Following, followers… it’s all a bit of a loaded term nowadays, isn’t it? In 2020, the word follow might be more likely to conjure up the notion of social media in your mind rather than the old standby meaning of actually –you know—going anywhere.

But way back when I was a kid, “follow” made me instantly think of just one thing.

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In The Wizard of Oz, Glinda tells Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road because it would take her to the right destination: the Wizard and her ticket back to the arms of Auntie Em. She had a path marked out because she had someplace she needed to be. Now, there were obstacles along the way and her trip home didn’t end the way she thought it would – but the road she was following did lead her to the Emerald City, as promised.

On the other hand, the Lost Boys’ game of following the leader was much more precarious than Dorothy’s journey. Instead of following a marked path, the Lost Boys followed John – and as it turned out, John didn’t know his way around Neverland. They followed him right into a trap set by Tiger Lily’s father.

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A Path or A Person

That’s the thing about following. Whoever, or whatever, we follow has the ability to take us where we want and need to go… or lead us into dangerous territory.

Now, turn that coin over. Consider for a moment: who is following you?

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In your real life, I’m sure there are people who are going right where you lead them. They’re buying a product because you raved about it, or listening to a podcast that you recommended. If you’re a parent or a teacher, kids are following your approach to coping with hard times or they’re hoping to follow your footsteps to an alma mater.

Click to Follow

And then, there’s our social media lives. It’s interesting to me that so many platforms use the word “followers.”  When you click that little button on Twitter, is the person whose 280-character missives caught your attention really leading you anywhere?

I’d like to suggest that you are leading. So the question is, what direction are you taking your followers? Is it a destination worth visiting? Whether you are leading people toward brands and products, opportunities or inspiration, they are following you.

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I believe that we are all accountable to God for the way we influence others.

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6

Does that scare you? Please, please, don’t be scared. (Well. I mean, take it seriously. Be sober-minded about the impact of those words. But don’t be afraid!)

Here’s the thing: we

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“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-7

I call this blog Words to Spare because I usually have lots to say. Right now, I’m finding it very important to speak up. I’m engaging in lots of conversations with fellow white folks, doing my best to share what I’ve learned and help lighten the emotional labor of my Black friends who don’t necessarily want to be answering every question from every acquaintance who is suddenly paying attention. I’ve been to a prayer rally in my town and have plans to attend an NAACP gathering tonight and another prayer rally next week. I’ve been talking about justice for a long time around here, but the whole world feels different right now, and I don’t think it needs more of my words.

This week, I’m finding it very important to also be silent. On Instagram, I’m trying to amplify Black voices, and pause my own photos and words so that others can be better heard. And I think that’s what I need to do here, too.

I stand with my Black brothers and sisters against injustice. I honor them as fellow image bearers of God. I’m anti-racist, and I will give my time, votes, dollars, and words to dismantle the systems that have harmed so many of them for so long.

Please take a few minutes to read these perspectives, and pray with me for humility in our own hearts and for justice in our nation.

Bryan Stevenson on the frustration surrounding George Floyd’s murder

The Grio on part of the problem with our criminal justice system

Ibram X. Kendi and Yoni Appelbaum discuss policing, protests, and this moment in history (audio/podcast)

President Barack Obama on activism and engagement

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency on an interfaith rally in Chicago

Black pastors in Raleigh on the protests after George Floyd’s murder

and John Piper (who’s a white guy, but I hope you’ll read his words to fellow white folks) on the sin of structural racism



Resources for learning more:
Be The Bridge: a faith-based community for racial reconciliation

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Bible study in the time of corona… looks a lot like web-based conference calling. Like so many other folks, I’ve taken to using Zoom and FaceTime for most of the meetings and gatherings that used to fill my days, and Bible study is no exception! I miss opening up my door and welcoming ladies in to sit in the living room and open God’s Word, but I suppose one advantage to moving our meetings to an online format is that some folks who couldn’t make it to my midday gatherings are able to log in and join us now.

Last night, our Bible study conversation turned to fear. We’ve been reading in the Psalms, and we observed that even when David or the other psalmists cry out to God in fear, worry, or anxiety they always come to a posture of faith and worship by the end of the song. It’s a really beautiful reminder to us that we can bring all of our messy emotions to the Lord, and that the right way to process our emotions with Him is to end up in praise and thankfulness. Nevertheless — most of us have some types of fear assailing us right now.

Some are worried about the virus, if not for themselves then for vulnerable family members or friends. Some are worried about their livelihoods, the businesses they’ve built. Some are worried about the students they teach, the clients they serve, the people they help at ministries which are now closed or out of contact.

And there are the year ’round worries: our children’s growth and development, relationship issues, finances, educational or career decisions. There’s nothing new under the sun, we are reminded in Ecclesiastes. People have had things to fear since the dawn of time. The thing is, God’s people have had the antidote to fear for just as long.

I promised my Bible study friends that I would compile a list of Scriptures we can use to actively combat fear. One of the best ways to ensure fear doesn’t take root in your heart is to speak the truth of God’s Word. In Ephesians 6:10-18, when Paul writes about the armor of God, he first describes the defensive pieces. The only offensive weapon for believers is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

It started in the Notes app on my phone, but pretty quickly got too big for that. And as I looked at the verses, I realized that speaking these Scriptures is powerful, but so is praying through Scripture. (If you’re not familiar with the concept, Wycliffe does a wonderful job fleshing it out here.) So I opened my word processor and started writing the way I might pray each of these verses back to the Lord.

Once that was done, I felt like it was something worth sharing. So I’ve made it a PDF that you can get right here. I pray that these verses and sample prayers will encourage you and strengthen you

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We’ve always been big fans of Disney animation (and Disney parks, and Disney pins, etc etc) and recently, I shared some of the faith lessons I see on display in Disney’s The Rescuers over at my friend Laura’s great blog.

Click the image to read the full post!

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I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on how the shutdowns in Kentucky were impacting our family and a few tips for parents who are trying to make the best of the situation alongside the Children’s Director at our church.

What’s working for you? What’s been your biggest challenge?

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Rows of peanut butter blossom cookies cooling on a wire rack. Click for link to recipe.

I’ve baked 216 cookies so far this month. The recipes and ingredients are lined up for another 276 by the end of this week. A few nights ago, my darling husband had the Unmitigated Confidence, the Unabashed Audacity, to ask, “Hey, you know these cookies? [flashes a photo of peanut butter blossoms on his phone] Could you make a batch for Christmas? I just really like them.”

I mean. Y’all. I’ve already prepared “Santa’s Whiskers,” and peppermint-cocoa cookies, peppermint meringues, and up next are M&M cookies, chocolate-covered cherry cookies, gingerbread, and another batch of meringues. AND HE ASKS FOR MORE? Just because he likes them?!

Dear reader, I told him I would bake them, if he picks up the bag of Hershey’s Kisses from the store.

screen capture of tweet dated 6:51 pm, 12/17/19

The evening of the cookie conversation, I tweeted: “I need to start asking for things I want, just because I like them, with that level of boldness.” (I was really only thinking about asking Chris. For stuff and nonsense. But then…)

The next morning, my Bible Reading Challenge took me to Luke 11 and I saw this:

“Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your SHAMELESS AUDACITY he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!””

Luke 11:5-13 (NIV) emphasis mine


It reminded me of how I’d felt when Chris asked for cookies. Even though I am already busy (like the man in the parable who’s already resting with his family), something about the sheer chutzpah of the request made me acquiesce.
Look at that passage again.

Asking for More

Do

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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