compass_imageBecause of my integrity You uphold me and set me in Your presence forever. Psalm 41:12


When I was growing up, my mother often quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day thou canst not then be false to any man.” Because my relationship with my mother was complicated, I always thought these words were bad advice, that my mother was saying I was better than everyone else. But as I began to mature, I recalled her words and realized they spoke more about personal integrity than the desire to be somebody special.


Until Jesus became my Lord and Savior, being true to myself did seem selfish. But as I began to embody the values taught by Christ, I became that person Shakespeare (and my mother) spoke of. I found my “moral compass,” and I began to relate to other people from a healthier point of view. And it was true: I could not be false as I had once been in my youth. I could only go forth in God’s marvelous light and seek to remain in that light as much as possible.


Nelson Mandela said, “The first thing is to be honest with yourself….Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” I realize now that every lasting philosophy of self-improvement has at its core the concept of beginning with one’s self. Alcoholics Anonymous and A-Anon, its companion program for the loved ones of addicted persons, are both built on the concept that each individual must “work her own program.” In my counseling training and experience, the concepts that have worked the best begin with an individual being honest with himself, and then choosing thoughts and actions based on truthfulness and sound values. It’s been said that true personal satisfaction comes from doing the right thing even when no one is watching.


I don’t know if Shakespeare was a Christian. But I can say that he had the right idea about walking in our own integrity. That puts us on a clear path to treating our fellow human beings with respect, affording them dignity, and most of all loving them as Christ would do.


Jesus, help me stay close to You so I can be like You to everyone I meet. Amen


atlas_shrugged_by_daverazordesign-d3dlievWhere were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? Job 38:4-5


In the 1960’s, I read a novel that I thought would change my life. Atlas Shrugged by Russian-born atheistic author Ayn Rand chronicles our nation dissolving into total political and economic ruin, resulting in many prominent industrialists attempting to set up a separate society.  The title is derived from a conversation between two of the book’s characters who conclude that “the giant who holds the world on his shoulders” would indeed shrug if he could see what was happening in this Rand-built world. The novel was said to contain “elements of science fiction, romance and mystery,” which at the time, appealed to my not-yet-completely developed sense of self.


Clearly, I was a misguided youth! Rand’s own philosophy became known as “Objectivism,” advocating reason as the only means of acquiring knowledge, rejecting faith and religion entirely. Rand believed that one’s highest moral code grows out of doing what is best for one’s self. I wonder how I could have seen romance where no love existed, or mystery where facts took the place of emotions. Now I see the author’s attempt to indoctrinate her readers into her own selfish ideology (which she nearly did with me!). How could I have been so naïve?


Atlas Shrugged came to my mind suddenly this morning as I was reading the book of Job. In Chapter 28, God explains that He is God and Job is not.  I wish I had read these words before I read Atlas Shrugged! Ayn Rand is and always was a child of God. She just didn’t know it until it was too late. She lived and died not believing or understanding that God Himself gave her the very brain she used to devise her own anti-Godly thinking. God laid down every twist and turn in that woman’s life, just as He has with mine, and she had the same choices—free will— that I have had. Atlas never shrugged, Ms. Rand. God was the one holding the earth in His loving hands!


Father, I know that You love even those who do not believe in You. I pray that Your light will shine through their darkness. Amen


Sweet Potato Comfort PiesThe wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,” says the Lord. Isaiah 65:25


“It’s okay, Mommy,” said the four-year-old girl, “I’m right here with you.” She was speaking to her mother, Diamond Reynolds, who was live-streaming the shooting of her fiancé, Philando Castile, by a police officer who stopped their car for a broken tail light in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. The words of the child, probably the same words her mother had said to her when she needed comforting, were hauntingly touching towards the end of the footage her mother captured to show the world what had just happened. And what had just happened is happening over and over and over again these days.


Everyone you meet, everyone you talk to is asking the same question: “What can we do?” Violence is becoming so commonplace on the fabric of American society, we are in danger of allowing ourselves to become completely desensitized to its impact.


Enter Rose McGee, who brings new meaning to the words, “comfort food.” McKee is the founder of Deep Roots Gourmet Desserts, but when she saw the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, she packed up 30 homemade sweet potato pies, drove to the Ferguson area, and just handed out them out to people.  The reactions were profound, each recipient showing deep gratitude and sharing a happy story with McGee. When she came back home to Golden Valley, Minn., she felt compelled to do more. In November 2015, her Facebook page displayed the following announcement: “My apologies for any inconvenience; however, (the bakery) is currently refocusing its mission by not selling pies, but ‘gifting’ pies through my new mission or ministry or movement called ‘Sweet Potato Comfort Pie: A Catalyst for Caring and Building Community.’”


Since last year, Sweet Potato Comfort Pies have shown up at many places where shootings have taken place. Rose was there the day after Castile was shot, standing in front of the Minnesota Governor’s mansion along with the marchers and the governor himself. But can a pie help? Just ask Rose. “They’re just pies,” she says humbly, but adds, “We’re bringing love and joy from our community to theirs.”


And with her pies, McGee seems to also be saying, “It’s okay. I’m right here with you.”


Lord, help us each turn our hearts toward peace in Your name. Amen


Visit The Sweet Potato Comfort Pie Facebook page and donate to Rose’s ministry!



Eagle with Amercian FlagAfter that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Judges 2:10


Recently, I visited my adult daughter at her house in a small Minnesota town ninety miles west of my home in a Twin Cities suburb. She is seeing a man who lived all of his life in inner city Minneapolis, and three of his close friends were recently killed by gun violence in their home neighborhood. He was attending the funerals, and my daughter was worried that he himself might get shot while spending time in his old community. Nothing I could say seemed to bring her any comfort or relief from her anxiety. She has never accepted Christ, and she kept saying over and over how scary and evil this world is. I finally said to her, “We live in a broken world, but God is still in control.” When I finally had to leave to go home, I was no further convinced that she believed me than when I had arrived.


I’m not the only one of my generation who prays for our children and grandchildren to know Christ, and to have the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) in the face of unspeakable chaos, hatred, and senseless cruelty that our fellow human beings impart on each other. On this day of our nation’s birth, I can’t help but think how our founding fathers would view all the violence that our society has embraced just in the last few decades. It’s true, about 500,000 lives were lost in our own civil war, nearly half of all our nation’s deaths during wartime. And there will still be wars fought and lives lost and senseless killing, probably until Christ returns to bring us a new heaven and a new earth.


Yet the spirit of our nation still soars over the bloodshed. The Washington Post reported recently that a Florida woman, “G. Star Swain, a 34-year-old assistant principle, has been thrust into a national spotlight after video showing her reluctant but powerful impromptu performance of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ at the Lincoln Memorial” went “viral” on social media. As I listened to Swain belt out our not-too-easy-to-sing national anthem, I remembered again what my generation was taught: the United States is “one nation, under God,” and our freedom does ring indeed.


Lord Jesus, restore us to peace and sanity within our own hearts and across our great nation. Amen