Category Archives: Spiritual Warfare

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!

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 – 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 – Women of Influence, Incredibles 2 on Classical Guitar, Suicide Prevention, Fathers, and Hard Redeemed

Friday Faves! Here are mine for the week:

1) Women of Influence – I have been extraordinarily blessed all my life with the presence of women of influence. Many I have known personally. The list would be long if I wrote out the names of all those who come to mind right now. You know who you are to me. Women who, in their own ordinary lives, shake foundations and raise up all around them to a higher plane of life. Today, I want to name three women who are very very different from each other. I do not know them personally, nor do I agree with everything they say… but they have caused me to think.

  • Karen Swallow Prior is an English professor, a writer, and a Christian activist. I feel like I know her through her Facebook and Twitter pages. She is as real to me as a friend would be. As brilliant and articulate as she is, I am sure we could have a conversation on difficult issues without losing each other in the process. Recently, she was hit by a city bus while walking and miraculously lived to write about it. In her forced convalescence at home over the next months, I’m thinking we will learn much from her alone time…with God and through her reflections.

“The Sage Ones” – 10 Faith Writers Over 50 – Jody Lee Collins

Photo Credit: Twitter, Anna Deavere Smith

#NotesFromTheField

These are very public figures. They use their renown to influence in the positive. We all know other women of influence – working in refugee camps, in the classroom, in research labs, in neighborhoods, and those aging ever so gracefully before us – who make a difference in quieter yet profound ways.

2) Incredibles 2 on Classical Guitar – When the film The Incredibles came out in 2004, our kids were all in high school. The film follows the adventures of a superhero family trying to have a normal life while subduing bad guys. 14 years later and its much-welcome sequel opens this weekend. Note I didn’t say much-anticipated, because the first film appeared to be a stand-alone after all these years.Photo Credit: Gizmodo

In celebration of Incredibles 2, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar, has arranged Michael Giacchino‘s film theme. You can enjoy this jazzy spy melody here.Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

[Have you considered being a patron of Nathan’s part of his support community? Creating music takes concentrated time and to do it for a living takes a team of folks who love what he’s doing and want to help keep it happening. Here‘s where you can find out more.]

Spotify – Guitar Covers Vol. 2 – Beyond the Guitar

3) Suicide Prevention – To go to such a dark place mentally that suicide seems the only way out must be a terrifying, deeply lonely experience. There was a time in my own life that the pressures of life mixed with emotions I couldn’t seem to control pulled me in that direction. Fortunately, nothing happened, and with God’s help and that of my family and friends (without them even knowing what was going on), the darkness broke.

We are living in an age of loneliness where social media and superficial gatherings give the facade of community, but not its reality. Truly watching out for each other and touching base, especially, with those who live more solitary lives is life-saving.

Talk Saves Lives. We can’t just assume we know what helps prevent suicide. Let’s get educated and lean in to those most vulnerable.

Resources abound. Each of us can do something to turn the tide.

Photo Credit: Twitter, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Life and Chester Bennington – the One Tribute You Don’t Want to Miss – Hanif Abdurraqib – Deb Mills Writer

4) Fathers – This Sunday is Father’s Day in the US. We all have had a dad in some capacity or another. The impact of their lives continues with us through ours…either steering us along the same course or moving us to take a very different one. I’ve written a bunch about fathers and fathering.

Fathering – Celebrating Men Who Did It Well; Forgiving Men Who Didn’t

The father I never knew…I have only two memories of my own of the man who gave me half of my DNA…

Then there’s this man who became my dad…until the end of his life.

Worship Wednesday – Remembering Dad at His Passing – Grateful to God

When Dave and I married, he gave me another dad. Lovely and kind.

Marriage was a late gift with no surety I’d get to be a mom. This dear man helped make it so. In his own quiet way, he is a good and rock-solid father…and now, grandfather.

I could go on…brothers who are good fathers…nephews…men in our lives who are loving fathers to other people’s kids…and our own son (and son-in-law) who are also great dads. They are easy to celebrate.

Happy Father’s Day!

Friday Faves – Father’s Day – Deb Mills Writer

Friday Faves – Dads Who Get It – Deb Mills Writer

Fathers Who Give Hope – John Piper

10 Unforgettable Lessons on Fatherhood – Ray Ortlund

5) Hard Redeemed – Anybody in our lives knows I’ve had a couple of hard weeks…those come and go, like for all of us. The ability to weather relational and situational heaviness is galvanized by those who come alongside. Including and especially God Himself who has been there for any and all who walk with Him…through the ages.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” – Joseph  Genesis 50:20

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will have the power to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!Romans 8:38-39
The hard of these several days is still with me but so are those who walk alongside. Friends, family, community…God himself.

What an amazing blessing are folks who reach out – like a friend, across the ocean, whom I haven’t seen since 2002. Or the friend who gave me this upbeat life-affirming little song Dream Small.

Worship Wednesday – Dream Small – Josh Wilson

God, help me to be that kind of friend…redeeming the hard in lives of those You place in front of me.

__________________________________________________________

Have a great weekend! Peopled with those you love and those who could use your love.

Bonuses:

Better Late Is Still Late: Advocating for Victims of Sexual Abuse

The Dinner Party Flex: Cooking in the Age of Social Media

Posted by Wild And Wonderful on Monday, May 28, 2018

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

Saturday Short – Getting From “O Lord, How Long?” …to “Yet, I Will Rejoice”

Photo Credit: Slideshare; Sammie G. Smith

It’s been a week.

One of those where you’re praying hard, and yet, at every turn, you’re not sure God is on the same page…or you, with Him.

On happy, normalish, carefreeish weeks, we skip along, through time in the Word, time in prayer, time with friends and family. Even time at work and play. God’s got this, right?

Then there are weeks like this…no end in sight on some struggles. It is easy to wonder if we have lost favor with our heavenly Father. It’s way too easy to cry out to God, like the prophet Habakkuk did:

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,
    and you will not hear?Habakkuk 1:2a

I am so grateful to God that even His “little faith” children are beloved. He is a good, good Father. That isn’t just some praise song embedded in my brain. That is what I’ve come to know through decades of following Him…ever how imperfectly.

The Holy Scripture also reveals His character and the journey of His children over and over. We can know and anticipate that there will be weeks like this…even years like this for some…through His Word.

What else we can know is that God is present in all of this. We also know that, as frail humanity, we cannot possibly know or see or explain the thinking or activity of God. His ways are not our ways.

Trust comes to play in weeks like mine. Truthfully, it comes with wrestling before the Lord in prayer and staying in His Word and the company of His people.

In the brief narrative of Habakkuk, as he struggled in prayer with God, he went from complaining to worshipping.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:17-19

This has been a hard week. Most of the situations continue unresolved. God continues quiet to my dull ears. Still…He speaks. In ways that I can hear.

Habakkuk was the topic of reading in my read-through-the-Bible calendar for yesterday. I read through – from the first verse of his cry almost against God to the last verses of his restored peace and joy with God. I read through…and God did the same to my own heart.

Are my circumstances changed today? No. My heart is changed. Even last night, I was recounting, to my mom-in-law, one joyful finding. It was an ultrasound followup on a potential problem for our in utero granddaughter who turns out to be growing and wonderfully healthy after all. And my Godly mom-in-law’s response? “Praise God, another answer to prayer.”

Another answer to prayer…

This morning I am rejoicing in the Lord. Is everything made right? Not yet. Not that I can see…but I know it will be.Photo Credit: Ben Steed, Precept Austin

Worship Wednesday – When We Pray – Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: More Famous Quotes

We talk about the need for prayer. We “send prayers” to those in difficult situations. The Scripture has prayer woven throughout. Below are just a few references to the powerful nature of prayer.

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”2 Chronicles 7:14

“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.”Psalm 34:15

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and incomprehensible things you do not know.”Jeremiah 33:3

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'” – Jesus – Matthew 6:9-13

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”Romans 12:12

Do you find praying challenging? It’s strange that it is, when it is challenging. We know that God invites us to be in conversation with Him (Jeremiah 33:3). He even taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). He tunes his attention to even our baby prayers. His desire is to show Himself faithful and loving and all-sufficient to his children. Even when our prayers get locked on what we want rather than whom we want…our Heavenly Father…that whom.

If the Scripture doesn’t settle for us why we pray, a little song I learned years ago might be an added help…especially when the answers seem delayed or denied. It is Babbie Mason‘s  Trust His Heart and the chorus follows:

God is too wise to be mistaken
God is too good to be unkind
So when you don’t understand
When don’t see his plan
When you can’t trace his hand
Trust His Heart

The most beautiful part of prayer is that God meets us wherever we are…his faithful children and his prodigals coming to their senses:

“There is a story in the Talmud about a king who had a son who went astray. The son was told, ‘Return to your father.’ The son replied that he could not. The king then sent a messenger to the son with the message… ‘Come back to me as far as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way’. ” – The Chosen

For Christ-followers, we don’t even make that journey back to Him alone, maybe even frightened. When we belong to Him, the Holy Spirit draws us back to Him…and the Savior is with us every step of the way.

What would put you on your face before such a God right now?

Photo Credit: Shawn Gray

Were it not for pride, or the cares of this world, or our culture’s clawing at us with its lies? God has already set prayer in motion by stirring up that desire, by making us aware of that need, by fanning our small faith into flame.

Our delight is to turn our hearts toward God…to enjoy His company, to see His mighty works, and to share community with others longing for Him as well.

My Mom, my Mom-in-law, my husband…other family members, and many many friends have deepened my prayer life by witnessing and being the beneficiary of their own…and their walk with the God of this universe. I wage spiritual warfare with them for the sake of those we love…and for the world that God also loves.

Worship with me (link to lyrics & music)…to this song, When We Pray, by Tauren Wells.

People hurting, people broken
Beaten down and feeling hopeless
Wonder if it’s gonna always be this way
Who will speak up for the captive
Show some love and heal a past that
Binds the wounds we think will never go away

But what if we could be a people on our knees
As one before the King
‘Cause we believe

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray
Oh, when we pray, oh

I see revival rising
I see hope on the horizon
As a generation stepping out in faith

As one before the King
Yeah we believe

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray
Oh, when we pray, oh

Let Your kingdom come, Lord
Let Your will be done

All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
All the world starts changing
When the church starts praying
Strongholds start to break
Oh, when we pray
Prison walls start shaking
At the sound of praising
Nothing stays the same
Oh, when we pray, oh
When we pray, oh

In Jesus name (when we pray)
In Jesus name (when we pray)
When we pray, oh
When we pray*

Photo Credit: Pixabay

*Lyrics to When We PrayWriters: Tauren Wells, Colby Wedgeworth, Ethan Hulse

Worship Wednesday – My Hope Is In Jesus – David Crowder and Tauren Wells – Deb Mills Writer

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart – Cynthia Clawson – lyrics by Babbie Mason

When You Pray – Shawn Gray

When God’s People Pray – Jim Cymbala – Session 1 (of 4) – Vimeo

10 Most Important Verses on Prayer in the Bible – Lori Hatcher

Worship Wednesday – No Longer Slaves – Voices of Lee

Photo Credit: A Christian Pilgrim

In the dark and confusing times of my life, I have clung to these words in 2 Timothy 1:7 and taken comfort. The Apostle Paul wrote them to his young friend and son in the faith Timothy. Paul had experienced all the persecution of that day and was in what he knew would be his last imprisonment before being executed. His words to Timothy were deeply personal and rang with faith and hope…even in the face of suffering.

We are but frail humanity…very like this one, Paul. He was chained and isolated in his imprisonment, yet his spirit was free because of what he knew to be true. He was no longer a slave to a religion or a political entity. His current situation was brought on by tenacious obedience to the call of Christ. Therefore, he took confidence in the unseen – the presence of God Himself in that darkness, the work of God in his life, and the continued Gospel influence he had, even from prison. His identity was in Christ…he was a secured child of God.

That truth helped him endure the cold dungeon, the isolation from those closest to him, and the storm of his own thoughts.

Whatever our situation today, we have the same provision of God as did Paul years before us. As did the children of Israel, when they stepped onto the dry bed of the Red Sea, parted by almighty God.

Fear presses in on us and speaks lies. Fear tells us our situation is hopeless. Fear mocks the work of God in our lives. Fear takes what is seen and magnifies it over the magnificent work going on in the unseen of our lives.

The very good news is that fear will not prevail. It does not displace truth. It does not cancel faith. It may waylay us for a time, or sideline us for a moment, but God in His great goodness draws us to Himself and speaks love to our wearied hearts and minds.

[Sidebar: I find women more than men talk of the struggle with fear. My husband concurred that men think about fear as having to do with physical danger…If physical danger isn’t a present cause for fear, then men wrestle more with their private battles…alone. God knows our hearts…that fear of failure, or fear of being stuck somehow…the mental struggle that takes away our joy. He wants to restore that joy…and the peace that comes in remembering His love and provision.]

The songwriters of Bethel Music have given us a great anthem to God’s truth as demonstrated in His deliverance from fear. We are His children, and He is a father like no other.

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” – Psalm 118:6

Worship with me (link to lyric video) to No Longer Slaves, performed by the Voices of Lee. [A HD version of the song is here, with lyrics below.]

[Verse 1]
You unravel me with a melody
You surround me with a song
Of deliverance from my enemies
‘Til all my fears are gone

[Chorus]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

[Verse 2]
From my mother’s womb, You have chosen me
Your love has called my name
I’ve been born again into Your family
Your blood flows through my veins

[Chorus]
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

[Bridge]
You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love
You rescued me so I can stand and sing
I am a child of God
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(You split the sea so I could walk right through it)
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(My fears were drowned in perfect love)
There’s power in the name of Jesus
(You rescued me so I can stand and sing)
To break every chain, to break every chain
To break every chain
(I am a child of God)
To break every chain, to break every chain
To break every chain
He breaks every chain, He breaks every chain
He breaks every chain
We’re no longer slaves, we’re no longer slaves
We’re no longer slaves
He broke every chain
We’re no longer slaves
We’re children of God

[Chorus]
You split the sea so I could walk right through it
My fears were drowned in perfect love (perfect love)
You rescued me so I can stand and sing
I am a child of God (hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah)
I am a child of God (hallelu-hallelu-hallelujah)
(We’re no longer slaves!)
I am a child of God*

In the official lyric video**, the song plays against a visual background of a well-trodden path on the edge of a mountain. To the right, as the viewer moves along the path, there is a sharp decline which seems to fall down to the deep valley. For someone with a fear of heights, my eyes are drawn away from the path down that steep cliff. This is the struggle for those of us who fear. That’s why God calls us to keep our eyes on Him, and on the path He has provided for us…and to remember the truth. “Stay on target!” is an adage (from Star Wars) that our family uses to remind ourselves. Stay on target!

*Lyrics to No Longer Slaves as Performed by Voices of Lee – written by Brian Johnson, Jonathan David Helser, Joel Case (Bethel Music)

YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves – Voices of Lee – Lyrics

**YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves –  Official Lyric Video – Jonathan David & Melissa Helser – We Will Not Be Shaken

YouTube Video – No Longer Slaves (Song Story) – Jonathan & Melissa Helser – We Will Not Be Shaken

Worship Wednesday – Anxiety, Holding On, & Reclaiming Perspective – Deb Mills Writer

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Photo Credit: Flickr

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and steadfast. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. – Psalm 71:1-3

In my late teens and 20s, my mom endured a hard and painful-to-watch season. A few of my other friends’ moms went through what then was called “a nervous breakdown”. Somehow, my mom pushed through. She felt tremendous responsibility to get her four children grown and established in our adult lives. She worked hard at her job and served well in her church and community. Mom was unshakeable in her love for God and for us.

Yet the demons were real. I will never forget sitting beside her as she lay weeping on her bed. Deep, shaking, inconsolable cries. She was never able to say what the tormentors were – regret? worry? There were times she described how it felt like something was in her throat (that proverbial “lump”) that she couldn’t get down – literally like she couldn’t swallow (or stomach) whatever was going on.

In those days, holding my mama who I loved most in the world, I promised myself I would never let that level of misery happen in my life…I would figure out how not to be taken down by fear or the threat of the future…especially such that my children would not have to see me in such pain.

It was sometime in my 20s that my own tears dried up. After watching my mom cry so much, I just didn’t have any tears…maybe I didn’t want to go to that hard place…

Praise God there is always more to the story. My mom survived those years and lived more joyfully and peacefully after that, right through the day she went Home to be with the Lord. Thanks to my mom, I did learn how to cope with the stressors of life…not always well, but I know how.

Mom and I both learned through our lives how to cast our cares on God. There may have been times in Mom’s later years that she wrestled with anxiety just between God and her. There are times, as well, that I wrestle, especially in the night hours, before sleep.

Right now, anxiety seems to be gripping the hearts and lives of some dear friends of mine. I’m not sure how to counsel but am absolutely sure how to pray.

Anxiety is not the same as fear. It is an emotion characterized by an unpleasant state of inner turmoil…It is the subjectively unpleasant feelings of dread over anticipated events, such as the feeling of imminent death. Fear is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat, whereas anxiety is the expectation of future threat. It is a distinction between future and present dangers which divides anxiety and fear. Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness and worry, usually generalized and unfocused. It is the mental state that results from a difficult challenge for which the subject has insufficient coping skills.

Photo Credit: SketchPort

God never meant for us to live in anxiety.

For clinical helps on dealing with anxiety, Debbie Hampton has written a concise and practical piece (linked below) entitled Four Steps to Take Control of Your Mind and Change Your Brain. She takes it from the book You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Golding. The 4 steps are written from more of a Buddhist mindfulness orientation, but they actually easily translate to Biblical wisdom.

For today, I just want to express my profound gratefulness for the God who meets us in the dark nights of the soul and reminds us of what is true and restores our joy and peace. He is faithful, and His Word never fails.

Worship with me through the song My Anchor by Christy Nockels and Jason Ingram.

You’re the Lord Almighty
Your every word is sure
And in Your love unfailing
I’m safe when oceans roar
Yes, I’m safe when oceans roar
My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on
Here within the struggle
And every crashing wave
You are more than able
Your hand is strong to save

Yes, I know Your hand is strong to save

My anchor, forever
My shelter within the storm
You’re my deliverer
You never falter
You’re the rock I stand on

I hold on to You
And You hold on to me
Jesus, I hold on to You
And You hold on to me*

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

By the way, I seem to have gotten my tears back, for which I’m grateful. Also, for those of you, like me, who struggle with anxiety, it’s a battle. We must be gentle with ourselves but, at the same time, disciplined in dealing with the lies with which our mind hammers us. For you who love us “sometimes anxious ones”, thank you…especially when you don’t default to anxiety…thank you for trying to understand, and for loving, and for guiding us gently to the truth, and for praying. You are the face of Jesus to us.

*Lyrics to My Anchor – Songwriters: Christy Nockels & Jason Ingram

Story Behind the Song My Anchor by Christy Nockels – Kevin Davis

How Do I Take My Thoughts Captive? – Interview with John Piper

Worship Wednesday – I Need You Now – by Plumb

Worship Wednesday – Listening to His Voice Through the Noise

12 Christian Songs to Ease An Anxious Mind – Victoria Rondinelli

7 Christian Songs That Help With Feelings of Depression – Crystal McDowell

Four Steps to Take Control of Your Mind and Change Your Brain – Debbie Hampton

Four Steps – Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz’s Four Steps – Hope 4 OCD – Dr. Ada Gorbis

You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life by Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Rebecca Golding

Prescriptions Without Pills – For Relief From Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More – Dr. Susan Heitler

Addition – from my friend Blythe – You Are My Peace – Housefires – YouTube Video

Monday Morning Moment – Inner Rings – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty

Photo Credit: Chris Russo

[Adapted from a previous blog]

When C. S. Lewis introduced the occurrence of “inner rings” to a classroom of young men in university, he wasn’t talking about high school cliques.Photo Credit: Smosh

[You will want to read Lewis’ short, humorous, and piercing lecture…I read it aloud, attempting my “best” British accent. The British accent, in my opinion, gives what is true even more authority and winsomeness.]

Lewis talked about the universal, life-long allure of wanting to be “on the inside”…whatever that might mean at the time. Inner rings are, for the most part, morally neutral in themselves. What becomes the issue for us is how our thinking is altered and what we are willing to do to gain entry to these exclusive (and often secretive) inner circles.Blog - Inner Rings 2 - BPNews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews

Inner rings are part of every level of life – personal relationships, government, teams, military, clubs, organizations, and workplaces. They aren’t necessarily represented by team rosters or org. charts, as much as they are the more fluid unwritten associations. Like secret societies, they can change quite without explanation – sometimes you are in and then you are not. Inclusion and exclusion are defined by the group itself…and are not accidental.

Let’s face it – we all want to belong…somewhere among the best of the best. Even when we don’t say it out loud, some sort of identity appeals to us and drives our pursuits. Jeremy Writebol wrote a piece where he explores this pursuit of belonging, referencing C. S. Lewis’ Inner Rings. Lewis talked about what we are willing to do to be identified as one inside those rings, or inner circles. There’s the danger – what we’re willing to do.

Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:

1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance [Position]

2) The Inner Ring of Authority [Power]

3) The Inner Ring of Applause [Prominence]

4) The Inner Ring of Abundance [Plenty]

None of us is immune to the influence of one or more of these inner rings or social circles. The deceit of pursuing membership to an inner ring is that it’s never enough. Like taking apart an onion, you find inner rings within inner rings…until there’s nothing left. No place to find belonging…because this passion is never satisfied. It becomes futile. Lewis does offer a two-part antidote:

  • In the workplace, make your work your focus. Whenever we lose our focus, the pull of desire for significance disrupts our engagement in the work. “The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it.”
  • Outside of work, pursue friendships with people you like. This seems obvious, but if our desires to belong in a certain group have hijacked us relationally, it might not even be clear anymore who the people are we truly enjoy.  “If in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the center of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship…It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.”

Take the time to read Writebol’s piece. He defines each circle and asks clarifying questions, in a very kind way, to help the reader deal with the deceit or justification we may have developed, without realizing it.

[Writebol wrote a follow-up piece entitled Why Are We Chasing? which exquisitely unwraps the cost and consequence of our chasing – chasing after what we think we must apprehend, having become blind to what we already have.]

Here’s to work well-done and friendships that last for a lifetime. Here’s to choosing well and inclusion and celebration…and knowing we already belong.

Great Monday morning reads…Go!

The Inner Ring – C. S. Lewis

The Weight of Glory – C. S. Lewis – Collection of Addresses Including The Inner Ring

4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing – Jeremy Writebol

Why Are We Chasing? – Jeremy Writebol [Followup piece to above article]

The Inner Ring – Chris Russo’s Blog

C. S. Lewis and the Inner Ring of Cronyism – Elise Daniel – Institute For Faith, Work, and Economics

C.S. Lewis and the Inner Ring – Nicholas T. Batzig

The Inner Ring and the Moral Question of Our Time – Nozomi Hayase

Monday Morning Moment – Belonging and Going Deep and the Blind Presumptions that It’s Actually Happening When It Isn’t

The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams – Philip Zaleski & Carol Zaleski

Photo Credit: Paste Magazine; Commonweal

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

Blog - Friday Faves 006 (2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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