Monday, June 27, 2016

He knows me better than anyone else

Last month I attended a week-long conference out of town. I called home one evening to check in with my husband. He told me there was a message on our answering machine for me. He wouldn’t relay the message; he said I needed to actually hear it. He hit the playback button.

I heard, “Hello, this is Nancy Davis…,” in a voice that wasn’t mine.

Someone else named Nancy Davis was speaking.

Several weeks earlier I’d ordered a shirt from an online retailer. I received an email notification of its shipment and monitored the tracking online until it showed that it had been delivered to my post office box. I checked my box for several days but it never showed up there.

What I didn’t know at the time was that the package had mistakenly been put in the wrong post office box. The person that received it thought it was something her sister had ordered and shipped to her. She thought that because her sister, who lives in North Carolina, is also named Nancy Davis. Once the sisters were finally able to get together and investigate the mysterious package, they realized it didn’t belong to either one them. So, the North Carolina Nancy Davis set out to find the Nancy Davis with a post office box in Walterboro, South Carolina, which she did. That’s how I, Nancy Davis, came to have a voice mail message from another Nancy Davis.

Neither my first name nor my last name are that uncommon.

As a matter of fact, just today I received a couple of emails that confused me. The subject of the emails was baseball, for which I have no affection for or affiliation with, so I replied to the sender for clarification.  Finally, he realized he was sending them to the wrong Nancy. He obviously had more than one Nancy in his address book.

The combination of my first and last name is not so uncommon either. If you google it, you’ll get pages and pages of entries about Nancy Reagan. Her name was Nancy Davis before she married Ronald.

The Nancy Davis that received my shirt by mistake probably looked at it and laughed thinking she’d never wear such a thing. I didn’t have any need to know where the fields were in the upcoming baseball tournament, but there was another Nancy who did. As for Nancy Davis Reagan, well, there aren’t many who could compare with her. We all have the same name but you have to go a little further to tell the difference.

If the North Carolina Nancy Davis, Nancy Davis Reagan, and I were all in the same room and someone yelled out, “Nancy Davis,” none of us would know for sure which one of us they were calling.

The only way I might know for sure they were looking for me is if I recognized the voice that was speaking.

There is a voice that calls our names and knows exactly which one we are. That voice that belongs to the one who created us says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” Can you hear it? Do you recognize it?

In that same chapter of scripture (Isaiah 43), the voice that remembers and calls my name says that for his own sake he will blot out my sins and forget them forever. He remembers my name. He can pick me out from all the other Nancy Davises in the world. He knows me better than anyone else and yet will never remind himself of my sins. Who else can do that? No other name but Jesus. 

This was originally published June 26, 2016 on

Monday, June 20, 2016

God's strength keeps me from growing weary

I’m in cycle where I seem to be annoying other people just by showing up. I haven’t intentionally tried to provoke anyone, but it somehow I have managed to stir up humanity without much effort.

I pulled my car into a space on the street clearly white-line marked as legal parking space. A little later I was confronted about my choice of parking spaces and was asked to move my car anywhere other than the lawful space it was in.

I made a phone call to follow up on a matter that hadn’t been crossed off my to-do list yet. I simply wanted to check the status of the unfinished task, but the receiver took the call as criticism for tardiness, which it wasn’t.

I overheard grumbling coming from another room. She was talking out loud to herself and it was obvious that she was not happy with the way I had done something. I had moved some things around because of a safety issue, but apparently the rearrangement caused her some inconvenience.

I got in my car and headed out to get a sandwich for lunch. Apparently the dude in the truck behind me thought my careful and cautious driving, including using a turn signal, was offensive enough to warrant him screaming obscenities at me as I turned off the roadway.

At the end of the day, the gravity of all that unintended offense weighs me down. I try to do the right thing. On days when it seems like the assaults come back to back, what I really want to do is scream back at someone who screams at me. It would be so easy to spew a bunch of words to justify myself or my actions. If someone expressed an opinion about my shortcomings it probably wouldn’t take me long to react and return the favor. It’s hard to stand up when there’s so much gravity pulling you down. It’s a lot easier to sink to that level than to rise above it.

Many world religions, including Christianity, embrace the spiritual principle of reaping what you sow. Eastern religions call it karma. Even people who aren’t religious believe it. The essence of it is that your current actions affect your future. It’s an ageless, universal concept with scores of human examples proving its validity. It’s a simple idea. If we want a good future, we do good things now. Simple, yes, but not easy. Sometimes it’s really hard to do good.

In Galatians 6 of the New Testament Paul states it plainly, “For whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Two verses later he continues, “Let us not grow weary of doing good.” I’m with you, Paul, but exactly how do we not grow weary?

I found the answer in the Old Testament. Isaiah said:

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

I don’t want to be the person that screams at people or incites their anger. I would rather be the person that brings good news. That’s hard to do sometimes. It took an Old Testament prophet to remind me that I cannot do God’s work without God’s help. It is God’s strength that keeps me from growing weary and enables me to take a stand in the world we’re living in. That’s exactly the encouragement I need to start sowing like my future depends on it.   

This was originally published June 19, 2015 on

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Fight the Violence with one simple thing - Love

Pop! Pop! Pop, pop, pop!  I stood in my living room and heard the loud blasts outside. My husband was standing in the front yard with a rake in his hand. I stepped out on the front porch as a car sped by within a few feet from where he was standing. The windows of the small sedan were down. The passenger in the car was shouting profanities out into the street. I didn’t see it but I knew the smoking gun was in his hand.

It was a drive-by shooting targeting a house just a few doors down from ours. Property was the only thing damaged by the bullets that day. It had happened before. That was four years ago. Reports of similar stories still make the local news.

I know profiling is controversial, but if you were profiling me, my detail sheet would look something like this:  Female, Caucasian, middle-aged, married to a minister, modest wardrobe, goes to work Monday through Friday, attends church every Sunday under the tallest Baptist steeple in town, spends her money at Walmart and BiLo, leisure time includes sitting on the front porch reading books with a half priced soda or slush from Happy Hour at Sonic. I’m not exactly a poster child for street gang recruitment.

That’s my life in this small, rural, South Carolina Lowcountry town. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that there are only two or three houses that separate my life from some that involve violence and gunfire, but the truth is both extremes are present on the street where I live.
I used to think my situation was unique. My sense of that was upended a year ago on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 when nine people were shot and killed inside Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church. Violence invaded a sanctuary of peace. It didn’t happen on the street where I live, but it was close to home in more ways than distance alone.

Two weeks after the Emanuel AME Church tragedy, I backed my car out of our driveway just before nine o’clock in the morning. I noticed three police cars parked a few yards down the street. Later I learned that a gunman had entered a nearby house and opened fire on a couple asleep in bed. They both sustained several gunshot wounds but survived. I had slept peacefully while gunshots were their alarm.

The ground I walk on every day also dirtied the feet of soldiers as far back as the Revolutionary War. There have been countless pairs of dusty shoes trudging across this same soil waging wars both big and small. The fight is always about wanting what we do not have or keeping what we do have. The details of the conflict may change, but the enemy is always the same. As a Christian I know that the real enemy is the spiritual forces of evil. I know the real fight is not against flesh and blood. But, there are often flesh and blood casualties. I’ve always wondered about that word, casualties. There is nothing casual about it when people die. When life is taken away by force, it is serious. It’s the kind of seriousness that should motivate us to fight the injustice.

Just before his crucifixion Jesus said, “Love one another.” He was speaking to his disciples in an intimate conversation among their small group. He wasn’t talking to or about people who didn’t believe the good news of the gospel. He was telling them to love each other, their fellow disciples. He knew that after his death and resurrection, they were going to need each other more than ever. It was a warning that the streets where they lived were about to get dangerous and that they were going to need to cling to each other for survival.

In that same conversation with the disciples Jesus went on to explain that loving each other would be what people outside their circle would notice. If others see that their love is genuine, they just might want it for themselves. Sharing love with someone doesn’t diminish how much you have, it multiplies it.

Police reports show that quaint small towns, church sanctuaries, and the street where I live are not immune to today’s violence. They are also not immune to love and compassion. Love is powerful. Showing, sharing, and spreading it is a responsibility I need to take seriously, for the sake of all the potential casualties. 

This was originally posted on