Category Archives: Cross-Cultural

5 Friday Faves – Journaling, What Ends All Marriages, Cell Phone Addiction, Trauma Healing, and Neighborhood Gelato

Happy Friday! Cutting quickly to the chase here, with my favorite finds of the week:

1) Journaling – Writing is a favorite outlet of mine. When I write, it’s like talking to a trusted friend. Everything is clearer after. Less frightening, too, sometimes. that’s what reflection does for you. Journaling has been a life-long habit of mine. In fact, I’ve told my kids that when the time comes and they go through all the stuff in the attic, they might want to read some of the journals. Although, I also warned that anything shocking they read, I’ve probably long since worked through (hopefully).

Productivity coach Benjamin P. Hardy strongly encourages journaling as a daily early morning habit.

Do you write or journal? It’s worth a try. You never know what you might discover through writing out what is bouncing around inside your head.

Why Keeping a Daily Journal Can Change Your Life – Benjamin P. Hardy

2) What Ends All Marriages –
Meg Marie Wallace writes a chilling piece on the one thing guaranteed to end all marriages. In her article, she talks about marriages that survived adultery and other betrayals, as well as marriages that didn’t survive. Then she gave what she saw as the difference.Photo Credit: Edvard Munch, Wikipedia

Those whose marriages didn’t survive were those who allowed their hearts to grow cold and hard toward their spouse.

“In order for marriages to thrive BOTH people need to guard with all diligence against hardness of heart. It has no place in marriage, yet in big ways and in small ways we let it creep in. This hardness often begins so subtly, with the smallest acts of selfishness…but left unchecked can grow to become a raging fire of wrath, anger, hatred and bitterness.” Meg Marie Wallace

Left. Unchecked. We must guard our hearts if we want our relationships (marriage and otherwise) to thrive in hard places.

Read Wallace’s piece. We can take hope and take charge of those hearts of ours.

3) Cell Phone Addiction – Jesse Lyn Stoner posted a powerful article, by Victor Prince, on the intrusion of cell phone technology in the workplace. The piece is Want Your Team More Engaged? Remove the Weapons of Mass Distraction . If we were honest, many of us struggle with this. I know I do. Take a minute to read Prince’s take on how to shake-up the workplace by confronting the distraction of our phones. I’m motivated. On both personal and professional fronts.Photo Credit: Andres Rodriguez, Flickr

4) Trauma Healing – After studying about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), I’ve become more interested in trauma healing. Wanting to be equipped, I went to a training this week. The American Bible Society offers a course especially geared toward those who want to serve people who’ve come through terrible lossPhoto Credit: BPNews

or trauma (refugees, anyone with PTSD, persons with addictions, fill-in-the-blank). The training is designed to help meet the needs of all people no matter the religion or background. Only one section is specific toward Christians.

Through role-play experiences, storying, dialog, writing and art exercises, the course facilitators guide participants how to recognize and lovingly intervene with those who have come through trauma. I was surprised myself how helpful the exercises were in helping me with some losses I’m still recovering from.

The written guide is an excellent tool for anyone and can be purchased online.

Healing the Wounds of Trauma – Harriet Hill, Margaret Hill, Richard Baggé, Pat Miersma

5) Neighborhood Gelato – Don’t you love those shops tucked into your neighborhood where you know the people behind the counter and the products are always amazing? One of those around here is The 21Hundred, named for its location on John Rolfe Parkway, in Richmond’s West End. It’s a cozy, friendly place where neighbors gather and others drive over to join them. Payton and Robyn Wilson, the proprietors, serve up espresso, gelato, and other yummy treats every day of the week but Sunday. They treat all of us like return customers, even when it’s the first visit. Check it out if you’re a Richmonder. If you’re not, tell us of a neighborhood favorite of your own.

Have a great weekend and be kind to one another. You never know what someone is going through.

Worship Wednesday – the Church Segregated – Black & White – Erskin

Photo Credit: Church Leadership

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
 – Galatians 3:28

For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.Ephesians 2:14

Racial segregation in the church must break the very heart of God. How is it that we, who love Jesus and want to live as He modeled and taught us, continue to live and worship apart from one another racially?

We live in a racially complex city. Richmond, Virginia, was once the capital of the Confederacy. Even now, the racial divide is shamefully wide. The church, both black and white congregations, has Christ’s mandate to come together. To be reconciled. To live at peace with one another. To enjoy community together.

My family is part of a church that has a vision to reach Richmond. Our city is ethnically diverse. To reach Richmond includes figuring out how to not just be another white church in the neighborhood.

Erskin Anavitarte is a Christian songwriter. On his website, he also identifies as a diversity spokesman and adoption advocate. He is a Kingdom builder and a reconciler. This is a man who calls us to enlarge our lives and our churches to include one another.Photo Credit: Erskin Music

He wrote a little song Black & White which really touched my heart this week. Simple and yet profound lyrics.

“One song may not make much difference, but my prayer is that we remember that God made us all and perhaps bridging the gap begins by focusing our eyes on Jesus. That’s the message of this song.”Erskin Anavitarte

After our country’s last election, I was burdened afresh how racially polarized we are as a nation, and even in the church. This can’t be the case, in daily life, for Christ followers. Not in daily life. Not in corporate worship. How do we come together?

As we worship the Lord today, we ask Him for wisdom and for opportunity. We ask for compassion and understanding. We determine to “love beyond the limits of our prejudices…to speak love and embody love” (Rev. Michael Walrond, Jr.).

Today, I want to make it a priority to discover the black church in the same neighborhood as our white church. To find those who love God as I do…and this city in a way that can stretch my own love…and maybe it could go beyond the reach of either of us. Just maybe.

[Let’s close in worship now. Check out the super helpful links below, later.]

Worship with Erskin and me, would you?

The most segregated time in our country

Is Sunday morning 11 o’clock

Black churches, white churches

Right next door

They’re on the same block.

Both with hands raised high for Jesus

Still a million miles between us

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

We all want to walk with Jesus

We all want to be about His will

How do we break down the unseen walls

Where bridges need to be built

This song may not change your mind

Jesus won’t let me keep it inside.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Maybe it all begins

By not focusing on ourselves

Fixing our eyes on Him

Living our lives as friends.

Black people; white people

Remember the God who made you and me equal

Not some people but all people

Remember the God who made you and me equal.

Photo Credit: James Estrin, The New York Times

YouTube Video – Erskin – Black & White – Official Lyric Video

A Shift in Demographics at a Church in Harlem – Samuel G. Freedman

YouTube Video – Global Spirituality: Pastor Michael Walrond at TEDxHarlem

They’re Playing Our Song – The Secret Multiracial Churches Know About Music – Michael O. Emerson

7 Key Characteristics of Diversity-Oriented Churches – Brian Leander

Racial Reconciliation in Richmond, Virginia? – Wendy McCaig

[Links below showcase Christian comedians who help us with some of the things that unnecessarily make us uncomfortable with each other’s church cultures…although I couldn’t find one that caricatured white church worship for blacks. Could someone help me?]

YouTube Video – Gary Owen – My First Time at a Black Church

YouTube Video – Unwritten Black Church Rules – KevOnStage

YouTube Video – Black Church Phrases Explained – KevOnStage

5 Friday Faves – Storytelling, the Restorative Nature of Music, a Film Company, Ethnic Food, and a Sugar Detox

Hope you’ve had a good week, since it’s pretty much done. Deep breath! Friday Faves coming at you right now.

1) Storytelling – When I was growing up, listening to stories was one of our favorite forms of distraction. Huddled around a campfire or under blankets at a sleepover, we would listen to funny or scary stories that kept us wanting more. In these days, good storytelling seems a neglected art form. Our friend Tom Elliff tells great stories and we never grow tired of him repeating them. Very little of Tom’s storytelling has been captured on film (you can enjoy some of his stories in this sermon). Fortunately for us, Tom has published some of his stories because you don’t want to miss them.

Communicator David Grossman has written many helpful pieces for us who would love to sharpen our storytelling. Two are linked below. His quick formula for excellent storytelling is depicted here:

Photo Credit: Your Thought Leader, David Grossman

A Quick Formula to Tell the Best Stories – David Grossman

The Power of Storytelling – David Grossman

I’ve written previously about storytelling here and here.

How’s your story-telling? Please comment below about your experiences with story-telling or good story-tellers.

2) The Restorative Nature of Music – I love music. Choral music is my favorite, but some instrumental music, as well, has captured my heart (this musician in particular). I sang in choirs from the time I was a small child. In college, I had the opportunity to sing with the Emory University Choir, a very different experience than that in a smallish Baptist church choir in the South. It amazes me to this day how music can touch emotions…even to the point of being therapeutic and restorative. Whether it is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Alzheimer’s Disease, music can have a positive soothing effect.

Watch these two short videos of the impact of music on two elderly persons. So beautiful.

3) A Film Company – I don’t know how I first became aware of local filmmaker Nathan Clarke. He is the founder of Fourth Line Films in Richmond, Virginia. Here is how he describes the work of this company:

“Fourth Line is a Richmond, Virginia based production company specializing in documentary and authentic storytelling. As lovers, students and champions of film, we know the inherent power of a good story exceptionally told. That’s why we apply cinematic tools and techniques to produce engaging, authentic stories that captivate audiences. We strive to create films that don’t just entertain, but incite a response.”Photo Credit: Fourth Line

My favorite documentary so far by Fourth Line is Bono and Eugene Peterson: The Psalms. I write about that lovely film here.

Check out their intro video on their work and you get a montage of the quality of their work as well as their intent in the art of filmmaking.

Our town is not known for filmmaking…yet…but that will change as these guys make their mark on this city and our world.

Fourth Line Films and Fourth-Line

Fourth Line Films

Facebook Page – Fourth Line Films

Q & A with a Filmmaker – Nathan Clarke on the Arts, Authenticity, and the Christian Faith – Deb Mills Writer

4) Ethnic Food – Across the street from each other are two of my current favorite ethnic restaurants:

Habanero Mexican Grill – This is a tiny restaurant with most of the seating under umbrellas on the patio. It’s an order-at-the-counter experience, but they handle groups really well. Mexican food doesn’t always love me, so it’s not my go-to dining experience. This is the exception. Really great fajitas and taco salad, just to name two.

Mediterranean Bakery & Deli – This restaurant (deli and market) caters to anyone who loves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. So good. The grocery products, the music, and the tastes and smells take us back to our life in North Africa. The fatayer (an inexpensive pie of meat or spinach, with or without Feta cheese added) is so yummy. Always our go-to.Photo Credit: Mediterranean Bakery, Twitter

If you’re a Richmonder, please take a moment to comment below what your favorite ethic restaurants are around here. Thanks!

5) A Sugar Detox – I can’t believe I’m writing on this topic outside of a piece on addictions. Still, mentally and physically, my resolve is steely right now to deal with sugar in my life. After a few days of family vacation ahead of us, I’m coming back to do a sugar detox. Photo Credit: Pixabay, Saramukitza

Diets of any kind are suspect for me because they never seem to have lasting impact. Diets also force you to be “consumed” with food – which is so counter-intuitive since it’s the unhealthy consumption of food that is already the problem.

Twice in my life, I came completely off sugar – once while pregnant with Nathan, and the second time 3 or so years ago. Both times were very positive experiences, once I got past the addictive pull of sugar. Even now I just don’t eat chocolate or doughnuts (two lovely trigger foods for me)…everything else has become fair game again…and I am quite fond of sweet treats.

What has given me the impetus to do a sugar detox? This article: One-month Sugar Detox: a Nutritionist Explains How and Why by Lisa Drayer Very practical, not too food-weird. I am ready.

Will let you know how it goes…

So…here’s the weekend. Hope you have a safe and refreshing one with lots of loves around. The world today seems to breed loneliness which is so odd with the myriad ways people are able to be “connected”.  It helps for me to be aware, and to reach out instead of throwing a pity party of one. Hope you have no idea what I’m talking about. For the rest of us, let’s reach out.

Bonus

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins – Have you read it yet?

YouTube Video – Top 5 The IT Crowd Moments – British show about an IT department where the voicemail is “Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again?”

5 Friday Faves – Writer Jeff Goins, Refugees, Community, Situational Awareness, and a Memorial

Happy Friday. Summer’s coming on hard here with temps into the 90s for the next week. Hope you get to play hard and rest hard over the weekend. Here are my favorite finds for this week. Enjoy!

1) Writer Jeff Goins – I am so excited about Jeff Goins‘ latest book. This is his 5th book – Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age. It arrived 2 days ago, and I’m already deep into it.

Pre-ordering this book was an excellent plan, because the Barnes & Noble store near us is having to re-order already just 3 days into the launch. These books are flying off the shelves.

Why? Goins has already proven himself as a fascinating story-teller and wise counselor regarding creative work and turning dreams into reality. This book is a thrilling culmination of all that for those of us who want to put our work out there and make a living at the same time.

In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.

I’m so glad I bought this book early. Reading it is like having a successful and kind mentor guiding me through the next steps of my career. Whatever your passions, you will glean so much from Jeff Goin’s own journey and wisdom.

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age – Jeff Goins

28 Lessons From Great Writers, Artists, and Creators on Mastering Your Craft – Ryan Holiday

2) Refugees –  We never want to lose sight of the plight of displaced peoples – of refugees. Photographer Steve Evans and writer Zee Jenkins put together a beautiful and riveting photo essay – Trail of Tears – Refugees in Greece. Take a look and remember this is happening every day.Photo Credit: Steve Evans, Life Force Magazine

3) Community – We need each other. Community is something we experience when we reach out to those around us to help in whatever way we can. Community is also receiving that help when we are the one in need.Photo Credit: Army

How do we teach and model community to our children? How do we raise them to be situationally aware and compassionate to those around them? Please share your experiences (in the Comments below) of what you’re doing to raise up children to be adults who are socially responsible…who genuinely care about those around them.

This little video went viral and you’ll understand why. Beautiful!

4) Situational Awareness – This is a life skill that fascinates me. In fact, I wrote about it in detail here . Situational awareness is a discipline of being tuned into your surroundings in such a way that you can be alert to a threat or crisis before it actually happens. It came to mind this week when I saw this fascinating video below about things we can easily miss if we’re not alert to our surroundings. Watch Evan below.

Hopefully it didn’t just make you uncomfortable. Hopefully it made you think how we might not just be aware of a threat or a crisis, but that we might intervene early enough to change the situation. To get avert the crisis and to get help for that person in trouble.

A friend of mine lost a brother to suicide. His was a terrible impulsive final act and his family will grieve for a long time. What about those who show signs of depression or deep sadness? Maybe we can help there as well. It’s tragic when the family has to fight alone for the life of a loved one. I don’t have answers here, but we all have community agencies who can help us.

5) A Memorial – The news cycle is fast and fickle. We hear news (usually bad news) and then while we’re still coping with the fallout, media moves on. We forget too soon, even when that’s not our desire. Today is my older brother’s 71st birthday. Robert died suddenly 10 years ago. His online memorial is here. Today, I remember him. Also today, I want to remember 17y/o Sarah Harmening.Photo Credit: 11 Alive News

I did not know her at all until a bus accident in Georgia sent many to the hospital, and her life was gone. Still, the little I know of her made me want to pause and remember her with you. Below you will note her journal entry, written on that bus sometime before that accident. As she herself wrote, I believe with her that, in her life and in her passing, “God is going to do incredible things”.

Photo Credit: Facebook – The Alabama Baptist Newspaper

Breaking News: Multiple Huntsville Church Passengers Injured in a Bus Accident Outside of Atlanta

Another terrible incident that was short-lived in the news cycle was the slaughter of 28 Egyptian Coptic Christians last week. Again, in this moment, I want to memorialize them and…remember them.

Gunmen in Egypt Force Coptic Christian Pilgrims Off the Bus and Kill 28 – Declan Walsh and Nour Youssef

Don’t Look Now, But… – this is a hard read about the ambush and killing of these Egyptian Christians. This article found me and I’m glad I read it although it was disturbing. I don’t know if all the details are true, but this is true: 28 lives were taken and bear remembering.

This Friday Faves was not as light-hearted as most are. Still it’s what continues to resonate in my head and heart going into the weekend. Be safe out there, pray for one another, and let’s be kind to those around us…we never know what a difference that can make.

Bonuses

The Ultimate Character Test Any Great Leader Passes – Carey Nieuwhof

Mom: Let’s Stop Drinking the KoolAid – OK…this is a rant on our focus on nutrition for our children – which is a good thing until it becomes an all-consuming thing. Good article wherever you stand on this.

YouTube Video – Real Life Trick Shots – Dude Perfect

Wednesday Worship – Be Thou My Vision – Celebrating God with Rend Collective

[Adapted from the Archives]

The strongest memories I have of the song Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship across North Africa. When our children were growing up, we “attended church” – expat families, from various Christian denominations, who gathered once or twice a week to worship in English.  We sang great hymns, old and contemporary, with guitar accompaniment, and worship leaders with more British accents than American. I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then with lyrics projected on the stuccoed front walls.

Photo Credit: Eurobishop

We sang Be Thou My Vision, this old Irish hymn, across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British accent.

Now to Rend Collective. I heard this group for the first time on my radio a few years back. The song was Second Chance. I jotted down the group’s name and song and would later buy the album based on that one song. Have you ever done that?

Photo Credit: Amazon

When I heard You are My Vision, my first thought was how could anyone mess with such a great hymn that so truly magnifies God? As I listened, the personal nature of this version drew me in. This old Irish hymn written in the 8th century has been, not-so-much updated but, celebrated by an Irish group of young worshipers. Not celebrating the song so much as celebrating the Savior of the song.

We no longer “attend church” in various African countries. Today we are deep in the life of church, bringing our own stuff to the stuff of many others. All of us collectively love God, albeit imperfectly, of course, and want to express His perfect love in our communities.

This Sunday during worship at Movement Church we sang Be Thou My Vision, and I was reminded of its great truths and of other years, in other places, where His truth was being made known.

Worship with me through the lyrics and music of Rend Collective’s  You are My Vision.

You are my vision, oh King of mine heart. Nothing else satisfies, only You, Lord. You are my best thought, by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, Your presence, my light.

You are my wisdom; You are my true word – I ever with You and You with me, Lord. You’re my great Father and I’m Your true son. You dwell inside me, together we’re one.

You are my battle shield, sword for the fight. You are my dignity; You’re my delight. You’re my soul’s shelter, and You’re my high tower. Come raise me heavenward, oh, Power of my power.

I don’t want riches or a man’s empty praise. You’re my inheritance, now and always. You and You only, the first in my heart –  High king of heaven, my treasure You are.

High king of heaven, when victory’s won, may I reach heaven’s joy, oh, bright heaven’s Son. Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.

Lyrics for You are My Vision

You are My Vision – Rend Collective – Official Live – acapella part at 2:23 will seriously give you cold chills 

YouTube video of You are My Vision with lyrics

Rend Collective Albums with You are My VisionHomemade Worship by Handmade People and Campfire

Rend Collective Art of Celebration – Album & Tour

Be Thou My Vision – Wikipedia – English Methodist Lyrics, 1964

Back Story of Be Thou My Vision

YouTube video of Second Chance from album Homemade Worship by Handmade People

YouTube video of  Build Your Kingdom Here from album Homemade Worship by Handmade People – another favorite for another day

Jesus and Holy Week – Monday, Day 2 – Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Cleanses the Temple

Blog - fig treePhoto Credit: Fig Tree by Bob Orchard

[Adapted from the Archives]

On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”Mark 11:12-14

During that week in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples spent the nights with friends in Bethany, two miles outside of the city. Each morning, they would walk into Jerusalem. On that Monday morning, just four days prior to his crucifixion, Jesus became hungry on the walk in. Seeing a leafy fig tree, he looked for fruit. With fig trees, where there are leaves, there should be figs. Since green figs are edible, and it wasn’t yet harvest season, there should still be some fruit on the tree.

When he found no figs, Jesus cursed the tree. This seems out of character for Jesus, until his action is put in the context of his culture and community. Throughout his public ministry, especially as he became more known and revered, the Jewish religious leaders held him in contempt. Jesus’ teaching of our dependence on God’s righteousness and not our own flew in the face of the Pharisaical teaching of the day – that of strict adherence to Jewish law as the only hope of finding favor with God. For Jesus, the leafy barren fig tree must have been a picture of religious Jews of that day, all flash and finery but no fruit of faith.

Jesus was left still physically hungry and then also spiritually hungry  – for this people of the Book to receive the good news that the Messiah had come.

Finally, arriving back in Jerusalem, Jesus was deeply troubled by what he found inside the Temple. The crowds of Passover pilgrims did not disturb him, but temple grounds turned marketplace did. In this sanctified place, meant only for worship, there were money-changers and sellers of animals for sacrifice, right in the Court of the Gentiles – in the only place where non-Jewish God-believers could worship.Blog - Jesus Cleansing the TemplePhoto Credit:Expulsion of the Moneychangers from the Temple” by Luca Giordano

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.”Matthew 21:12-13

Often in film depictions of Jesus cleansing the temple, he appears a crazed individual, flailing about, throwing tables and flinging pigeons into the air. I can’t even imagine him that way. We can’t know how it happened except that in Jesus’ anger, he did not sin. I know the Jesus Film is just another director’s film rendering, but in this scene, Jesus showed great restraint. Disturbed at the buying and selling that actually kept believing Gentiles from worshiping, he moved to correct the situation. He was unafraid of the temple officials, burning with zeal for his Father to be truly worshiped in that place.

Zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.Psalm 69:9

Later in the week, he himself would be the one sold –  for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed by one of his own disciples, to satisfy the wrath of the religious leaders. That story is for another day.

This Holy Monday, we are drawn again to this Messiah who teaches us that the way we live our lives matters but not more than the way we relate to God. He is holy, and in His righteousness, we stand…on solid ground.

Holy Week – Day 2: Monday Jesus Clears the Temple

YouTube Video with Lyrics of In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree

Monday of Holy Week

The Righteous Anger of Jesus

Cleansing the Court of the Gentiles

Jesus Film Media – website & app to watch videos

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – Part 2

2014 Dec Blog pics - Stones of Remembrance 002

[Adapted from the Archives]

“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”Joshua 4:24

In a stressful week and a spiritually dull time, it’s been good to reflect on the work of GOD in our lives. 12 stones of remembrance are piled on my kitchen windowsill. 12 recollections out of the many times He has moved on our behalf. The first 6 are found here.

7) We moved overseas to work almost 20 years ago. Our children were young and we felt terribly young ourselves with the language skills of a preschooler. On arriving in a beautiful capital city in North Africa, with survival Arabic and the grace of God, my husband needed to find a house for us to rent. It seemed a daunting task.  That first morning, we prayed together, and he left the hotel to begin the search…by faith, really. Even hailing a taxi requires some cultural understanding of how it’s done there, and it took a few tries for him to “win” a ride. Finally a taxi driver invited him in, and off they went. In a country of 9 million Muslims, there were many 30 Christ-followers. In all this huge city, the taxi driver who stopped for him was one of those few.  Over the years, we have known the friendship of many wonderful Muslim people, but on this stressful first morning, to have the company of a brother was a special kindness of God. Housing was eventually found; that encounter was a special grace.

8) Sometimes God’s might and gentle care both shine through a seemingly insignificant situation. After some time in this North African country, work took us outside the capital city to a distant town. Now my husband would have to purchase a vehicle which we had not needed in the capital. Again, like so many seemingly simple processes, this took on a whole new level of complexity when done cross-culturally. The used car souk only happened on Sundays, and the bargaining process was incomprehensible. He was unsuccessful for weeks. Knowing our move was imminent added pressure. Finally, one Sunday, he just gave up. He walked up the ridge to the highway to catch a taxi and looked back over all the business of car sales, feeling hopeless. A taxi pulled over for him, and he got in. The driver said, “Are you buying or selling a car?” When my husband told him that he was unsuccessfully trying to buy a car, the driver asked what kind.  It turned out that the driver had a friend selling a car, just the kind we needed. Random, crazy, love-filled act of GOD.

9) While we were overseas, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was a lymphoma and, by all rights, should have been cured, or at least arrested, by the treatment of that day. It was not to be so. For three years, Mom endured aggressive chemotherapy. The cancer was relentless. In the course of her treatment, she also had a severe Shingles attack that went into her nervous system and caused her pain for the rest of her life. We came back to the US for what would be her last year. My mom loved the LORD. She never prayed for healing, although we sure did. She only prayed for GOD to be glorified through this cancer. He answered her prayer…and ours, in a different way. Much of her life, she lamented that she didn’t hear GOD speak to her in ways she was sure he did with others. I asked her once, near the end, if He spoke to her now, and she smiled, and said, “All the time.” For her, the cancer was worth it.Fuji002 152a

[Since writing this blog originally, we’ve also lost our dad. He had both Alzheimer’s and colon cancer that was spreading. We had prayed for months that he would not be afraid as he lost his memories and that he would not be in pain in the end. God gloriously answered those prayers for us. We know it doesn’t always work out that way, especially with Alzheimer’s. We are so grateful.]

10) Losing my mom was especially hard, a “severe mercy”*. Losing my older brother was strange and complicated for me. Robert had what I would describe as a self-imposed hard life. He could be rough with those he loved the most, almost taunting them to desert him. Yet, he had a kind heart that would often betray his attempts to be distant from us. He finally did move away from all his family, building a house way out in the country. When mom died, I think the sense of home for Robert died with her. Two things I prayed for him, during this hermit season of his: that he would not die alone and that he would be reconciled to his family. Although we lived far away, we saw at a distance that Robert began softening in his conversations with us. On our last phone call, he actually sounded happy. He talked excitedly about meeting up with one brother and working on a project with the other brother. At the young age of 61, piercing chest pain forced a call for an ambulance, and he, not many hours later, died on the operating table. He did not die alone, surrounded by the surgical team who sought to repair a shredded aorta…and many in his family praying for him outside. He died short of repairing all his relationships, but he was moving miraculously in that direction…by God’s grace.2007 SepOct 046

*A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – autobiography about losing his wife and finding God in the midst of the loss

11) Our oldest son, Nathan, is a classical guitarist. In his last year of college, he was to perform a Senior recital as part of his requirements for graduation. In the process of preparing for this recital, he developed a tendonitis from the hours of practice. His doctor told him he had to rest his hands for the 2 weeks prior to his recital. This could have been devastating to his performance. Nathan was able to practice the day before and the day of his recital. He was a bit shaken mentally because of those days without practice, but he determined to continue with the recital. I may be his mom, but his playing that day was technically brilliant and incredibly beautiful. Especially given the stress coming into that day. There was a row of us, family and close friends, praying for him through the recital. With every piece completed, it seemed we were more in a worship service than a concert. I filmed his performance, and later as we watched the video, we saw something very interesting. There was a light artifact of some sort, and it looked as if a shaft of light beamed down through his right hand. It was a picture of GOD being  there with Nathan, and we knew He was by Nathan’s performance. Nathan had played for all of us, and for an audience of One. He told us afterwards that his hands ranged from feeling ice cold and difficult to manage to feeling on fire and exquisitely painful…yet he played so well…and so to the glory of GOD.

Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 060

YouTube Video of “Preludio” – one of Nathan Mills’ pieces during his Senior recital

Nathan Mills – Classical Guitarist, Composer, Arranger of Themes from Films, TV Shows, and VideoGames

12) Finally, the last stone of remembrance for today: being present when someone receives the LORD as her own. Many of you may have that experience on a regular basis. For me, spending so many years in North Africa, I have only personally had this experience a precious few times so far. One very dramatic time was when we came back to the US. A young woman I really didn’t know very well appeared at our women’s Bible study. There was an urgency about her…a quiet earnestness. She was there on a mission. The LORD had clearly been working in her heart and she wanted to settle things with Him. There was only a handful of women in the room, but the power of the Holy Spirit was so evident. While some of us explained how to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the rest of us prayed…back and forth, as she talked, listened, cried…and then prayed aloud herself. Did one of us lead her to be a Christ-follower? No. We were merely and miraculously witnesses of a redeeming love. I wish you could have heard her pray…so full of humility, and longing, and finally peace. To witness the work of GOD in a life He drew to Himself…incredible.

Right now, as we are days away from this year’s Easter celebration, I am once again riveted by God’s reach into our lives. Just in this past year alone, He has been with us through great joys and great losses, a cancer diagnosis, much change in our work, and the birth of a precious grandchild. The handprint of God is everywhere…even on days when I have to get my heart quiet and my eyes focused to see. He is always near…it just takes us looking…and then remembering all the times before.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”Jeremiah 29:13

Will there be days we forget? It happens… Fortunately, for us, even when we forget, He never does.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” – Isaiah 49:15-16

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What Are You Remembering About God Today? – DebMillsWriter

Monday Morning Moment – Syrian Refugees – No One Puts Their Children On a Boat…Unless

What drives people to leave everything behind – everything they have known and owned – and board a sea-bound, over-loaded boat for an unknown future? My sense is it’s running for one’s life…rather than their path to terrorism.

These days in the US, we are adjusting to a new presidential administration and changing policies. Protests and social media wars abound. How to understand and what to really believe are challenging.

What is true?

A wise friend responded to my voiced struggle of what to think about our nation’s changing views on immigrants and refugees:

“The people trying to escape evil we want to welcome. The people who want to export evil we want to identify and shut down.”

Though not prepared myself to address the latter, I would like to highlight the plight of refugees…especially Syrian refugees. A poem I discovered just yesterday is real and riveting…and can put the reader on that sagging boat, holding our children tight, and hoping we will make it to that distant shore. With no idea what will come next.Photo Credit: CNN

Warsan Shire, a young Somali woman who grew up in London, writes deeply personal poetry about life and struggle. Her poem Home is a powerful description of the refugee experience…especially the Syrian, but it could speak to others as well [read the whole poem here].

No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city running as well

You only leave home
When home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
Fire under feet.

You have to understand,
That no one puts their children in a boat
Unless the water is safer than the land
No one burns their palms
Under trains
Beneath carriages
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

No one crawls under fences
No one wants to be beaten
Pitied

No one chooses refugee camps.

Go home…

Refugees
Dirty immigrants
Asylum seekers
Sucking our country dry…
Messed up their country and now they want
To mess ours up

How do the words
The dirty looks
Roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
Than a limb torn off

I want to go home,
But home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
And no one would leave home
Unless home chased you to the shore

I don’t know what I’ve become
But I know that anywhere
Is safer than here.          – Warsan Shire

What can we do for refugees? Jesus’ teaching prevents his followers from blaming others, airing our impotent opinions, or sinking into compassion fatigue. Jesus poured his life out for us…all of us…and teaches us to do the same.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/12993627_10156889362110061_8126408917090936937_n.jpg

To the refugee (probably not reading this, but I want to come out of silence somehow): There are those of us, in this country, who will do what we can to welcome you here and to be neighbor to you when you finally arrive. Forgive us that we haven’t done more. We have been shaken out of our slumber of unbelief at your suffering. Praying for you until you are home again…wherever that will be.

Home by Warsan Shire

YouTube Video – People of Nowhere – Lior Sperandeo

Baptist Global Response

Loving the Alien – PDF – Bible Study from Jubilee Centre, Cambridge, UK

Scripture and Immigration

5 (Biblical) Reasons Christians Must Care for Asylum Seekers – Matt Darvas

5 Friday Faves – Birthday Freebies, Decluttering, Untold Stories, Global Ancestry, and Rhythms of Life

What a week! Maybe all weeks finish with an exclamation point… This one sure did. In the midst of all the crazy, there are delights to discover and life-enriching finds for all of us.

Here are five of mine:

1) Birthday Freebies – Having just experienced another birthday, I make a practice of celebrating not just the day but as far as I can take it. Sometimes weeks but definitely several days. Birthday freebies grease the tracks. We all have favorite restaurants, right? If you sign up for email updates, many times you’re placed in a VIP club of sorts. You probably already do this, but it’s new for me. It’s especially nice when you’re not deluged with email….otherwise they become less favorite.

Four of my favorite “clubs” are Mission BBQ (free sandwich for your birthday), Silver Diner (an entree AND a dessert free for birthday person), O’Charley’s (free dessert), and Qdoba (buy one entree get one free). In the comments section, pass on your favorites to sweeten our birthday celebrations even more.

2) Decluttering – Okay…I have a small problem with this. However, much that’s written these days feels so punishing, like a character-beat-down. I have no interest in dumping all my clothing in the floor and deciding whether each piece makes me happy or not…and then thanking the discards before they’re shipped off to wherever.  Sometimes, people discard only to buy more of the same stuff. Their choice; not my business.  [See the fascinating Opposing Views’ video below.]

The average American throws away 82 pounds of clothes every single year. Here is the devastating toll "fast fashion" is taking on our planet:

Posted by Opposing Views on Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Brie Dyas has written a thought-provoking and kindly piece on 11 Things in Your Home That Are Making You Unhappy. Some of the clutter she covers doesn’t make me the least bit distressed, and she writes in a way that doesn’t judge the reader for her clutter. In fact, I was incentivized after reading her post. Decluttering doesn’t have to communicate devaluing (of the person or the clutter)…nor do we need to express ungratefulness when gifted with what we might consider just clutter.  There is a stewardship principle that applies to managing our possessions. I want to be a good steward of the stuff of our lives and the time necessary to manage it. A more ordered home…life…is also my desire. I do appreciate the loves in my life who guard against conspicuous consumption. I am also frugal. So where do I begin decluttering? The stuff that’s sentimental to me?…still keeping. The piles of papers I’m afraid to file and forget somewhere? Maybe I can happily let those go!  Dyas’ piece has encouraged me to deal with the things I have hung onto…for no good reason. Definitely don’t need the stress of excess. Any thoughts? [Comments]Photo Credit: Prairie Home Therapy

3) Untold StoriesMatthew West is a songwriter and story-teller. His website I Am Untold gives the accounts of abortion survivors (both the babies and the parents) and other like stories. There is so much division in our world over life issues – the pre-born, the men and women who unwittingly conceive or who abort and then regret. Here are stories from a very different side of this issue.

Then there are also people challenged all through the life-cycle (with disabilities or problems of poverty or aging). We hear from those in the business (Planned Parenthood) and those with political motives.

I don’t have my own abortion story, but knowing and loving friends and family who live with heartache – the heartache of a decision they would make differently now also need our care and consideration.Photo Credit: Insider

4) Global Ancestry – The United States is a “melting pot” country – a nation of both native peoples and immigrants from all over the world. It’s one of the many things I love about my homeland. Photo Credit: Ellis Island

Defining words like populism and nationalism have taken on a whole new intensity and seriousness in our current political situation. I’m hopeful still that our country will continue to be founded on the ideas of our founding fathers and shaped by the great men and women of more recent years…Photo Credit: Urbs

Part of the richness of this country is what others have brought with them from other homelands. My own history tracks back to the Bruce’s and Wallace’s of Scotland. Watch this video of how we are connected much more than we could imagine.

It would be much more complicated for us to choose certain peoples that we don’t want as part of our country when we see that we are more part of each other than not.

Exploring the Origins of Language – Video

5) Rhythms of Life – Rhythms are defined as “strong, regular, repeated patterns of sound or movement”. We all have them in our lives. Some rhythms in our lives relate to our habits and routines. Others are strictly recreational which can dampen the rhythms which require us to go deep. I hadn’t give rhythms much thought until Our pastor, Cliff Jordan, talked about them as a discipline of grace.

Photo Credit: NewsongPDX

In this Sunday’s sermon, Cliff talked about the deep rhythms of intaking God’s Word. Too often, we treat spiritual disciplines as a task to be checked off with little impact on us at all. Or even as a sidebar to other pursuits or pleasures that absorb our hours and focus and energy. Oh what we miss in not going deep into the knowledge of God and what He wants to say to us…through His Word. I have known rhythms in life when pouring over and meditating on Scripture was a deep passion for me…to know God and to make Him known…my heart has been stirred afresh this week.

Podcast – The Rhythm of Intaking God’s Word – Cliff Jordan – Movement Church

Explore God

Finally…there is this guy…publishing a most ambitious video next week. Can’t wait. Because of him…I’m now a patron of the arts.

Have a great weekend!

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Redeemer, New Paltz

“I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours...Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”– Jesus – John 17:9, 11b, 20-23

Years ago, on a hot summer evening, I went with a friend to a church deep in Coptic Cairo. We took on the challenge of the choking downtown traffic and dusty dry heat to hear a Christian radio team perform. “A Verse and a Story” – [“Aya wa Hekaya”] – was the name of the humorous program on the radio. The actors present a situation from life and weave Scripture through the story. As inadequate as my understanding of Arabic was, I could get the meaning of the stories and loved being a part of that group of Egyptians that evening. There was also a time of worship – singing and prayer…also in Arabic. As the ceiling fans moved the hot air around and we all glistened with sweat, there was such a oneness there…of sheer enjoyment of Jesus in our midst and the pleasure of being together.

All were welcome that night. Foreigner and local person. Varying doctrines…yet no divisions, in this moment, on style or substance. The love and unity of spirit in that great gathering hall was a sweet glimpse of Heaven (Revelation 7:9).

Enjoying a sense of unity for an evening with like-minded strangers is one thing…determining to live daily in the bond of love, as Christ-followers, is on an altogether higher order… Yet, Jesus prayed to the Father for us to live in those kind of unity…for our own sakes and for the sake of those who peer into our lives. Do they see Jesus when they see us?

John Piper, in his piece on What Is Christian Unity?, quotes Francis Schaeffer:

It is in the midst of a difference that we have our golden opportunity. When everything is going well and we are all standing around in a nice little circle, there is not much to be seen by the world. But when we come to the place where there is a real difference, and we exhibit uncompromised principles but at the same time observable love, then there is something that the world can see, something they can use to judge that these really are Christians, and that Jesus has indeed been sent by the Father. – Francis Schaeffer (Complete Works, vol. 4, 201)

My husband rides his bike on a trainer for exercise. Several evenings a week, I know what he’s doing by the playlist that filters through the house at different parts of his ride. There’s an old Gospel song (popular in the 80’s) that pops up which I love. It is First Call‘s Undivided.

Here are two YouTube videos of this group singing – Undivided with the original First Call (in 1986) and again more recently. The second performance comes 30 years after the first (and at 2:12 into the video, First Call is joined by Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green – all who gave us wonderful worship songs from early in the Contemporary Christian Music era).

Worship with me (with either of the versions above)…undivided:

We may worship different ways
We may praise Him and yet spend
All of our days living life divided
But when we seek Him with open hearts
He removes the walls we built
That keep up apart
We trust Him to unite us

Chorus
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
Bound by His Spirit
Forevermore

Undivided,
Undivided

It doesn’t matter if we agree
All He asks is that we serve Him faithfully
And love as He first loved us
He made us in His image
And in His eyes we are all the same
And though our methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain

Chorus
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
In our hearts we’re undivided
Worshipping one Saviour, one Lord
Bound by His Spirit
Forevermore

Undivided,
Undivided*

As much as I love contemporary worship, I miss the harmonies of another era – the four-part harmonies of these Gospel singing groups as well as just the corporate hymn-singing of my childhood. There is a unison of singing the melody line led by today’s worship teams, but the unity Jesus prayed for us is more symbolized in the many different voices heard in the old Gospel harmonies.

It’s not just unity longed for in the “Why can’t we all just get along?” lament. It’s a unity in Christ that is an answer to His prayer…a bond between us that transcends our many political opinions, cultural preferences, and national loyalties. It is a bond of love that begins with Christ and extends to the nations…a unity that holds believers together in an inclusive circle that opens its arms to all comers.

*Lyrics to Undivided

What Is Christian Unity? – John Piper