His performance of this piece transports us to Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit house. Nathan could be playing for the warrior dwarves, all sitting dreamily in front of the fire, as they reminisce in song about what was once their home. Enjoy!
2) Black History Month – We’re over halfway through February which is Black History Month in the US. What impact has this observance had on your thinking? in 2019, we will mark 400 years since the first Africans arrived in English North America.
3) Firefighter’s Gender Reveal – Don’t we love our first responders? Don’t we also love babies? Put the two together and a gender reveal is born in a most creative way. Let the video show what happens:
What makes this even more special for me? They are our niece and nephew. Bring on the stuff of Baby Girls!
4) Olympic Gold – If you’re like us, you’re not getting much sleep this week as the Winter Olympics are in full-swing. My favorite sports to watch are figure and speed skating, the luge and bobsled competitions, and (as of this year) snowboarding. Photo Credit: Detroit News
Below are videos of just three of the gold medal performances so far. Mind-blowing!
What are your favorite sports? Please comment with a link to your favorite performances. It’s hard to take it all in with so many events going on. Thanks!
5) Brené Brown on Guns – This week we are stunned and grieved at the school shooting in Florida where 17 lost their lives. The news is full of talk of gun control and emotions are high. How I long for civil discourse that could extinguish political ambition for the sake of the people.
Writer and thought leader Brené Brown just last year wrote this piece on gun reform:
I am one of those who wants us to be able to protect our children but who also sees more and more gun legislation as a slippery slope. What would be the right gun laws? Those laws that most protect those who need protecting without putting guns only in the hands of the lawless.
Whatever your worldview, Brown’s article is thought-provoking. Today is not the day for more legislation, but today is the day we come alongside grieving families and friends…putting aside what may divide us and holding on to what unites us – truly caring for one another.
That’s it for this week…except for the bonuses below. I pray you have a safe weekend, spent with those you love. Let’s be gentle with each other…and ourselves. Life is precious…such a gift. Never to be taken for granted.
Quote: Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. – John Wooden
Lazem – This is a pop song I knew years ago in Egypt – Lazem Ahebek (I Have to Love You). My dear friend Heba introduced it to me – and it reminds me of taxi rides through Cairo – windows down, a hot breeze blowing our hair – and times together at home, dancing to it.
[The image described in the post below appears to have been taken down by the Associated Press. This Facebook posting below was so beautiful, I reached out to the writer and she gave permission to post it here. McKean begins by talking about this lovely visibly distraught mother comforting another mother. My hope is that she did not lose a child yesterday. She is wearing a silver heart (for Valentine’s Day) around her neck and the ashen cross on her forehead from a visit to her parish church that Ash Wednesday morning. The rest of the post is easily understood given the school shooting yesterday in Florida, leaving 17 dead and a dozen or more injured. News outlets and social media today are slammed with public outcry and political jockeying. McKean, the writer of the post below, eloquently speaks her response to this devastating loss.]
I can’t get her face out of my mind. Sobs wracking her body as she stands outside her child’s school, clutching a friend as though they have discovered the only truth there is to know: The only way through this war zone is if we carry one another. Her head is smeared with ashes. From dust you came, to dust you return.
I saw the picture when the ashes were still fresh on my own skin. And I thought about the moment my pastor drew his thumb across my head – reminding me of my mortality and my security in the no-matter-whatness of God. Despite the somber words I certainly didn’t consider, as little specks of ash fluttered down and brushed my eyelashes, that I might leave the church and end up in the ER or in an accident or getting a phone call that takes me to my knees. And this mama, with her pretty white-flowered shirt and silver heart necklace, certainly didn’t consider that she might leave the church and end up on the front lawn of her child’s school with her heart broken apart, begging God for one more day with her baby… for more life out of this dust.
We need a savior, and as we start the long march of Lent that leads us to the cross, we know Jesus is coming to break the shackles and the bonds and restore all that’s broken. But you don’t need a savior if nothing is shackled, bound or broken. So Lent starts in repentance. Did the shooter know the day he chose? Did he choose Valentine’s Day for a reason? Was his heart so broken that he felt like the only way through the war zone was to take others out? Oh God, we need to repent… for not recognizing our own part in this tragedy.
Talking heads are already starting to argue. Is it mental health or gun control? Hurry, pick your side. We retreat into corners and start pointing fingers. Thoughts and prayers sound hollow when these shootings have become so commonplace that they are just another blip on a relentless cycle of terrible news. We wring our hands and sigh and then we forget. It doesn’t even come up at dinner. Ashes. It’s all ashes. We’re going down in flames. Screaming louder and louder at one another as if we think the only way through this war zone is to pull someone else down so we can climb on top. Oh God, we need to repent… for being so afraid that we won’t be heard that we can’t even listen.
As bullets ricocheted off classroom doors and lockers in Florida yesterday, I walked down the locker-lined halls of my daughter’s school. A first grade Valentine’s Party is pure sweetness and light and sugar. We had the kids do an activity where they each drew the name of a classmate and listed out some of their favorite things about that child. As they exchanged cards, I saw eyes light up and broad smiles spread across frosting-smeared faces. One little girl said reading the card she was given made her feel happy and bubbly inside. I looked around the room and wanted to freeze time. To keep these little kids little – tender and eager and open-hearted and bubbly. In 10 years, which one will be the loner? The misfit? The outcast? The popular one who uses his or her platform to push someone else down? Oh God, we need to repent… for letting kids fall through the cracks.
I returned from the party to our church which is positioned across the street from one of our city’s high schools. The day before, the same high school was on lockdown because someone brought a gun to school. A trigger away from a tragedy. Each day after school, hundreds of students – maybe even the one who brought a weapon to school – traipse through our building to the free soda fountains. A ministry of carbonated beverages. I sat down at a table and played UNO with some kids whose stories brim with sadness and mistakes and bad choices and loss, covered in a veneer of bravado and toughness. How close have I been to a kid who is screaming to be seen and known and loved and valued and is a hair-trigger away from exploding their grief outwards and propelling us to the national headlines? For all their toughness, I can’t help but wonder if anyone gave them a card when they were seven that listed out all the best things about them? Oh God, we need to repent… for being too busy to engage the hurting and the lonely.
We may be mere dust, but we are each dust formed into the image of a living, breathing God. We may be returning to dust, but we each know this life is precious and deserves protection. God forgive us for forgetting our own worth. Forgive us for forgetting the worth of those around us. Forgive us for failing to see your reflection in the eyes of the stiff-shouldered, clouded-eye high school kid whose hoodie is pulled up, guarding him from the world but not containing the pain metastasizing-into-anger that is seeping out of his soul. Forgive us for giving into polarization and assuming that since “they” aren’t doing anything to solve the problem, we can’t do anything either.
Father, forgive us.
And help us remember: The only way through this war zone is to carry one another.
Here is a lightning fast rundown of my favorite finds this week:
1)The Speech of a Great Leader – I wanted to quickly point you to Rams coach Sean McVay’s speech accepting the NFL award of 2017 Coach of the Year. He never made it about himself. He expressed gratitude for man after man in his organization (and also his mom and girlfriend). Great leaders make it about everybody else.
Also…just wanted to share this video of the Philadelphia Eagles:
2) Free USA3 – The Winter Olympic Games has its Opening Ceremony today. How beautiful to watch this display of international cooperation! To see all the athletes representing their nations is quite a sight. This year, as well as a few other times, North and South Korean athletes have walked together in the parade of nations. We will want to applaud.
Just yesterday, I was reminded of another sober reason not to celebrate. Three Americans are still being detained in North Korea. Businessmen. Educators. Americans. Held without reason. Sentenced without a trial to hard labor. Months ago…
Sol Kim, the son of detainee Tony Kim, posted a video on Youtube about the plight of these three Americans.
Please do what you can if you are at the Olympics or on social media talking about the Olympics. Use #USA3 as a hashtag.Raise 3 fingers if you are present at the Games, when you cheer for our US athletes.
A Quote: “There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.” – James Baldwin
A Newly Discovered Product: Probably over 10 years ago, at Christmas time, in Cairo, Egypt, I attempted to make caramel. A Brazilian friend of mine told me how. Take unopened cans of sweetened condensed milk and cover them with water and heat on the stovetop for 3 hours. Really simple. Unless you fall back asleep after putting the turkey in the oven in the pre-dawn of a Christmas morning. At some point later, I awoke to a loud pop! On my way to the kitchen, another pop happened. When I arrived the white walls of our kitchen looked like the side of a Guernsey cow. The water had boiled out, and the cans had exploded. Golden brown caramel was splattered over every surface of the kitchen…on Christmas morning. I never made caramel again.
This was a lovely find this week:
and…Spring is coming:
Have a weekend of making memories with those you love. See you soon.
Today’s Friday Faves blog comes to you on Saturday. It’s been that kind of week, full to busting. Along with it were fun times with friends, poignant occasions to serve people in crisis, beautiful sunrises and sunsets (plus a Blue Moon), and a few moments of quiet calm to process it all. I hope your week was memorable.
Writing helps me remember (even if it’s a few lines in a journal or on an old-school calendar)…maybe your memory is better. Here are five of my favorite discoveries for the week. Please share yours in Comments below.
1) Right Bus/Wrong Seat – Writer, seminarian Chuck Lawlessposted recently on dealing with employees who appear to be on the right bus, but in the wrong seats. He wrote about church culture but
his counsel reminded me of work situations as described by business leader and writer Jim Collins. – in his book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t. Collins focuses on the importance of having the right people “on the bus”. Then he pushes deeper in employers or leaders getting those right people into the right seats. We can find ourselves wondering at times if we’re in the right company when really the question could be that we may not be in the right job within that company. Collins’ approach puts people over product, but he knows the better product will come out of better-positioned people. Right bus/right seat.
Have 100% of the key seats on the bus filled with the right people. This doesn’t mean 100% of ALL seats have the right people, but 100% of the key seats. If you think there might be a “wrong who,” first give the person the benefit of the doubt that perhaps he or she is in the wrong seat. Whenever possible, give a person the chance to prove himself or herself in a different seat, before drawing the conclusion that he or she is a wrong person on the bus.
Spend a significant portion of time on people decisions: get the right people on the bus, get the right people in the right seats, get the wrong people off the bus, develop people into bigger seats, plan for succession, etc. Develop a disciplined, systematic process for getting the right people on the bus. With each passing year, ensure the percentage of people decisions that turn out good versus bad continues to rise. – Wendy Maynard, Jim Collins
2) Live Streaming – I am really not fond of paying the high ticket prices required these days for celebrity entertainment. What intrigues me more are the younger (or newer) artists pushing into the public’s eye through live streaming. In 2015, KrueTV was launched, and it has made a huge impact on where I go for music. A live streaming app. Where I get to watch, listen to, and chat with artists who are just beginning to hone their craft. Rough sometimes, but so fresh and very much “in the moment. Beyond the Guitar streamed on Krue from early on. Photo Credit: Screenshot, KrueTV
The bad news came this week that Krue’s creators are going a different direction. Another app will eventually come, but Krue will be shut down soon. It made all of us sad, all of us who enjoy the streams there.
Turning that sad into action, the artists continue to stream on Krue for now and commiserate with each other and their fans. Also sorting out what live streaming app to jump on next.
I was surprised to find out that there are several now. GigFM. StreetJelly. Twitch.TV. One of these apps will become my next favorite, depending on where these favorite artists land. Because it’s not just their performances, it’s also the community around them. Never would I have thought, in all my life, that this would become important to me. Online communities. Gamers understand this, but it’s new to me.
3) Words – Any of you who continue to stick with me on this blog know I love words. If you walked into our home, you would see them everywhere. Bookcases in every room. Words on the walls.
Books by my bed and beside my computer. Notes on top of my keyboard. Words that can remind, instruct, encourage.
In my resolve to read more, this year of 2018, I’m currently in the middles of a strange and fascinating book. It is The Elements of Eloquence: Secrets of the Perfect Turn of Phrase by Mark Forsyth. It’s a book about the English language and what makes us love and remember certain phrases by how they are written. I will probably write about this book later, but here are some words that have caused me to think…this week.
4) Mommy Blogs – The blogs I subscribe to are usually about leadership, the Bible, or living cross-culturally. However, lately, “mommy blogs” have come to my attention, thanks to the young women in my life who read and write them. This week, I discovered Liz B. who writes Life in a Coffee Spoon. A mom of two who also works outside the home, she posted this week on the challenges of life that literally drive her to write in order to process it all. Photo Credit: Pixabay
Her writing is like that coffee – real, strong, and just right for when you need it.
5) The Inevitabilities of Life – This has been one of those weeks when life has been full of the inevitable – sickness, hard news, death. There are also the inevitabilities, thankfully, of new babies, good news, and happy anniversaries. This has not been a week of those.
[There was a time just a bit ago that I didn’t take any meds. Then…it happened. The inevitable, I presume.]
Still in the middle of all the hard, I’m struck by the great gift of community, the strength of true friendship and family, the power of prayer. The presence in our lives of a loving God and those we can lean on – good neighbors, first responders, trusted colleagues, and those sainted strangers – all, in their time, are there for us, as we are for them. The leaning in and showing up – in the inevitabilities of life. It’s really quite beautiful…and takes so much of the sting away.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation [trouble; suffering], but take courage; I have overcome the world.”– Jesus – John 16:33
So there are my 5’s this week. What are some of yours? Have a safe and splendid weekend, hopefully with those you love or in your own good company.
In Which I Am Learning to Live with the Ache – Sarah Bessey
Quote: I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history. – H.G. Wells
“I think my plays offer (white Americans) a different way to look at black Americans,” he told The Paris Review. “For instance, in Fences they see a garbageman, a person they don’t really look at, although they see a garbageman every day. By looking at Troy’s life, white people find out that the content of this black garbageman’s life is affected by the same things – love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives.” – August Wilson
It’s Friday! You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute! Where is Beyond the Guitar?!” I know he’s on here every week, because he’s definitely one of my faves. Right? No argument. This week, Nathan is meeting up with some folks in various segments of the music industry. No video this week. You can watch his latest video here. I did manage to have other Faves for the week…so here they are…just for you.
Crouch talks about how so much in life is both/and not either/or. We can find ourselves somewhere on this 2×2 chart below, depending on how much authority we have and how much vulnerability. He defines authority as “capacity for meaningful action”. Vulnerability is defined as “exposure to meaningful risk”. In his book, Strong and Weak, Crouch talks, as if face-to-face, to the reader about how to move “up and to the right” to do life, flourishing. How we get there is through bringing others along with us, using our authority and vulnerability, not just for our own sake, but for that of those around us, as well. We have all known suffering, but we can hopefully avoid falling into withdrawing or exploiting. Such a good read!
2) The Courage of Rachael Denhollander – This past week the news has been packed with the victim statements and sentencing of Larry Nassar, the US Gymnastics team doctor who molested over 155 girls in his care. I say 155 because those were the ones who gave statements prior to his sentencing. The last one who spoke was actually the first one who got heard about his abuse. See stories below. Rachael Denhollander – you are our hero…with all those precious girls who can hopefully heal from this terrible situation.
3) Good News – Our pastor, Cliff Jordan, began a series of sermons, this past Sunday, on the good news, or the Gospel, of Jesus Christ. You can listen to the podcast here. The Gospel is the very best news I have ever heard and received.
“YOU ARE THE ONE – In December of 2004 we were fighting for our two-year-old daughter’s life. She had been diagnosed with a rare (1 in a million) liver cancer earlier that year and had received multiple rounds of chemo in addition to a liver transplant. We spent weeks in the hospital (in two different States) and the Ronald McDonald House. Our “normal” days revolved clinic visits and medicine schedules–no play groups or playgrounds for us. No public places. At all.
So much time, so much effort, so much money, so many prayers, so many tears… for one little girl. No one outside our small circle of family and friends knew her. She had never been on Youtube. She wasn’t Instagram famous. Those things didn’t exist. She was just one little girl, but to me she was THE ONE. She was the one worth all the time, effort, and money. She was the one worth saving.
On December 26, I watched in horror as the news poured in from Southeast Asia. I learned what a tsunami was and what it could do. The loss of life was staggering. 280,000 people gone in a matter of minutes. No time to say goodbye. No time to prepare. Just gone. While I was fighting for the one, 280,000 people were gone without a fight. Nameless, faceless rows of bodies covered in tarps. Each one was someone’s daughter. Each one was someone’s son. Each one was THE ONE to someone.
While I was sad for their families, I didn’t know those 280,000 and I couldn’t grasp the magnitude of the loss. All I could do was say a prayer and continue trying to save the one—the one I knew and loved. The one I would have done anything to save. And I asked myself, was her life any more valuable than theirs?
I didn’t know those people when they were alive. I wouldn’t miss them when they were gone. They were the 280,000. She was THE ONE. But GOD knew every one of them. He knew their names, their stories, their hopes and their dreams. He was there when they were born. He watched them grow. He was there when they died. To him they were not just one of 280,000 or even 1 of 7 billion. To him they were THE ONE. He cared about each of them as much as I cared about my daughter. I can’t fathom a love big enough and great enough to care about each one of us… all 7 billion of us… as if we were the one.
Paul called it a love that surpasses knowledge and prayed that we would be able to grasp how wide and long and high and deep it is. God knows us and loves us even more than I knew and loved my daughter. I would have given my life for her. He gave his life for us. I am limited by my humanity to the number of people I can love as much as I loved the one. God is not limited. His love has no limits, no boundaries, no cut off point. He is not willing that any should be lost. To Him, we are all THE ONE worth saving.
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills and go look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about the one sheep than about the 99 that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” (Matt 18:12-14)
You are not a nameless, faceless, one of 7 billion. You are God’s precious child. You are THE ONE. – Marlo Salamy
4) Love Across a Lifetime – My birthday was this past weekend, and we had very special guests come in for it. Dave’s parents. I’ve written about them before, but in this Friday Faves, I wanted to highlight their love and devotion toward each other. Throughout their marriage, John took care of Julia. He worked hard, affirmed her in all she did, and romanced her in sweet ways for almost all the years of their marriage. Today, Parkinson’s has robbed him of much of his memory and strength, but I know she remembers him regularly bringing her little bouquets of flowers from the garden.
These days, Julia cares for John, as she promised him and God over 60 years ago. I am so thankful for our times together as family. It is a great heritage for our children and grandchildren to see the kind of love they have for each other. What a blessing to see our 2 y/o granddaughter help guide PopPop’s walker as MomMom brought him to the dinner table each day of their visit. What love we all witness!
How about you? Please take the opportunity in the Comments below to give a shout-out to the people in your lives that demonstrate to you and yours what love really means.
5) A Hint of Spring – In recent days, the temperatures have been a bit warmer. The bulbs in the garden are quick to respond. A dear neighbor friend even gave me a Spring-themed birthday present. I actually love winter, but this one has been a cold one. Spring will be welcome when it comes around!
Hope you have a beautiful weekend surrounded by people you love…or maybe you have the opportunity to surround those you love who have a harder time (because of age or infirmity) doing the same. Don’t miss them…don’t let your children miss them. What a blessing!
P.S…tomorrow I am finally seeing the movie The Greatest Showman with some friends. So excited. Love the music already (yep…as you already know, Nathan arranged a medley for classical guitar from this film).
Yesterday, driving to an appointment, an old Chris Tomlin song came on the radio. It touched my heart in an unusual way. Familiar words, I Lift My Hands stilled my thoughts for the moment. God drew me to Himself, and worship flowed. Not even thinking, one hand on the steering wheel, my other hand rose… I made a note on my phone of that old song and didn’t think about it again. Then early this morning, the Bible reading for today was in Psalm 63.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name. – Psalm 63:3-4
I wanted to write on joy today. Especially after reading Psalm 63-65. That unquenchable joy at all the good in our lives. New babies. Graduations. Weddings. Health. Milestones. Victories.
Then my newsfeed on Facebook brought the news that a friend’s sister died yesterday. Heidi Lodenstein – 47 years young. Adored by her husband. Two children at home. Glioblastoma. Devoted daughter of an all-loving God who chose not to heal the cancer here but received her Home, healed There. Sad? For that sweet family and friend group. Joy in grief?…abundantly so.
We lost a dear friend to glioblastoma a couple of years back as well. He left behind a much-loved wife and three darling little daughters. As we prayed through those months of his disease, while he fought for his life, we asked for miracles of healing. On this side of Heaven, it wasn’t meant to be.
At his funeral, Dave and I sat, tears on our faces, along with his family and friends. Sad with the loss of him. Yet, there was also something else. Something from so deep in us all, it had to push up and out. It was a strange and magnificent joy. How grateful we were to have known him. To have been a part of something bigger than all of us…with him. To be connected forever with each other by the God he trusted…and we trusted.
Joy. Even in that awful grief.
At that funeral, we lifted our hearts to the God who brought us all together…to be comforted together…and especially by Him. To breathe in the peace that we would see our friend again…whole and himself.
Whatever your situation is right now, my prayer for you is to know joy… May the object of your joy be the Lord Himself, who turns our weeping into dancing…our sorrow into joy [Psalm 30].
I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, you are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God, forever
Be still, there is a river
That flows from Calvary’s tree
A fountain for the thirsty
Pure grace that washes over me
So let faith arise
Let faith arise
Open my eyes
Open my eyes
Sometimes our thoughts take us place we weren’t aiming to go. Today I wanted to write about joy. It flowed out of sorrow…but it flowed full.
Listen to the sound of my pleading when I cry to You for help, when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary…May the Lord be praised, for He has heard the sound of my pleading. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song. The Lord is the strength of His people; He is a stronghold of salvation for His anointed. Save Your people, bless Your possession, shepherd them, and carry them forever. – Psalm 28:2, 6-9
Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.
1) Leaning Into Relationships – Dr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.
“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” — Robert Waldinger
2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay
This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.
Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry. His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”
That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.
3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.
4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:
“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”
Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”
You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?” – Oliver Burkeman
5) For Better or Worse –Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.
As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.
She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.
Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.
His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.
Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.
Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.
Quote: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis
Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)
On this predawn Christmas morning, my thoughts are heavy remembering a year ago when Dad died about this time. He died after a long goodbye with cancer and Alzheimer’s. He died under the tender care of my brother and sister-in-law who had already lost her own dad just days before.
Dad is in Heaven, and joy comes thinking of seeing him, Mom, and others there one day. The heaviness of my heart is just to be endured for now…I can’t seem to fix it. It’s been a year of not quite what it should be. Hard to even write those words because I am deeply grateful to God for even being here, in front of this keyboard, able to reflect on His goodness and provision.
Dad, in his sweet and generous heart, was one of those provisions. The only dad I ever knew, even though he wasn’t our biological father. He loved Christmas and brought to it a gleefulness that I can’t find this year.
Maybe some of you are struggling with Christmas this year. Away from family or with them in the shadows. Or there is something else going on…I don’t really want to string a series of possibles here. You know for yourself what is making Christmas hard.
If this is not your situation, just be glad in it. Most years, I have known that kind of Christmas and will again.
Sadness makes it hard to reach out to others (although I have a friend who today, pushing through her own sadness, will serve in a hospital hospitality house). I have struggled to reach out this year.
Still, we will hold to the comfort and joy that is ours through Christ Jesus. What he did for us…what he continues to do in the greatest love known to us.
If you are having a hard time reaching out, and getting the help you need, just please be gentle with yourself. There are resources for us in the depth of our despair (links below). God is near. He desires to comfort us and restore our joy. He will pierce the dark cloud of our sadness as we turn to Him. He will be with us right where we are.Photo Credit: Holley Gerth
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2Corinthians 1:3–4
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13
Postscript: We have known a lot of airports in our long life of travel – and watching folks arrive to family and friends has always been a marvel to me. I think of Dad’s Homegoing and smile, in spite of this morning’s sadness, at the welcome he received in Heaven. Sweet.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. it seems to me that love is everywhere. Ofte, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – from the film Love Actually
It always happens. We are halfway through December, just 10 days until Christmas, and life is in a bit of disarray. I’m way behind on John Piper’s daily Advent readings, and the only present under the tree is one given to me by a house guest. However, from another vantage point, there is still this moment to redeem and still 10 days until Christmas. Although a week has gone by without writing or posting, today will be different. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. I hope you can take a moment, with your favorite hot beverage, and just soak up what’s here. With love and blessings!
1) Rey’s Theme by Beyond the Guitar – As the much-awaited film Star Wars: The Last Jedi lights up the screen, a new arrangement by Beyond the Guitar is also posted. Rey’s Theme performed on classical guitar by Nathan Mills, surrounded by sand dunes, is lovely, both musically and visually. I’m even more ready to see the film.
2) Letting Go of Expectations – Part of what makes any family tradition tricky is that family is a very fluid organism. It grows and changes, and traditions will reflect those changes. Marriage, babies, sometimes divorce and death. Work and school schedules. Altered preferences through the years. They all have an impact. The most beautiful part of family traditions is not the year-to-year repetition of treasured events or rituals – it is the people. Sometimes people get lost in the planning or pulling off of traditions through the years. Just today my friend Kathy alerted me to Suzanne Eller’s piece Don’t Make Your Grown Kids Hate Christmas. It came at an excellent time. In fact, the author could have included a byline And the Same Goes for the Parents. Being gentle with each other goes a long way. Letting go of expectations…especially when a tradition warms our hearts, and the people we love are attached to those traditions…is not easy! However, for the the sake of the relationships, we wrestle our expectations to the ground. We will refuse to be robbed of the joy meant for us in this season…that joy transcends traditions.Photo Credit: Clarity With Charity
3) Together at Christmas – When Christmas morning dawns this year, it will be just Dave and me. We will have had our kids all together two days prior. Our youngest works Christmas Day, and when he gets off, we will have dinner together and then it’s off to see Dave’s parents and extended family later in the week.
At first, my heart went to ache right off, thinking of a too-quiet Christmas morning. Now, I am settled. This month like so many Decembers has filled up with hectic, and quiet was way elusive. Maybe this Christmas morning, in the seeming too quiet, we will find what all month we’ve longed for…like Mary and Joseph, alone in that stable, we will welcome the Christ child.
Beyond that sweetness?
Still looking forward to all the laughter, familiarity, beauty and noise of being together with family at Christmastime. Amy Grant’s song To Be Together says it perfectly.
Looking back, early in our marriage, we were states away from both sets of parents. We made that young couple decision of not traveling with little ones on Christmas and our parents were kind to do the traveling. As the time for their arrival got close, our kids would stand like little soldiers, pressed against the living room window, watching the street for their grandparents. As they got older, both the children and the grands, we did more of the traveling. Little compares with that long-awaited reunion with our family.
Ever how imperfect our family situations may be, there is profound hope and love in our continued showing up, no matter what. I love that about Christmas. That opportunity. That possibility.
4) Christmas Memories – The memories are part of the legacy of those family traditions and coming together whenever we can. I’m thankful for memories of my own childhood with parents who loved us generously. Even with limited resources, they made Christmas magical. When their faith in God was rekindled, they reconnected with church, and us with them. We discovered in that community what really makes Christmas worth celebrating. The birth of the promised Savior. What was once magical became both mysterious and miraculous. All through the years, the wonder of Christmas has multiplied for me.
Last Christmas, our Dad died. Fourteen years prior to that, our Mom.
The memories of all our times together seem to blossom especially at Christmas…like Dave’s mom’s cactus. So thankful.
5) Christmas Words – Every year we watch the short film A Charlie Brown Christmas. In it, Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about:
Simple and profound…taken straight out of Scripture (Luke 2:8-14).
You can be sure I love words. In fact, I will even risk difficult to hear words over silence. Quiet is appropriate at times, but neglecting to speak when words could make a difference is just wrong. Even when we don’t know what to say…I think people will understand our hearts when our words don’t quite hit the mark. What do you think?
On my computer, there’s a folder entitled Christmas Blessings – quotes I’ve collected over the years. Below are a sample (all these I originally found in Good Reads). Hope these words bless you as they do me.
“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans–and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused–and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.” ― Sigrid Undset
“The reality of loving God is loving him like he’s a Superhero who actually saved you from stuff rather than a Santa Claus who merely gave you some stuff.” ― Criss Jami, Killosophy
“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
― Eric Sevareid
“Are you willing to stoop down and consider the needs and desires of little children; to remember the weaknesses and loneliness of people who are growing old; to stop asking how much your friends love you, and to ask yourself if you love them enough; to bear in mind the things that other people have to bear on their hearts; to trim your lamp so that it will give more light and less smoke, and to carry it in front so that your shadow will fall behind you; to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings, with the gate open? Are you willing to do these things for a day? Then you are ready to keep Christmas!” ― Henry Van Dyke
“What’s special about a story if I could have thought it up? What’s special about a story if I was actually courageous enough to play a part in it? What’s special about the Christmas story is that I am incapable of doing either but God did both.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough
“But I don’t like it, okay? I don’t like how everything is changing. It’s like when you’re a kid, you think that things like the holidays are meant to show you how things always stay the same, how you have the same celebration year after year, and that’s why it’s so special. But the older you get, the more you realize that, yes, there are all these things that link you to the past, and you’re using the same words and singing the same songs that have always been there for you, but each time, things have shifted, and you have to deal with that shift. Because maybe you don’t notice it every single day. Maybe it’s only on days like today that you notice it a lot. And I know I’m supposed to be able to deal with that, but I’m not sure I can deal with that.” ― David Levithan, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily
“What images do I associate with the Christmas music as I see them set forth on the Christmas Tree?… An angel, speaking to a group of shepherds in a field; some travelers, with eyes uplifted, following a star; a baby in a manger; a child in a spacious temple, talking with grave men; a solemn figure, with a mild and beautiful face, raising a dead girl by the hand; again, near a city gate, calling back the son of a widow, on his bier, to life; a crowd of people looking through the opened roof of a chamber where he sits, and letting down a sick person on a bed, with ropes; the same, in a tempest, walking on the water to a ship; again, on a sea-shore, teaching a great multitude; again, with a child upon his knee, and other children round; again, restoring sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, hearing to the deaf, health to the sick, strength to the lame, knowledge to the ignorant; again, dying upon a cross, watched by armed soldiers, a thick darkness coming on, the earth beginning to shake, and only one voice head. “Forgive them, for they know not what they do!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Tree
When Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered around Him while He was by the sea. 22 One of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at His feet and kept begging Him, “My little daughter is at death’s door. Come and lay Your hands on her so she can get well and live.” – Mark 5:21-23
So Jesus went with him, and a large crowd followed and pressed around Him. And a woman was there who had been afflicted for twelve years by an issue of bleeding. She had suffered greatly under the care of many physicians and had spent all she had, but to no avail. Instead, her condition had only grown worse.… – Mark 5:24-26
The Biblical accounts of two desperate daughters are found in three of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). In Mark 5, we see Jesus in a throng of people pressing in to be close to him. Jairus, the local religious leader, manages to get to him on behalf of his very ill 12-year-old daughter. Jesus agrees to go home with Jairus. He would heal this beloved child.
Then the drama escalates as a woman, plagued with a bleeding disorder for 12 years, also pushes through the crowd to get to Jesus. For all those years, she had tried everything to be well, to have the sentence of “unclean” removed from her daily existence. Just imagine being this woman. Refused admission into any religious service. For 12 years. Known and avoided by all in her village. For 12 years. If married, even unable to cook for her family or have the nearness of their company.
In desperate faith, this unnamed woman, having heard of Jesus, believed in his ability to heal her. She reckoned that all she needed to do was to touch the edge of his robe, and she could be healed.
She squeezed through the crowd, surely having to conceal her identity…and reached just far enough…to touch the hem of his garment. She was healed immediately.Photo Credit: Magdala
The riveting account of this divine encounter goes on to reveal to us that Jesus knew power had gone out of him. In the teeming crowd, he recognized one, in particular, had touched him. When she came forward to identify herself, he greeted her with the tenderest of words:
“Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well.Go in peace and be freefrom your affliction.” [Mark 5:33]
Desperate faith is not about working up to enough faith for God to move in a miraculous way. The most critical factor in faith is its object. Both Jairus and this afflicted woman had faith in Jesus – they believed he could heal and they leaned on him in their struggle.
Did we forget about Jairus? No we did not. However, within this story there is another truth. Sometimes, we have to wait…what seems an eternity…but not really. Even in the short delay to get back home, his little daughter had died. While he waited on Jesus’ encounter with this woman (whom he surely knew and knew she was unclean), he must have been aghast at how her touch would make Jesus unclean.
No…that isn’t how it goes. Nothing we bring to Jesus changes his nature. Jesus transforms our uncleanness. He moves us, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves, from death to life. In our desperation, when we know there is nowhere to go but to him, he is there. Present. Ready to release his power on our behalf…because he loves us. In turn, we love him…and whatever is causing heartache in our lives fades in comparison.Photo Credit: Free Bible Images
Jesus didn’t keep Jairus’ daughter from dying, but he brought her back to life. Neither she, nor her father, nor anyone else who witnessed this would ever be the same.
One last thought…what about all the rest of the crowd jostling Jesus? Only two pushed through in faith. Only two had life-changing encounters with him. The rest must have been merely curious. May it never be so for us. When our struggles leave us grasping desperately for help…may our reach find the One who knows exactly what we need and responds with love and power.
No mountain, no valley, no gain or loss we know
Could keep us from Your love
No sickness, no secret, no chain is strong enough
To keep us from Your love
To keep us from Your love
How high, how wide
No matter where I am, healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong
And now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands
Our present, our future, our past is in Your hands
We’re covered by Your blood
We’re covered by Your blood
How high, How wide
No matter where I am, healing is in Your hands
How deep, How strong
And now by Your grace I stand, healing is in Your hands
In all things we know that
We are more than conquerors
You keep us by Your love*
Dear Ones, if you find yourself in a desperate situation right now, lean on the One who would go to a cross for you. Don’t give fear or evil pin you down…push through and, in faith, in belief in Him…touch your Healer. He is just that near to us.
*Lyrics to Healing Is In Your Hands – Songwriters: Chris Tomlin, Christy Nockels, Daniel Carson, Matt Redman, Nathan Nockels