Category Archives: Word of God

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

5 Friday Faves – Common Purpose, Safeguarding Your Marriage, Being Different, Hard Seasons, and Small Beginnings

Happy Friday! Here is my gift to you today – so many glorious finds I’ve tried to compress into 5 Friday Faves.

1) Common Purpose – Every year, Glassdoor, a website that assists employers and potential employees to find each other, posts a Top 50 of Best Places to Work.

Photo Credit: SAP

Glassdoors’ 2017 Best Places to Work

In his LinkedIn article, Barry Sanders talks about one of the characteristics of what makes a “best place to work”. This characteristic is “common purpose”.  He writes:

Common purpose is essential to driving organization-wide adaptability, which is key to succeeding in today’s fast-paced business world. A shared set of values and goals across the organization allows leaders and individual contributors to achieve widespread alignment, manage uncertainty, and guide decisions in times of turmoil and change.

Without establishing common purpose, companies risk a lack of motivation, lower levels of commitment, less loyalty, and decreased alignment amongst their employees—not to mention negative Glassdoor reviews.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

He also quotes from his CEO General Stanley McChrystal’s bestseller Team of Teams which gives this summary of the importance of common purpose:

“Team members tackling complex environments must all grasp the team’s situation and overarching purpose…Individual SEALs have to monitor the entirety of their operation just as soccer players have to keep track of the entire field, not just their own patch of grass. They must be collectively responsible for the team’s success and understand everything that responsibility entails.”

When you can see the entire field, not just your patch of grass, your organization becomes more effective—and a better place to work. – Barry Sanders

I sure hope senior leaders get this message. Just communicating the purpose is not enough. That “patch of grass” must be given to that soccer player. He must own it and own his part of the entire field. Leaders who genuinely believe in and nurture common purpose cultivate a “best place to work” for their personnel.

15 Things I Learned From Truett Cathy [Founder of Chick-Fil-A]– Paul Sohn

2) Safeguarding Your Marriage – Infidelity or unfaithfulness in our marriage relationships is not just about sexual betrayal. Infidelity can happen when we allow our hearts to become more bonded to someone or something else more than to our own spouses.
Dave Willis defines infidelity as “broken trust or broken loyalty”. He has posted a tremendously helpful article entitled The 9 Forms of Infidelity in Marriage (Hint: 8 of Them Don’t Involve Sex). Willis is a pastor,counselor and founder of Stronger Marriages. Single or married, you will benefit from his article because too often we “fall” into infidelity by letting ourselves be deceived in thinking it’s nothing. Safeguard your relationships!

3) Being Different – Matt Damico has written an excellent piece for Christ-followers. It is The World Needs You to Be Different. If you are reading this and you aren’t keen on the teachings of Jesus, you may already think that Christians are a quirky lot of people. What Damico says in this article is to call us to the rhythms, the routines, the practices of the church that work a peculiarity in us that’s a good thing.

Piano scales make a pianist. Hours behind the wheel make a driver. Weightlifting reps make muscles, and lots of miles make a runner. Routine and repetition aid us in so many ways, yet a lot of us seem allergic to similar habits in our weekly church worship gatherings.

But just as these individual habits do something to us, so it is with our congregational habits: they’re making us into something. God willing, they’re making us the right kind of peculiar.

We’ll bear fruit in this life when our roots are firmly planted in the coming new earth. As C.S. Lewis said, history shows that “the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” One of the main ways this happens is through the rhythms and repetitions worked into our weekly gatherings.

So, as your church gathers for worship this weekend, appreciate anew what’s happening, how the strange rituals — the “rhythms of grace,” as Mike Cosper calls them — are making you more faithful and more fruitful. – Matt Damico

Photo Credit: Wikipedia; Wikipedia

[Cliff Jordan, teaching elder at Movement Church, in Richmond, Va. preaches on this very thing for several weeks in a series entitled Grace On Display. Seriously transformative stuff!]

4) Hard Seasons – I’m not going to wax on here about hard seasons – we all know what ours are. I just always want to keep Syrian refugees on my radar so here’s a photo piece that dramatically displays their reality…in a way that has stayed in my mind all week.

Click the Black Background and Switch on Their Reality – Politiken

Photo Credit: Flickr

Then I also wanted to share a piece by Aaron Brown. I know his family. He grew up in Chad where his father was a physician. His reflects on a very difficult time and its oddly positive impact on his life…renewing his hope after the very difficult year of 2016.

The Do-Over Year – Ruminate Magazine – Aaron Brown

5) Small Beginnings – In the Bible, the prophet Zechariah encouraged the people, “Do not despise small beginnings.” They had the huge task of rebuilding the Temple, and Scripture tells us, this great work began in the mundane but extraordinary act of Zerubbabel picking up the plumb line. Any beginning may seem small and inadequate for the grand vision that stretches in front of us. However, we never know when the small explodes into wonder.

Chip and Joanna Gaines (HGTV stars of Fixer Upper) have an incredible story of small beginnings which grew into a huge, phenomenally successful business. They started out flipping houses as a young couple and often had just the cash in their pockets. Now they have their own TV show, a real estate business, home goods store, and “The Silos” – a refurbished commercial venue in Waco, Texas.

HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gaines Reveal ‘We Were Broke!’ Before Fixer Upper

Photo Credit: Flickr; Flickr

Another example of small beginnings is pastor and author Tim Keller. Just this past week, Keller announced he was stepping down from the senior pastor position of New York City’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church. He pastored there for almost 30 years and it now is a multi-site 5000-member church.  [This is a planned succession and he will be teaching in a seminary.] A friend of mine here in Richmond “knew him when”. Years ago, before his NYC church role he was her pastor, in a small church near here – West Hopewell Presbyterian Church. Small beginnings…

My Tribute to Tim Keller – Scott Sauls

Whether you are examining a small beginning as a Christian or from a different worldview, there is excellent counsel to be had…both in Scripture and in articles (such as those linked below).

Just yesterday I was trying to encourage a young man about what he viewed as a small beginning in his career. Not sure I made sense at all. Then today, my husband emailed me this great article – about the exact same subject.

Don’t you love when you read someone else’s brilliant words that essentially describe the counsel you just gave someone?! Benjamin P. Hardy is way more studied and eloquent than I, so please don’t miss his piece titled The 2 Mental Shifts Every Highly Successful Person Makes.  He talks about:

  • the power of choice (“you stop playing the victim to external circumstances and take responsibility for your life – the private victory“) and
  • the power of context (“In everything you do, there should be collaborative and synergistic elements. Of course, there is work which is your work. However, that work should be embedded within a group of others and toward something much bigger. – the public victory”)

Hardy’s full article is excellent (even includes components of the assist we get from brain plasticity which I wrote about earlier).

6 Personal Branding Rules To Being Popular and Profitable – Patrick Allmond

8 Highly Effective Habits That Helped Make Bill Gates the Richest Man on Earth – Minda Zetlin

50 Ways Happier, Healthier, and More Successful People Live On Their Own Terms – Benjamin P. Hardy

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get up and get on with this amazing life we’ve been given…it’s never too late.

Bonuses (for your listening pleasure)

#TheFighter

Posted by Keith Urban on Thursday, May 12, 2016

Banjo Brothers

9-year-old plays banjo… Just wait til his brothers join in! Courtesy of Sleepy Man

Posted by InspireMore on Sunday, September 18, 2016

12-Year-Old Crushes Sia's "Chandelier"!

This girl's voice gave me CHILLS & her story is even more powerful. Tune in this Sunday 8/7c on NBC, Little Big Shots is back!

Posted by Steve Harvey on Friday, March 3, 2017

Elha from the NBC TV show Little Big Shots

How Elha Nympha Got on ‘Little Big Shots’

Worship Wednesday – All I Have Is Christ – Sovereign Grace

Photo Credit: YouTube

The LORD appeared to him from far away. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued to extend faithful love to you.”Jeremiah 33:3

How do we stand against the mean-spiritedness of this world? How do we pull ourselves out of the cycle of shaming, blaming and blame-shifting? How do we still the voices in our own heads and hearts… voices that tell us we don’t deserve love or honor? Or maybe it’s someone else who we have decided doesn’t deserve our love or honor?

We turn our eyes off of those we think betray us and off our own betraying hearts, and we look to Jesus.

To set the foundation here, I am deep in the book Befriend by Scott Sauls. Its byline is Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear. Sauls writes about real friendship and spends twenty-one chapters unwrapping the beautiful possibilities of going deep with others. This book came at the perfect juncture in life for me as I shake off a sense of judgment (whether it’s true or not, it feels true) and the isolation that comes with it.

We get crossed-up in life by either the expressed opinions of others or our self-shaming sense of others’ take on our lives, our choices, and our preferences. My default is to go straight to fear…fear of losing place in the lives of those who differ with me. For some reading this, it may seem nonsensical. After reading Sauls’ chapter “Befriend the Shamed and Ashamed”, I am convinced we all deal with shame. It may be covered well by pride, (un)righteous indignation, or self-justification. Still…it is as present with us as in the original garden when Adam blamed Eve (and even God) for his sin, and she blamed the serpent (Genesis 3:12-13).

We want to self-protect. The pain of our own failings, and sin outright, is too much for us so we blame others…we shame others.

God knows us, through and through, and loves us. Full-stop. Not in a pitying way but in the purest, life-giving way of a faithful parent. A Heavenly Father…who came down and came close to show us how much He loved us…through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

We lose sight of that sometimes. Lost in our own self-imposed dark thinking, we forget He loved us first (1 John 4:19). We forget that nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:31-39). We can’t earn and don’t deserve His love. His love is ours, always and forever, for the taking. The God of that kind of far-reaching love transforms us…our thoughts, our actions toward others, our understanding of who God is and who we are in Him.

We see more clearly that those who judge and isolate others are just like us. We are reminded of our own capacity to do the same. Hurt people hurt people. As we see what is true through the eyes of a God who loves, we can humble ourselves and love in return. In fact, we can love first, as God loves us, and stay on ready to do so. What glorious peace is in that possibility!

“The ground is level at the foot of the Cross.” (Billy Graham and others).

Jordan Kauflin wrote the song All I Have Is Christ (Sovereign Grace Music), with input from his dad, Bob. We sang this at Movement Church this past Sunday, and God touched my heart, all over again, with the stripped-down truth of His love for us. Gospel Truth. Good news that can change a world – a heart and household at a time. Because of His love for us…there is no more shame. Hallelujah!

Worship with me.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way.
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave.
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will.
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still.

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross.
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me.
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose.
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You.

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life*

Story Behind the Song All I Have Is Christ – Interview with Bob and Jordan Kauflin

*Lyrics to All I Have Is Christ – © 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI), by Jordan Kauflin

Explore God – Questions About God, Jesus, Christianity, and More

5 Friday Faves – Awards Speeches, Castle Theme, Prayer Breakfast, Harmony, and a Comedian

Hello, Friday! You know those kind of days when you work really, really hard, and you come home too tired to eat, much less cook….but it’s a good tired. You sink down in the closest chair…and 10 minutes later, wake up from a nap that felt longer…and…on with finishing the week… Hope your tired is a good tired. Here are five of my favorite finds…just for you!

1) Awards Speeches – We are in that season of awards shows – the Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy, among others. Those of us who watch these shows do so to catch all the gorgeous or peculiar actors in the audience and stage. The fashions are a draw as well. For me, I love to hear what the award recipients say when they receive their award…their prepared words/speech. What they choose to showcase in their few minutes before their peers and the watching world. On the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards show, my favorite speech of the year was by Taraji P. Henson. She spoke for all the actors of Hidden Figures which won the award of Outstanding Performance By A Cast in a Motion Picture.

#sagawards

“We stand here as proud actors." – Taraji P. Henson on behalf of the cast of Hidden Figures.

Posted by Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, January 29, 2017

Watch her speech in the clip, or read it here. Part of it follows: “This story is of unity,” she concluded. “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins every time.”

No political posturing. No pitting of one group against another. Lovely. Hopeful. True.

2) The Castle ThemeNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has done it again. He has taken the background music of a favorite videogame and demonstrated the incredible beauty to be found there. Castle Theme from Super Mario World is his latest arrangement for classical guitar. I honestly don’t know how he plays as fast as he does. Check it out here.

3) Prayer Breakfast – These days you never know what to expect in public observances. Protests, boycotts, and marches. A quieter but significant  event is the National Prayer Breakfast observed in February each year since 1953, in Washington, D.C. Keynote speakers in the past have included Mother Teresa, Bono, and Tony Blair. This year retired Rear Admiral Barry Black, the Senate Chaplain, delivered the message.  So powerful! He spoke on Making Your Voice Heard in Heaven.  If you can’t watch all incredible 25 minutes, at least watch from minute 22:16. Wow!

4) Harmony – Don’t you love when music and life flow with harmony? Jay Lyons is a filmmaker whose work I follow. In response to the dissonance of voices in this week’s newstream, he and his family wrote and performed together a song about harmony. Watch it here: Our House – Harmony – Jay Lyons & Family. Photo Credit: Music Early Childhood Presenter

5) A Comedian –  While Facebook friends of mine are deactivating left and right because of all the political wrangling going on right now, I had the biggest chuckle when a video featuring comedian John Crist showed up on my newsfeed. It’s about trying to find a parking place at a mega-church. He is new to me and so funny. Several of his videos are posted on his website. Enjoy.Photo Credit: YouTube

So that’s all I’ve got…jumping into my pajamas to fall asleep in front of the TV…don’t even care what’s on. Before I sign off though, I’d like to give a shout-out to Mike Sheley, owner/operator of the brand-new Chick-Fil-A at Smith Crossroads, Lenoir, North Carolina. This restaurant just opened this week. If you know about Chick-Fil-A, you know it’s all about a great-tasting chicken sandwich…and much more. Mike and team have a huge commitment to the community. Even before their grand opening, the restaurant team sponsored a book drive for local elementary schools and filled food boxes for Feeding Children Everywhere (over 10,000 meals total).Photo Credit: Facebook, Chick-Fil-A

Hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re anywhere near Lenoir, North Carolina, say hi to Mike & Jessica Sheley…and “eat mor chikin'”.

 

Monday Morning Moment – Syrian Refugees – No One Puts Their Children On a Boat…Unless

What drives people to leave everything behind – everything they have known and owned – and board a sea-bound, over-loaded boat for an unknown future? My sense is it’s running for one’s life…rather than their path to terrorism.

These days in the US, we are adjusting to a new presidential administration and changing policies. Protests and social media wars abound. How to understand and what to really believe are challenging.

What is true?

A wise friend responded to my voiced struggle of what to think about our nation’s changing views on immigrants and refugees:

“The people trying to escape evil we want to welcome. The people who want to export evil we want to identify and shut down.”

Though not prepared myself to address the latter, I would like to highlight the plight of refugees…especially Syrian refugees. A poem I discovered just yesterday is real and riveting…and can put the reader on that sagging boat, holding our children tight, and hoping we will make it to that distant shore. With no idea what will come next.Photo Credit: CNN

Warsan Shire, a young Somali woman who grew up in London, writes deeply personal poetry about life and struggle. Her poem Home is a powerful description of the refugee experience…especially the Syrian, but it could speak to others as well [read the whole poem here].

No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city running as well

You only leave home
When home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
Fire under feet.

You have to understand,
That no one puts their children in a boat
Unless the water is safer than the land
No one burns their palms
Under trains
Beneath carriages
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

No one crawls under fences
No one wants to be beaten
Pitied

No one chooses refugee camps.

Go home…

Refugees
Dirty immigrants
Asylum seekers
Sucking our country dry…
Messed up their country and now they want
To mess ours up

How do the words
The dirty looks
Roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
Than a limb torn off

I want to go home,
But home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
And no one would leave home
Unless home chased you to the shore

I don’t know what I’ve become
But I know that anywhere
Is safer than here.          – Warsan Shire

What can we do for refugees? Jesus’ teaching prevents his followers from blaming others, airing our impotent opinions, or sinking into compassion fatigue. Jesus poured his life out for us…all of us…and teaches us to do the same.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/12993627_10156889362110061_8126408917090936937_n.jpg

To the refugee (probably not reading this, but I want to come out of silence somehow): There are those of us, in this country, who will do what we can to welcome you here and to be neighbor to you when you finally arrive. Forgive us that we haven’t done more. We have been shaken out of our slumber of unbelief at your suffering. Praying for you until you are home again…wherever that will be.

Home by Warsan Shire

YouTube Video – People of Nowhere – Lior Sperandeo

Baptist Global Response

Loving the Alien – PDF – Bible Study from Jubilee Centre, Cambridge, UK

Scripture and Immigration

5 (Biblical) Reasons Christians Must Care for Asylum Seekers – Matt Darvas

Saturday Short – Give This World Back to God – Reba McEntire

Photo Credit: Amazon

Whew! Just had my coffee and was fixing to get up from the computer and getting on with the day…and an intriguing video came up. As I watched the video and listened to the words, my heart felt like it went up in my throat, and tears flowed. This is no sentimental, puppy dog, country music song. It was a commentary on our lives today…and what the solution is for the what’s wrong with our world.

I may be buying my first Reba McEntire album. Sing It Now – Songs of Faith & Hope (Release February 2017) is McEntire’s first Gospel album. 2 CDs. One is described as songs from her childhood – hymns she sang in church growing up. The other CD is comprised of new songs from various songwriters. Back to God, written by Randy Houser and Dallas Davidson, is mesmerizing. View it right here:

Have you looked around, have you heard the sound
Of Mama’s cryin’
Or do you turn away when you see the face
Of the innocent dyin’
In these darkest days are you not afraid
That it’s too late?

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

We can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
We gotta give this world back to God

Have you lost a love? Do you feel like giv’n up?
Has your heart been broken?
Are your kids okay? Will they come home safe?
And do you lie there hoping?

You can make a wish, you can knock on wood
It won’t do no good

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
Gotta give this world back to God

You gotta get down on your knees, believe
Fold your hands and beg and plead
You gotta keep on praying

You gotta cry, rain tears of pain
Pound the floor and scream His name
‘Cause we’re still worth saving

Can’t go on like this and live like this
We can’t love like this
You can hope the best, make a wish, the only answer is
We give this world back to God

Gotta give this world back to God
Give this world back to God*

Photo Credit: Wide Open Country

I did struggle with one line, at first: “We’re still worth saving”.

There is too much emphasis today on us and me…rather than He. God. I watch the mean-spirited attacks on one another in media today (“social” and mainstream)…and am dumbfounded. Especially when the attacks are Christian against Christian. Not how Jesus taught us. However…and it’s a big however – God has placed value on us…on all of us. It’s not what we think about ourselves (our significance, our political ideology, our messaging eloquence…whateva). It’s what He says about us…and what He is willing to do for us.

It is rare indeed for anyone to die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Therefore, since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from wrath through Him! – Romans 5:7-9

This is the magnificence of the Gospel. This is what brings tremendous hope to any struggle…including the struggle that we, in this world, find ourselves at this time in history.

Now…on with the day with this reminder that our battle won’t be won in social media or the pain and bitterness of our hearts…but on our knees with hearts of faith…in a faithFUL God.

Postscript: It would be easy to just get on out the door, with hearts resonating with the message of this song…without taking the words not just to heart…but to our knees. I needed that P.S. and am on it.

*Lyrics to Back to God – Songwriters: Randy Houser & Dallas Davidson

Reba McEntire Turns ‘Back to God‘ In Breathtaking New Music Video

5 Friday Faves – Birthday Freebies, Decluttering, Untold Stories, Global Ancestry, and Rhythms of Life

What a week! Maybe all weeks finish with an exclamation point… This one sure did. In the midst of all the crazy, there are delights to discover and life-enriching finds for all of us.

Here are five of mine:

1) Birthday Freebies – Having just experienced another birthday, I make a practice of celebrating not just the day but as far as I can take it. Sometimes weeks but definitely several days. Birthday freebies grease the tracks. We all have favorite restaurants, right? If you sign up for email updates, many times you’re placed in a VIP club of sorts. You probably already do this, but it’s new for me. It’s especially nice when you’re not deluged with email….otherwise they become less favorite.

Four of my favorite “clubs” are Mission BBQ (free sandwich for your birthday), Silver Diner (an entree AND a dessert free for birthday person), O’Charley’s (free dessert), and Qdoba (buy one entree get one free). In the comments section, pass on your favorites to sweeten our birthday celebrations even more.

2) Decluttering – Okay…I have a small problem with this. However, much that’s written these days feels so punishing, like a character-beat-down. I have no interest in dumping all my clothing in the floor and deciding whether each piece makes me happy or not…and then thanking the discards before they’re shipped off to wherever.  Sometimes, people discard only to buy more of the same stuff. Their choice; not my business.  [See the fascinating Opposing Views’ video below.]

The average American throws away 82 pounds of clothes every single year. Here is the devastating toll "fast fashion" is taking on our planet:

Posted by Opposing Views on Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Brie Dyas has written a thought-provoking and kindly piece on 11 Things in Your Home That Are Making You Unhappy. Some of the clutter she covers doesn’t make me the least bit distressed, and she writes in a way that doesn’t judge the reader for her clutter. In fact, I was incentivized after reading her post. Decluttering doesn’t have to communicate devaluing (of the person or the clutter)…nor do we need to express ungratefulness when gifted with what we might consider just clutter.  There is a stewardship principle that applies to managing our possessions. I want to be a good steward of the stuff of our lives and the time necessary to manage it. A more ordered home…life…is also my desire. I do appreciate the loves in my life who guard against conspicuous consumption. I am also frugal. So where do I begin decluttering? The stuff that’s sentimental to me?…still keeping. The piles of papers I’m afraid to file and forget somewhere? Maybe I can happily let those go!  Dyas’ piece has encouraged me to deal with the things I have hung onto…for no good reason. Definitely don’t need the stress of excess. Any thoughts? [Comments]Photo Credit: Prairie Home Therapy

3) Untold StoriesMatthew West is a songwriter and story-teller. His website I Am Untold gives the accounts of abortion survivors (both the babies and the parents) and other like stories. There is so much division in our world over life issues – the pre-born, the men and women who unwittingly conceive or who abort and then regret. Here are stories from a very different side of this issue.

Then there are also people challenged all through the life-cycle (with disabilities or problems of poverty or aging). We hear from those in the business (Planned Parenthood) and those with political motives.

I don’t have my own abortion story, but knowing and loving friends and family who live with heartache – the heartache of a decision they would make differently now also need our care and consideration.Photo Credit: Insider

4) Global Ancestry – The United States is a “melting pot” country – a nation of both native peoples and immigrants from all over the world. It’s one of the many things I love about my homeland. Photo Credit: Ellis Island

Defining words like populism and nationalism have taken on a whole new intensity and seriousness in our current political situation. I’m hopeful still that our country will continue to be founded on the ideas of our founding fathers and shaped by the great men and women of more recent years…Photo Credit: Urbs

Part of the richness of this country is what others have brought with them from other homelands. My own history tracks back to the Bruce’s and Wallace’s of Scotland. Watch this video of how we are connected much more than we could imagine.

It would be much more complicated for us to choose certain peoples that we don’t want as part of our country when we see that we are more part of each other than not.

Exploring the Origins of Language – Video

5) Rhythms of Life – Rhythms are defined as “strong, regular, repeated patterns of sound or movement”. We all have them in our lives. Some rhythms in our lives relate to our habits and routines. Others are strictly recreational which can dampen the rhythms which require us to go deep. I hadn’t give rhythms much thought until Our pastor, Cliff Jordan, talked about them as a discipline of grace.

Photo Credit: NewsongPDX

In this Sunday’s sermon, Cliff talked about the deep rhythms of intaking God’s Word. Too often, we treat spiritual disciplines as a task to be checked off with little impact on us at all. Or even as a sidebar to other pursuits or pleasures that absorb our hours and focus and energy. Oh what we miss in not going deep into the knowledge of God and what He wants to say to us…through His Word. I have known rhythms in life when pouring over and meditating on Scripture was a deep passion for me…to know God and to make Him known…my heart has been stirred afresh this week.

Podcast – The Rhythm of Intaking God’s Word – Cliff Jordan – Movement Church

Explore God

Finally…there is this guy…publishing a most ambitious video next week. Can’t wait. Because of him…I’m now a patron of the arts.

Have a great weekend!

Christmas Newsletters and the God of Christmas

I love Christmas newsletters – that art of drawing all the particular happenings of a year into the confines of one page. It’s a delight for me to sit in front of the fireplace and read what friends and family report on their lives in this year – the highlights and the hard places.

Not everyone writes newsletters nor send Christmas cards, and that is understandable. Still, when we get a letter from a friend like David Martin whom we rarely see but whose friendship we will treasure forever…life takes a pause as we read the particulars of life in East Tennessee…and of his walk with the Lord in these days.

I asked his permission to share this portion of his newsletter with you. David has always been very clear, in our conversations of both the holiness and love of God, and our total dependence on Him as Savior. Allow his words to help clear your head…they did my own.

What a year! Many have said that this was the worst election in our history. Our country is more divided than any time that I can remember in my life. The world has never seemed more unsafe. As I write this, wildfires (something we used to read about in other parts of our country) are burning Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. There have been days here that the smoke is so thick that you cannot stay outside for long. You could say that the storm is raging around us, but a storm reveals what you trust in. The storm has always been a way for God to remind us that He is bigger than us and our surroundings and He is in control. God’s sovereignty is never subjected to our circumstances. Our response shows if we trust Him. “Life is hard when you are the biggest person you know.” (my friend Neil) It is easy to focus on the waves, wind, and rain and forget who can calm the tempest with a word. It is our relationship with the one who controls the storm that allows us to be life-changers. Through our relationship with Him, we can remain calm when all around us panic. We bear fruit, not out of effort, but out of identity. It is not our effort that redeems us, but God’s grace. “Christianity is not about learning how to live within the lines; Christianity is about the joy of coloring.” (Mike Yaconelli)

Photo Credit: AZQuotes

Sinclair Ferguson wrote, “Our greatest temptation and mistake is to try to smuggle character into God’s work of grace.” There is nothing we can do to earn this gift, before or after accepting it. To add anything to God’s grace diminishes the gift. By understanding the nature of God and His gift of grace, we can see it for the wonderful gift it is. However, we must also keep a view of the holiness of God. My friend Neil said, “Modern worship has lost its sense of the Holiness of God because we sing about wanting to see God, touch, God, be with God, be wrapped in His embrace; anything Taylor Swift can write about we have come to believe we can do with God. Whenever I hear that, I hear an insufficient theology of the Holiness of God. We have disconnected the Grace of God from the nature of God and in so doing; we have made God approachable in the worst of ways.” To view God as your best friend or to try to relate to Him as you would any other friend or family member is to build your own idol in your image. Think about it.

As we enter this season, John Stott reminds us, [in his book The Cross of Christ], “Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice.” God’s gift of His Son as a baby in the manger who would grow to a man and be the sacrificial Lamb of God is God’s grace in flesh. Photo Credit: Vance Christie

We live in a culture that wants the Grace of God, but not the Person of God. Everyone wants a free will until something happens that they cannot handle. Then they ask why did God let this happen to me? Yet the question should not be why there is suffering in the world, but why does God tolerate us in our sinfulness. The answer is grace! God’s amazing grace.

Unless you can see yourself as one of those in the crowd, full of hostility, anger, and hatred for the holy, innocent Lamb of God, Photo Credit: Free Bible Images

you really cannot understand the nature and depth of your sin, the necessity of the cross, or the extent of God’s grace offered freely to us.

As you celebrate the birth of Christ this year, remember the Father’s grace that demanded the sacrifice of His Son, so that He could restore us into a relationship with Him. Celebrate your identity in Him and extend grace to others.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Lois and David

Christ’s Gracious Condescension For Us – Vance Christie

Worship Wednesday – Our God is With Us – Emmanuel

2013 December Christmas with Grandparents & Christmas Town 048

From the archives:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.  But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.  And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:  “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:18-23

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14

I worship in my car. You know when you are stopped at a traffic light, and your windows are buzzing with the sound of the bass in the car next to you? You look over and they’re rocking out to some cool song? Well, I sometimes do the same…on a quieter less rockin’ level…but there’s still a lot going on in my car, too. Just to an Audience of One.

When Steven Curtis Chapman’s song Our God Is With Us comes on my Christmas music radio, my thoughts rein in to this great truth. We are not alone. God is always present with us.

He brought that reality as near to us as possible in the birth of Jesus, the God-Son, born to the virgin, Mary, over 2000 years ago. God revealed Himself personally through Jesus. I am no theologian, but this is very clear to me – everything I have read in Scripture on the life of Jesus, and everything I have experienced of Him myself. My heart resonates with the words of this song. Jesus is the “Immanuel” – He came to be with us – to save, to heal, to restore us to Himself. Hallelujah!

Worship with me…

Our God Is With Us

One of us is cryin’ as our hopes and dreams are led away in chains And we’re left all alone. One of us is dyin’ as our love is slowly lowered in the grave, oh, and we’re left all alone.

But for all of us who journey through the dark abyss of loneliness There comes a great announcement, we are never alone. For the maker of each heart that breaks, the giver of each breath we take, Has come to earth and given hope its birth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel, oh.

He spoke with prophets’ voices and showed Himself in a cloud of fire But no one had seen His face. Until the One Most Holy revealed to us His perfect heart’s desire and left His rightful place.

And in one glorious moment, all eternity was shaken as God broke through the darkness that had kept us apart. And with love that conquers loneliness, hope that fills all emptiness, He came to earth to show our worth.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known As Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel, oh So rejoice, oh rejoice, Emmanuel has come.

And our God is with us, Emmanuel He’s come to save us, Emmanuel and we will never face life alone. Now that God has made Himself known as Father and Friend, with us through the end, Emmanuel.

Our God is with us, Emmanuel Our God is with us, oh Emmanuel Our God is with us.*

Steven Curtis Chapman & Michael W. Smith

*Lyrics to Our God Is With Us

YouTube video of Our God Is With Us – Full song – 6:43 minutes

YouTube video of Our God is With Us – shortened audio, with lyrics

Website for Steven Curtis Chapman [Our God Is With Us was a title on his first Christmas album, 1995, The Music of Christmas]

The Title Emmanuel and the Name Jesus

God Is One – the Wonder of Trinity [Tri-Unity] – God the Father, God, the Son, God the Holy Spirit – a simple lesson on an amazing reality

“Best of all, God is with us.” – John Wesley [for more great God-glorifying quotes by the John & Charles Wesley, click here.]

Worship Wednesday – Fear Not – A Lesson From the Shepherds and Charlie Brown’s Friend Linus

blog-fear-not-charlie-brown-christmas-patrickmurfinPhoto Credit: Patrick Murfin

And the angel said unto them, “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11

Fear can rip our hearts out…paralyze us from action…drive a wedge between us and the truth. It drives us to focus on what we see (much of which is only in our mind’s eye) as our dreaded reality, hitting repeat over and over. Fear fixes blinders on our faces such that we must fight to remember that there is more to life…so much more…than what we are facing in this moment…whether it’s real or more imagined. The Apostle Paul speaks of this, from experience, in his letter to the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5).

In preparing our hearts for the birth of Christ, the shepherds come to mind. Tending sheep in the dark fields outside of Bethlehem, they gathered by a fire, telling stories…maybe even sharing some of their own fears with each other. Or guarding them in their hearts…even more afraid of being exposed. Whether they feared attacking wolves in the darkness or whether they could adequately provide for their families….or something even deeper and harder to express.

When the angel of God appeared to them to announce the birth of the Messiah, he assured them to “Fear not!” Was it just because of his fearsome and surprising appearance? Or could it also have been a word to us from God, repeated throughout Scripture…to not be afraid? A word from God to His beloved creation so long without a word from Him. “Fear not!”blog-fear-freebibleimages-fear-notPhoto Credit: Free Bible Images

In the family film A Charlie Brown Christmas, there’s a small detail that could go unnoticed… Linus responds to the anguish of his friend, Charlie Brown, when he questioned what Christmas is all about. If you haven’t ever seen this short film, Linus carried a blue security blanket with him everywhere he goes…everywhere.

Linus explains Christmas here…watch his blue blanket.

Linus Christmas Monologue

As Linus explains Christmas to Charlie Brown (with the help of Luke 2:8-14), he declares the angel’s words to the shepherds, “Fear not!” Then he drops his blanket!

Jason Soroski notes this in his piece about A Charlie Brown Christmas:

The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.

The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.

The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead. 

What happened to those shepherds, visited by an angel on that night that has marked all of history since? Some of them had to be changed forever. I’m sure there were those who followed the life of Jesus…heard his teaching, saw the miracles, were even present at his crucifixion. From that group of shepherds, there must have been those who believed that, indeed, there was nothing to fear.New Testament 3 Production Still Photography

When Linus finished his monologue, he picked up that blanket. Isn’t that true for all of us? Our temptation, in the frailty of being human in this large human experience, is to pick up the fear, as Linus did his blanket. The truth is, for God’s children, there is nothing to fear. God wraps His arms around us and sometimes even pulls the curtain back to show us what He is doing even in this fearsome moment…to care for us, protect us, and reveal His glory in and through our lives. Even when God keeps the why, or the reason, or the purpose, veiled…as we walk with Him, and experience His love through the fears, we can trust Him.

Fear not!  The announcement of the angel…the message of Christmas…is good news…not bad. Good news that can annihilate our fear, as sure as light extinguishes darkness. Let’s live in this truth today.

Worship with me to Hillsong‘s None But Jesus:

In the quiet, in the stillness
I know that you are God
In the secret of your presence
I know there I am restored
When you call I won’t refuse
Each new day, again I’ll choose
There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise
In the chaos, in confusion
I know you’re sovereign still
In the moment of my weakness
You give me grace to do your will
When you call I won’t delay
This my song through all my days

 

There is no one else for me
None but Jesus
Crucified to set me free
Now I live to bring Him praise

I am yours and you are mine…

All my delight is in you Lord
All of my hope
All of my strength
All my delight is in you Lord
Forevermore*

blog-fear-scripture

While shepherds watched their flocks by night,
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down,
And glory shone around.
"Fear not," said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind,
"Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind."
"To you, in David's town this day,
Is born of David's line
The Savior who is Christ the Lord."