Category Archives: Cross-Cultural

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

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

5 Friday Faves – Raising Mentally Strong Kids, Syrian White Helmets, Combating Stress, Frosted Lemonade, & the Latest Video by my Favorite Guitarist

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End of the week. Short and sweet. Here are my 5 favorite finds for this first week of September. Comment on your finds also, please.

1) Raising Mentally Strong Kids – We all want our children to grow up capable to thrive in the world as it is today. To have capacity to both work and lead in situations that might prove stressful, even immobilizing if they hadn’t developed certain strengths. For them to be mentally Strong, mentally tough, resilient – what do our children need from the adults in their lives.blog-resilience-drgarybrowntherapyPhoto Credit: DrGaryBrownTherapy

After the first article below popped up on my Facebook newsfeed, my interest was piqued and I went hunting for others. Below I’ve bullet-pointed some good and quick reads on how we can help our children develop mental strength and resilience.

I may write on this more another time, to make it easier on you. Raising mentally strong kids takes a lot of study anyway…here we go!resilience-blogPhoto Credit: TracieCZabatol

2) White Helmets – Syrian Civil Defence – In an Al Jazeera article, Maria Jan writes of her interview with White Helmets founder, James Le Mesurier.  White Helmets are first responders, volunteer rescuers, who brave fresh bombing sites. Knowing they could also die in a fresh bombing raid…but they still respond. They make up the Syrian Civil Defence. Organized in 2013, there are currently 2700 rescuers, both men and women. Le Mesurier says of them, “They had a choice to either become a refugee, pick up a gun, or pick up a stretcher.” They are committed to care for the victims, no matter what political or religious group. “Their job is to save people’s lives not to judge them.”

blog-white-helmets-the-good-storyPhoto Credit: The Good Story

There is a multi-agency, multi-national effort for the White Helmets to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Heroes. Good news in a sea of bad.blog-al-jazeera-the-white-helmetsPhoto Credit: Al Jazeera

3) Combating Stress – Since my cancer surgery earlier this summer, I’ve become a student of how to live healthy. Still a student…not an expert nor practitioner, necessarily. While on a trip to the beach recently, I was reading two books simultaneously.  Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds by Kelly A. Turner Ph.D.  describes “9 key factors that can make a real difference”. I am not recommending this book necessarily because it features so many traditional and non-traditional practices, it’s overwhelming really. The strength of the book, however, is the whole mindset or perspective of taking charge of your health. I appreciated that. A friend of mine calls it a survivorship plan. The stories of those who are living “against all odds” are thrilling. Thinking about staying well and what I may include in practicing wellness have already brought down a large measure of stress in my life. blog-booksThe other book I’m reading is  The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer. This is focused on the battles we all find ourselves in and how Christ-followers especially can deal with them. Taken from the Scripture Ephesians 6:10-19, the book goes in-depth on how we can walk in what is true and not in the shadows of fear, worry, and the “what seems true”.

4) Frosted Lemonade – You know on those hot, hot days, and you have lots of errands where you are in and out of the car, you could really use some lovely cold beverage, right? Sweet tea might be one of those go’to’s. For me, yesterday, it was the frosted lemonade with diet lemonade) at Chick-fil-A. I was shocked to find it is on the Dessert menu (ordering it with diet instead of their regular lemonade at least takes it down to 240 calories for a small). It is so refreshing. Even better (can’t believe I’m saying this) than the frosted orange from The Varsity. If you have neither of these options where you live, what’s your go-to cold beverage (while driving)?

blog-varsity-frosted-orangeblog-chickfila-frosted-lemonadePhoto Credit: Pinterest; Chick-fil-A

5) Latest Video by my Favorite Guitarist – Nathan Mills posted a new video this week.  Those of you who follow him (or just me) know that he is a classical guitarist who writes and performs arrangements of themes from movies, TV shows, and video games. I have no idea what the game World of Warcraft is, but his arrangement of the Neal Acree’s Anduin Theme follows. Just lovely.

nathan-mills-twitter-world-of-warcraft-legionPhoto Credit: Twitter

Even composer Neal Acree thought so…and we agree with him, right?

blog-nathan-and-neal-acreePhoto Credit: Twitter

Have a low-stress, safe, and sweet weekend! Thanks for stopping by.

5 Friday Faves – The Insanity of God, a Magical Baseball Moment, Saving a Syrian Baby, Downton Abbey Returns, and Beauty & the Beast

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Here we are with another Friday. So ready for today! Not because I live for the weekend, but because this is a wonder all on its own. Where we are, school is back in session after Labor Day, so there’s lots of activity around us with getting kiddos ready to go to school. Last vacations, last school shopping, and then the firsts begin of this new school year.

Today’s Faves are all about film. Please share favorite films you have discovered, too (including video shorts on Youtube, etc) in Comments below.

1) The Insanity of God – This is a limited release documentary taken from the book The Insanity of God – a True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken with Gregg Lewis. It follows the lives of a missionary family in Africa, and then tells stories of people they met in different countries of the world…These people became followers of Jesus in places where they would experience extreme persecution for that decision. Their experiences were difficult to watch, even as actors reenacted them . However, I still strongly recommend it to anyone interested in knowing more about God. The most striking takeaway for me was how the suffering they experienced paled compared to their experience of God’s love and care, even in hard places.

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I wrote about one of these persecuted believers here.

The Insanity of God will be screened once more on September 13 at selected theaters. The DVD will then be released on November 21.

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2) A Baseball Magical Moment – My dad, who has Alzheimer’s, has had a rough week. He’s doing better now, and I’m thankful for family close by him who watch out for him. I bring that up because he loves baseball…well, actually, he loves BRAVES baseball. Still, I think he would love this baseball story about Michael Lorenzen, pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds. Michael’s dad died recently, and the day he returned to play, he had an emotional and magical moment.Blog - Friday Faves - Michael Lorenzen - lindyssportsPhoto Credit: LindysSports

He hit his first homerun of his major leagues career. Don’t miss the video – really sweet, whether you’re a baseball lover or not. I plan to show it to my dad on our next visit.

3) Saving a Syrian Baby – The war in Syria and the refugee crisis have given us terrifying and anguished views of human suffering. One video that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed this week showed a medical team operating on a pregnant Syrian woman who had been critically wounded from a barrel bomb. They were treating her and at some point decided they needed to surgically deliver the baby. You want to watch this here. [The video is 6:17; for sure, watch 3:11 onward]. I know a little Arabic and there’s a lot of celebrating going on in the operating suite. Those doctors must see a lot of terrible wounds from all the bombing, but that day the war didn’t win.Blog - Syrian Mother and Baby - surgical team - mashablePhoto Credit: Mashable

4) Downton Abbey Returns – This week PBS aired a special titled I Miss Downton Abbey. It gave all of us fans another opportunity to revisit that fabulous ensemble cast and to hear some of the behind-the-scenes production bits. For any of you who still haven’t seen Downton Abbey, and now regret that decision, you are in for a treat this weekend. For those who have access to PBS broadcasting, Downton Abbey is going to be shown all this weekend – all 6 seasons – starting Friday evening and going through Monday. Woohoo! Blog - Downton Abbey - radiotimesPhoto Credit: Radiotimes

5) Beauty & the Beast – I just saw a news brief that in March, 2017 (which is 6 months from now!), a live action Beauty & the Beast is being released. Emma Watson is playing Belle and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens is playing the Beast. The buzz is already started about how can you take such a gorgeous animated film and re-do it. Why would you want to? Knowing Disney Studios, it will be amazing.Blog - Beauty and the Beast - Live Action - etonlinePhoto Credit: Etonline

Hope you have a sweet weekend…a holiday weekend for us in the US. I might binge a bit on Downton Abbey while doing laundry and other work around the house…until then, here’s the theme by my favorite guitarist – Nathan @beyondtheguitar.

Worship Wednesday – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong United

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May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, Selah, that Your way may be known on earth, Your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You! – Psalm 67:1-3

 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb… – Revelation 7:9

What would possess us to have life-altering, death-defying good news…and then keep silent about it? Does fear motivate us? A lack of love? What keeps us silent?

How does one keep to herself the most beautiful truth and person ever encountered in life? With both freedom of speech and freedom of religion, how is it that I speak so little of Jesus? This Jesus who turned my life around so many years ago…and continues to transform me in ways beyond imagination.

I want to be done with that kind of silence.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and, some 40 days later, just before he ascended to the Father, he spoke a powerful charge to his followers:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:19-20

I’ve always loved that sending of Jesus’ followers. It was given to those with him that day…and every one of us since. Simple and clear, we are called to:

  1. Go. [next door and to the nations]
  2. Make disciples. [give witness in word and deed to the truth of the Gospel]
  3. Baptize them. [as an expression and witness of a life surrendered to Christ]
  4. Teach them to observe/obey all Jesus commanded us. [in word and deed, life on life, following Jesus]

Then he gives this wonderful promise at the end:

“I am with you always.” His great declaration of “I AM”.

This week a documentary debuted around the US. The film The Insanity of God was taken from the book, by the same name, authored by Nik Ripken with Gregg Lewis.

It follows the lives of a missionary couple, Nik and Ruth Ripken…and then the focus turns to people they meet, from many nations, who chose to follow Jesus. Often against great resistance.

Ripken tells the story of a Russian pastor named Dmitri. This pastor, refusing to recant, was imprisoned for his faith for 17 years. Every morning, Dmitri would come off his cot, look toward the eastern sky, raise his hands, and sing to God. It was his own heartsong, asking for strength for the day. Blog - The Insanity of God - Dmitri

On the day his execution was set, and the guards walked him out of his cell, the prisoners all around him stood at the door of their own cells, raised their hands and sang that very song. Dmitri did not die that day but was miraculously released and restored to his family.

[Also watch Todd Smith’s story-song of Dmitri’s life [“Dmitri’s Heart Song – Jesus Is Alive“]

“”For us, persecution is like the sun coming up in the east. It happens all the time. It’s the way things are. There is nothing unusual or unexpected about it. Persecution for our faith has always been—and probably always will be—a normal part of life”…Those who number themselves among the followers of Jesus—but don’t witness for Him—are actually siding with [the persecutors]…of the world. Believers who do not share their faith aid and abet Satan’s ultimate goal of denying others access to Jesus. Our silence makes us accomplices.” – Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God

Watching that film and hearing story after story of people who loved God more than their own lives…rekindled the fire in my own heart. I do love God…grateful for his forgiveness of my sins, and the love He showed me in the person of his son, Jesus. He is worthy of both our worship…and our witness.

Worship with me to Hillsong United‘s “To the Ends of the Earth“.

Love unfailing
Overtaking my heart
You take me in
Finding peace again
Fear is lost
In all you are

And I would give the world to tell Your story
Cause I know that You’ve called me
I know that You’ve called me
I’ve lost myself for good within Your promise
I won’t hide it
I won’t hide it

Jesus, I believe in You
And I would go to the ends of the earth
To the ends of the earth
For You alone are the Son of God
And all the world will see
That You are God
You are God*IMG_8531Movement Church

*Lyrics – To the Ends of the Earth – Hillsong United

Blog - The Lord Bless You and Keep You - in Arabic and English

Saturday Short – Refugee Olympic Team – #Rio2016

BLog - Refugee Olympic Team Rio 2016 - abcPhoto Credit: ABC News

Ten athletes. 4 women; 6 men. The 2016 Summer Olympic Games, in Brazil have begun, and for the first time ever there will actually be a refugee team represented.

“These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem,” IOC president Thomas Bach said. “We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village.”ABC News

The Refugee Olympic Team is a group of young people that have endured war and all the loss that comes with it. They are:

  • Yusra Mardini and Rami Anis – Swimmers, Syria
  • Popole Misenga and Yolande Bukasa Mabika – Judoka, Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Yonas Kinde – Marathoner, Ethiopia
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek, Yiech Pur Biel, Paulo Amotun Lokoro, Rose Nathike Lokonyen, and Angelina Nada Lohalith – Runners, South Sudan

To get to know them better, read Christopher Zumski Finke‘s fascinating article on how they survived their adversity and all came together (including video of the athletes themselves telling their stories). Some of the stories are chilling.

We all have our favorite teams and athletes, and the Refugee Olympic Team is now on my short list. #Rio2016 – a hashtag full of hope satisfied and dreams fulfilled.

First Ever Refugee Team to Compete at the Olympics – Christopher Zumski Finke

Blog - REfugee Team - Uplift ConnectPhoto Credit: Uplift Connect