Unearthing the Value of my Heritage – and other secrets of an Indian Giver

Sometimes my heritage is confusing to me.

My mother’s father was Norwegian. His wife (my grandmother) was German.
My other grandmother was Irish – down to her peachy skin and Celtic name.
To hear her tell it, her husband (my grandfather) was of Scottish/Irish origin too.
To hear him tell it, his grandmother was a full-blooded Native American from the Cherokee nation – and, despite his gray-blue eyes, he loved flaunting their almond shape, along with his high cheekbones and the well-tanned skin beneath his handsomely tall frame.
Of the four grandparents, I spent the majority of my time with him.
He was retired, so we’d go on summer walks through town together, as I held his large hand and looked a mile upward to speak with him.
We’d work in the garden and yard together, with him entrusting me to operate his first riding mower as I entered into my double digits.
He’d accompany my dad to many of my ballgames, where I was sometimes a teeny bit jealous when my older cousins’ friends would run up and hug him and call him Granddad. (Okay, so I still had to learn to share.)
I felt I had a right to be possessive of him. After all, I was the one who trimmed his ear hairs. (Though my eyes were assuredly better than those of my grandmother – who’d transitioned to a large print bible – some days, I believe he asked me to do this deed simply because he thought it was safer for a kid to be wielding a sharp instrument over him in lieu of testing his wife’s Irish temperament.)

But I digress…

My father and uncle were both intrigued by their Native American heritage and, for years, searched out related artifacts.
My dad turned me into a junior archaeological librarian, as I’d assist him in organizing and tagging his finds by appropriate periods. I can recall also getting to go on “archaeological digs,” walking sandbars during the cold winter months, most often needing to be carried by my father, as my small frame would sink into the soft mud as if I were being swallowed up by quicksand. Many years later, my father and uncle were killed in a boating accident in January, out in those same waters where the three of us explored our heritage together. As much as it hurt to lose them, I couldn’t have imagined a more appropriate place for them to have been together when their spirits crossed over into eternity.

Nancy Ward print by deceased artist Ben Hampton

Hiskyteehee (Five Killer) print by deceased artist Ben Hampton

One of the gifts my father left me was a Ben Hampton print of Nancy Ward.
Awhile back, as my youngest son was lying on our couch, his head hanging upside down, he peered up at the print and inquired, “Mama, is that you?”
I was amused when I asked him if he thought it looked like me. He sat up and somberly nodded, still waiting for my answer. He was a little disappointed to hear that it wasn’t, but then he became intrigued with Nancy Ward’s story and decided to embrace that part of his heritage too. He now has a print of Five Killer in his hangout space (in which I can more easily see myself, having a “don’t tick me off” scar in the exact same spot; mine, admittedly, came from my neighbor’s cat, Herbie George, who decided to engage in a surprise attack when I thought we were in the midst of a peace treaty. I wish I was wearing his claw around my neck as a symbol, where I could then refer to him as “Cat with Nine Claws” to make him sound more intimidating. I mean, Five Killer started off as LittleFellow. Sometimes, you do what you have to do…)

I didn’t think anymore about my son’s remark of my resemblance to Nancy Ward until a few weeks ago at work. There, I have a framed poster in my office from an Eastern & Western Cherokee Council Reunion, which my dad attended (with my uncle and Ben Hampton, as I recall) & which has a montage of Mr. Hampton’s Cherokee Heritage prints. Our new secretary walked into my office, took one look at the poster and asked, “Is that you in that picture?” Nancy Ward? Are you serious? Don’t I wish? I did have a proud moment of sharing the who’s & why’s of that poster, though. And, admittedly, I do enjoy having some obvious features from that particular part of my heritage, just as I do from the many other parts of my heritage.

What I don’t enjoy are the negative connotations that people place on that heritage, just as I don’t enjoy other negative connotations that sometimes surround me. Just as my heritage may create some confusion for me, so do people who make unjust slurs against others in the name of being offended, with no regard for what offense the accuser has created. The term “Indian giver” is one such example, being bestowed upon Native Americans because of a misunderstanding in communication and trade customs; yet not bestowed upon those who came in with no regard for such customs and forced natives from their own territories under purposefully perilous conditions, providing them little means for success in prosperity or survival. (Here’s where you might need to reference the Trail of Tears.)

That savage sort of thing still happens in modern social circles – at least in the spiritual, if not the physical realm.

Invaders show up in our own private sanctuaries of peacefulness, determined to drive us out (or basically, just drive us crazy). The offenses of which we get accused only exist as excuses to control our soul’s treasure. Any gifts of grace and peace offerings we produce get scoffed at, with newly fabricated accusations made. Invaders work overtime to convince others that we want them to bestow something of greater value to us in return (basically, because scoffers over-value whatever power they believe they wield). Once our weaknesses have been explored and exposed, these conquerors – convinced they have used up anything in us that was of importance to them – push us aside, out to the margins, treating us as if we never had any heritage here at all. Soon, we feel as though our peace has become some antiquated artifact that must be dug up in pieces and put back together if it is to be discovered again.

  • We see it happen in homes.
  • We experience it in the workplace.
  • It crops up in churches as easily as in middle schools.
  • When focused on themselves, people seem to have a tendency to want to de-value and drive others out for their own selfish purposes – to steal another’s heritage of belonging.

Whenever that happens to me, I take time to remind myself of my most important heritage – the one in which I am a daughter of a heavenly King. In Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). In Christ, there is no east or west (United Methodist Hymnal, No. 548); thus we are not sent on a journey of separation from others. In fact, our God reconciles, telling us He “will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). I’m also pretty sure there are no gossipy trouble-makers in that land of peace because we’re told that, “only in the place of hypocrites will there be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51). (I can’t think of any better example of how teeth gnashing must look than to watch a gossiper in action, chewing up a gut-full  of someone else’s troubles.)

No one said we had to wait for the new creation, though, to experience life’s best heritage. When Jesus walked among us in the flesh, He said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). We are expected to live in peace and harmony with this land and the beings with which we have been entrusted in the here and now. Native Americans have long understood the spirituality and sacredness of all of creation. The gifts that they gave, such as roots that seemed worthless to the white man, held great meaning and often the power of healing or sustenance. Likewise, the gifts we give of ourselves, in which we know the value and meaning, may be received by others as meaningless, with that same sort of haughtiness and open disdain.

This shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the gifts of your heritage, though – the ones that are given to you because you ARE expected to graciously share them with others. I want to encourage you not to be driven out – but to go. Go be an Indian Giver. Offer goodness when others don’t have the capacity to understand the value. Offer peace in the midst of strife. As for the scoffers…II Peter 3:3 tells us to expect them. But then we’re told: “But in keeping with His promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3:13). In my mind, that new creation will look much like Native American spirituality, full of nurturing relationships between all people, land, and all living things. We are called to be part of that new creation in the here and now.

LORD, of all the characteristics that others may see,

let them most clearly heed the heritage of You in me.






Above All…Let All the People Say Amen

I’ve just begun an online workshop on Public Prayer towards achieving revised certification requirements for the designation of Lay Speaker within the realm of Lay Servant Ministries within our Church Conference.

As such, I’m already enjoying the primary text for the course:

Stookey, Laurence H. (2001). Let the whole church say Amen: A guide for those who pray in public. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

To be honest, I never gave much thought regarding how public prayer differed from personal prayer, except for the obvious component that it was no longer my own personal time with God – it was a corporate time and should be addressed in kind. Perhaps, when I stepped forth to lift up a prayer within a group, I even subconsciously knew much of the protocol that was required. However, it’s always a great refresher to have structure laid out where you can see it, dissect its parts, contemplate why we do things a certain way (or maybe why we should consider changing those ways) – capturing a new angle through the study of God’s Word and forming our relationships (both with God and others) through a varied lens and in a new light.

Here’s a very important reminder from the Introduction of the text that I believe serves the Public Intercessor well:

  • Because you are being asked to send up prayers on behalf of an entire gathering or some group (large or small), even though the prayers may contain personal elements, your statements must be more generalized than your own personal prayers. Because these prayers are representing all who are present, you must provide a setting where all can agree in order to be able to authentically say Amen at the end with their own personal measure of integrity.


Of course, all that being said, I believe it’s also important to acknowledge that when any individual is selected (or volunteers) to bring forth prayer on behalf of a larger group, it should be expected that the person is going to bring his or her own personal touch, so to speak. You should allow yourself permission to interject your personality, your own inflections, so the prayer is genuine and doesn’t seem overly constrained or as though it isn’t from your own heart.

As I begin this study, I’ve been asked to meditate and write a prayer of praise to God – one void of any requests. (Interesting that the author understands that human nature compels us to slide those in…) I was meditating on the Psalms prior to this, thinking on the themes of thanksgiving and adoration.

Here’s what passed through my mind (& my fingertips):

Lord GOD,
I* know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of life’s battles,
Above All of my* daily problems & concerns,
Above All of my petitions or moans, my groans, my complaints,
Above All of my seeming defeats.

I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of the daily delights I either acknowledge or overlook,
Above All of the times I call out Your Name – either in glorious praise or unfortunate defamation,
Above All of the ways I interact with others – both positively & negatively,
Above All of the matters that You intricately know within my heart.

I know You are ABOVE ALL –
Above All of my outright confessions,
Above All of my hidden secrets,
Above All of my shortcomings, my comings, my goings,
Above All of these things that ought to be Yours.

I know You are OVER ALL –
Over All of creation,
Over All situations,
Over All that comes before me*,
Over All that makes up each of our personal beings.

I Praise You, Lord GOD
for taking me under Your wing,
for breathing into me Your breath of life,
for wanting me to abide in Your presence,
for All I understand You to be…
And much more so for All in You I can’t comprehend.

You are Awesome.
You are Amazing.
You are GOD.


*Note that our or we or us could have been substituted for my or I or me in the above stanzas; but whether personally or corporately received, I wanted to assure this was a very personalized prayer (much like we perceive when we read the Psalms – understanding an individual within the Psalter was speaking/singing to God in each one, but that we, too, might join in.)

As I close today, I’m reminded of something powerful that one of my older sisters once reminded me in my younger years about the power of prayer in a difficult relational circumstance:

“Jody,” she said, “God will not change people. But God will change circumstances.”

(What I didn’t yet understand was that those circumstances might have actually been mine to create a change in me! ha!)

For me, that’s always been a worthy reminder of how I should never try to use prayer to manipulate people. I think it’s an especially important reminder in the corporate setting, where a prayer leader should not try to interject his or her own will onto a situation to manipulate those in attendance (or…God!). God is simply far too great for that.

I pray that all is well with each of you.


A Heart of Compassion (and how mine needed CPR yesterday)

I think of myself generally as a compassionate person.

Sometimes I even consider my compassion to be a curse (when a burden gets laid upon my heart, then another, then another, and I hurt for so many in the world).

But I was again faced with the ugly truth yesterday.

I can be just as selfish as the next person.

I feel the need to preface my story by saying that I haven’t been in the best of moods lately about human nature, in general – and much of that revolves around the court system, of all things. I’ve had to be in courtrooms over the past couple of years more times than I think anyone should ever spend in a lifetime (unless, of course, you’ve chosen to be a judge). I feel in the times I’ve been there that I or others have been treated unjustly in a system that, to be honest, seems to exist more for itself than for the good of the whole. In the last several circumstances, greed has been the prevailing factor, in which others have sought to take what was not rightfully and ETHICALLY theirs, but by which LEGALLY they could create great costs and burdens on others who were already paying high prices for these individuals’ actions.

Yes, I know that’s rather vague, but my point essentially is this…when you’ve been exposed to greed and had people stealing what little you possess, apparently it wears down your compassion and perhaps creates a stingy kick-back response.

Point in case…

My sister and I have a tradition of sharing dinner & a movie for our birthdays. This week, it was her turn. I arranged to take her to a matinee movie, and had brought along a free popcorn & soft drink coupon that I had saved up for the occasion, along with a coupon stuffed away for the dining establishment she had chosen. (In other words, I was having to be thrifty with my celebration extravaganza.)

As I pulled into the parking lot of the movie theater, I noticed a younger man standing up from where he’d been squatted next to a car across the aisle. As he stood, his beltless pants sagged well below his waist line without the usual fortunate covering of underwear. As a mother of a teenage son, I have no doubt, I ground my back teeth in irritation. When I pulled into my parking space, I didn’t see my sister yet, so I began searching through my purse for my coupons and my discount theater points card.

That’s when I noticed him – in my side mirror.

The same man (probably in his mid twenties, though I’m assuming it was his lifestyle that made his face appear older) was standing at the rear of my car, blocking my exit for the moment I decided to open my door. An alarm went off inside my head that told me to stay where I was, as I saw no other persons nearby and I wasn’t certain of his intent.

Five minutes passed.

I began to feel additionally irritated that he hadn’t moved and was causing me to feel trapped in my own car.

I watched as he swung around the car parked next to mine to approach the front of my car. He yelled out, “Ma’am, ma’am!”

Probably because he seemed to have some sense of manners, I partially rolled down my window and politely responded to his call.

“Will you give me some money for…?”

I never heard what it was for. His voice faded, as he tried to decide for himself what he should say.

It didn’t matter. I was already aggravated about his pants. I was irritated that he’d trapped me in my car. I felt the need to show him I wasn’t going to be his victim.

“No, I won’t.” My answer was harsh, cold, to the point.

He turned, dropped his head, and began walking across the parking lot, unintentionally (or not) mooning me as he went.

I jumped out, locked my door and headed the opposite direction, asking the girl at the theater counter to alert mall security, as I stood at the door watching him veer toward cars, looking into them.

It wasn’t until much later, until I had time for the alarms in my head to silence themselves, that I had an overwhelming compassion flow over me.

What had I done? Or better yet – not done? There was a store across the lot. If his pants bothered me so badly, couldn’t I have gone into it and gotten the man a belt? Maybe even a pair of underwear?

So what if he did have track marks up the insides of his arms? Did I have the right to judge him for that? How could I have known what his life had been like? What it was going to be?

Couldn’t I have found one simple way to show this man one ounce of compassion?

And yet, all I showed him was contempt. The same thing that had likely caused him to be in that parking lot, begging for his next meal or his next fix. Which was it? Had I even cared? Not when it mattered the most.

* * *

Matthew 25:40 says – The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

I did nothing, Lord. Nothing. God, forgive my lack of compassion.


Devo: Heart Reflections

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror

then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall fully know,
even as I am fully known.
– I Corinthians 13:12

While reflecting this morning, I thought…

… since the Apostle Paul (writing here to the church in Corinth) seems to use plenty of analogies, metaphors and real-life examples of what was going on around him that we can still easily understand. Gosh, Greek society must have been narcissistic too. Imagine that!

People, no doubt, enjoy focusing on themselves.

I mean, how many times a day do I pause to check my appearance through my reflection?  I straighten my clothing while walking through reflective doors at the bank; I pull down my rear view mirror to check my hair before exiting my car; I even peek at the little visual box of myself while I’m video chatting, perhaps so I can ensure my expressions are appropriate for the messages I wish to convey.

People more ancient than us might not have had Skype, but they certainly had this same reflective instinct and…yes, they even had mirrors! And, just like us, they found reflective alternatives when necessary. Don’t forget the story of the famous Narcissus. Cursed to fall in love with his own reflection, he couldn’t tear away from the water’s edge, where he found he could stare at the object of his affection (himself) all the day long.


I rather think Paul was suggesting it. His description of the mirror represented it as a tool to use. Tools can only serve whatever purpose is determined within the hands they’ve been placed. A shovel can dig a hole for planting a beautiful new tree of life…or it can dig a grave.

A spiritual mirror can serve as a tool to promote self-aggrandizement…or serve to help us see our inner transformation taking place 


when trying to form a reflection for our own purposes, rather than being transformed by truthfully admitting what we find there.

Snow White’s stepmother, a.k.a. the Evil Queen, is well known for asking, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?” Because of her sad need to self-aggrandize, to refuse to fulfill anyone’s desires other than her own, she could have never been satisfied with the answer. Like Narcissus, she could not tear herself away from a warped fantasy to live a life of seeing beyond herself. She never stopped to think that she, too, could have had the same fairness as Snow White – had she only considered what was being reflected from her heart. Instead, she’d go to all measures to manipulate what she reflected to get the effect she desired. Ironically, she turned herself into an ugly, old hag to try to fulfill her own plan of being the fairest.


That’s likely why Paul reminds us we won’t be fully successful in our reflections because we only see dimly now. But, if we’re consistent in picking up our spiritual mirrors and reflecting on what exists within our hearts, a more lovely display should begin to emerge as we allow there to be less of our fleshly cares and more of our spirit-filled ones.

In love, -jody


Update: My post was removed from a writing community today, with an email expressing that I hadn’t met the site’s criteria of providing a “So What?” It honestly doesn’t bother me to have gotten the boot; apparently, I deserved it. Because, in further reflection, it DOES bother me to think that, in challenging us (that’s you AND me) to engage in deep heartfelt reflection and the recourse that act has on humanity (the greater good) over any mere individual’s self-centered motives, maybe there’s not a strongly related so-what anymore in our world.

Isn’t that, after all, the problem? Regardless of whether bombs unexpectedly collapse giant buildings where people came to work that day or explode in celebrating crowds? Regardless of whether children are gunned down in “safe places” or they’re dying from preventable diseases like malaria in places from which we “feel safe”?  Oh, I know. We feel horrified – temporarily…but so what? We rant on a Facebook post here and there…but so what? We turn off the news when it’s too disturbing. We go back to our undisturbed lives. We choose to vacation to refresh ourselves, rather than traveling somewhere to help others. If no one really notices the ugliness we bear in our hearts, we might feel slightly remorseful for awhile; but if we don’t get called out on our behavior…so what?

SO WHAT can WE do to make a difference in this world? Since I got called out, I guess I’m passing it on.

I’m left with only one recourse here – to turn it over to your hands, wise readers, and ask – if the message resonated on your heart chords the least bit, what’s the “so what” in it for you?

Carpe Diem Haiku: Tanpopo (Dandelion)

My wish was torn loose
Floating away from my grasp
Carried by the wind…

Photo located at: http://truevibes.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/make-a-wish/

Photo located at: http://truevibes.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/make-a-wish/

A delight in youth.
Devilish in midlife years.
What’s to come of us?


Loosed by wind stirring
While firmly rooted in place.
Who’s to understand?


Carpe Diem’s haiku challenges us this month to explore classical Japanese kigo (seasonwords).
March 29’s prompt celebrates the beginning of Spring with: Tanpopo (Dandelion).

I was first inspired by my memories of holding a ripened, white crested wish-filled dandy-lion as a child.

Then I was captured by the comparison of the memories that might be evoked between a dandelion’s life as compared to mankind’s.

And then I found myself contemplating on this weedy, curious little flower until I found myself traveling through its rooted system…while thinking on this specific day.

To be perfectly honest, I’m intrigued by the simple magic of the dandelion (which translates as “lion’s tooth”).

  • The floral meaning of the dandelion is meant to be a gift to a loved one that will provide happiness and a promise of total faithfulness.
  • I’m sure it’s the first gift I’ve ever been given by any child as an expression of affection. The pudgy little hands that plucked it, the unsteady little legs that wobbled to get it to me, the sparkling delight of the eyes as it was presented for my delightful gratitude — all give this perfect gift in such a simple, yet extraordinary, fashion.
  • I can recall its explosive power as a child – the power that drew me to run to grasp the stem of a ripened dandelion, so I could send my wishes a thousand directions out from me into a vast world of possibilities.
  • I recall my disappointment in learning that adults do not appreciate the lovely yellow gifting of these sweet, tiny bits of sunshine sprinkled into an otherwise boringly manicured lawn.
  • Yet, I’ve learned, their temporal daintiness is deceptive. They are persistent in their existence, spreading established deep roots and eternal seeding among us.
  • Despite our offenses against them, they continue to extend healing properties to us.

So I can’t imagine a more appropriate day to honor the dandelion than today, Good Friday, the day in which I must stop in faith and honor my Lord & Savior who continues to extend that same healing property to me, despite my offenses against Him. Everything about this day – representing His crucifixion, His body’s burial in a tomb – seem to represent the end of His good among us. Where child-like eyes and ears delighted in His gift, grown-up hearts saw Him as a nuisance in their world – a pest, a weed that needed to be removed. Where he came to sprinkle sunshine among them, they preferred their manicured earth they thought they could manage just fine on their own.

Despite our most horrible offenses, we will yet find His deeply established roots and eternal seeding among us. The (dandy) Lion of Judah is yet to rise come Easter morn to bring the ultimate gift of love to us, His joy with a promise of total faithfulness. Lord, let me see you anew with child-like eyes and a heart filled with childish delight. Let my faith be loosed by your spirit’s wind, wherever it chooses to blow.

Heaven’s Gate

Foggy reflections from my past rose up to greet me.

A massive wall of portension previously blocking my view steadily crumbled from centermost point.

Sparkling streets of gold beckoned me to enter in.


The weekend is here at Trifecta –

which means I have a better chance of making it through nearly all the readings at only 33 words a piece!

This week’s Trifextra challenge is to come up with 33 picture-perfect words for the image that’s been supplied.

Desiring to be Dopey

I was once interviewed for our college newspaper by a student staff member.  Now this young lady, Dena, is going to make a great reporter one day because she really knows how to ask the kind of questions that get to the heart of WHO a person really is.  In my interview, she surprised me with a very thought-provoking question about myself.  She wanted to know…

If I was one of Snow White’s seven dwarfs, which one would I be?

That question definitely made me stop and think!  My first response was, “You mean I can’t be Snow White?”  Nope.  As a mother of three boys (reminder: boys don’t care much for fairytales), I had to admit that it had been too many years since I’d seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for me to remember all of their names.  So to be fair, she let me do a quick Google search on them while we were sitting in my office. My informal study revealed some interesting facts about these characters along with their names – Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sneezy, Bashful, Sleepy and Dopey.  Their group picture revealed that Dopey was the only dwarf without a beard, so I figured he might be a reasonable choice on that basis alone; but the caption also reminded me that he was the only dwarf who didn’t speak. (I get that some might suggest I discount Dopey from my list of choices for that reason alone.) I understand that most people don’t want to own up to being Grumpy, but I also figure most people don’t purposely want to be represented as Dopey either – especially when worldly intelligence is so in vogue. Nevertheless…

My choice was made.

Something about this quiet, clumsy little dwarf’s disposition struck me as powerful. He made it easy to look deeply into his heart to define him, rather than thinking about his name or his looks or his eloquence (or lack thereof).

We do the same thing all the time with people that we try to do to Dopey.

We look at the outside appearance, making them out to be someone different than God created them to be. We don’t take time to know their hearts, to recognize their callings. We think it’s bad to be Dopey, when, in fact, Jesus wants his followers to be able to become just that.

 As I read about the duties of each of these short-statured gem-miners, I discovered that

Dopey may have been given the most important calling of all.

He was the dwarf who had been assigned the task of cleaning up all of the ‘unusable’ jewels! 

Now I ask you – as a Christian in the world, could there be any more admirable calling on my life than this? Is this not what the namesake, Christ, himself, came into the world to do for me – for others? Did He not enter humanity’s story as a tiny, helpless, clumsy baby, seemingly unlikely for such an enormously daunting task? Yet His story reveals to us how powerfully He can mine unusable jewels as He bursts forth from the bowels of the earth to take control over the wages of sin.

 I’ve already revealed some great things to you so far about Snow White’s dwarf friend, Dopey.  

Yet there’s one other thing that I left out that makes him stand out from the group.  Dopey could become quite scared at times, possibly even paralyzed with fear. But in the one moment that truly mattered the most (when Snow White desperately needed help), he was the one who became quite brave and who urged the others to move in the direction that would free Snow White from her captivity and defeat death. You think of the Prince doing all the work; but the truth is, without Dopey’s role in it, the story wouldn’t have had its happy ending. 

 Jesus never asked his disciples to become brave and rescue him from the cross. (Remember, Peter tried to do just that in the garden, and Jesus stopped him – then Peter became fearful again and ran and lied).  Obviously, we aren’t expected to be perfect; we aren’t even expected to be warriors doing battle. What Jesus wants is for us to be brave to tell our own testimonies – to encourage others through their trials. To urge others to His saving grace.

That’s the calling on our lives that matters most.


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.                                                                               

– Philippians 4:8-9


Is Your Heart Taking a Beating or a Lashing?

Did you know that people can hear your heart without the use of a stethoscope?

Your heart actually has an outer appendage attached to it that reveals the shape it’s in without the need for any medical testing. When you use this appendage, others can see the condition of your heart.

That appendage is called the tongue – and it can be woefully powerful when it lashes out!

Proverbs 19:21: Death and life are in the power of the tongue.


As a matter of fact, that tongue is like a spring that gushes forth everything from your heart.

James 3:11 asks: “Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?”

In other words, your heart can either be a refreshing source of life to people, or it can throw someone’s spiritual metabolism into crisis. Be aware that drinking salt water can hurt the mind and the body – to the point of death! (Yes, they knew that back then too – they lived in a fishing community and not too far from the saltiest body of water on earth – the Dead Sea.) Most of us would rather try to convince ourselves that just a little bit of salt mixed in with fresh water shouldn’t do any harm, which is why James is making the point that you need to consider the source – your heart – because it can’t be both salty & fresh, both good & evil.

You see, when the salt begins to mix in, it takes the clarity away from the fresh water. For the heart, that clarity is LOVE.

I Corinthians 13 (the love chapter) begins by telling us: “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love. I am nothing.

When things get salty, fresh water has to be poured back in to dilute the danger. Love is the fresh water. Without love, the saltiness creates bitterness. That’s why we’re told to guard our hearts against a seed a bitterness. Over time, it will grow into a hateful anger. (Can’t you hear the chaotic, arrhythmic, irritating noise that anger creates – just like the noisy gongs and clanging cymbals described above? Or just like heartbeats when they’ve been disturbed from their rhythmic pulsing?)

Luke 6:45 is very clear about how the noises that we hear from people’s mouths are very distinctive extensions of their hearts:

The good person brings good things out of the good stored up in his/her heart, and the evil person brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his/her heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.   (Luke 6:45)

So lying and deceitful and angry tongues pour forth from a heart that has been storing up evil until it finally overflows. Proverbs 10:18 talks about how the person tries to conceal these things in the heart, but how that person ultimately reveals himself/herself as a liar and a fool.

Proverbs 10:18: The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.

In other words, evil can’t stay undercover forever.

Eventually, it either seeps out or it spews like a volcano.

(i.e., Do you prefer your deadly poison administered as slow-acting venom or delivered with instantaneous violence?)

It then becomes a vicious cycle – a self-destructing whirlpool (pulling you down into its deep, dark recesses while sucking the life out of everything it can grasp). Hate and foolishness cause people to lie and give false witness against one another, all the while hardening and deteriorating the heart. As a matter of fact, the way to guard against hate and foolishness is also given to us in I John 2, where we’re reminded to keep God’s instruction (His Torah, His commandments):

Whoever says “I know God” but does not keep the Lord’s commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in that person; but whoever keeps God’s word, in that person truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in God.

God’s love is how to guard our hearts from hate and foolishness, and we exhibit our love for him by doing what he asks of us.

I Peter 2 tells us to “Put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.”

As we realize how good God is, that he has chosen us and we are precious to him, we will want to offer spiritual sacrifices to him – which is to love him and to love one another. True, pure, heartfelt love – not the kind mixed with the salty bitterness of self-centeredness and self-righteousness.

So if you’re worried that you still have enough saltiness of self-centeredness that you might not be able to tame your tongue for someone else’s sake, let me leave you with these final thoughts to do it for your own sake. Apparently, cleansing can work, to some extent, in reverse. By taming your tongue, you can bridle the evil upchucking with a good backwash of the mouth, gargling all the way down to the heart.

Proverbs 21:23: Whoever keeps his/her mouth and tongue, keeps himself/herself out of trouble.

Proverbs 17:28: Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise.

Hold your tongue. A word to the wise should be sufficient…


grabbing on myself, -jody

(Massive-, Mini-, Micro-) Mission Missive (Travel Theme: New)

The travel theme for Wheresmybackpack this week is: New

and the Wild Weekly Photo Challenge for Letsbewild.com is: New Beginnings!

I can’t think of any better representation, going into the New Year when people most like to set goals and plan resolutions, than to speak on this theme with the thought in mind of how all things can become new – in missions work.

You can follow the condensed work journey of our summer Virginia mission team below (from the beginning phases in the top left corner – when holes were first dug — to nearing completion of a new addition with roof and siding, a new handicapped ramp, an updated porch, and a matching fresh coat of paint) – accomplished during one hot July week by a team made up of one renovation contractor, a good plan, and a few willing hearts. (Did I mention they also raised the funds for the materials before leaving on their trip?)

Virginia mission trip 2012

Merriam-Webster defines MISSION as (I’ve abridged this):

  1. obsolete : the act or an instance of sending

  2. : a ministry commissioned by a religious organization to propagate its faith or carry on humanitarian work

  3. a body of persons sent to perform a service or carry on an activity

  4. : a specific task with which a person or a group is charged

  5. calling, vocation

I would suggest to you that a MISSION TRIP encompasses all of these definitions, beginning with no. 5 & not excluding no. 1, which states it is obsolete. Indeed, it is not.

A missionary, regardless of the term (mini-missions, micro-missions, or massive-missions) should feel called or led to do this work (#5). From there, others should be involved in sending out this individual to do that work (#1 & #2). From there, specific services and tasks should be an expectation of that work (#3 & #4).

In any case, from the moment that calling and the potential of a commissioning is set into motion, the Mission Trip should have an intentional and organized focus. (It should, in essence, have its own mission.)

Many people wonder why it’s important for mini-missionary trip partakers to travel in order to fulfill a mission. Let me answer by saying, “It’s not.” But for those who have not gone into the mission field permanently, it is much easier for them to remain intentional and focused when they’re not being drawn back into daily life responsibilities where they live and socialize. Once a person has learned to fulfill focused missions work, micro-missions in the community become much easier to accomplish in an intentional fashion – as an extension of that individual’s life.

One focus of the mission should be to promote involved service to others (performing a service promotes the idea of serving others).

Seeing beyond our individual selves helps us to partner with others to accomplish a common goal. This team building process promotes other-involvement. It helps us to see beyond ourselves. Essentially, the longer period of time that a missionary is able to get outside of his/her normal boundaries and focus on others (mini- or even massive-missions work) helps that individual spot micro-missions opportunities (and hopefully respond to them) on a daily basis.

Another focus should be to build one’s own cultural awareness, gaining new perspectives (rather than to create changes within that culture based upon the missionary’s perspective).

Great harm can be done when a missionary’s primary goal is to change the culture based upon his/her perception of ‘betterment.’ An innovation in one culture can serve to demolish another when appropriate needs are not considered. The missionary’s goal should be to go on an adventure to encounter the culture from a fresh perspective of understanding – to see beyond personal ways. Positive change can take place, over time, through multi-faceted understanding and other-involvement. The change may, however, ultimately occur in YOU!

This leads into the chief idea of spiritual awareness as a focus (or what we can achieve within ourselves but not for ourselves).

As part of definition #2, the main goal achievement rests in kingdom building – not our own kingdoms (as the focus is off of ourselves), but God’s Kingdom. Spiritual awareness (the fact that we’re spiritual beings within physical bodies) helps us see differently beyond ourselves. We’re able to learn to pull from our energy within to enact on achievement of greater goals outside of ourselves. Our reward for hard mission labor isn’t in the outer physical world, even though many of the fruits of the spiritual kingdom are displayed there for others to see the glory of God in them. Our treasures get stored up elsewhere.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

Being involved in missions can create a new focus, a new vision…a new heart.

joyously,  -jody

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I’m participating in the online adventure travel and photography magazine LetsBeWild.com’s Wild Weekly Photo Challenge for bloggers. This week’s Challenge is: New Beginnings!