believe they have value. We see them.

Here’s just a little bit of what else we’ve seen.

  • Many people—who are anything other than straight, white, middle class Christians—are feeling justifiable fear. Countless individuals are being taunted, facing hatred, and experiencing violent backlash simply because of their ancestry or a stereotype.
  • Millions of women are victims of sexual abuse, and many men simply cannot understand what mainstream acceptance of sexism and abuse does to a woman’s soul.
  • Not all Christians believe the same things—or if we do, we choose to live out our ideologies very differently.
  • Many Christians (and to be fair, probably many other religions, too) feel threatened by those who believe differently.
  • Nobody likes to be stereotyped; we want to be evaluated on our individual merits and behaviors, not someone’s opinion about a group we belong to.
  • Our actions have a real impact on others’ perceptions of who we are—especially as Christians, who are called to show God to the world. People (within and outside of the Church) are questioning if Christianity is all they thought it was, and if our God is worth following if His followers act this way.
  • Minorities and differences are not as accepted as we thought.
  • Thousands (probably millions) have spent their lifetimes feeling ignored, so when Trump made them feel seen, they responded to him. At the same time, countless others feel unseen now because of the number of votes for a platform seemingly opposed to their beliefs or lifestyles.
  • Because so many voted “against” rather than “for”—we know that negative emotions like dislike and distrust are extremely powerful motivators.

These issues aren’t about politics but basic human decency—the lack of it and the necessity for more of it. Now that we know, it’s not as simple as just “dropping it” and moving on.

This could be a really good thing. It could. When something is hidden, it can’t be addressed. Hidden things hold a dark kind of power over us.

But now we can change.

So, as a liberal, am I packing my bags and leaving the country? No. I won’t deny that in the midst of my emotions, I didn’t wish I could. But I don’t usually run from a problem, even if I could. So instead I’m spending time with trusted friends who make me feel safe to be me. I’m talking to God and trying to come to terms with our new reality. I’m praying for insight and direction and inspiration.

And I’m hoping—fervently, passionately hoping—that this will be the start of something amazing. That this will not be an era of hate, but that people will pull together to find the good. That we will work together to help people who aren’t just like us feel they belong. That we will learn to look beyond our own experience and be aware of someone else’s.

Recently, we’ve focused on our differences, but if we look harder, I believe we can find more to bring us together. And if we believe what our faith teaches us, we all have work to do.

  • As Christians, we have to forgive—not because it’s our gut response or because we’re feeling magnanimous but because we were first forgiven by Christ.
  • We have to love others—because we were loved first with an extravagant love whose depths we cannot begin to fathom.
  • We must stop judging because God is the righteous judge. We must stop casting stones because we are not without our own sin.
  • We need to accept others, because Jesus turned no one away. God’s love is freely offered to everyone.

But it’s not all hard stuff.

  • We get to hope because God alone brings hope into impossible situations.
  • We get to remember that these trials in our world are nothing for a God who is not limited by place or time or circumstance. No need is beyond his capacity for repair or his ability to procure.

We do know this, right? Then let’s act like we believe it. Let’s build genuine relationships with all types of people and not be afraid of that which is different. Let’s attempt to understand where those we disagree with are coming from. Let’s not get bogged down by despair but let’s do find more, better ways to extend kindness and generosity with sincerity and grace. Let’s show God’s love in more genuine ways. Let’s acknowledge that the Church will never be perfect because it’s made up of imperfect individuals—but that doesn’t mean we can’t be better.

It’s not all on us as a country or community, though. We each have our own personal work to do—getting to know God better, seeking Him sooner and more often. Turning from selfishness and ignorance toward the light of His understanding. Putting our trust in God, who never fails us. (He may do things we don’t like, but He doesn’t fail us.)

So even though I am mourning and hurting, and even though I’ve been insulted and am disappointed in others, and even though I’m overwhelmed with despair, I will keep trying to do what’s right. Because I know that someone else’s misbehavior doesn’t justify my own. Lashing out to hurt someone else doesn’t heal the wound they inflicted on me.

I have to believe that mankind is better than the examples I’ve seen lately. I have to trust that every insult directed at (pick one) liberals/Democrats/Christians/women isn’t a personal attack. I have to give people the benefit of the doubt, even when I don’t want to, even when it would be easier to skip church or cancel lunch with a friend or unfriend someone on Facebook. I have to be all right with knowing that lots of people don’t understand me and never will.

And it’s okay. Because in the end, I don’t have control over anyone else. I can only be responsible for myself, and I don’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t want to be bitter. I don’t want to hold grudges and be bogged down by despair. I want to be better. I want to let other people know they matter. And I want to be able to look God in the face and hear “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

I want His best. I want Him. I want to be quick to embrace and slow to take offense. I want to live true to my faith and convictions. I want to see that in you and I want to develop that in myself. And that, my friends, is something that goes way beyond politics and elections, and it provides a solid start on a place in which we can agree. I hope you’ll join me there.

If my people will pray…

It’s finally here—election day. It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? Lots of division and debate—but if there is one thing I think we can all agree on during this volatile time, it is that our country desperately needs prayer. If you’re anything like me, though, you may be intimidated when facing such a ...

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It’s finally here—election day.

It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? Lots of division and debate—but if there is one thing I think we can all agree on during this volatile time, it is that our country desperately needs prayer.

If you’re anything like me, though, you may be intimidated when facing such a huge need. Where do we even begin? We step away from politics and parties and begin at the Rock. Our firm foundation. The unchanging, ever-stable Word of God.

Will you please join me in prayer for our country?

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people…

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we have to remember that we belong to God. We are His children. Let’s pray that our relationship with Him will define us and guide us, and that we will come together as one “people” in unity with the sole purpose of bringing glory to God.

who are called by my name…

Those who do not know God will form an opinion about Him based on our behavior and words. There’s a responsibility attached to this privilege we’ve been given, and we need to structure our behavior accordingly. Pray that we will faithfully represent God in all that we do.

 will humble themselves …

None of us likes to be wrong. It hurts our pride to admit we’re wrong. But the first step in a relationship with God is humility—recognition that we cannot do this without Him, nor do we have the abilities and the character that He does. In my faith walk, God has rarely let me be “right,” even when the facts seem to be on my side—because in my determination to be right, ugly characteristics like pride and judgment surface. Pray for our leaders—and for all of us, individually and collectively—to approach our positions with humility and an appropriate reverence for God.

and pray and seek my face …

How many of us log in to social media before we’ve thought to say good morning to God? How often do we complain to a friend and do everything we can think of to fix a problem before remembering to turn to God in prayer? Pray that God will help us earnestly seek Him in all that we do. Pray that God will renew our desire to serve Him and know Him and ignite that fire in others, too.

and turn from their wicked ways…

Many are distraught about the state of our country and world. About the political candidates’ behavior or character, the faith choices we have to make in order to vote, and the culture and permissiveness that have led us to this place. There’s plenty “out there” to critique—but true change starts from within. Let’s repent and then ask God to help us see clearly according to His values, His teachings, and His perspective. Let’s be open to letting Him change us as the first step towards a better country for our children and their children to live in.

then I will hear from heaven…

Many of us feel powerless to effect real or lasting change, but God does have the power to transform any situation in the blink of an eye. In spite of the fact that each of us is simply one among a multitude, and He is omnipotent and omnipresent, God listens when we reach out for Him. We have an advocate with the Father, Christ Jesus. Let’s give thanks for God for inviting us to come to Him and then praise Him for hearing and answering our prayers.

and I will forgive their sin …

No sin is too great to keep us from God. This is a promise He has made to us all. Because God is so holy, so perfect, beyond all of our imaginings, and we are not, we shouldn’t be able to stand in His presence. Our sin and His holiness are like water and oil, never mixing—but because of Jesus, now they do. Let’s go to God in prayer to ask for His forgiveness, individually and collectively.

and will heal their land.

This is the core of what many of us want, a nation without serious divides. A place that upholds the freedoms on which our country was founded, allowing us to serve God according to our individual beliefs. We long for a society that places value on integrity and hard work and high moral values, and yet still respects the differences that are a foundational part of who we are. Let’s pray that God will heal our country in powerful ways, restoring, reuniting, repairing, and renewing us. Fixing what is broken, and teaching us to work together to make something that is better than ever before.

When we come together in prayer, there are no limits to what we can accomplish. Pray with me to the One who hears from heaven.

Lord, You are mighty and magnificent, compassionate and generous. Just as Jesus granted forgiveness before he healed the sick, putting the soul before the body, we ask the same thing. Forgive us, God, and heal the soul of our nation. We come to you, earnestly and humbly, knowing we’re asking for a large thing, but fully aware that You are a big God. Nothing is too hard for You. Our hearts overflow with gratitude for the privilege of having access to the King of Kings. Help us bring glory to Your Name in all that we do. Inspire us to new levels of greatness. We know that none of this is possible without You, and we ask for your mercy and grace over this great nation. Amen.

productgraphic_nov2016calendarWill you join me the rest of this month in praying for healing for our country and turning our hearts towards gratitude for Thanksgiving? Download my free November prayer prompt calendar here by subscribing to my monthly e-newsletter. Even if you don’t, I hope we can come together to lift up our country as we navigate through these next days together.

This post was written for Internet Café Devotions.

Why you need to go buy a newspaper right now. (And not for the kind of reason you’re expecting.)

This week, to prepare for leading the group study of my book, Designed to Pray, I did one of the exercises from the book. It sounds simple—but I’d never actually physically done what I ...

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[I am not debating any issues or discussing either candidate or their followers, so please don’t be afraid to read on.]

This week, to prepare for leading the group study of my book, Designed to Pray, I did one of the exercises from the book. It sounds simple—but I’d never actually physically done what I suggested.

The basic idea is this: Take a newspaper and a marker. Go through the paper and write your prayers on top of the news stories as you pray.

That’s it. Sounds simple enough, right?

But let me tell you: It was powerful. Not because of me—at all—but because God is in it whenever we genuinely seek Him.

If you’re anything like me, you are troubled by this election. And for me, it’s not just the election or the candidates or the issues. My turmoil is all tied up in my beliefs about what Christianity is or should be and how we, as Christians, are called to represent God. It’s concern about how we’re acting, how people outside the church have come to view Christians, whether we’re living what we believe, etc. It’s complicated and discouraging. I can get so worked up so easily. These are big, big picture thoughts with long-ranging implications. Sometimes it feels like it’s all just too much.

But this exercise put things back into perspective.

Especially because I happened to write the words in red marker (just as the words of Jesus are often printed in red). My prayers are not the powerful part of this. It’s the image, the physical and tangible representation, of God’s ways and God’s power and God’s promises having the final word.

It’s about stepping back and realizing that God is bigger than these issues.

It’s about praying with an open heart, one turned towards God, that helps me see something less personally and more from God’s perspective.

It’s about taking our prayers away from the “I wants” and turning them into “thy will be done.”

It’s about remembering that, whatever happens, God is in control. He has overcome the world already. He is victorious. Nothing is too large that He cannot stop it. Nothing is too complicated that He cannot fix it. Nothing we or anyone could do will ever thwart the good and perfect will of God.

Honestly, I can’t begin to see what good could possibly come from so many of these situations. But what I do know is that no one on earth is perfect. Our leaders can fail. Our fellow Christians can fall. Our faith may waver from time to time.

But God remains on the throne. He is always God, and always good.

So let me encourage you, before this election (or anytime after), get a newspaper, even if you have to go to the store just to buy one. You can do this mentally with online or TV news, but I don’t think anything can replace the act of writing over the news. It gives us a way to feel as though we’ve regained a little bit of control. It lets us see that, no matter how important these events are, God is greater.

And right now, I think all of us could stand a little bit of peace in our souls.

Here is the actual excerpt from the book.

How to Pray When the World Overwhelms You

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world. —John 16:33

Call me an ostrich, if you will, because I spend more time with my head buried in the sand than above it. When I read or watch the news, my soul withers. My heart hurts, and sorrow overwhelms me. Not all news is bad, of course, but that seems to be what is always emphasized. I need to remember—and maybe you do too—that although we will face all kinds of horrific things, devastation does not get the final word. God does. He triumphs in the end, and we have to hold on to that truth, whatever horrors or evils we witness.

DIRECTIONS: Pick up a newspaper and a magic marker. As you skim the stories, let yourself feel anger or grief, sadness or righteous indignation. But don’t let yourself get bogged down by despair, because God is bigger than every single one of these stories. Take your marker and pen your prayer right over the stories. Heal her. Bring hope. Shine Your light. Help me not to despair. Reveal Yourself. Restore. Renew. Fix it, Lord. Show mercy. Bring justice. Redeem lost time. Thank You.

(Taken from Week 7 Day 3 of Designed to Pray)


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