Category Archives: Cancer

Worship Wednesday – MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine” – My Story About This Song

Photo Credit: New Release Today

The film I Can Only Imagine debuted in the Spring of this year. It’s the story of how a young man, Bart Millard, came to compose one of the most beautiful poignant songs written in recent years.

Millard is the lead singer for the Christian band MercyMe. The song I Can Only Imagine was inspired by his own faith walk and the death of his father to cancer. The lyrics express the wonder at what Heaven will be like for us when our time comes. Photo Credit: To Save a Life

The film featuring this song chronicles Millard’s early life with an angry, abusive father. Bart hated his father, and although he was sure God could forgive his father, Bart believed he himself never would.

Bart Millard: ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Was Born From a Life of Abuse – Jenny Rapson

It is a powerful story that resonates with many of us. My biological father (not this Dad) wasn’t physically violent toward me but he was emotionally abusive in his neglect and indifference toward us four children. Our older brother may have experienced worse abuse from our dad but he never talked about it. What makes me wonder is how angry he was as an adult. My brother died a few years ago, finally beginning to heal out of decades of bitterness and rage…just before he died.

This song and film, birthed out of a childhood marred by violence, remind me of how good God is and how He works healing even in the worst of situations.

My mom loved this song. I didn’t know its significance to her until right before her death in 2002. We were living overseas the year the song came out (2001, and I don’t remember even hearing it until Mom asked a friend to sing it for her, just days before she died. After her funeral, as we returned to “normal”, it seemed I heard that song every day for months. It had become wildly popular, winning two GMA Dove awards, and successfully crossing over to pop/country charts. That connection with her, day in and day out, helped me to grieve and heal the loss of the woman I loved most in the world. . Imagining her life in Heaven was very good for me…then and now.

Years later, when my older brother died, I heard the song again in an odd situation. We were visiting Dad, in the house where I grew up. My brother lived with them for many years, and I went into his bedroom. He had been gone for a few weeks at that time. There was an old-timey, pale blue box radio in the bathroom he used. I switched it on just to see what station he listened to. It was a Christian station which was strange because, although he was a Christian, he wasn’t into “churchy stuff”. The song that was playing when I turned on that radio was “I Can Only Imagine”. There…in a sacred moment, missing my brother, the Lord comforted me again…with this amazing song…and message.

Worship with me please.

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine

Yeah

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine*

Just this week, I saw the film for the first time…in the living room, lights dimmed, with sweet family. Some in my close circle of family and friends don’t rush to watch “Christian” films because, they say, they are too amateurish and trite. Not this one. Beautifully filmed, raw dialogue between Bart and his father, layer upon layer of brokenness. Then…the miracle of healing. Of God piercing through the pain and bringing beauty out of ugliness. Reconciling…first with Him…and then with each other.

See the film. Listen to Bart sing his own story of wondering about Heaven…and then let all that settle around you as it has me so many times…just the thought of what Heaven will be like…seeing my Mom again…my brother…others who have gone ahead…and especially the God of this universe…the One who saved me…the One who saved Bart’s Dad and Bart, and then the One gave Bart grace to forgive.

*Lyrics to I Can Only Imagine Written by Bart Millard

YouTube Video – Bart Millard Reveals the Origin of His Biggest Hit “I Can Only Imagine” – Huckabee

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – “Forgiveness” Scene

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

5 Friday Faves – the Fortnite Phenomenon, Back to School, Clean Comedy, God’s Heart for Justice, and Bonuses Make Five

Happy Friday! One of those weeks that so rapidly entered history. Lots of travel and family and birthdays and then work, of course. Will go right to the faves before the clock runs down. Hope your weekend is long and lovely.

1) The Fortnite Phenomenon – Not a gamer myself, but when the game Fortnite comes up in conversation with men and boys of all ages, it’s easy to see what a phenomenon it is. A multi-player battle game (with elements of construction as well), Fortnite is free-to-play and wildly popular right now in the gaming universe. A unique component of the game includes avatars who break out into dance. These dances are emulated by player fans, and you would recognize some of them because of boys, in particular, master them as they master the game. These dances have become part of Nathan Mills‘ (Beyond the Guitar) classical guitar repertoire. His YouTube channel subscriber numbers have more than tripled since his first post of Fortnite Dances…and views of his videos are in the millions. Enjoy the latest…as the commenters clamor for Fortnite Dances #4.

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Fortnite Dances on Guitar (Part 2)

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Fortnite Dances on Guitar (Part 1)

2) Back to School – That time of year is back. So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.

As our children grew up, we had varying seasons of “back-to-school” between home schooling and other schooling, both in the US and in Africa. It was never easy for me to see them off, when we didn’t homeschool. I missed them…and those moments together when they talked about life as they saw it. I also missed being able to protect them from some of the meanness in the world. Still, the start of the school year is a hopeful time of anticipation and wonder, of new beginnings and possibilities.[Kudos to the teachers, Stacie Mills & Kirby Joseph, whose classrooms pre-student-return, were my inspiration on this fave.]

How thankful I am for teachers who really care for their students. Teachers who see themselves as partners with parents, even the most woefully unprepared ones…for the sake of these kiddos who will hold the future in their hands one day. What a marvel this is.

Putting the Basket in the Water: Trusting God in the Next Phase of Your Child’s Life – Ashlei Woods

The Trauma-Informed Teacher – Silent Front Line

3) Clean Comedy – So just this week I discovered Dry Bar Comedy. It showcases stand-up comedy that is actually family-friendly. No profanity. No sex. No mean putdowns. The first act (on video) that I caught was Leanne Morgan, a gorgeous Southern woman who puts her arm around our experiences of being female at all ages. Hilarious!

Another clean comic (not with Dry Bar) who I adore is John Crist. His tour this Fall brings him to Richmond, Virginia, and we have tickets. Crist is a preacher’s kid and uses that church experience as fodder for many of his routines. You can see his videos on his website or YouTube channel. Don’t miss him…high energy, so funny.

Michael Jr. Comedy – another favorite of mine.

4) God’s Heart for Justice – For the next six weeks, I’m digging into a study on God’s heart for justice through the International Justice Mission. I bought the book, but if you sign up for daily emails, you can glean great good just in that content and the resource videos.

It’s too easy to turn a blind eye away from the injustices of this world – human trafficking, poverty, racial and religious oppression… Arise focuses on the Biblical definition of justice and the mandate for each of us in turning the tide on it…until Jesus returns and rights all wrongs. We too often are numbed by the immensity of the problem, when, in fact, we can swing the pendulum toward justice… Each one of us can do something. Sign up for daily emails and discover your place in God’s mission of love for those most vulnerable.

Arise: A Study on God’s Heart for Justice

5) Bonuses: 5 bonuses make up my fifth find. Please don’t miss them.

What’s Happening to Our Kids? Technology’s Latest Disruptions – The Middle School Relationship – Alex Whitcomb

Leaf by Leaf: Satisfied (the journey of Mom Melissa and Teen Daughter Maggie through Stage 4 Colon Cancer – and Maggie’s Death and Homegoing – one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read

72 Challenging and Truthful Leadership Quotes from Craig Groeschel Opening This Year’s Global Leadership Summit – Brian Dodd

 YouTube Video – Faith In Imagination: The Fantasy Makers – Trailer

YouTube Video – Aretha Franklin (March 25, 1942-August 16, 2018)  – Nessun Dorma – and the National Anthem as only she could do it. Goosebumps! Thank you, Aretha, for all the music.

That winds down this week. Hope yours was stunning – full of meaningful work, real rest, family and friends, and deep conversations. Be gentle with yourself and each other. – some of those people in our lives. #Friends #Community

Worship Wednesday – Fear Is a Liar – Zach Williams

Photo Credit: Flickr, Lisa Hall-Wilson

Now this is what the LORD says–the one who created you, Jacob, and the one who formed you, Israel–“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine.”  Isaiah 43:1

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.  2 Timothy 1:7

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear.1 John 4:18a

“If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

When we, or people we love, come under an attack of some sort, we respond. Always. Two physiological responses may immediately come to mind. We fight or fear (literally fleeing or just in our head). That fight or flight response is much researched and well-documented. My default is flight…in fear. If I have to, especially for the sake of my children or others needing help, I would fight, but fear would be part of that battle.

I too often go to fear. Maybe you don’t. Maybe you go to fight. Either one can be used in ways by our enemy to keep us from a third response. That being collecting our thoughts around what is true and acting in a way that gives space for God to fight for us. That does not mean we won’t be physically removed from a fight (to protect or for justice or mercy’s sake). Nor does it mean that we won’t be tempted to fear. The big however is that we are not defeated already by believing fear’s lies or by unleashing fury that hurts in its own right.

When I heard Zach Williams’ song Fear Is a Liar, the lyrics drew me in immediately. I knew that experience. That experience of fear being a voice in my head, telling me things that simply were not true…but sounded true. Paralyzing me when God means for me to be free. I am free in Him. Fear picks us up to throw us down somewhere dark and outside of who we really are. Fear is a liar…and is generated by the “father of lies”. At first, I struggled with the personification of fear in this song…but more and more, it is like battling with Satan himself, or one of his minions. The truth is that “greater is he (God) in me, than he (the evil one) in this world”. Photo Credit: Flickr, Artem Popov

My Mom and I, through the years, would often quote 2 Timothy 1:7 to each other. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” We both struggled with fear and needed to remind each other of the truth. Dave has often helped me come back to my senses with just the two-word imperative: “Pull up”. When we struggle with fear, our thoughts can grow more and more terrifying and send us on a deep dive, spiraling out of control. Just the reminder to “pull up” would spark my returning to remember what is true.

Those of us who fear need people in our lives who remind of us of the truth and the God of truth. Not in a platitudinous way. But in a way that wraps around us, stays with us, loves us through it. Who are your people?

[Sidebar: For those of you who default to fight or fury…the wisdom is the same. Return to what is true, what is full of love, what is genuine power. Being “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” is not weakness; it is a right response that gives space for God to act.]

Worship with me and cancel the fear with the truth of God. Extinguish its darkness with the light of the perfect love of Jesus.

When he told you you’re not good enough
When he told you you’re not right
When he told you you’re not strong enough
To put up a good fight
When he told you you’re not worthy
When he told you you’re not loved
When he told you you’re not beautiful
That you’ll never be enough

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

When he told you were troubled
You’ll forever be alone
When he told you you should run away
You’ll never find a home
When he told you you were dirty
And you should be ashamed
When he told you you could be the one
That grace could never change

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar

Let Your fire fall and cast out all my fears
Let Your fire fall Your love is all I feel

Fear he is a liar
He will take your breath
Stop you in your steps
Fear he is a liar
He will rob your rest
Steal your happiness
Cast your fear in the fire
Cause fear he is a liar*

Fear does not die easily. Often I have to pray myself out of fear before sleep at night, and praise my way out of picking it back up in the morning. This is after a lifetime of battling with fear. However, there is nothing sweeter…nothing…than knowing that God’s got this. Whatever “this” is. We live in a world full of scary and confusing struggle. We can’t see yet how it will all come out or what is happening in the unseen. Trusting God with what frightens and acting accordingly is how we deal with the struggle. We don’t retreat…but we don’t go it alone. That gives me joy, and I will not to be afraid.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” – JesusJohn 16:33

*Lyrics to Fear is a Liar – Songwriters: Zach Williams, Jason Ingram, Jonathan Lindley Smith

Zach Williams Music

Worship Wednesday – No Fear – Same Power – Jeremy Camp

Fear Is a Liar – 91 Images on Pinterest

5 Friday Faves – Answered Prayer, Avengers on Classical Guitar, Financial Security, Community, and Moms

Friday Faves – let’s jump right in!

1) Answered Prayer – This week has been wave after wave of answered prayer…so much so that I’m without words…almost. Many times when we pray, we have to wait…sometimes for years. I have prayers on deposit with the Lord that (at least on this side of life) are still “in waiting” for his perfect timing. We pray on. Then we have the acute occasion when we seek a quick and crucial response. My brother spent a night this week in ICU because of a hard fall to concrete. How grateful I am for people who stand “in the gap” for each other in prayer, no matter the time of day, or whatever is going on in their own lives. For hours we prayed and waited for news that he would recover…and tonight he sleeps in his own bed at home. Just. Like. That. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Answered prayer does not always turn out the way we want. When our mom got cancer, we all prayed she would be healed. Her prayer, through the three years of fighting that dreadful disease, was a constant “for His glory”…only. Her prayer was answered in the positive, countless times. Our prayer was answered with healing in Heaven. Still, we praise God with all our hearts for how we saw Him draw near to her in the hard places. Her tender communion with God in those days was the sweetest I had ever seen in her life.

What might we see altered in this world, were it not for our prayerlessness. This week, because of my brother and othersacred turns of events, I am again reminded of great and present value of prayer. Not just in what we secure from God’s hands…but the journey with God Himself.

2) Avengers on Classical Guitar – I haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s on my summer film list. Like with other arrangements of Beyond the Guitar, I look forward to hearing this now familiar melody rise and fall in the background of the film itself. Since Nathan’s Fortnite Dances video debuted, his viewership and YouTube subscriptions have taken off.  Become a subscriber or Patreon supporter to be a part of the team that guarantees we see more and more of this young classical guitarist’s creative work. His arrangement for Avengers follows:

3) Financial Security – Sociologist and elder rights advocate Dr. Brenda K. Uekert has written a fascinating piece on losing her job in her 50s and the financial safety net that got her through that time. Take the time to read her story, but here are her 6 safeguards to consider in our own financial journey.

  • Pay off your mortgage.
  • Max out retirement contributions.
  • Max out accumulated leave.
  • Be wary of dabbling in individual stocks.
  • Shore up your taxable accounts.
  • Be careful in your spending, in general.

The simplicity of this is its own brilliance. Thank you, Dr. Uekert.

Fired in My Fifties: The 3 Best and Worst Moves that Determined My Fate – Brenda K. Uekert

4) Community – I write about community often. It’s hard for me to imagine maneuvering through this life without the constancy and care of community. For the last couple of weeks, some of us have been briefly in the life of a homeless woman who, it turns out, was just passing through Richmond. Her story had the sad markings of one who had either lost community from no fault of her own or had burned bridges with community across the years. She had to reach out to strangers because there seemed to be few else who would or could help. The margin we have to thrive in life, thanks to community, was difficult to even discern for her. I have no idea where she is right now. We did what we felt we could do, hopefully without being a toxic influence in her life…and now she has moved on.

It reminded me, all over again, how thankful I am for real and deep community. I pray that for us all.Community Group, Movement Church

5) Moms – This weekend we celebrate Mother’s Day in the US. For some, it is an uneasy day… Not all of us have had loving, nurturing moms. Not all of us have become moms…or not yet anyway. Mothering can also be a painful experience. I think of dear friends who are estranged from some of their children…and other friends who have lost children, either through miscarriage or death.

Mother’s Day can be painful. Even in the pain, celebrating mothers ever how we can is a good thing. None of us would be where we are today were it not for mothering, whether good, bad, or just imperfect.

Today I remember the two women who have had the most impact in my life as mothers, and it is all for good. My mom and Dave’s mom.

As with all of us, through the years, other women have captivated us with their love, their servant hearts, and their wisdom. I celebrate them as well.

My friend Carol Ann Lindley captured the hard and even awful when mothering didn’t happen or go as we had hoped. Read her words:

I am all for celebrating moms…I look forward to celebrating my two miracles every year. I cherish it because I waited so long. I rejoice with my friends who have endured long years of waiting and have the chance to celebrate. I am aware of some who will be missing a mom this year. Mother’s Day is special because motherhood is such a gift.

But don’t forget to look around and remember the ones who ache this Sunday because they hoped that this year would be different. The ones who watch the celebrating and remembering from a distance, hoping to join in next year. I never ever resented the celebration…I just longed for the chance to celebrate the fulfillment of my heart’s desire.

I have had some hard Mother’s Days. I have had the “maybe next year it will be me” Mother’s Days. And I have had the “I’m missing a baby that I lost” Mother’s Day. Today, I am thinking of our 3 little ones who are celebrating with a different Momma. But I am also rejoicing over God’s two miracles that I have the privilege of being Mom to.

No one said Motherhood would be easy. In fact, the journey to Motherhood is hard. The day to day mothering of littles is hard. And I’m sure I will face other hard days in the future. But it is a precious gift from God and I rejoice in it every day.

So, you Moms who are enjoying this Mothers Day. Don’t feel bad. When I was waiting, I never wanted my Mom friends to skip out on Mothers Day. Enjoy and it and give your kids extra kisses. And look around and see who you can hug and encourage. I had those people on those hard days and their acknowledgement of my “hope deferred” made all of the difference.

And you Moms who are waiting for your babies or are missing your babies. I’m with you. I know how you feel. This is a hard day. But I can promise you that God is faithful and will not waste your tears. The desire to be a Mom is a good one and you are not wrong to feel sad today or to feel like a little piece of your heart is missing. If I could hug you, I would. And I am definitely praying for you.

Here’s the verse that pretty much sums up my journey:

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Carol Ann Lindley

Happy Friday! Happy Weekend! Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s to being gentle with each other and lavishing love on those around.

Bonuses:

YouTube – Dr. Seuss Does Advance Directives: A Tim Boon Poem – ZDoggMD

Bobos in the Church – Scot McKnight

Bobos In The Church

Stop Making Hospitality Complicated – Brandon McGinley

Why So Many Americans Are Lonely – Quentin Fottrell

Boss Doesn’t Trust you? Here are 4 Likely Reasons Why – Randy Conley

Brave Global – a Catalytic Movement for Girls

Photo Credit: The Kindness Rocks Project, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: David Joyce, Flickr

Yesterday, driving to an appointment, an old Chris Tomlin song came on the radio. It touched my heart in an unusual way. Familiar words, I Lift My Hands stilled my thoughts for the moment. God drew me to Himself, and worship flowed. Not even thinking, one hand on the steering wheel, my other hand rose… I made a note on my phone of that old song and didn’t think about it again. Then early this morning, the Bible reading for today was in Psalm 63.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.Psalm 63:3-4

I wanted to write on joy today. Especially after reading Psalm 63-65. That unquenchable joy at all the good in our lives. New babies. Graduations. Weddings. Health. Milestones. Victories.

Then my newsfeed on Facebook brought the news that a friend’s sister died yesterday. Heidi Lodenstein – 47 years young. Adored by her husband. Two children at home. Glioblastoma. Devoted daughter of an all-loving God who chose not to heal the cancer here but received her Home, healed There. Sad? For that sweet family and friend group. Joy in grief?…abundantly so.

A Lament for Heidi – Cindy DeBoer

We lost a dear friend to glioblastoma a couple of years back as well. He left behind a much-loved wife and three darling little daughters. As we prayed through those months of his disease, while he fought for his life, we asked for miracles of healing. On this side of Heaven, it wasn’t meant to be.

At his funeral, Dave and I sat, tears on our faces, along with his family and friends. Sad with the loss of him. Yet, there was also something else. Something from so deep in us all, it had to push up and out. It was a strange and magnificent joy. How grateful we were to have known him. To have been a part of something bigger than all of us…with him. To be connected forever with each other by the God he trusted…and we trusted.

Joy. Even in that awful grief.

At that funeral, we lifted our hearts to the God who brought us all together…to be comforted together…and especially by Him. To breathe in the peace that we would see our friend again…whole and himself.

Whatever your situation is right now, my prayer for you is to know joy… May the object of your joy be the Lord Himself, who turns our weeping into dancing…our sorrow into joy [Psalm 30].

Worship with me.

Be still, there is a healer
His love is deeper than the sea
His mercy, it is unfailing
His arms are a fortress for the weak
Let faith arise
Let faith arise

[Chorus]
I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, you are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God, forever

Be still, there is a river
That flows from Calvary’s tree
A fountain for the thirsty
Pure grace that washes over me
So let faith arise
Let faith arise
Open my eyes
Open my eyes

[Chorus]*

Sometimes our thoughts take us place we weren’t aiming to go. Today I wanted to write about joy. It flowed out of sorrow…but it flowed full. 

Listen to the sound of my pleading when I cry to You for help,
when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary…May the Lord be praised, for He has heard the sound of my pleading. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song. The Lord is the strength of His people; He is a stronghold of salvation for His anointed. Save Your people, bless Your possession, shepherd them, and carry them forever. – Psalm 28:2, 6-9

[Postscript: Presently reading Rob Morgan‘s The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times. It came at a good time.]

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin – I Lift My Hands – Official Lyric Video

*Lyrics to I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio, Matt Maher

Story Behind the Song I Lift My Hands – New Release Today – Kevin Davis

God Gives Us Joy in Grief – John Piper

YouTube Video – With Hope – Steven Curtis Chapman

The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times – Robert J. Morgan

Heath Has Finished His Race… – Deb Mills Writer

When Christmas Is Hard – the God of Comfort & Joy

On this predawn Christmas morning, my thoughts are heavy remembering a year ago when Dad died about this time. He died after a long goodbye with cancer and Alzheimer’s. He died under the tender care of my brother and sister-in-law who had already lost her own dad just days before.

Dad is in Heaven, and joy comes thinking of seeing him, Mom, and others there one day. The heaviness of my heart is just to be endured for now…I can’t seem to fix it. It’s been a year of not quite what it should be. Hard to even write those words because I am deeply grateful to God for even being here, in front of this keyboard, able to reflect on His goodness and provision.

Dad, in his sweet and generous heart, was one of those provisions. The only dad I ever knew, even though he wasn’t our biological father. He loved Christmas and brought to it a gleefulness that I can’t find this year.

Maybe some of you are struggling with Christmas this year. Away from family or with them in the shadows. Or there is something else going on…I don’t really want to string a series of possibles here. You know for yourself what is making Christmas hard.

If this is not your situation, just be glad in it. Most years, I have known that kind of Christmas and will again.

Sadness makes it hard to reach out to others (although I have a friend who today, pushing through her own sadness, will serve in a hospital hospitality house). I have struggled to reach out this year.

Still, we will hold to the comfort and joy that is ours through Christ Jesus. What he did for us…what he continues to do in the greatest love known to us.

If you are having a hard time reaching out, and getting the help you need, just please be gentle with yourself. There are resources for us in the depth of our despair (links below). God is near. He desires to comfort us and restore our joy. He will pierce the dark cloud of our sadness as we turn to Him. He will be with us right where we are.Photo Credit: Holley Gerth

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13

Postscript: We have known a lot of airports in our long life of travel – and watching folks arrive to family and friends has always been a marvel to me. I think of Dad’s Homegoing and smile, in spite of this morning’s sadness, at the welcome he received in Heaven. Sweet.

“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. it seems to me that love is everywhere. Ofte, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – from the film Love Actually

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-8255

Celebrating Christmas with a Broken Heart – Brittany Salmon

What Suffering People Wish You Would Do at Christmas – Vaneetha Rendall Risner

A Sorta Gift Guide for the Overwhelmed & Broken Hearted This Christmas – Ann Voskamp

How Having a Little Charlie Brown Christmas Gets You into the Best Christmas Spirit of All (About Fears & Heartbreak & Hard Families at Christmas) – Ann Voskamp

This Christmas – Our Little Clark

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