Worship Wednesday – Fear Not – A Lesson From the Shepherds and Charlie Brown’s Friend Linus

blog-fear-not-charlie-brown-christmas-patrickmurfinPhoto Credit: Patrick Murfin

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Fear can rip our hearts out…paralyze us from action…drive a wedge between us and the truth. It drives us to focus on what we see (much of which is only in our mind’s eye) as our dreaded reality, hitting repeat over and over. Fear fixes blinders on our faces such that we must fight to remember that there is more to life…so much more…than what we are facing in this moment…whether it’s real or more imagined. The Apostle Paul speaks of this, from experience, in his letter to the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5).

In preparing our hearts for the birth of Christ, the shepherds come to mind. Tending sheep in the dark fields outside of Bethlehem, they gathered by a fire, telling stories…maybe even sharing some of their own fears with each other. Or guarding them in their hearts…even more afraid of being exposed. Whether they feared attacking wolves in the darkness or whether they could adequately provide for their families….or something even deeper and harder to express.

When the angel of God appeared to them to announce the birth of the Messiah, he assured them to “Fear not!” Was it just because of his fearsome and surprising appearance? Or could it also have been a word to us from God, repeated throughout Scripture…to not be afraid? A word from God to His beloved creation so long without a word from Him. “Fear not!”blog-fear-freebibleimages-fear-notPhoto Credit: Free Bible Images

In the family film A Charlie Brown Christmas, there’s a small detail that could go unnoticed… Linus responds to the anguish of his friend, Charlie Brown, when he questioned what Christmas is all about. If you haven’t ever seen this short film, Linus carried a blue security blanket with him everywhere he goes…everywhere.

Linus explains Christmas here…watch his blue blanket.

Linus Christmas Monologue

As Linus explains Christmas to Charlie Brown (with the help of Luke 2:8-14), he declares the angel’s words to the shepherds, “Fear not!” Then he drops his blanket!

Jason Soroski notes this in his piece about A Charlie Brown Christmas:

The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.

The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.

The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead. 

What happened to those shepherds, visited by an angel on that night that has marked all of history since? Some of them had to be changed forever. I’m sure there were those who followed the life of Jesus…heard his teaching, saw the miracles, were even present at his crucifixion. From that group of shepherds, there must have been those who believed that, indeed, there was nothing to fear.New Testament 3 Production Still Photography

When Linus finished his monologue, he picked up that blanket. Isn’t that true for all of us? Our temptation, in the frailty of being human in this large human experience, is to pick up the fear, as Linus did his blanket. The truth is, for God’s children, there is nothing to fear. God wraps His arms around us and sometimes even pulls the curtain back to show us what He is doing even in this fearsome moment…to care for us, protect us, and reveal His glory in and through our lives. Even when God keeps the why, or the reason, or the purpose, veiled…as we walk with Him, and experience His love through the fears, we can trust Him.

Fear not!  The announcement of the angel…the message of Christmas…is good news…not bad. Good news that can annihilate our fear, as sure as light extinguishes darkness. Let’s live in this truth today.

Worship with me to Hillsong‘s None But Jesus:

In the quiet, in the stillness
I know that you are God
In the secret of your presence
I know there I am restored
When you call I won’t refuse
Each new day, again I’ll choose
There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise
In the chaos, in confusion
I know you’re sovereign still
In the moment of my weakness
You give me grace to do your will
When you call I won’t delay
This my song through all my days

 

There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise

I am yours and you are mine…

All my delight is in you Lord
All of my hope
All of my strength
All my delight is in you Lord
Forevermore*

blog-fear-scripture

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
"Fear not," said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind,
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind."
"To you, in David's town this day,
Is born of David's line
The Savior who is Christ the Lord."

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Saturday Short – When Hard Gets Even Harder – God

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When you get an early morning text from your sister-in-law who is caring for your dad, and the message is “Call me”…you think the worst.

This morning…it was the worst…for her.

Not anything related to the dad she has cared for for weeks now, with the help of hospice and family…not our dad this time.img_9580

…but her dad.

Last night, her full-of-life, golfer dad – who had just dropped by for a visit earlier in the day – had a massive stroke.

This father of daughters…barbara-with-dad-and-sisters

…now surrounded by his daughters…in a hospital with nothing but bad news.

My sister-in-law and I have talked on and off through the morning…and we (and many others…thank you) have prayed since the news of his stroke.

Will God ever give us more than we can handle? How are we to manage when hard gets even harder? We know from God’s Word that His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)…yet the temptation to despair can be overwhelming sometimes. Then we’re given 1 Corinthians 10:13 to comfort us through those temptations. John Piper writes kindly and plainly about that situation where God gives us more than we can handle (here).

I’m reminded of a saying: “God may give us more than we can handle, but He will not give us more than He can handle.”……I cling to that…the saying less so than the truth I know through His Word and experience of going through hard, with Him.

Then…an incredible coincidence happened as we reeled from the news of this gravely stricken father.

A dear friend messaged me on Facebook and said that I had come to mind when she was reading this morning…it was a passage from Streams in the Desert by Mrs. Charles E. (Lettie Burd) Cowman. This is one of my favorite devotional books (other favorites are linked below).blog-streams-in-the-desert

Christianity.com posts online the daily devotionals from Streams in the Desert. The December 3 devotional which my friend sent me follows in total. So led by the Holy Spirit of a completely good and wholly loving God.blog-stream-in-desert-sharing-horizonsPhoto Credit: Sharing Horizons

Is it well with thy husband? Is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well (2 Kings 4:26).

Be strong, my soul!
Thy loved ones go
Within the veil.
God’s thine, e’en so;
Be strong.
Be strong, my soul!
Death looms in view.
Lo, here thy God!
He’ll bear thee through;
Be strong.

For sixty-two years and five months I had a beloved wife, and now, in my ninety-second year I am left alone. But I turn to the ever present Jesus, as I walk up and down in my room, and say, “Lord Jesus, I am alone, and yet not alone–Thou art with me, Thou art my Friend. Now, Lord, comfort me, strengthen me, give to Thy poor servant everything Thou seest he needs.”

And we should not be satisfied till we are brought to this, that we know the Lord Jesus Christ experimentally, habitually to be our Friend: at all times, and under all circumstances, ready to prove Himself to be our Friend.
–George Mueller

Afflictions cannot injure when blended with submission.

Ice breaks many a branch, and so I see a great many persons bowed down and crushed by their afflictions. But now and then I meet one that sings in affliction, and then I thank God for my own sake as well as his. There is no such sweet singing as a song in the night. You recollect the story of the woman who, when her only child died, in rapture looking up, as with the face of an angel, said, “I give you joy, my darling.” That single sentence has gone with me years and years down through my life, quickening and comforting me.
–Henry Ward Beecher

E’en for the dead I will not bind my soul to grief;
Death cannot long divide.
For is it not as though the rose that climbed my garden wall
Has blossomed on the other, side?
Death doth hide,
But not divide;
Thou art but on Christ’s other side!
Thou art with Christ, and Christ with me;
In Christ united still are we.

Thanks for reading…hopefully you are also encouraged by the words above…they were a balm to my own soul. Appreciate your prayers for these I’ve mentioned. God is with us…through every joy and every sorrow.

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers

Morning & Evening with Oswald Chambers – Devotions for Morning and Evening With Oswald Chambers Complete Daily Devotions of My Utmost for His Highest and Daily Thoughts for Disciples

The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall

Joy and Strength for the Pilgrim’s Day by Mary Tileston

Daily Strength for Daily Needs by Mary Tileston

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5 Friday Faves – Skyrim Guitar Cover, Workplace Wisdom, Repair Cafes, Belonging, and Movie Previews

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Just jumping in today with my favorite finds of the week:

1) Skyrim Guitar CoverNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted a new arrangement on Youtube this week – Skyrim – Dragonborn Main Theme. You video gamers probably know this song.  I’ve no experience with this personally, but this song seems to generate sweet emotions for gaming folks. This young man amazes me with his skills, yes, but especially his heart. It comes out in his music. On another note: He has over 1 million views of his Harry Potter medley on the Facebook group Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Exciting.blog-nathan-mills-guitar-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

2) Workplace Wisdom – Finally…on millennials. I know, I know…there is so much written and spoken about millennials. I usually just pass over it…but Simon Sinek’s observations on millennials in the workplace are fascinating and telling. I appreciated that what he sees applies to both millennials and the rest of us. blog-simon-sinek-leadership-and-millennials-why-millennials-matterPhoto Credit: Why Millennials Matter

It is wisdom. Sinek came on my radar this week through a talk he did on IQ with Tom BIlyeu. In his talk, he focused on four components that millennials bring with them into the workplace that affect their professional maturing. These are 1) parenting, 2) technology, 3) impatience, and 4) environment. His take on “failed parenting strategies” may apply to some cultures, but many parents of millennials saw early on the fallacy of communicating how “special” our children are…no matter what they bring to the table. Sinek does communicate a victim mentality here and that’s the weakest of his 4 components. The other three were applicable to the workplace, in general, and to millennials, in particular.

Technology can be a crutch and squelch our creativity more than fuel it. Technology has a negative impact on the depth and breadth of our relationships…we have to pay attention to this. Impatience – for purpose, impact, advancement – is a big issue in the workplace. We need colleagues willing to hang in there through the doldrums. Environment at work is changing at a rapid pace…as much as it appears, on the surface, that it is bending toward the millennial, what is needed is a workplace where millennials can actually grow their skillsets. Sinek speaks to this.

4 Damaging Mentalities Millennials Must Break – Jeremy Chandler (a millennial)

3) Repair Cafes – Wouldn’t you love to have a place within an easy drive where you could take your aging laptop, or blinking lamp, or burned out leafblower for a repair? Is it possible to ever reasonably repair instead of replace? There is a phenomenon around the world where this is happening…not just in rural “third world” settings but in cities. Repair cafes are on the rise. If you want to find one, or start one, go here. This isn’t just about being frugal; this is a craft – this learning how to repair your own broken stuff with the help of a skilled professional – someone’s mom or dad who has learned how to fix things. The closest repair café to us is in Charlottesville, Virginia – do you have one near you?blog-repair-cafe-nytimesPhoto Credit: New York Times

4) Belonging Scott Sauls‘s book Befriend: Create Belonging in in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear is next on my reading list. Belonging is a core need for all of us, and Sauls takes the reader deeply into the realm of true friendship and solid relationships. Whether between peers, family members, colleagues, or even strangers at first encounter. I long to get past superficial and to know and be genuinely known by at least a few people. My desire is to be open to the possibilities of befriending and being “friended” with true authenticity. This book seems a good place to reboot.blog-befriend-scott-sauls-amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

I discovered this book from a tweet about Matt Smethurst’s article 20 Quotes from Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship. I ordered the book based on those 20 quotes. Here are three:

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.” (75–76)

“This is what you call reversing the flow of the umbilical cord: parents demanding that their children function as their source of life; their emotional nourishment; their identity; their Jesus. This always ends in sorrow and alienation and loss. Just as in marriage, we must not place a burden on our children to provide for us the things that only God can supply.” (87–88)

“The best way to measure your desire to serve is to look at how you respond when someone treats you like a servant.” (98)

5) Movie Previews – Call them teasers and then trailers. Whenever we go to the theater, we have to be in place with a family-sized popcorn before the previews start. That is just how it is. I love these glimpses into coming feature films. Two I’ve seen recently follow: On the darker side – Jackie. On the lighter side – Table 19 . Whether I ever see these movies in the theater, watching the trailers was satisfying and wholly entertaining!

blog-friday-faves-table-19-cdn-colliderPhoto Credit: Collider – Table 19

Have a safe and peaceful weekend. Tacky Lights Tour is on our schedule…let the festivities begin.

Also:

Life On My Knees – Chocolate Raspberry Cream Pie – Angela

blog-aletheia-praise-band-nathan-angelas-blogPhoto Credit: Chocolate Raspberry Cream Pie

YouTube Video – Big Crosby & David Bowie – “The Little Drummer Boy” (Peace On Earth)

Macy’s Christmas Adv 2016 Video – #OldFriends – [Sorry about the Poo-pourri ad at the beginning of the video.]

 

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Advent – Welcoming the Savior at Christmastime – Holding a Place For His Coming

blog-peace-at-christmas-crosswalk-25-joyful-prayersPhoto Credit: Crosswalk

So it begins. December 1. Turn around…and Christmas will be done. NOOOOO! There are those out there who respect no day over another (Romans 14:5). I get that. Still, Christmas is such a sweet time of year. What’s not to love about it? All the bright colors and shimmering lights in the dark of winter (granted, this is in the Northern Hemisphere). The many expressions of generosity (gift-giving among family and friends and kindnesses to strangers near and far). The secular and sacred observances that we share within this holiday and holy day.

“Christmas is too big for one day”, writes Andreas Köstenberger, and I agree. As the years go by, some Christmas observances deepen while others diminish. I’m becoming a lack-luster gift-giver, but cherish times together more than ever. December weekends full of parties just make the month fly by, but quieter more intimate times are the experiences I long for.

Connecting with people, savoring the beauty around us, remembering Christmases past, and pondering the wonder of what it all means. This Christmas miracle…this Child who would usher in a redemption only He could provide…from before Creation through a coarse cradle all the way to a Cross.

I need to stretch time in December…to go as deep as is humanly possible into the reality of this Savior King…to think long on the incredible truth of what happened there – To hold a place for His coming…“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
blog-advent-christmas-for-unto-us-a-child-is-born-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

Celebrating Advent (the “coming” of Christ) marks out the month of December in Sundays. If it’s not your tradition, you can search it out easily (here is one resource). For me, it doesn’t require prescribed readings and lighting candles…but I’m beginning to delight in those expressions of worship, as well.blog-advent-church-stage-design-ideasPhoto Credit: Church Stage Design Ideas

Advent, to me, incorporates prayer, meditation on God’s Word, worship in song…and quiet. A quiet that gives space for God to fill it with Himself. That is Advent. The coming of Christ into hearts made ready for Him.

Are there times in December when darkness attempts to extinguish the Light? Sure…I’ve known those times…that’s actually one reason I love Christmas so much…celebrating the coming of a Savior who shines light into the darkest of our nights…setting us free from what keeps us in darkness…because He came.

Not celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you. Ann Weems

In the hordes of shoppers and restaurants bursting with celebrants. In the packed candlelit churches and at boozy company parties. In the silence outside of celebrating Christmas as well as the quiet night within…

You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.

Christmas Is Too Big For One Day – Why We Celebrate Advent – Andreas Köstenberger – Desiring God

Advent Begins Today – David Mathis – Desiring God

25 Joyful Prayers to Ready Your Heart for Christmas – Candace Crabtree

Good News of Great Joy – Daily Advent Readings – John Piper

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy – Daily Advent Readings – John Piper

Why Advent Is As Important As Christmas – Veronica Neffinger

Hark! The Long-Lost Verses Sing – David Mathis – Desiring God

The Problem with Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs – Russell Moore

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Worship Wednesday – Come To Me – The Village Church

blog-come-to-me-youtubePhoto Credit: YouTube

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Jesus – Matthew 11:28

Ever have one of those days when it feels like you’ve just got nothing? Nothing to bring to the discussion…or the relationship?

There’s this amazing group of young women in my life who gather weekly to fellowship and to open God’s Word together. We sit in a loosely shaped circle to give space for lots of children to meander through. From babies crawling around to toddlers and up weaving through us from one side of the room to the other.

These young women enrich my life more than I can say. Those years of small ones were tough years for me…challenging and fraught with the fears of not parenting well enough.

Being in this group allows me to remember the grace of God in my life in those years as I see His grace reflected in them. In fact, even on the hardest, most tiring days, I see Jesus in these women.

Today, when we gathered, I had nothing. Tired from so much travel. Way too much catching up to do for this distractible me. Lists written and rewritten. The desire just to sleep….winning.

Then an hour with sisters…and the experience of “got nothing” was profoundly changed into rest for my soul and a rallying for what was on the schedule today. Hugging babies, funny stories, resonating with each others’ situation, and praying for each other…energized and normalized.

What is that “normal” for a believer? Normal includes those days that are going to take all we’ve got and then some…and there’s grace. Normal is also remembering God early, seeking Him often, and trusting Him always. 

Today, because of friends and sisters, I faced the reality that my early morning quiet times with the Lord have frayed with travel, and fatigue, and (I’m calling it) poor choices. Not beating myself up over it…but grateful to come to the end of myself…and still find God there.

On Sunday, at Movement Church, we sang a new adaptation of an old hymn by Elizabeth Akers. In worship, in that moment of singing an unfamiliar hymn, God began opening my heart to a renewed longing for Him. Nothing else can satisfy…or give us the deep rest we so desperately need. Just Jesus.

Today, in a circle of women who love each other in a way that reminds us of how God loves us, I was held…as if God Himself was doing the holding. Be held, Dear Ones.

…Speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head. From Him the whole body is fitted and held together by every supporting ligament. And as each individual part does its work, the body grows and builds itself up in love.Ephesians 4:16

Worship with me to this beautiful old hymn made new by the group The Village Church:

Weary burdened wanderer there is rest for thee
At the feet of Jesus in His love so free
Listen to His message, words of life, forever blessed
Oh, thou heavy laden, “Come to Me, come and rest.”

There is freedom, taste and see
Hear the call, “Come to Me.”
Run into His arms of grace
Your burden carried, He will take

Bring Him all thy burdens, all thy guilt and sin,
Mercy’s door is open, rise up and enter in.
Jesus there is waiting,
 patiently for thee
Hear Him gently calling,
 “Come, oh come, come to Me.”
*

There are two more verses in the original hymn. One of those follows:

Linger then no longer,
Come just now to Him;
Ere the shadows gather,
And thy light grows dim.
Thou hast long been waiting
For some better time,
But today He’s calling,
Come and claim Him thine.**

On days, when it seems we’ve got nothing…the truth is in Christ, we have all we need. Our part is to come to Him…and rest in Him. His strength is displayed perfectly in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). For those other days, when we feel pretty good about what we bring to the table and maybe we don’t have to be so brave…we can rejoice in the same way as on the “got nothing” days. The same good God equips us, and strengthens us, and cheers us on. Truth! Hallelujah!blog-burdened-i-will-give-you-rest-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

*Lyrics to Come to Me – written by Elizabeth Akers; adapted by The Village Church (Chorus and Melody by Jeff Capps and Michael Bleecker)

YouTube Video – Come to Me – (Original: The Village Church) – Sunrise Bible Church

**Full Text of Weary, Burdened Wanderer – Hymnary

Worship Wednesday – Rest, The Lord Is Near -a Reminder from Steve Green – DebMillsWriter

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Thanksgiving in America – Family/Friends, Food, Football, Falling Asleep Following Football, Forever Grateful

Blog - Mills & Kitenko Family Thanksgiving 2015

[From the Archives]

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! If you’re in the USA, it’s a big day. Lots of food (all favorites you expect/hope to see every year) with those you love crowded around. Then football. Falling asleep from all the turkey. Forever grateful – times together and times apart…love and good memories holding us together.

Dave’s family is in Delaware and most of mine is in Georgia. We’ve had Thanksgivings with both, on sort of a rotation…but not nearly often enough, since we lived overseas for so many years. During that season of our lives, friends became family for us.Thanksgiving 04 009

The food favorites varied somewhat depending on the family, gathering together that year. What are your “must-haves” on Thanksgiving Day?2011 November Thanksgiving Visits 012 a (2)2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 1152014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 023

The best thing about Thanksgiving is the time together with people we love. We can’t always be all together because of distance or work schedules…but it is a good day spent together…I’m grateful for every memory we’ve made together. So thankful for family – with all its craziness. God put us together, and I ‘m so grateful He did.PopPop Stacie 2011 (2)

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.   – Albert Schweitzer

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If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes, and search for them with my clumsy fingers, and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet and sweep through it, and how would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction.  The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day, and as the magnet finds iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessing, only the iron in God’s sand is gold.                                 Henry Ward Beecher2009 Nov 029

Football!2014 Nov Thanksgiving Richmond & Delaware 057Football! 2010 November Thanksgiving in Georgia 204

[Sidebar about football and the mad cleanup that follows the huge Thanksgiving meal – this commercial.]

I cherish every memory these images represent and all the other memories not documented here. Thank You, God, for all Your good gifts to us. Your kindness is beyond our imagining.

“For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”Romans 11:36

Look for things to be thankful for: a dear old face at an open door,

The table set for the family meal, a husband’s love that is true as steel.

A cushioned chair that you fixed yourself, your favorite books on a nearby shelf,

A green-hued twilight that sort of glows, the clean, fresh smell of a brier rose.

An old windjammer that you recall beating its way through an April squall,

Its old sides crusted with salty spray, limping in at the close of day.

The lovely odor of lemon peel; a humble man with a flaming zeal

For a worthy cause that he thinks is right; the feeling of warmth on a winter night.

Look for things to be thankful for: a braided rug on your bedroom floor,

A dormer window with curtains drawn, a bluebird singing across the lawn.

So much to be thankful for these days, so much to enjoy and love and praise. – Edna Jaques, Ideals, Vol. 57, #5

For three things I thank God every day of my life:  thanks that He has vouchsafed me knowledge of His works; deep thanks that He has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to – a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.  –  Helen Adams Keller

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Prayers for those family members missing from the table because of work or other commitments (I think of those in the military and other service jobs). Prayers also for those of you who have said goodbye, for now, to loved ones this year… God’s peace be with you.

Worship Wednesday – All Good Gifts – Thanksgiving Memories – DebMillsWriter

5 Friday Faves – a Favorite Charity, Tablescaping, Brunswick Stew, Christmas Commercial, and Thanksgiving Songs – DebMillsWriter

Thanksgiving Poems

Ideals Magazine – Christmas Edition 2015

5 Organic Ingredients of a Grateful Heart by Steve Graves

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Worship Wednesday – Songs of Thanksgiving – Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters

blog-thanksgiving-songs-quote-addictsPhoto Credit: QuoteAddicts

A Psalm for giving thanks.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.Psalm 100

Have you ever had a time when you couldn’t breathe? Either had your breath knocked out of you, or because of asthma or allergic reaction, you couldn’t get your breath. Or maybe after surgery.

Even more than that surgery, earlier this year, having trouble getting my breath recently was a frightening thing.

The shortness of breath was so sudden, I thought for sure that my time was done. When the rescue squad administered oxygen, my breathing began to return to normal. It turns out I had pneumonia. Once antibiotics were begun, health was restored.

There are so many things to be thankful for God for – family, friends, work, beauty, freedom, salvation…and the list could go to forever. I’ve thanked God for health…sure. It’s when our health is interrupted that we realize how much there was, exactly, to be thankful for.

When I first heard the song Great Are You, Lord by All Sons & Daughters, you can imagine how much the line “It’s Your breath in our lungs” meant to me. Breath! I hope never to take it for granted.

The best part of a scary situation like that is how near God comes to us. We don’t have to be afraid. I knew whatever happened, I would be with Him…either here or there. He makes brings light into every darkness.

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 4:6

blog-light-out-of-darkness-chip-brogdenPhoto Credit: Chip Brogdan

In this week of Thanksgiving in America, many of us will pray together and sing songs to God for His great goodness to us. In the links below are both traditional and contemporary Thanksgiving songs. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.

Worship with me, now, if you will…worshiping the God who is our very breath.

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only

You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken

Great are You, Lord

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only
[x2]

All the earth will shout
Your praise
Our hearts will cry
These bones will sing
Great are You, Lord
[x3]

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
To You only
[x2]*

Do you have a favorite song of thanksgiving? Please share in Comments below. Have a blessed Thanksgiving – whether it’s a holiday where you are…or a season of praise out of a grateful heart, no matter your circumstances.

*Lyrics to Great Are You Lord – – Songwriters: Jason Ingram, David Leonard, Leslie Jordan

YouTube Video – Great Are You Lord – All Sons & Daughters (Official Video)

Story Behind the Song – Great Are You Lord – Kevin Davis

YouTube Video – Thanksgiving Medley – We Gather Together, For the Beauty of the Earth, Come Ye Thankful People Come

YouTube Video – Thanksgiving Song – Mary Chapin Carpenter

YouTube Video – Now Thank We All Our God – arr. John Rutter

YouTube Video – Thanksgiving PlayList – [Wild mix of genres – You will find something to love here!]

The View – Garth Brooks’ Singing What I’m Thankful For by Trisha Yearwood

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Monday Morning Moment – Turning Around a Work Culture – From “Not Good Enough” to “Job Well Done”

blog-demanding-bosses-linkedin-dave-kerpenPhoto Credit: LinkedIn – Dave Kerpen

Aha moments can occur in all sorts of settings. My latest happened during our pastor’s sermon this week. Toward the end of a deep and fascinating exposition of Colossians 2, Pastor Cliff reminded us that we are not meant to earn God’s approval. He gives it unconditionally. Then Cliff talked about how we get caught in the trap of “It’s never enough!” when thinking of our efforts or accomplishments. Then “It’s never enough” or “Not good enough” too easily turns into “You’re not good enough.” This is the place where what we do intersects with who we are…

Switch from the Sunday Bible lesson to the Monday workplace application. I’m not talking the unconditional love of God here, but what happens to us in continuous feedback loops. Stay with me…This made me think uncomfortably about the way I once operated in the area of idea generation and innovation.

I am “an editor”…it gives me great satisfaction to take a document or process and make it better. Recently a friend asked me to edit his manuscript. It’s going to be such a great read…can’t wait for it to be published. Still, there will be lots of edits. For me, being an early reader, I just took care of some grammar and flow issues. There will be more qualified editors down the road. It’s enough for me to do quick, elementary edits and wildly praise the author and his riveting storyline, cheering him on to the next steps of publishing.

The tweaking that I used to do regularly in my earlier professional life was more intense in those days…and less forgiving. I wanted it (whatever it was) to be right, and it was my immodest opinion that I could get it to right. Especially when evaluating someone else’s work (ironically, I was less hard on my own work – figuring it was perfect already, right? Sigh…). The tweaking of another era has come round to a newish process called iteration.

One definition of iteration is the “process of learning and development that involves cyclical inquiry, enabling multiple opportunities for people to revisit ideas and critically reflect on their implication”. These feedback loops are meant to be fast-paced with the finish in view.

ScenarioPhoto Credit: SafariBooksOnline

Where iteration (or tweaking) breaks down (if I might be so bold) is when it’s taken well past rapid feedback loops into a realm of fine-tuning that has the team guessing “will it ever be good enough?” Product design and process development are vital to any company, but what we must also consider is the team or personnel involved.

If the feedback loops relate to the launch of a new product or a new business process, excitement and brainstorming are part of the momentum. Continuing to tweak over months instead of weeks before the launch can take a negative toll on the team. No one wants to forfeit excellence, but we don’t want to lose excellent personnel either.

blog-demanding-bosses-lifehackerPhoto Credit: Lifehacker

Trusting the judgment of our best thinkers is worth the risk of possibly releasing a product or service when we may not all be sure it’s “perfect”. That is what beta-testing is all about…the feedback that then comes to us from the consumer or user.

I’m really talking out of my element here (not being a designer or innovator so much as a lifelong learner). My leap from the sermon to the workplace relates to my own past struggle with wanting something with my name on it to be perfect while exhausting my teammates  with “what if we do this?” or “What if we say it this way?”

What a gift for us to take a well-thought-out proposal and, instead of putting it through the “just not good enough” wringer, we read it and pass it back to that colleague and say, “Good job”…empowering them to execute the proposal. How often does that happen these days?

Please share stories [in the Comments] of work situations where you experienced genuine affirmation for a job well-done.

Recently when water started backing up into the kitchen sink, I was afraid that it was something I had done. Too liberal using the disposal, for instance. Dave was out of town and nothing I could do would remedy the situation. Finally, on a Sunday afternoon, in desperation, I called our plumber (Richmonders, if you need a good plumber, email me, and I will give you his contact info). He came and fixed the problem, and best of all, it wasn’t my fault, after all. This young man literally LOVES his job and was kind to take the time, after he was off the clock, to give me the breakdown of what the problem was. What he charged me? Worth every penny…especially the part where it wasn’t something I had done wrong.

Why I bring this up is that being a fairly capable and creative person doesn’t prevent me from faltering at the likelihood that I messed-up.  See the Imposter Syndrome. My mental wiring is such that I get discouraged when my contribution to a situation actually causes more work for someone else, adds expense, or slows down progress. I’ve learned over the years that all that tweaking I may not have taken the product from good to great, and most assuredly caused some amount of frustration to hard-working, quality colleagues. Lesson learned.

There are times and seasons when tweaking is appropriate in developing a product and changing a business process. What we want to take into account is the cost of that tweaking, or iteration, on the people who make things happen in our workplaces. Free them from the “not good enough’s” to enjoy the fruit of “jobs well done”.blog-demanding-bosses-the-musePhoto Credit: The Muse

10 Tips for Dealing With an Overly Demanding Boss – Jacquelyn Smith

How to Get Over the Feeling that You’re Not Good Enough for Your Job – Michele Hoos

10 Things You Can Do to Get Out of Your Boss’s Doghouse – Brian Dodd

Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work – Alfie Kohn – Harvard Business Review

Good Is Not Good Enough: The Culture of Low Expectations and the Leader’s Challenge – Karlene M. Kerfoot

Innovation and Iteration: Friends Not Foes – Scott Anthony – Harvard Business Review

Holding a Team Retrospective – Morale

Workplace Bullying: Protecting Yourself at Work – Slideplayer

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Saturday Short – The Tuskegee Airmen

blog-tuskegee-airmen-2Photo Credit: Tuskegee Airmen

Last night I watched a 1995 HBO film about the Tuskegee Airmen. They were the very first African-American military pilots. What an incredible story of how they had the opportunity to train as pilots (in 1941) and then how they entered the air battles of World War II (in 1943). As much as they confronted America’s enemy (Germany), they also faced the segregation and racism of that day.blog-tuskegee-airmen

Photo Credit: Tuskegee Airmen

The HBO film was based on the true stories of these men, but it’s hard to know, not having studied the Tuskegee Airmen before, what is true and what is Hollywood.

blog-tuskegee-airmen-getty-imagesPhoto Credit: Wikipedia

There is one scene that was especially timely then…and today.

It was some sort of hearing (some congressional committee) about the fitness of these pilots and whether the training program should be shut down. The African-American colonel who led this fighter squadron was able to speak for the men under his command. Below is his appeal and defense of these courageous fighter pilots…and of African-Americans. {Watch the clip below, as well. Moving.]

All we asked for was a chance to prove ourselves. A fair and impartial opportunity. 
We thought we had that chance.
But you invite us to a poker game,
hand us a fixed deck...
...and then wonder why we can't win?
Every colored pilot in the 99th...
...went through his own private hell

to wear those wings.
Each of those men carry...
...not only the dream
of becoming American Military Aviators...but the hopes of an entire people as well.

Am I the only one in this room
that understands what that means?
I was brought up to believe
that beneath it all...
...Americans are a decent people...
...with an abiding sense of integrity and fair play. The cheers I heard across this country
when Joe Louis and Jesse Owens...
...humiliated Hitler's "Master Race"...didn't just come from proud colored folks.

They came from everyone.
How are we to interpret that?

As a United States Army Officer...
...who gladly puts his life
on the line everyday...

...there's no greater conflict within me.

How do I feel about my country?
And how does my country...
...feel about me?

Are we only to be Americans
when the mood suits you?

A fair and impartial opportunity
is all we ask.

Nothing that you yourselves
wouldn't demand.*


Whether those words were spoken by that colonel or they were the words of a marvelous, insightful script writer…they resonate today.

“A fair and impartial opportunity is all we ask. Nothing that you yourselves wouldn’t demand.”

*The Tuskegee Airmen – Script

Red Tails (2012) – Lucasfilm Official Trailer

blog-tuskegee-airmen-al

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5 Friday Faves – Thanksgiving Infographic, Emotional Intelligence, Christmas Commercials, Friends, and Dancing

Blog - Friday Faves

Well, Friends…we made it through another week. Given the world we live in these days, that’s something to celebrate. As I sit in my favorite work space besides my desk at home, listening to a friend’s Pandora picks, I’m so grateful for one more week and all the good in our lives.

Hope your week was remarkable and your discoveries sweet. Here are five of mine. Please share your favorite finds in the Comments below. I have learned so much in the last couple of weeks about how others think about the events of these days…growing my understanding is such a good thing. Thank you.

1) Thanksgiving Day Infographic – Natalie Brown of Buzzfeed posted an incredibly helpful infographic for those of us who are cooking that Thanksgiving dinner – 19 Charts on all things yummy for the holiday table. This is my favorite such find this week. Two other articles listed out multiple such infographics. Ysolt Usigan posted nine Thanksgiving infographics for all you who may love infographics like I do. Morgan Hauck listed another 6.  Everyone’s family has their own particular traditions. Along with all the favorite dishes filling the table, my mom-in-law will have Bible verses, on giving thanks, by our plates. Taking turns saying around the table what we’re thankful for is part of our Thanksgiving custom as well…sort of a given. I also found this list of questions/conversation starters…not that we need any further help with Pinterest and all. Still…I love anything that stirs conversation on a day when family gathers for food and football.blog-thanksgiving-dinner-she-knowsPhoto Credit: She Knows

2) Emotional Intelligence – OK…so there are smart people and then there are emotionally intelligent people. If you don’t have a sense of the difference in these two, Paul Sohn posted an infographic (yay!) that gives an excellent description of emotional intelligence. There are a lot of smart people out there but what a joy when your boss, as smart as he may be, is also a great communicator wit and appreciator of people. blog-emotional-intelligence-ucreativePhoto Credit: UCreative

3) Christmas Commercials – Even when true-life hard things leave me dry-eyed from the starkness of the situation, a Hallmark commercial during the Christmas holidays regularly cause me to tear up. In recent years, the UK John Lewis Department Store Christmas TV adverts have also touched my heart. My favorite Christmas commercial so far this year comes to us from Heathrow Airport in London. Two oldish Teddy Bears…but so much more.blog-coming-home-for-christmas-newsodyPhoto Credit: NewsOdy

I won’t give it away (watch it here), but it probably affects me so much in thinking how we are not always able to be with all our family at Christmas…and what a joy it is when we are.

YouTube Video – Top 5 Christmas Adverts 2016 UK

4) Friends – Ben Keslen wrote a piece earlier this year on the benefit of good friends. He cites research on how close friendships help us live longer, fight depression and stress, and generally adds to our happiness and well-being. Not exactly rocket science, but fueling the fire to go out to make friends if either our lifestyle or season of life has drawn us into a more solitary existence. blog-old-friends-john-lundblog-friends-inspowerPhoto Credit: ; John Lund; Inspower

Keslen did give an exception, pointing to a different study that demonstrated that really intelligent people have a less significant need for friends. Odd but interesting. I’m very thankful for good friendships that have endured through great change and separation.

Swiping Right on New Friends – Caroline Lester

5) Dancing – I don’t listen to pop music much these days. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar arranges music themes from video games, movies, and TV shows. I listen to that pop music often. Occasionally, thanks to Facebook and other social media, a few songs grab my attention. Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling is one of those happy songs that makes you want to move with it…even me. Dancing is something of a jubilation…a response to words and music that I never want to get too old to enjoy! See if you can listen without moving.

Bonus: One of the most beautiful languages in the world is Arabic. Too often heard in our news in the context of war and political unrest, I wanted to post this short piece on the 10 Most Common Expressions About Love in Arabic.

blog-love-in-arabic-flickrPhoto Credit: Flickr

Have a restful and restorative weekend, Folks. Amidst these days of change and stretching news cycle we’re experiencing in the States, post-election, I hope you found something here to lift your heart a bit. Then…we get back out there and do all we can to “bring good news to the poor; …bind up the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” [whatever binds us]. (Isaiah 61:1)

Keep dancing!blog-dancing-in-the-church-fred-luterPhoto Credit: Blog.Al

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