Category Archives: Cancer

5 Friday Faves – Uncommon Friendship, Compounding Your Time, Bon Iver’s Holocene, Fear of Dying, and Parenting Post-Childhood Trauma

Happy Friday! Jumping right in to this week’s Friday Faves:

1) Uncommon Friendship – Would you push a wheelchair for a friend across a 500 mile journey? Patrick Gray gladly did that for his friend Justin Skeesuck. They are both heroes. They love each other and give each other the opportunity to live large…live unlimited. Watch the video. Buy the book.

Two Friends and One Wheelchair on the Pilgrim’s Way: Justin and Patrick Live Unlimited on the Camino de Santiago

I’ll Push You – Facebook Page

I’ll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair – Patrick Gray and Justin Skeesuck

2)Compounding Your Time – Compounding your time is like compounding interest – a small investment over time that yields multiplying dividends. Writer and social entrepreneur Michael Simmons recently posted a super helpful article on maximizing your time use. In Why Successful People Spend 10 Hours a Week on “Compound Time”, Simmons describes compound time as an element of the day of high performers. They “step away from urgent work, slow down, and invest in activities that have a long-term payoff in greater knowledge, creativity, and energy. As a result, they may achieve less in a day at first, but drastically more over the course of their lives.” Simmons’ 6 hacks to incorporating compound time in your life are listed below, but don’t miss his fuller fleshing these out here.

Hacks for Compounding Your Time (Over Time):

  1. Keep a journal.
  2. Take a nap.
  3. Walk 15 minutes every day.
  4. Read.
  5. Invest in conversation partners.
  6. Experiment regularly.

“To get started, follow the 5-hour rule: for an hour a day, invest in compound time: take that nap, enjoy that walk, read that book, have that conversation. You may doubt yourself, feel guilty or even worry you’re “wasting” time… You’re not! Step away from your to-do list, just for an hour, and invest in your future. This approach has worked for some of the world’s greatest minds. It can work for you, too.” – Michael Simmons

What have you found helpful to compound time in your own life? Please share in Comments.

3) Bon Iver’s Holocene – The American Indie folk band Bon Iver wrote and performed this incredible song, Holocene. It’s part of the soundtrack in a couple of favorite films of mine (The Judge and We Bought A Zoo). The music is ethereal and just plain lovely. The lyrics?

Bon Iver’s obscure lyrics make those of us who love the song search for its meaning…here one commentor gives my favorite interpretation:

The point that struck me the other day though, was the beauty in the title. Holocene: an epoch spanning over 10,000 years- “connectedness” to the earth from present to the past. Not only are we are aware the world is vast- we are aware that we are only a small speck in time. There is beauty in such simple humanity of a flickering flame, the pink hues of a sunrise- things enjoyed by humankind for eons. It connects our present world of Facebook and Smartphones to centuries of humanity that existed before us- and to the future that lays ahead.

He has these “moments” where everything is right with the world: “not the needle nor the thread, the lost decree… Saying nothing was enough for me”. Conversation is not needed, you are absorbed in the moment of the “hallowed bright” of Christmas Eve or “Laying waste to Halloween”, but “at once”, you are struck with the realization that your “moment” is not significant… “I was not magnificent”. In this though, there is joy in the feeling that despite that, you are still a part of something.

You are a part of the fabric of humanity- over 10,000 years of ‘people’. “Hulled from far the highway aisle”, separated from race, religion, politics and war- but connected to love, jealously, empathy, depression and beauty- emotions spanning borders and time. “Someway baby its part of me, apart from me”.

Holocene reminds us, humbles us and empowers us. My Interpretation – Bevanreay

4) Fear of Dying – I entered motherhood as a cancer nursing specialist. Cancer was all around me in those days, and I embraced what I learned of how precious and tenuous life could be. We were still in the first few days at home with our daughter when, while showering, I discovered a knot under one of my arms. It shook me so much, I literally had to lean against the wall of the shower for a few seconds. Well, thankfully, it turned out to be a non-malignant swollen lymph node common to breast-feeding mothers.

Still, then, and more recently dealing with the real deal cancer, I am acutely aware of how the shadow of death can fall on a life. Just. Like. That. A shadow is just a shadow and often it passes, and all is well again. However, we land at a different place emotionally and spiritually when “well” comes again. A better and broader place.

Mom and blogger Heather Anne Naples  writes about that transformation in her own confrontation with a frightening experience as a mom of a small child. Photo Credit: Heather Anne Naples

How the Fear of Dying Taught Me How to LiveHeather Anne Naples

As she relived her medical emergency and hearing her baby crying and calling for her as the paramedics took her out to the ambulance, she became terrified at the idea that she might not make it and her daughter would not remember her.

I ask you to ask yourself: What will be said about you when you are gone?

Are you kind? Are you gentle? Are you giving? Are you loving?

I am…Now.

Confessing to having previously been a gossipy, sassy “mean girl” before her medical emergency, she turned that all around…not perfectly, of course (not any of us can claim that)…but she altered her life’s course for her daughter…and all in her life from then on out.

The fear of dying should never consume us…that would be a form of dying while living. However, we can learn from a brush with death…that learning can help us live life differently…and better.

http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/making-the-good-stuff-louder-trauma-dad-bryon-hamel

5) Parenting Post-Childhood Trauma – I have people in my life who have decided not to parent because of the trauma in their own lives growing up. They think they are too damaged and don’t want to pass that on to their own children. That is so tragic to me. It’s like the abusive adults in their lives continue to wreak havoc in the adult survivors of childhood trauma.

I’m sure there are situations where not having children is the answer, but it is thrilling to know of people like Byron Hamel.

Photo Credit: ACEs Connection

ACEs Connection writer Christine Cissy White interviewed Hamel, filmmaker and child/parent advocate. Her post, entitled Making the Good Stuff Louder: Trauma Dad, Byron Hamel, gives hope and empowerment. Read the full interview but here Hamel summarizes.

“Childhood isn’t safe. Predators are everywhere. A guy exposed himself to my kid last week at a park. You get your kid out of the park and you call the police. Be vigilant. Learn what grooming is and how to stop it. Monitor their activity online. Ask them about school. Tell them they can tell you ANYTHING and they won’t get in trouble. Tell them they don’t have to fear for their safety, or indeed for YOUR safety. And don’t wait for them to come to you. Ask them regularly. Make your home a fortress for their well-being. Make it feel like the safest place they can possibly be. Show them the greatest love. Be their greatest protector. Listen the most intently.”

A Cycle Broken – Byron Hamel Productions

Care Can Not Be Purchased – Byron Hamel

Guardians of the Children

Love Your Neighbor – The Resilience Movie and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – Deb Mills Writer

Dance Like You Matter

That’s a wrap on this week’s Faves. Have a great weekend. Be kind to yourself and those around you…you just never know.

Bonuses:

30 Quotes That Will Help You Get Through the Day

Motivated Reasoning Is Why You Can’t Win an Argument Using Facts

Living Out – Same Sex Attraction – Anne [website for Christians grappling with SSA]

Worship Wednesday – the Faith to Believe

Photo Credit: Flickr

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

For the first twenty years of my professional life, I was privileged to have close encounters with five life-changing realities. It was a season of caring for cancer patients and their families – when their diseases were raging and in the final days of life. These experiences galvanized my faith in God and how his image is embedded in us – his creation. These realities are:

  1. Courage in exceedingly hard places
  2. Deep enduring love across a harsh illness and when time is fleeting
  3. Hope mingled with humor
  4. Death isn’t final…our spirits go somewhere (for sure, they leave the body)
  5. Faith to believe

Caring for patients receiving chemotherapy and other treatments for life-threatening complications can prompt an intimate caring relationship. To watch patients (and families) deal with such hard and to be in a position to help them through it gave me a window to extend love and honor to dear ones in crisis.

Was there always courage? Was love always expressed between us all? Was humor or hope or faith a constant?

No…but remarkably, more often than not, this was what I observed… especially in those sustained by a relationship with God.

In the last couple of years, I personally have experienced a cancer diagnosis and a couple of respiratory emergencies that brought those same realities into my life. In such times, much in life gets clarity…a sharper focus, a deeper understanding.

Breathe has been a theme in my life for over a year now…put that together with the title of a film starring Andrew Garfield…and it caused me to NOT “skip the ad” on YouTube.Photo Credit: Breathe, YouTube

I was unaware of Robin Cavendish until I saw the trailer for the film Breathe. Cavendish was a Brit who developed polio at the young age of 28. He was paralyzed from the neck down and required a ventilator to breathe. In those days (1958), he would have been confined in a hospital for the remainder of his days. However, he nor his wife, Diana, would hear of it. After a year in hospital, he went home and adjusted to this very different life, as only Robin would. They had a child and he would be able to see him grow up (in fact, son Jonathan Cavendish produced this film). Robin was a pioneer in advocating for the disabled, especially those like him needing more extreme measures to live a more normal life. He died at 64.

[Since my years in graduate studies in rehab and cancer nursing…the courage I saw in so many patients and families…courage in struggle…never ceased to inspire me.]

I am always intrigued about “based on a true story” films. Reading up on Robin Cavendish’s story, my heart soared and then sank…fullstop at the short statement below:

Cavendish was an atheist.Wikipedia

I have never understood atheism. Even during spiritually flat and confusing times in my life, the existence of God has never been at question.

Especially watching beloved patients at the moment of death…their faces relaxing and their bodies emptying of who they really were. We don’t just stop existing…life here stops and starts at exactly the same moment…There.

Now that I know Robin Cavendish, he has my admiration and respect at how he took back his life and helped others do the same. I wonder if, before his life was done…if he had the faith to believe. One line in his obituary reads:

It is a strange irony that, though professing to be an unbeliever himself, he had a capacity for making other people feel closer to God.*

*Obituary – Robin Cavendish – Alice and Tim Renton

What a great gift is faith to believe. We don’t conjure it up. God Himself presents us the faith to believe…it is ours to reject or receive.

Worship with me. Below you will find two songs – Faith to Believe by Shane & Shane and Jesus Is Better by Austin Stone. Choose either or both in celebrating the God who gives us the faith to believe. [Then scroll down to the prayer at the end.]

YouTube Video – Shane & Shane – Faith to Believe – (with lyrics)

Give me the faith to believe You
When I’m stuck here in my fear
Give me the strength to trust You
When my vision’s blurred by tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the strength to believe

Even when I cannot see You
You’re still shining, You’re still shining
Even when I cannot hear You
You’re still calling out my name
Even when I cannot see You
Your arms are open
Always holding on to me
Give me the faith to believe

You say You’ll never leave me
Your love will conquer fear
You say Your day is coming
When You’ll wipe away my tears
Give me a hope for tomorrow
Because today has gone so wrong
I’m on my knees
Give me the faith to believe

Give me the faith to see the invisible
Give me the faith to believe the impossible
Give me the faith to receive the incredible
Oh give me the faith to believe it**

There is no other so sure and steady, my hope is held in your hand
When castles crumble and breath is fleeting, upon this rock I will stand
Upon this rock I will stand

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Your kindly rule has shattered and broken the curse of sin’s tyranny
My life is hidden ‘neath Heaven’s shadow, Your crimson flood covers me
Your crimson flood covers me

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

In all my sorrows, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

In all my victories, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Than any comfort, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

More than all riches, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our souls declaring, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Our song eternal, Jesus is better – make my heart believe

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all

Glory, glory, we have no other king
But Jesus Lord of all
Raise the anthem, our loudest praises ring
We crown Him Lord of all***

Photo Credit: Flickr

Maybe this is the first step for atheists, too (it was for me)…so thankful for the faith to believe…to see the truth and beauty of Scripture. The Word of God walks us right up the staircase to be with Him – now and forever.

Thank You, God, for the faith to believe. With my whole being, I’m sure you daily, moment by moment, extend grace to all of humanity to know You, through one witness of Yourself or another. Help us to receive this grace. God, give us all this faith to believe.

**Lyrics to Faith to Believe – written by Shane Everett & Phil Wickham

***Lyrics to Jesus Is Better – written by Aaron Ivey & Brett Land

Monday Morning Moment – Principles of Execution – and Teams That Get It Done

Photo Credit: USAFA

Two workplace scenarios. The first is when either the manager or the team is super excited about a goal, and action items are determined and given to just the right team member and calendared for quick turnaround. Photo Credit: JSC

The second scenario is when either the manager or the team is super excited about a goal, then one or the other digs in their heels. The meeting ends with no clear shared responsibilities, no movement forward, no hope of change.Photo Credit: GangplankHQ, Flickr

Sigh…all the most excellent strategic planning can take place inside a conference room…and without execution. Essentially, nothing happened there.

I’ve had both kinds of team experiences and want to focus on the former one above. Talk about high employee morale when a group of colleagues operate as a finely tuned machine and the yield is high-quality productivity.

FranklinCovey is a leadership consulting firm. I discovered this firm through the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution authored by leaders in the firm.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals is written by Sean Covey, Chris McChesney, and Jim Huling.

When you go to the website, you actually are able to immediately grow in your understanding of how to influence execution in your company. The video below is an incredible teaching tool – 17 minutes of powerful content on execution:

In brief, their 4 disciplines of execution are:

  1. Focus on the wildly important goals (WIGs). The day-to-day operations always stand against those game-changer goals. Determine to be unyielding on the highest-priority goals (1-3 maximum).
  2. Act on the Lead Measure. [New terminology for me.] The lag measure is the goal itself. The lead measure is what you can influence to accomplish the lag measure. Lead measures are the leverage used to get to the lag measure (goal). Lead measures are “predictive and influenceable“.
  3. Create a compelling scoreboard. I appreciate the wisdom of this (Chris McChesney describes it so well in video above). The scoreboard is not for the manager. It’s all about the players at this juncture, and it should feel like a game. [Actually an element of fun and energy incorporated. What a concept!] The scoreboard would be simple, highly visible and the players (employees) should be able to tell right away from the scoreboard whether they are winning or losing toward meeting the goal.
  4. Create a cadence of accountability. Everybody is going to love this! 20-minute meetings are calendared every week, at the same time. All the people in the room have “skin in the game”.  This meeting is sharply focused on 3 things (related to the lead measures only): each person reports on the week before; reviews/updates the scoreboard; makes commitments for coming week. That’s it! How streamlined and forward-moving, is that?!

[ 4 points taken from the video above: 4 Disciplines of Execution]

Many years ago, I was on a work team that was given the responsibility and liberty to determine what else was needed in the formation of a comprehensive cancer center. We had many places already in place – excellent medical and nursing care, an engaged community, and a charitable foundation to provide extra resources for taking us to a state-of-the-art cancer center.

3 nurses – Kay, Kathy, and I – had the question to answer of “Why Else?” What else did we need? We worked together on the planning and execution of comprehensive support services and education. Each of us brought our own giftings – I had vision and ideas, Kay was an influential nurse manager, and Kathy was detail-oriented and had a gift for taking a project to completion. Some of the services that came out of those problem-solving sessions are still embedded deeply into the DNA of that cancer center today.

Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, presented some of his business principles in a TED Talk entitled “How to Build a Company Where the Best Ideas Win”.

Start at 6:17 minutes in (if you don’t want story and context), and you will hear his wisdom about the importance of radical truthfulness and radical transparency.

“One of the greatest tragedies of mankind: People arrogantly, naively holding opinions in their minds that are wrong…and acting on them, and not putting them out there to stress-test them, and that’s a tragedy.” Ray Dalio

“Collective decision-making is so much better than individual decision-making if it’s done well.” – Ray Dalio

Kathy, Kay, and I had that sort of team relationship – radical truthfulness and radical transparency.

Whether you are part of a team, or an independent entrepreneur, there are excellent principles here.

Finally, in Gerald Leonard‘s piece on Steve Jobs‘ principles of execution, Leonard listed 9 nuggets of wisdom:

1) Do what you love for a living.

2) Build partnerships that will turn into lifelong friendships.

3) Attend college to get an education not just a degree.

4) Join your local industry associations.

5) Experiencing other cultures will open your eyes to new worlds.

6) Find others who have complementary strengths and recruit them.

7) Don’t be afraid to recruit others that are stronger than you.

8) Practice CANI – Continuous and Never-Ending Improvement.

9) When one door closes, another will open if you look for it.

Principles of Execution 014: Insights from Steve Jobs on Visionary Leadership – Gerald Leonard

If you want to take an honest and critical look at your team or company’s success in operation, you have great helps here – in the FranklinCovey’s counsel, in Ray Dalio’s discoveries and in the philosophies of business leaders like Steve Jobs. I’d also like to add anything on teaming by Patrick Lencioni.

I would love to hear how you get to execution…because until you do, it’s just meetings upon meetings.

Please add in Comments below any other resources that have proved helpful to you in getting to effective execution with the added impact of high morale in getting to goal.

Get Better: 15 Proven Practices to Build Effective Relationships at Work – Todd Davis, FranklinCovey

The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals – Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling

YouTube Video – The 4 Disciplines of Execution in a Nutshell

Patrick Lencioni – 3 Indispensible Virtues that Make Teams Successful – Dan Schwabel

Having a Team Scoreboard – The Table Group

Building a Healthy Work Culture – in a Season of Change, Uncertainty, and Dips in Morale – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Social Capital – an Invaluable Resource We Can Develop – and a Tool to Help – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Taking the Social Capital Challenge – 5 Steps Forward – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – True Humility in Leadership – So Not Cliché – Deb Mills Writer

The Five Characteristics of a Highly Functional Team – Dennis Hopper

YouTube Video – 4 Disciplines of Execution – Gwinnett Medical Center – This was personally very satisfying and encouraging for me. My dad was a patient at this medical center during the time when there were banners flying everywhere about it being one of the top medical centers in the country. At the same time, we family members stayed with him around the clock, because nurses did not come when we called, nor were other services offered with any communication that my dad or we mattered to staff. To see that they also came to recognize this was a problem and took effective steps to correct it was exciting.

Nabeel Qureshi – 1983-2017 – Less About Religion, All About God

Photo Credit: Nabeel Qureshi

I am grieving today for someone who has touched my heart in a huge way, though we have never met.

Nabeel Qureshi is a son, brother, husband, and father. He is a writer, speaker, theologian, and medical doctor. Until recently he also was in treatment for a very aggressive cancer.

None of these descriptors speak to how deeply he has moved my heart and mind. His faith…and the God of his faith…speak volumes.

He is a follower of Jesus today, after being a devout Muslim. His relationship with God through Christ is laid out in detail in his books Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God, But One. Much of his story and the object of his faith are also highlighted on several YouTube videos.

His courageous battle against cancer ended yesterday. At the age of 34. Father of a little girl. Just really at the beginning of his career.

I have never spent much energy in questioning God when one of us dies. My understanding of such things is so limited. Why Nabeel had to die so young is beyond my understanding. One thing I am convinced of is that just as God worked in his life, God will work in his death.

That’s why I’m writing this brief announcement of his passing… He is now in the presence of the God who loves him, the God whom he loves. God will comfort his family and friends and will provide for his wife and daughter. Many of us will know more of Nabeel in his death than we did in his life. I am thankful he wrote about his spiritual journey and spoke so lovingly and articulately about the God who drew him to Himself.

“After loving us with the most humble life and the most horrific death, Jesus told us, “As I have loved you, go and love one another.” How could I consider myself a follower of Jesus if I was not willing to live as He lived? To die as He died? To love the unloved and give hope to the hopeless?”Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

“All suffering is worth it to follow Jesus. He is that amazing. I pray that I will meet you someday, my dear friend, so we can rejoice and praise God together for our joys and our sufferings.”Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

My first knowledge of Nabeel Qureshi‘s cancer and death yesterday was through Justin Taylor‘s blog posting. Please take the time to read it (and watch the videos included). If you have never heard of Nabeel Qureshi, you will have an introduction to him, his life, and his discovery and embrace of God. Below is Taylor’s close to his tribute of our brother Nabeel Qureshi.

Today, Nabeel Qureshi, beholding his Savior face to face, is able to declare what is true:

I have fought the good fight.

I have finished the race.

I have kept the faith.

Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Entering into the joy of his Master, he undoubtedly heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”Justin Taylor

Postscript: I have dear Muslim friends who may take offense at his story. He spoke painfully in his book and vlogs about the loss of closeness with his beloved parents and sister…for a season. I was grateful to see that in his last-published vlog before his death, he spoke of them with gratitude as they were with him caring for him along with his wife, Michelle. Love is larger than anything that would separate us. So thankful for that.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God, But OneNabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Qureshi – 1983-2017 – Justin Taylor – The Gospel Coalition

Nabeel Qureshi – Quotes – Good Reads

YouTube Video – Vlog 33 – A Very Special Guest – My Dad! – Nabeel Qureshi

Why This Muslim-Turned-Christian Resonated With So Many Before His Death at 34 – Ravi Zacharias

Worship Wednesday – Then Came the Morning and It is Well With My Soul – Because He Lives – Guy Penrod

Photo Credit: Air Force

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea,
    a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse,
    army and warrior.Isaiah 43: 1-3, 16-17

I have never lost my home to a flood or fire. Dear friends have had that experience, and I see something in them that I want. Rock-solid faith in a mighty and merciful God. Is trouble part of what gets us to unshakeable faith (tornado- and hurricane-proof faith)?

My life today is comfortable. Hurricane Harvey is far from us, but the ravages of that storm are felt across the US. I can’t imagine all the losses. Houses, businesses…and worse, family members and friends. Lost to a tropical storm system that poured torrential rains across Texas for days.

The pictures and video of flooded neighborhoods in Houston would be unbelievable except that they are real.

We in the US are so sheltered, cushioned from much of what rocks the rest of the world. When nature unleashes its most destructive forces, we usually watch that on world news…not on local.

This time, we are confronted with the transient nature of stuff…even life itself. We want to comfort and help, and there are ways to do that. My heart is thrilled by those on orders or inclined to go into the storm to help – the military and police and all the many volunteers.

For this natural disaster, the reality of all that’s happening hangs heavy in my mind. How would I deal with such a calamity in my own life?

My hope is that I would cling to the Lord. The God who promises that He is always with us. He has shown Himself faithful in other dark places in our lives – losing loved ones through the years, saying hard goodbyes to friends, miscarriages, cancer diagnoses. I know He is there…it has been my experience.

So how will the folks in Houston get through this difficult, difficult place? Either clinging to God or seeking help elsewhere. He is there…for any who would take His hand…to help them get through until the morning.

A couple of nights ago, I struggled to get to sleep. Like my mama before me, fears and stresses follow me to bed, and taunt me to sort them out on my own. Finally, exhausted and aching with loneliness, I pray.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!Psalm 30:5b, 11-12

Yesterday was better…as is today…in His grace and in the light of His truth.

Today, I want to share three old Gospel songs that minister to my heart. Always. Even more when Guy Penrod sings them. A solo artist now, he has sung with the Gaither Vocal Band and is also a featured artist on the Gaither Homecoming TV specials.

Then Came the Morning is new to me (hearing it for the first time the morning after that fitful night). It relates to experiences of Jesus’ mother and disciples after his death, and then when they discovered him alive again, as he had promised.

Then came the morning
Shadows vanished before the sun
Death had lost and life had won
For morning had come.*

YouTube Video – Then Came the Morning – Guy Penrod – Written by: CHRIS CHRISTIAN, GLORIA GAITHER, WILLIAM GAITHER

*Lyrics – Then Came the Morning

It Is Well With My Soul is a song I’ve known since childhood. No matter what happens in life, it can be well with our souls. The story behind this song speaks to the relationship Horatio Spafford had with his God.

Having lost in a fire virtually everything they owned, the Spafford family made new plans, including a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford’s plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom. Anyone who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford’s plight. The next time you are in church,turn to the words of the great hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”–words he penned as his ship passed over the watery grave of his four daughters! – Today in the Word, July, 1989, p. 27**

One of the verses of this tested and proven hymn of faith is:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.*

YouTube Video – It Is Well With My Soul – Guy Penrod, David Phelps

*Lyrics of It Is Well With My Soul – Horatio Spafford

Lastly, a hymn that Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote and has touched millions of lives: Because He Lives. Such a great song reminding us that because He lives we have no need to fear.

Worship with me:

YouTube Video – Because He Lives, Guy Penrod

Lyrics – Because He Lives – Bill & Gloria Gaither

You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord. I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience.” – A.B. Simpson

No matter how dark the night, when the morning comes, we can find it is well with our souls, because He lives.

Guy Penrod

Gaither Homecoming

Floods in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal Kill 1,200 and Leave Millions Homeless – Chloe Farand

**Trials – Sermon Illustrations

Worship Wednesday – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Outpouring of a Thankful Heart

Photo credit: Womensministry.net

Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of the goodness of God.

Yesterday, after unloading the back of my car at my favorite thrift shop, I walked inside to shop a bit. My mind was pretty much at a peaceful neutral…then the song playing over the sound system drew me to attention. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I sang along rifling through the rack of summer shirts.

This song never leaves me the same and I have written about it previously here and here. We sing it often at Movement Church and I’m grateful.

Grateful for a God who knows us perfectly and who lavishes His love on us.  A God who is faithful to us when we are not faithful…when we wander from Him. Scripture calls us to count our blessings. When we do, we are reminded of what we receive from the hands of God. However, it doesn’t stop there – we are drawn to the beautiful face of God. No matter our struggle, no matter what disrupts our sleep or disturbs our joy, no matter what…when we turn our thoughts to Him, our hope and peace and confidence are marvelously restored.

Whatever the “what isn’t”, in the economy of God, there is the glory of “what is to come”. We have that assurance because of what has already come to pass…through a God who blesses without counting it out…just to the deserving. He is generous to all His children. So generous.

For most of my life, I was a “cup half full” kind of person…in fact, some would say it was more a cup spilling out annoyingly, splashing on some in my life who preferred a less idealistic, more “realistic” look at life. In getting older, my focus is drawn away to the negative side of life and the world’s experience. No wonder our faces fix in frowns and we fight grumpiness in our elder years. “Cup half empty” lives. I don’t want that for myself…or for those in my life.

So here goes Worship Wednesday – counting just a few of the amazing blessings of life today, at the hand of a God who has brought me – and all His children – “thus far” (1 Samuel 7:12).

  1. Jesus – His life, teaching, death, resurrection; his continued presence in our lives through the Godhead; and his provision and promise of eternal life to all who believe,
  2. 1 year cancer-free (actually except for last year’s diagnosis, my whole life cancer-free, thus far),
  3. Godly moms (my mom and my mom-in-law) who showed us the essence of unconditional love and faithfully pointed us to God,
  4. Faithful fathers who provided financially and taught us so much about getting along in life,
  5. A husband whose love for God informs and infuses his love for the kids and me, and others,
  6. Our children – blessings I never thought I would enjoy, marrying later in life, and continue to be a source of great joy (including bringing the great gift of grandchildren along with them!),
  7.  Friends – oh my goodness, friends all over the world – who love no matter what. What a blessing!
  8. A community of faith wherever we lived where the Word of God is treasured and serving Him through serving others the standard – Movement Church today,
  9. Extended family who we have the privilege of loving across a lifetime…and who love back and never give up on us,
  10. A world full of people to share Jesus with – in word and deed,
  11. The beauty that surrounds and fuels us – nature, music, good company, the influencers and multipliers in our lives, food, clean water, and sleep (it’s a beautiful thing, right?),
  12. Purpose – work that matters, hobbies that can leave a legacy (for me writing, photography, hospitality), and at every turn, the possibility and opportunity to glorify the God of the universe through our small lives made large by His Spirit.

I do not always count my blessings…there are days that I want more or different or less, even, of some things. We looks to others’ lives and want what they have rather than just being glad they live next door (or next somewhere). Facebook is not always our friend those days…but when my heart’s right, everything in real life and on social media can shimmer with the kindness, mercy, and sometimes the justice of God. He knows what He’s doing…and His love rains down good in all kinds of ways…we can count on it.

Worship with me to the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (sung by the David Crowder Band):

Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.

Robinson wrote a fifth stanza that is often omitted. Here it is:

O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed Linnen [sic]
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day.

Hallelujah!

How about you? Want to count some of your blessings in the Comments below? Would love to celebrate God with you.

Postscript: Don’t miss the video below with the Aeolians singing this great hymn accompanied by pipe organ. We don’t often get to hear this sort of musical feasting very often anymore. Glory! A glimpse of the worship of which we may be a part in Heaven…thanks to a faithful God who restores a repentant people.

Lyrics to Come Though Fount as performed by David Crowder Band

Story Behind the Song Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Counting Your Blessings – 21 Inspirational Bible Verses – Bible Reasons – Fritz Chery

Come Thou Fount – Wikipedia article – interesting notation of the various lyric changes/additions

Worship Wednesday – Come Thou Fount – A Faithful God to an Unfaithful People – Deb Mills Writer

YouTube Video – I Wanna Go Back – David Dunn

Did Robert Robinson Wander…as He Feared? – Dan Graves

You Tube Video of The Aeolians of Oakwood University singing Come Thou Fount, with directors Dr. Lloyd Mallory and Dr. Jason Max Ferdinand Don’t miss this!

Blog - Aeolians - cassmacenterprisePhoto Credit: Cassmacenterprise

5 Friday Faves – Eurovision, Expertise, Food Festivals, Anti-Aging, and Blue Bloods

What a week! How about for you? I’m on the other side of a medical emergency and thankful for timely and excellent care and for a rapid return to health. The weekend around here promises to be a sweet one with beautiful weather, outings with a son whose birthday we’re celebrating, a family gathering, and a long-awaited visit with an old friend. Oh…and rest, of course. Don’t want to overreach my recovery. Hope you have a weekend that fills you with anticipation as well…even if it’s just much-deserved rest and solitude.

Here are my favorite finds for this week.

1) Eurovision Song Contest – Since 1956, a European song contest has been held annually, much to the delight of all the countries participating. I never heard of it until a Portuguese friend of ours introduced us to it this season. [We know Tiago thanks to his friendship with Nathan on Krue.TV and Patreon].

In the Eurovision contest, each participant country puts forward an original song sung by person(s) from that country.

Photo Credit: The Independent

In the final TV extravaganza, the songs are performed and then judges vote on which should win the prized Eurovision title for that year. Along with the judges, citizens of all those countries can cast votes as well (only not for their own country; they vote for their favorite of any of the other countries). The process is fascinating and suspenseful as the votes are counted and the various songs rise or fall on the leaderboard as votes are announced.Photo Credit: SBS

Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won with the song Amar Pelos Dois, written by his sister. It is a lovely but sad love song reportedly reminiscent of Portugal’s folk tradition.

A YouTube video with the lyrics posted in Portuguese and English can be viewed here.

During the televised competition, our friend, Tiago, did a livestream of it on Krue.TV so we could enjoy watching. When Portugal won, his joy was uncontainable…reminded me of watching friends whose favorite team won the World Cup. So congratulations, Portugal, on the long-awaited first Eurovision win!

Portugal Wins Eurovision With a Song That Meant Something – Salvador Sobral, Amar Pelos Dois, Review

2) Expertise – I grew up at the end of the Vietnam War during the era of Hippie politics. Free speech was a really big deal, and we had opinions about everything…really not so dissimilar as today. A popular adage of those days was “Don’t trust anyone over 30”.  Today, all of us of that era have been “over 30” for decades. We find ourselves faced with much the same thinking in a younger generation. [Maybe we modeled too well.] Let’s consider the concept and actuality of expertise.

Are there those in our lives who have, by deep study and long experience, become expert in their fields and worthy of a hearing and a following? Expertise is  defined as “basis of credibility of a person who is perceived to be knowledgeable in an area or topic due to his or her study, training, or experience in the subject matter”.

With the wide use of internet searches and the palpable power of social media, we can all be self-proclaimed “experts”. Those with more knowledge and more experience are just “extra voices” in the conversation. In my younger years and too often since then, my own thinking has bent toward valuing my own generation’s thinking above those “over 30” (or 40, or 50, or 60).  Of course, those younger sometimes get the same treatment (just search the enormous commentary on millennials on the web). That view of trusting my own generation has softened, over the years, as I’ve experienced the wise leadership of many. I regret thinking so highly of my own view and have tuned myself toward becoming a life-long learner (using my writing as a way to curate wisdom gained from others, as an example).

Kevin DeYoung has written a captivating book review on Thomas M. NicholsThe Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters.

Photo Credit: Amazon

I haven’t read the book but DeYoung’s review opened the door to Nichols’ belief that our culture has a growing distaste for expertise (as derived from knowledge and experience).

DeYoung lists Nichols’ prescriptives in brief and they follow:

For experts: don’t drive outside your lane. Stick to what you know. By the same token, stop making predictions.

For the rest of us: Be ecumenical—don’t get all your information from the one source that magically you always agree with. Be less cynical—most people are not out to get you. Be more discriminating—consider whether the source you’re reading has editors, is tied to a reputable institution, is transparent about its sources, and present facts that are testable and checkable.

For everyone: Be humble. This goes for experts and laypeople. If you are an expert, use your knowledge as a servant not as a master. If you know stuff, use it to help others, not yourselves. At the same time, all of us have good reason to assume we don’t know as much as we think we know. Let’s be humble enough to learn from others.

YouTube Video – Tom Nichols, “The Death of Expertise”

YouTube Video – The Problem With Thinking You Know More Than the Experts – Tom Nichols – PBS

3) – Food Festivals – Food festivals abound in the spring of the year. We’re headed to one this weekend – the Lebanese Food Festival. Like many national food specialties, Lebanese food is very time-intensive and ingredient-rich. I’m very thankful for the folks at Saint Anthony’s Maronite Church – for the food, the music, the conversations, and the occasional brush with our local dignitaries.

Next Food Festival Coming – Broad Appétit 

4) Anti-Aging – There is so much written these days on staying young and staving off aging – it’s enough to make you old trying to keep up with the latest on keeping from getting old. When you have a life-threatening event in your life, you realize all over again the gift of life. I wouldn’t mind growing old. However, I can’t deal with the myriads of tips on how to live young old.

Photo Credit: Providence

There are two articles I found this week that were helpful, and I share them here:

Providence Health & Services posted 5 Tips to Help You Stay Youthful and Healthy as You Age. Click on the link for commentary, but in brief they are:

  1. Stay positive.
  2. Stay active.
  3. Stay connected. [This was new for me, and I so see the need.]
  4. Eat the right foods.
  5. Try something new.

Photo Credit: The Senior Source

Benjamin P. Hardy, one of my latest favorite writer/researchers, posted a fascinating piece this week entitled How to Reverse Aging and Become Whoever You Want To Be. He gives research findings (in very engaging, almost story-telling, ways) that are riveting in their support of his prescriptions. One study he shared was about a group of men in their 70s who were to share a living space for five days. It was designed and outfitted as a dwelling set in 1959. They were only to talk about their lives, careers, interests, as they would have in 1959. The impact on their thinking, and even their physical agility and capacity, was amazing. My sense from this and my own experience is we think ourselves old, and too often believe ourselves old by the behavior of those younger than we are. No harm, no foul. Just how we probably trip ourselves up.

Hardy’s prescriptions have to do with making goals for our present lives:

1. Determine your goal.

2. Commit to your goal by leaping into situations that require you to live up to your goal.

3. Determine the roles you will need to play in the various situations you create.

4. Act the part until you become the part.

5. Develop relationships with people who have your back and can help you achieve your goals.

6. Repeat — but at higher levels, with more strenuous leaps.

What Is Your Goal?

“This is a fundamental irony of most people’s lives. They don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives. Yet they are very active.” — Ryan Holiday

Most people are wandering through life like they wander on the internet, reactively scrolling their news feed and landing on the random pages that appear. They haven’t determined what they want, and thus they haven’t consciously designed their environments. Rather, they adapt to and become the product of whatever environments they wander into.

However, when you decide what you want, the universe conspires to make it happen.

[I love this young Benjamin P. Hardy. He has given me such rich fuel for living, of late. Read his blogs and follow him on Twitter.]

The Primary Barrier Stopping You From Everything You Want In Life – Benjamin P. Hardy

5) Blue Bloods – As much as I like to watch TV, I don’t watch that often…usually using it as a nap-generator. However, this week, I saw one of my favorite shows – Blue Bloods in its season finale (Season 7, Episode 22, The Thin Blue Line). It was so so good.

Photo Credit: Memorable TV

Blue Bloods is about a family that makes its living in public service – either in law enforcement, the court system, or nursing. Their Sunday family dinner gathering scenes are so appealing to me.Photo Credit: Huffington Post

On this season finale episode, son Danny, a NYPD detective, confronts a Mexican drug cartel and acts against it in a bold and risky (and unsupported) way. He was successful but the cost was huge. The cartel ordered his home to be bombed. Danny, arriving as his house is blazing, he searches for his family, and, relieved, finds them shocked…but OK.

He blames himself for their loss, and when the family gathers on that Sunday (his family now staying with his father and grandfather), he didn’t want to come down for dinner. He was persuaded and asked to pray over the meal. That scene (not on YouTube yet) was just beautiful. Here is a bit of it:

Wife Linda: It’s just a house, Danny.

Danny: It’s our home.

Linda: We made it a home. Without us, it’s just a house.

Danny’s youngest son: And we’re still that us.

Danny’s Father: When we have everyone we love, we have everything. For that we should be grateful. No matter the hardship or the loss, this family does not stand down…ever.

Danny then prayed…with his family.

Goosebumps!

Loved it so much. This family does not stand down…ever.

Watch the full episode here.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend and hold on to what matters…lightly, if necessary, but always. I am learning every day how not to stand down about what matters. Happy Friday!

Bonus: What We Can Learn About Life From a Potato, an Egg, and Coffee Beans

Every Breath’s a Gift – Great Are You, Lord – All Sons and Daughters

Photo Credit: MVFC1

In a few days, it will be a year since this non-smoker received a lung cancer diagnosis (Stage One, fortunately). Over these last several months, breath and breathing have become something very precious to me. You can tell when you search my blog archives for either topic. We take breathing so for granted, even when we acknowledge that every breath’s a gift. That rhythmic rise and fall in our chest that strengthens and refreshes us. Breathing just happens.

Until it doesn’t.

There have only been two times as an adult that I couldn’t get my breath. The first was eight months ago (you can read about it here.) The second time was less than 48 hours ago.

For the second time in my life, I was surprised, just before bedtime, by a rapid and terrifying development of shortness of breath and quickly got to the place that Dave had to call 911. He was still talking to the dispatcher when we heard the sirens.

So thankful for our local fire department and rescue squad.

We live in a quiet neighborhood, and most of the residents are older. The rescue squad shows up often here, and, of course, no one wants to be the one on the receiving end of their excellent care. Every time it happens, a neighbor or two stand sentinel in the road watching and hoping for a good report. While the rescue squad was getting me stabilized and Dave was waiting in his car to follow to the hospital, he would tell me later of a neighbor standing in the shadows. Not wanting to intrude but standing watch. It’s a comforting thing.

From the first hours in the emergency room through the next two days in the top floor ICU, I received excellent and thoughtful care at St. Mary’s Hospital. The crisis was averted, and the testing began again to determine the cause. The same testing that was done eight months ago. The findings were not so much different as they were the first time it happened. Maybe they were taken more seriously with it happening twice. Anyway, I am now in the care of a cardiologist with some meds on board that will hopefully help me NOT to go through this experience again.

To go from thinking you’re going to die to feeling pretty much as well as ever, within hours, is a strange and wondrous experience. We will all die one day, so it doesn’t always end as it did for me these two times of not being able to get my breath. For this, today, I am so grateful to God for breath…and I am reminded it is His to give.

The song Great Are You Lord beautifully presents this truth. The band All Sons & Daughters introduces the song in this way:

“Worship is when we give God His breath back.”

Tonight, still fresh from the frightening experience of two nights ago, I give God His breath back in praise. So thankful for a husband who acted quickly for me when I couldn’t, for trained professionals and volunteers, for watchful neighbors, for kids who show up (physically and in prayer), for praying friends and family, for all the many employees at St. Mary’s (including my own youngest son) who were kind in their care …for all of this I’m grateful.

Most of all I am so very thankful for the God who gives us breath.

I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “Please, LORD, save me!” How kind the LORD is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! The LORD protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the LORD has been good to me. Psalm 116:1-7, NLT

Would you worship with me, as I am home once more, praising God for His healing and for His helpers?

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

It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only

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

All the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord*

*YouTube Video – Great Are You Lord – from All Sons and Daughters (Live) – written by: Jason Ingram, Leslie Jordan, David Leonard

Story Behind the Song – Great Are You Lord – from All Sons and Daughters

Worship Wednesday – Beneath the Waters (I Will Rise) – Hillsong – Deb Mills Writer

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 – Elevating Our Work – with John Burke and Benjamin Hardy

Photo Credit: Benjamin P. Hardy (l), John Burke (r)

On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.

I had nothing.

After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.

On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.

Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.

Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.

There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.

1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before

2. Map It All Out From the Beginning

3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately

4. Put Creation Time On Your Daily Schedule

Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.

I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.

The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.

Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.

My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.

Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]

I’m ready to take the next gear.

How about you?

John Burke: 4 Strategies to Continually Elevate Your Work – Benjamin P. Hardy

Persevere – My Interview with Grammy-Nominated Pianist and Composer, John Burke – Podcast – Katy Galli

John Burke – YouTube Channel

10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization – Glenn Llopis

A Health Blog – 10 Proven Ways to Help Boost Creative Thinking

Elevate Your Leadership – Marlene Chism

To Expand Your Influence, Elevate Your Capacity to Think – John Maxwell

Critical Thinking Exercises: 9 Facts and How They Elevate Your Mind – Katrina Manning