Category Archives: Jesus

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

5 Friday Faves – Mission Impossible, Digital Dementia, Habits that Can Change Your Life, Piles of Books, and Food for Thought

Friday! Whew! With family visiting and some travel also, writing took a back seat the last couple of weeks. It’s always good for me to sit down at my desk and put words on the screen. Something really soothing to my mind in the sound of clicking away on computer keys. Hope the reading soothes you as well.

1) Mission Impossible – Nathan Mills, with all the lovely summer interruptions, still managed to get out an arrangement of the Mission: Impossible Fallout theme. Watch it here.  This makes the sixth of the Mission Impossible films  He covered the film trailer which blends the Mission Impossible theme and Imagine Dragons’ Friction.
Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Mission: Impossible – Fallout – Classical Guitar Cover by Beyond the Guitar

2) Digital Dementia

Brain researcher Manfred Spitzer coined the term “digital dementia”. It relates to the deterioration of brain function with the overuse of technology. This could include memory loss, attention issues, concentration, and emotional distress such as depression. He would have all digital technology taken out of classrooms. We know that is not going to happen, therefore we must intentionally “exercise our brains” in ways that counteract the brain drain caused by digital technology.  The following are found in Jessica Gwinn‘s piece:

  • Use Your Head. Retrieve information from your brain organically. Sit there and concentrate until you can recall it. [“Use it or lose it, the experts contend. The brain, just like a muscle in our body, can atrophy if we don’t use it.  Perhaps consider a digital sabbatical…If we focus instead on having real conversations, reading books, getting out into nature, and disconnecting from technology, we will be taking care of our brain health and our emotional health as well.”]
  • Crack Open a Book. That’s right. Reading an actual book rather than a tablet has been shown to improve memory retention.
  • Learn a new language. Putting you outside your comfort zone helps your brain work harder, which makes you smarter.
  • Play a new instrument. Instruments require the use of both side of the brain – like the piano or the guitar, for example, which help strengthen and balance it.
  • Get physical. Physical exercise increases blood flow and accelerates the transport of vital nutrients to your brain. – Jessica Gwinn, Dr. Carolyn Brockington

Overuse of Technology Can Lead to Digital Dementia – Jessica Gwinn

Dealing with the Effects of Digital Dementia – Tony Bradley

Digital Dementia: The Memory Problem Plaguing Teens and Young Adults

Kwik Brain: Memory Improvement | Accelerated Learning | Speed-Reading | Brain Hacks | Productivity Tips | High Performance – Jim Kwik, Brain Coach, Founder of Kwik Learning

Adam Gazzaley: The Neuroscience of Attention

3) Habits That Can Change Your Life– We develop habits of all kinds in our lives. They happen almost without thinking. Let’s consider what we want for our lives and then think of what habits we could deliberately put in place to support that desire. I love New Year’s Resolutions, and one of mine from this January is now a habit that will hopefully stick for the rest of my life. It is the habit of making the first voice of each day that of God. Attorney and thought leader Justin Whitmel Earley talks about that as one of his habits as well.

[I previously wrote about Justin Earley’s habits of love here.]

In the midst of life in a high-pressure law practice, he had a revelation that he wanted his life to be structured around habits of love. He lays out these habits on his website and book The Common Rule.

Photo Credit: The Common Rule

What habits would you like to eliminate to make room for others? What habits would move your life in the direction you hope to go?

The Common RuleJustin Whitmel Earley

Scripture Before Phone, and Other Habits That Could Change Your LifeTrevin Wax

YouTube Video – Waking up at 5AM Is Changing My Life – Jordan Taylor [Dealing with his phone addiction]

4) Piles of Books – If you love to read…and love books, in general, you may have something called tsundoku. BBC journalist Tom Gerken introduced me to this term which essentially means having piles of unread books. I struggle with this. Now, I will eventually read the books, but sometimes the stack gets larger as I fall behind on my reading. Keeping them close, as on my bedside table or desk, gives me the comfort of the possibility of reading them. To dangerous to put them on a bookcase unread. Such is the dilemma.

Tsundoku: The Art of Buying Books and Never Reading Them – Tom Gerken

Here’s my current pile. Some have been almost completed but not quite. How about you? Is tsundoku a word that defines the state you find yourself, regarding books yet to be read?

5) Food for Thought – Dave and I celebrated our wedding anniversary last weekend. We were passing through Williamsburg, Virginia, on that Saturday afternoon, with the plan in mind to stop at a favorite restaurant. It is Food for Thought and we love everything about it. The food is excellent and the whole restaurant experience prompts sweet conversation. You are literally surrounded by words at Food for Thought. Quotes of note. Conversation starter cards stacked on each table. Political and literary opinions framed on the walls. Whether Democrat or Republican, it is a friendly and welcoming place. The whole idea is bringing people together for food and talk – both of which are meant to be enjoyed and reveled in. During our meal, restaurant owner Howard Hopkins joined us for a bit of conversation. It felt as natural as an old friend sitting awhile on her way to her own table. Lovely time all the way around. I’m thinking this will be where we’ll be for our next anniversary.

Food for Thought, More Than a Clever Name – Tammy Jaxtheimer

Bonuses:

A Guide to the Science of Giving – Rafael Sarandeses

A Generation Grows Up in China Without Google, Facebook or Twitter – Li Yuan

The Most Dangerous Prayer a Christian Can Pray – Darrell B. Harrison

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg, Twitter

Jesus Understand Your Loneliness – Jon Bloom

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end,
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
Thomas Merton

Worship Wednesday – You Say – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Living All In, Cheryl

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

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?Numbers 23:19

The most deceiful thing Satan does is to distract us from our love for God by tempting us to focus on ourselves. That “self” that is not enough, or is utterly broken, or is, in another direction, worthy of all good things. Satan even uses the first person pronoun such that it sounds like we are acknowledging those lies…those lies about ourselves that fill our minds and cloud the truth of both who God is and who we are in Him.

Anxiety and depression are both a storm of thoughts that draw us down and make us small. Not the small of we decrease such that He might increase…no. Small in a way that He is made smaller still.

Pastor David Jeremiah recently preached about how we lose ground emotionally and spiritually by taking our eyes off God…and believing lies about our situation or identity. He uses a study of Elijah’s life to demonstrate this. In his sermon, The Aftermath, Pastor Jeremiah recalls how Elijah in what should have been a triumphant time of his life was drawn down by exhaustion and fear (1 Kings 19). As Elijah struggled with discouragement, he was vulnerable also to the lies of Satan. He was convinced that he was alone and was right to fear…even for his life. Dr. Jeremiah referred back to a book he had read by Martin Seligman about how our problems can feel personal, pervasive, and permanent. When our eyes turn away from God and onto our selves, we lose perspective and our thinking turns negative and even abusive at times.

Lauren Daigle‘s song You Say is not one I would usually highlight because its focus is more on God’s view of us rather than our focus on Him. However, it has really touched my heart in the honesty of what happens when we lose sight of the great God we serve who loves us perfectly and completely.

Daigle tells the story behind the song here. This is an excerpt:

I think a lot of times we build these complexes based on insecurity, based on fear, based on rejection, and lies that we have to constantly overcome. And so this song for me was just a reminder of identity. It was a reminder that I know when I’m weak, He’s strong—so how do I change that and bring that into my every day life? When I feel inadquate how is it that there’s always these moments where I feel like God just steps in and supercedes my inadequacies. This entire song was so every single day I would get up on stage and remind myself—no, this is the truth, this is the truth, this is the truth. Don’t get buried in confusion. Don’t get buried in waywardness. Just remember to steady the course, steady the course.

That’s the story behind “You Say.”Lauren Daigle

Please worship with me…this good God of ours.

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, o-ooh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
Oh, I believe

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You’ll have every failure, God, You’ll have every victory, o-ooh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

Oh I believe, yes I believe
What You say of me
I believe*

Oh God, today, I will believe what You say about me…and what You say about all of us…and more than that, I believe what You say about Yourself. Thank You, Lord, for the truth you wrap around us. I stand in that. We stand forever with You. You are enough.

*Lyrics to You Say – Writers: Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury, Lauren Daigle

Lauren Daigle – Story Behind the Song ‘You Say’

When God Fights Your Battles…the Good News Is That You Win – Anne Peterson

YouTube Video – David Jeremiah – July 24, 2018 – The Aftermath – Turning Point Radio

Sheryl Sandberg Says the ‘3 P’s’ Have Helped Her Become a Stronger Person After Her Husband’s Tragic Death – Shana Lebowitz

Worship Wednesday – Thou, O Lord, Are a Shield for Me – Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Photo Credit: Christ Community Church Music

“The enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead….I stretch out my hands to You.”Psalm 143:3, 6a

Although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way. Along this path I travel they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see: no one stands up for me; there is no refuge for me; no one cares about me. I cry to You, Lord; I say, “You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living.”Psalm 142:3-5

“You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah.” Psalms 3:3-4

This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out. God had anointed David to be king. Yet, here he is, hiding deep in a cave…hiding from the current king, Saul. Hiding for fear of his life.

In this desert cave Adullam, David retreated. He then cried out to God, as he sorted out his confusion. God meets us all in our caves – some we bring on ourselves and others we’re driven into by those who mean us harm. God enters the darkness with us and draws us to the truths of who He is and who we are in Him.

The darkness is pierced by His light. The fear and fretting are overcome by faith. A faith that is forged in emptiness, helplessness, and self-pity. As we pray, He reveals Himself. Our eyes turn away from our circumstances into His large presence before us.

The cold dark of our situation, when we see God in it, changes to something altogether different…beyond anything that’s just human. No darkness can extinguish the light God brings to us (John 1:5).

Crouching quiet in the blackness of that cave, David was able to get his sight back. As with many of his psalms, his woeful cry of distress turned into a shout of praise. He remembered God…he remembered that God never forgets His children.

David, in his humanness, hid from Saul, believing his life was in danger. The truth was that God had already anointed David king… David’s life was in the hands of almighty God. He was supernaturally shielded from anything a mere man might attempt against him.

The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sings a powerful rendition of this song Thou, O Lord, Are a Shield to Me. What a reminder of His care for us…wherever we might find ourselves.Photo Credit: The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

Worship with me, please. One day voices will be raised to Him – from every people, tribe and tongue – and it will be even more glorious than the mighty choirs of Brooklyn Tabernacle or Parkland Baptist Church (choir in the lyric video linked above).

Many are they increased that troubled me
Many are they that rise up against me
Many there be which say of my soul
There is no help for him in God

But thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
(Repeat)

I cried unto the Lord with my voice
And he heard me out of His holy hill
I laid me down and slept and awaked
For the Lord sustained, for he sustained me

Thou, oh Lord are a shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head
Thou, oh Lord are shield for me
My glory and the lifter of my head (Repeat)*

Hallelujah!

After this I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. And they fell face down before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength to our God forever and ever! Amen. Revelation 7:9-12

*Lyrics to Thou, O Lord

From a Cave Named AdullahKaren Smith – Christ Community Church Music – so good! Don’t miss it.

Cave Principles, Practices, and Perspectives: Psalms 34, 57, 142 – Bob Stone – Eagle Flight – also really excellent!

5 Friday Faves – Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings, the Thai Cave Rescue, Pizza Memories, Friends Through Thick & Thin, and Returning the Favor

The weekend is here! My favorite finds of the week are below. Add your favorites in the Comments below:

1) Harry Potter vs. Lord of the Rings – From books to movies, we have a favorite between these two – Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. They fall in a similar genre of stories about exploits, wizards and wonders. We happen to be Lord of the Rings fans. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has arranged a mash-up of melodies from both films. All the feels.

For those of us who follow Nathan’s career, he was also featured again this week on the Rising Tide Startups podcast. Check it out here.

2) The Thai Cave Rescue – We all celebrate the Thai Cave Rescue where national and international forces came together to accomplish the impossible. The rescue of 12 boys and their coach, from deep in a mountain cave, trapped by rising waters. Photo Credit: CBS Philly

Engineers, divers, doctors, and so many others turned this story from tragedy to triumph. A miracle, really. Not without loss. A former Thai Navy Seal diver, Saman Kunont, died while they they were setting up oxygen lines for the rescue. His death most assuredly helped those who would later be successful in bringing the boys and their coach to safety.

Did the World Care More About the Boys in the Cave Than Other Kids in Crisis?Malaka Gharib & Marc Silver

3) Pizza Memories The food we enjoy often has memories attached to it. Biscuits and gravy are a comfort food that takes me all the way back to childhood. My mom, on her days off, happily making up homemade biscuits and gravy – patting out the biscuits onto the pan and, while they cooked, standing over the gravy, constantly stirring it into perfection. Just the mention of Tang orange drink takes me back to Red Sea family respites from our crazy Cairo life. We stayed in quite affordable hotels offering the loveliest local food. What looked like orange juice on the breakfast buffet was Tang, and it meant we were away from the big city – with all the nurture of blue sky and fresh sea air.

Pizza memories return us to places and people that continue to be endearing. My years of teaching at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, included lunches and suppers out, lingering over the great food of local eateries. New Haven pizza is well-known through the US. The culinary styles of pizza vary from the thin charred crust of New York and Chicago pizza to the cheesy, deep dish Greek pizzas.

My best food memories of New Haven center on an old campus favorite with the unlikely name of Clark’s Dairy (it was also an ice cream shop). Name changed to Clark’s Family Pizza & Restaurant.  There our order was always the same: coffee and the Feta cheese and sausage pizza. Photo Credit: Yelp

Your Guide to the Best Pizza in New Haven – Munchies

Tony and Lucille’s Little Italy Restaurant – Best calzones I’ve ever tasted

Where do your favorite pizza memories take you?

4) Friends Through Thick & Thin – “Don’t forget to crowd your calendar with depression this week”, said no one ever. I was really looking forward to this week…then dark thoughts and their resulting lethargy fell over me like a suffocating wet blanket. I could still manage most of the usual stuff, but the very things that would have lightened my heart required me to get myself there…and it just didn’t happen.

Friendship that endures, over time and trouble, is an amazing gift. People you know will be there, not just for you, but for those you love also, are such a treasure. I hopefully am a better friend because of those who have stuck with me through the years, even when I wasn’t at my best. Friends like this one who missed me…when a no-show.

No judgment. No advice. No rejection. Just care. The note went on to give updates about her family which were a delight to hear/read.

In her bestselling book Kitchen Table Wisdom, Rachel Naomi Remen writes:

“I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it’s given from the heart. When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they’re saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it.” – from Therese Borchard’s 8 Ways to Help a Friend or Family Member With Depression

When we struggle and seemingly remove ourselves from others… maybe we do need to be left alone for awhile. Mostly, however, we just need to be invited in, even in our diminished states. Does this resonate?

Keeping Friends When You Have Depression Is a Challenge – Jennifer Smith

What If Everything You Know About Depression Was Wrong? – Now This (Op-Ed)

Six Ways Jesus Fought Depression – John Piper

5 Things Christians Should Know About Depression and Anxiety – Brandon W. Peach

5) Returning the FavorMike Rowe is this funny, larger-than-life TV show host and writer. He currently stars in a web series entitled Returning the Favor. The goal of this production is to discover and showcase the lives of regular folks who are doing good in their neighborhoods. Then Rowe, through various means, surprises this local heroes with some sort of monetary gift and national recognition. I never knew about him or his work until this week, so now, except for the money part, I want to return the favor and recognize the good he does.

Operation Combat Bikesaver

Mike Rowe visits a garage in Indiana to surprise Jason, a former Army engineer who runs a therapeutic bike building program for veterans.

Posted by Returning The Favor on Monday, August 28, 2017

Beauty And The Beets

Another Tuesday, another favor in need of returning. This one, modesty aside, is excellent. Enjoy.

Posted by Mike Rowe on Tuesday, July 10, 2018

These are my five favorite finds. How about you? Anything that energized your week, brought a special kind of joy, or you just found funny? Share it with us.

Have a splendid weekend with those you love or those who could do with a bit of your love.

Bonuses

[First fruits of a summer garden – thanks to Dave.]

We Really Need to Stop Complimenting People on Weight Loss – Abby Langer

Grey’s Anatomy Give Peace a Chance – Derek & Isaac – Season 6, Episode 7 – a great script, on being a surgeon and on being a patient who has already endured terrible suffering but putting his trust in the surgeon:

How to Write With Style: Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word – Maria Popova

Justice Is a Gospel and Ecclesiastical Issue – Chip M. Anderson

The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice

Oley Brothers Are New Owners of Richmond’s Westhampton Pastry Shop – Tammie SmithPhoto Credit: Yelp

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Every Day Is Special

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:3-6

But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” – Luke 11:17

“Always pull from the same end of the rope.” This was the marriage advice given to Nathan and Bekkah by a couple of strangers. An older man and woman came up to Bekkah after one of Nathan’s concerts and just engaged her in conversation. Over the course of their chat, they gave this young couple a jewel of wisdom…not just for marriage but for life…

“Always pull from the same end of the rope.”

We live in a divided world.

Even in the church, the unity God means for us to have with one another is constantly under fire. By our differences, our ambitions, and our passions. How do we link arms when offenses and attitudes and preferences loom large? Sometimes larger, if we are all honest, than our calling in Christ.Photo Credit: Paul Lee, Heartlight

God help us…and He will.

In my regular Bible reading this morning, in Nehemiah 3, God displayed a beautiful picture of unity. Nehemiah, a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, heard of the distress of the Jews in the broken-down city of Jerusalem. He was personally moved to action on their behalf and asked leave to go help them. He would undertake supervising the great task of the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.

Throughout chapter 3 of Nehemiah, you read the phrases “after him” or “next to them”. Nehemiah recorded name after name of the men stationed one beside the other, doing the work of rebuilding the wall. In Nehemiah 4, when the local authorities felt threatened by the work, they did all they could to demoralize the workmen. Even to the point of inciting fear for their lives. Nehemiah, for the sake of the workers and the work, assigned half of them to shifts repairing the wall and half to stand ready with spears. In fact, even those laboring on the wall would have their weapons at hand. Ready to fight for each other whenever necessary…whenever the alarm is sounded.

“In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” – Nehemiah 4:20

This is unity.

The determination to be one together…as in a part of the whole…as we see in the unity of God in Three (John 17:22). The conviction that division, no matter the worthiness of the reason, robs us of our power and influence Robs God of His glory in His people. The humility and courage to root out division – with our work tools in one hand and our weapons in the other.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – JesusJohn 13:35

In an era sadly in the past, churches would, as needed, call themselves into a solemn assembly. This wasn’t just a share around a campfire, or a “confess fest”. A solemn assembly provides the setting for a deep dealing with sin in the church. Division, unholy and self-serving, can only be rooted out by corporate prayer and repentance.

Each of us can make a difference in the lives of our families, our churches, our cultures by refusing to be divided against each other. If we are willing to walk humbly and biblically with each other.  Working with one hand and holding God’s Word (toward love and against division) with the other. We are rarely given the option, in Scripture, to just walk away. To be repulsed by what we think is wrong; to pull ourselves out of the work and relationships; to just walk away.

[If an enemy threatens…we have God’s instructions as well…and His power fighting for us. However, to just abandon one another, especially to an enemy…and weaken the work and our witness? This is not the answer. Dealing with an enemy that divides us takes great wisdom, faith, and both courage and humility. Pointing our fingers at another is part of the problem, and we all know it if we would open our eyes to it. However, confronting the enemy in wise and Godly ways, may be required of any or all of us at some point in our lives. Remembering also that our enemy is spiritual more than physical.]

When we are having a hard time in this work of being in unity, Dave and I sometimes run through the names of people who give us hope. Those whom we know will always hold the rope for us if we are dangling off the edge of a cliff. Those also for whom we would do the same. It’s an exercise that helps us remember that God calls us to fight for each other…for those most worthy and even those, in our estimation, least worthy… In actuality, we are not the judge of this, God is. It is God who is worthy and He calls us, in His strength, to stand with each other. Alongside each other. Undivided.

Take a moment to savor the singing of this song Undivided by the vocal trio First Call. In this rendition, they are joined by Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green – all pioneers in contemporary Christian music.

[I get cold chills every time.]

Worship with me to Undivided by First Call:

We may worship different ways
We may praise Him
And yet spend all of our days
Living life divided

But when we seek Him with open hearts
He removes the walls we built
That keep us apart
We trust Him to unite us

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided

It doesn’t matter if we agree
All He asks is that we serve Him faithfully
And love as He first loved us
He made us in His image

And in His eyes, we are all the same
And though out methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided*

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:12-15

*Lyrics to Undivided written by Melodie Tunney, 1986

First Call Music

Don’t Give Up – Jon Bloom – Desiring God

Worship Wednesday – O Praise the Name of the Lord Our God – Hillsong

Photo Credit: Church Front

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.” Psalm 30:4

“Give thanks to the LORD for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1

Lost in the moment, it was as if the Heavens opened. We were in a Christian conference surrounded by medical and nursing personnel who want to serve those least served around the world. They would go out as volunteers, leaving their lucrative practices and their comfortable specialties. They would spend several long days in sticky hot makeshift clinics…in obscurity. Tending grateful patients and family members who would never post their experiences to social media. Deep in another world, very different from the US. These will go to serve a needy people and a God who loves that people…and who loves those going.

We were at the mid-point of the conference, reconvening after the supper meal, and a praise team took the stage to gather us together in worship. Maybe this small group of singers and instrumentalists were regulars in a local church. [I missed the introduction.] They did not draw our attention to them (may have been intentional)…and God used them to draw us to Himself.

The “cool factor” of this praise team…and this whole conference actually…was beautifully not the focus.  As we sang, we forgot about those on stage. Just a quiet pointing to God, and the Holy Spirit settled all over the rooms, and especially on our hearts.

Maybe you experience this on a regular basis. It was a sweet reminder of how, even in our best efforts, we can avoid our culture’s trappings of “cool” which add nothing to what God is already about.

Jon Bloom explores this in his article The Cool God Is a Puny God. He warns against bowing to the idol of cool in our worship of God. God just doesn’t do “cool”.

That’s because, in the apt words of the Incredible Hulk in The Avengers, Cool is a “puny god.” Just because Cool is culturally pervasive doesn’t mean it’s big. It just has good marketing.

The true, big God is after our biggest, deepest, widest, longest-lasting joy. That’s why he commands us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… [and] love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37–39). He designed us not to find happiness in how others think of us, but in our loving others; not pursuing others’ admiration but in pursuing others’ good. That’s the joy that God has for us in commands like this:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his interests, but also to the interests of others.  (Philippians 2:3–4)*

[Sidebar: I mean no offense. Some of you may be completely cool without seeking it – trendsetters, generally just winsome to those around you. If you’re just being yourself…but if you’re trying to be “cool”, that’s a bondage none of us need. Our dilemma is when people measure themselves and each other by the culture’s “coolness” gauge. Jesus just doesn’t fit anywhere on this scale. He is so far beyond anything we might think is cool. Right?]

Worship with me to the Hillsong‘s O Praise the Name of Jesus. That little praise team led us in singing this song…and we forgot them, forgot ourselves, and gathered together around the throne of God:

I cast my mind to Calvary
Where Jesus bled and died for me
I see His wounds, His hands, His feet
My Saviour on that cursed tree

His body bound and drenched in tears
They laid Him down in Joseph’s tomb
The entrance sealed by heavy stone
Messiah still and all alone

O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forevermore
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

And then on the third at break of dawn
The Son of heaven rose again
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King

O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forevermore
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God

He shall return in robes of white
The blazing sun shall pierce the night
And I will rise among the saints
My gaze transfixed on Jesus’ face

O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God**

Postscript: This world lost a man this week who definitely gave no thought to whether he was cool or not. His name is Robert Wink, and he was welcomed Home by His Savior – the One he made much of his whole life. Bob understood that whatever cool was added nothing to the Person of Jesus. Bob was also moved to action by our need for God’s enduring love. A love that is steadfast despite the changing whims of a self-seeking culture.

Bob loved people and he loved Jesus, and he took every opportunity to bring people to the saving knowledge of Jesus.

Obituary – Robert E. “Bob” Wink

The world is diminished without this dear man. May it be true of us that at the end of our days, we chose Jesus over self, in our every endeavor…no matter how uncool that might make us. It doesn’t matter.

Hallelujah!

Song Story – O Praise the Name – Marty Sampson

*The Cool God Is a Puny GodJon Bloom

**Lyrics to O Praise the Name – Songwriters: Dean Ussher, Benjamin Hastings, Marty Sampson

YouTube Video – Hulk vs. Loki – Puny God – The Avengers

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

Monday Morning Moment – Great Bosses and Those Not So Much – What Makes an Exemplary Leader?

Photo Credit: Identity Magazine, Shereen Gaber

We burn entirely too much energy and each other’s time commiserating over bad bosses. We are all best served by remembering the great ones and what it is about them that makes us better for knowing them. When we take the time to puzzle out what makes for a great boss, we have the path marked for becoming that sort of boss…or leader…ourselves.

Last week, I discovered a piece on great bosses by seminary dean and leadership writer Chuck Lawless. In a bit, you will read his 10 characteristics he puts forward as common in his personal experience of top ten leaders.

10 Common Characteristics of the Top Ten Leaders I’ve Ever Worked With – Chuck Lawless

First though, after i took some time myself, thinking back on what was it about the great bosses I had that distinguished them above all others.

Here are my 10 Characteristics of Great Bosses, in no particular order:

  1. They were trustworthy. We knew they had our back…always.
  2. They had consummate integrity. They were consistent in attitude and action no matter the audience. Even under intense pressure, whatever it cost them, they stood their ground for what mattered.
  3. They showed faith in me and each of us on the team. Not just to get the job done but to do it as only I/we could.
  4. They (those male leaders) didn’t treat us women differently. In fact, if they ever did seem to treat us differently, the great ones modeled a valuing of what the women brought to the conversation. Great leaders never diminished us, either overtly or covertly.
  5. They showed genuine care, even fondness, for us. They didn’t just spend their best time and energy on work meetings outside our team. They actually carved time out with us as a team for seemingly the sheer joy of it.
  6. They gave us a voice in the decision-making…especially as it related to our particular work and how we thought it should be done.
  7. They knew us well enough to call us on our own character stuff. It was never just about the work, the project, the product or service. It was about our own growth.
  8.  They kept a sense of humor and regularly brought perspective. This wasn’t just about lightening the mood; this was about returning our thinking to the bigger picture, the greater good.
  9. They provided opportunities for each of us to keep growing and developing professionally.
  10. They pushed us in meaningful ways toward a shared vision…to keep our focus and stay on track.

That’s my 10 in looking back to the many great bosses…invaluable leaders…I’ve had in my career.

Dr. Lawless’ 10 Common Characteristics are these (go to his article for helpful commentary on each).

  1. They know Christ. – (his article was to a Christian audience. Still, many consider Jesus of Nazareth the greatest leader who ever lived.*)
  2. They continually dream about what’s next. 
  3. They trust the team they’ve enlisted. 
  4. They take care of their team. 
  5. They read present-tense reality well. 
  6. They get a lot done while still taking time off.
  7. There is no pretense in them. 
  8. They know the organization is bigger than they are. 
  9. They laugh a lot. 
  10. They adore their family and make time for them. Chuck Lawless

12 Characteristics of Effective Team Members – Chuck Lawless

*The Greatest Leader of All – Geoff Loftus

Whatever experience we have had with great bosses or those not so much, we can learn from them. I was glad to have Dr. Lawless’ prod to look back on the leadership in my own life. It was remarkable how both great bosses and bad ones hang in our memories. One day I might write about the bad ones – and I have stories… Today, I just want to think about them with compassion, figuring they didn’t get to that place without being negatively influenced somewhere along the way.

As for those great bosses…the ones who lead brilliantly, with genuine care and provision for those who work under them…here’s to you. May we learn from you, follow hard after you, and not be shy to show our own appreciation and consideration for you as well.

Photo Credit: Twitter, David Chou

In closing, I would love to hear about some of your great bosses… those leaders in your lives that stand out in your memory (or present experience). Please comment below. Feel free to tell stories or give tributes. We can celebrate together!

Are You a Great Boss? – John Lynn, Healthcare IT Today

Four Types of Bosses You Need to Avoid – Shereen Gaber

Photo Credit: Workboard

Worship Wednesday – Belief and Unbelief – Jesus Is Better – Austin Stone

Photo Credit: Slideshare

He [Jesus] marveled because of their unbelief. Mark 6:6

“…if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” “If You can?” echoed Jesus. “All things are possible to him who believes!” Immediately the boy’s father cried out, “I do believe; help my unbelief!”Mark 9:22b-24

My ambition has never been to make Jesus marvel at my unbelief. In fact, I’ve written about believing here and here. It is what I want in life. To know Him and to make Him known.

This past Sunday, our pastor, Cliff, taught on Mark 6. It was the account of Jesus’ return to his hometown to preach and heal. The townspeople who knew Jesus from an early age called into question his authority and ability to do the miracles which characterized his public ministry. They chose to be offended by him…they chose not to believe.

Cliff described belief as where our aim is. “[God] takes even small faith aimed at Him (in belief) and does great things with it and for those who believe.”

When we choose to be offended by Christians, or the church, or the religion of Christianity, we turn away from all things Christ.

In unbelief.

In unbelief, we lose Jesus – that beautiful representation of God Himself. Too great a loss…too great.

I’ve had seasons when the aim of my life shifted away from Jesus…and it showed…in my decisions, my relationships, my character.

Before I got too far down any of those roads away from God, He drew me back to Himself. Unbelief will not characterize my life! “I do believe. Help my unbelief.”

The song Jesus Is Better (by Austin Stone Worship) is a great testament to the excellence of knowing Christ. He is better than any other person, pleasure, or pursuit. He is perfect in love and life.

After Cliff’s message on Sunday, I asked someone close to me, “If you believe that Jesus was truly good and only did good, what keeps you from believing Him and wanting to know all you can know of Him?”

What keeps us from Jesus? Unbelief.

Jesus is worthy of our faith and our belief. We deceive ourselves if we refuse Him, reject Him…to our eternal peril. Choosing separation from Him in this life and the next.

This is both sobering and terrifying.

Believe.

Worship with me.

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 sins’ tyranny

My life is hidden
‘neath heaven’s shadow
And 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*

So little in life we can control really, BUT we can control where we fix our aim…where we set our minds.

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things…As God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.  Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Colossians 3:1-2, 12-15

Photo Credit: C. S. Lewis; The Time-Warn Wife

*Lyrics to Jesus Is Better – Songwriters: Aaron Ivey & Brett Land

YouTube Video – Jesus Is Better – Story Behind the Song

YouTube Video – Jesus Is Better (Live) – Jimmy McNeal

Movement Church – Podcast on Unbelief/Belief – Mark 6:1-6 – Pastor Cliff Jordan

Movement Church Facebook Live – Worship May 20 2018 – Mark 6:1-6 Sermon

Case Study: Too Late for Salvation? – Journal of Christian Nursing – Deborah Stephens Mills & Kathleen T. Flynn

Jesus Is Better – Melissa Kruger

Sermon Slide Deck – “I Believe; Help my Unbelief” – Luke 9:37-45 – SlideShare