Category Archives: Inspired

Worship Wednesday – I Am Broken at Your Feet – Alabaster – Rend Collective

Photo Credit: The River Walk

Within two days of Jesus’ crucifixion, just hours before, a woman would anoint his body for burial… Here is the strange and glorious account of that event:

 It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a cunning way to arrest Jesus and kill him.  “Not during the festival,” they said, “so that there won’t be a riot among the people.”

While he was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured it on his head. But some were expressing indignation to one another: “Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they began to scold her.

Jesus replied, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me.  You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” – Mark 14:1-9

Our pastor Cliff Jordan’s sermon on Mark 14:1-11 brought this account alive again to us. [Listen to the podcast linked above.]

The woman who poured out her treasure – possibly all she had in the world – in worshiping the Lord – was no stranger to him. She was Mary, sister to Lazarus and Martha – friend and follower of Jesus.

Surrounded by the disciples at his host’s table, Jesus was enjoying the company of these men so close to him. Mary entered the room without ceremony and straightaway broke open an alabaster jar containing this expensive perfume. [That jar was like her security – equivalent to a year’s wages in that day – “compared to her love for Jesus, it was nothing”, Cliff preached.]

She would pour that extravagant oil over his head. She then took the dripping oil into her hands and rubbed it on his feet. Drying off the excess with her own hair. The men in the room took loud exception at what they considered her frivolous act…but not Jesus.

Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for me.  You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Two days later, Jesus would give his all on a cross. Beaten and bloody he would die…for us…holding nothing back. It was a Friday, and Passover. By the time his body was released to be buried, his followers had to rush, because of the late hour, laying his body in the tomb, wrapped but without anointing oils.

No worries. In the quiet of that Passover evening, Jesus’ body, caked with blood mixed with his sweat, the fragrance of Mary’s love offering must have remained…must have sweetened the stench of his death. He gave his all for us…she gave her all for him.

“Love is a laid-down life.” (Elisabeth Elliot) – We experience that in Jesus, those of us who know him. We see that in Mary.

Pastor Cliff asked the questions: “What is my alabaster jar? Where do we place our security? What can’t we imagine life without?”

I can’t imagine life without Jesus and knowing his love and his great gift of salvation. Everything else pales.

___________________________________________________________________________

From our years living in Egypt, we have kept two small alabaster votives. The light they emit is both enthralling and beautiful…so like the act of Mary’s giving all she had to her beloved Jesus.

Worship with me to Rend Collective‘s Alabaster.

I am broken at Your feet
Like an alabaster jar
Every piece of who I am
Laid before Your majesty

I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet
Yeah

Oh, the gravity of You
Draws my soul unto its knees
I will never be the same, no
I am lost and found in You

And I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet

Oh, I will bow my life
At Your feet, at Your feet
My lips, so lost for words
Will kiss Your feet, kiss Your feet.*

* Lyrics to Alabaster by Rend Collective

The AlabasterJar – The River Walk

YouTube Video – Alabaster Box – Cece Winans

Monday Morning Moment – a Comforting Reminder When Family Gathered – “Do the Next Thing”

Photo Credit: Francis J. Gavin, Kristian Dela Cour

This morning I woke weighed down with so much undone that needing doing. A week of travel, as delightful as it was, lends itself to a deep sleep on Sunday night and an early fretful waking on a Monday morning.

Do you have those awakenings? When your mind clears from sleep and you begin looking at the week ahead and think “How am I going to get it all done?” Or “How do I even do it?” Anxiety builds, and depression follows.

That’s how this morning started…and then the heaviness lifted with the simplest thought. A reminder I received just this weekend…a reminder that stirred sweet memories of a woman with huge influence on my younger years…writer Elisabeth Elliot.

On our trip to see family this past week, we had an evening with girl talk. Four generations of women around the dinner table, laughing, sharing, and remembering. [I know men do this, too – how else do they keep all those football, baseball, and fishing trip stories so fresh in their memories?]

In the course of the warm glow of that conversation, my dear sister-in-law, Stacie, reminded her girls of how she counseled with them through their high school angsty moments. She told us she used to  quote Elisabeth Elliot‘s own advice to her daughter, Valerie, when she was overwhelmed by life: “Do the next thing.”

[Stacie sounded just like Elisabeth Elliot as well…took me back to when I was her girls’ ages and first began reading Elliot’s books, including her husband Jim’s journals.]

Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, but through her life she wrote many books that had huge impact on my life. From my teen years. Books that remain treasures today…http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Blog-Elisabeth-Elliot-Love-is-a-Laid-Down-Life.jpg

For years after, as a struggling mom with young children, I would tune into her daily radio shows – Gateway to Joy – listening to her “square-your-shoulders” walk-with-God counsel. Her manner was both tough and tender as she covered the real stuff of life and how we maneuver through it in the presence of God.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

This morning, in the cloud of confusion over where to even begin this week, God brought our dinner table conversation to mind. Hearing Stacie quoting Eliot in that no-nonsense voice of hers made me laugh then, and smile today.

Four little words that brought clarity.

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now…Do the next thing.Elisabeth Elliot

When You Don’t Know What to Do – (a tribute to Elisabeth Elliot) – Rhonda Quaney

On the Passing of Elisabeth Elliot – Love Is a Laid Down Life – Deb Mills

Love Is a Laid-Down Life  – a Slowing Down for a Season – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Pinterest, AllysTruth

YouTube Video: Elisabeth Elliot: Suffering Is Never For Nothing

Monday Morning Moment – Wrong-doing – Concealing, Confessing, and Covering

Photo Credit: Godly Daddy Blog, Dan Ericson

Do any of us really believe we can conceal a wrong forever? Do we truly think we can get away with something…especially something with impact on another? Or maybe we could if a wrong only affects me? Right? No one has to know…right?

Concealing

We are in a time in history and civilization where, like never before,  “Your sins will find you out”. It is ironic because being that we’re in a post-Christian era, sins are not taken as seriously by many as they were just a generation or two before. However, called another name… wrong-doing… or abuse…will be exposed. Eventually that sin will be brought out of the darkness.

“He who covers his sins will not prosper.”

Photo Credit: My Bible, Debra Aiken

The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Darkness cannot withstand light, nor can wrongdoing forever be concealed…it will be exposed. That should be a comfort to those who have been the victim of the wrongful actions of another.

Precept Austin Commentary on Proverbs 28:13 (great resource)

Are You Covering or Confessing Your Sins? – Debra Aiken

Are You Covering Up Your Crimes? – Lifeway, Facts & Trends

10 Common Ways We Try to Hide Our Guilt and Shame – Andy Barlow

There is a dark place in our hearts where we delight in others being “found out”…their wrongdoing exposed. Humility, true humility, sorrows, knowing too well, that it could happen to any of us, for we have all wronged others. All of us.

Confessing

When we face our part in wronging another, when we “come clean”, healing can begin in both parties. For those who have long concealed, this is very difficult to do. To bear the responsibility of a wrong. Time doesn’t heal wrong; it seems to just grow and grow… with time. However, when we shine a light on that dark place and own our wrongdoing, we can hopefully begin to turn things right. Make restitution if possible. Ask forgiveness. Humble ourselves.

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  – 1 John 1:7-9

Confessing Our Sins Together – Ryan Griffith

What keeps us from confessing is the whisper of a hope that we are not to blame, that we had our reasons, that it wasn’t that bad, or that it wasn’t us. Or, we know we did wrong, and the prospect of consequences that could follow confessing is just too terrifying.

Covering

When we fall on the mercy of God, we can free ourselves of covering up and actually know the joy of being covered. Forgiven. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us, we are justified…“just-as-if I’d never sinned”. Now we may still have to reckon with righting a wrong against another person, as much as is possible, even paying society for a wrong. From God’s side, when “we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9)

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!Psalm 32:1

Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.Romans 4:7

In our culture today, we are bombarded by blaming and blame-shifting, fingers pointing at wrong-doers or even those it’s not clear are wrong-doers…they are just a race or gender or political party we determine to be wrong-doers.

Thank God, we have a Judge who sees our hearts perfectly and weighs our actions and intents with both justice and mercy. In that courtroom, grace abounds.

The Covering of Sin – writer pastor Wayne Jackson

Postscript: My Mom used to quote a Bible verse in circumstances when one of us, fortunate enough to be loved by her, had done wrong.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Now, she would guide us to right living, and she would be tough with us in doing right to those we wronged. In her love, in her quiet handling of our sins as youngsters and young adults, we learned about the love of God…both just and full of mercy.

Mom didn’t feel the need to expose our sin or wrong-doing to others, giving God room to move in our hearts and alter the course of our lives. God’s love covers our sins, through the sinless life of Jesus, and His sacrifice poured out on our sinful selves.

Cover the Sins of Others – Tim Porter

5 Friday Faves – Celebrating Fall, On Being Forgiven, Old Trees, Signage, and a Big Pile of Books

Weekend! Sometimes the end of the week just pours out so quickly it splashes right into the weekend. Friday Faves on a Saturday, y’all.

1) Celebrating Fall – In this part of the world, Fall has arrived. For many years, we lived in countries where seasons were subtle in their changing one into another. The rewards were the lush foliage and flowers of the rainy season and the deep textures in the seeming sameness of the desert. [I miss those places now as our American Fall was missed in those years.]

Photo Credit: Max Pixel – Geese in migration, a lovely sign of Fall

Fall is just peeking out now around the corner of Summer…even as the sturdiest of bushes push out their last summer blooms.

An East Tennessee friend of ours, Pam Archer, laid out a Fall palette for us at The Colorful Cottage. It’s like turning the pages of a magazine taking in festive and inviting entryways into homes…and into Fall. [Click through all the pictures at the link above.] You can almost smell pumpkin spice and a fire in the fireplace.

Posted by The Colorful Cottage on Friday, September 21, 2018

Photo Credit: The Colorful Cottage

…and before long, the full glory of Fall will be briefly and wondrously upon us.Photo Credit: Deb Mills

2) On Being Forgiven – This week I offended someone. It could be that offending people happens many times over, without me knowing, but this time…I knew. He made it very clear…and he didn’t forgive me.

This was a stranger…a business person we were contacting to do a service…After several messages left on the company voicemail, the last one got a quick call-back. He didn’t like my choice of words nor my tone…and essentially told me I could look somewhere else for service.

Gulp… I tried to explain again and said I was sorry several times over. He refused to understand my side of the situation. We don’t slam down phones anymore…but. That conversation and hang-up kept me up for hours. I felt terrible and then mad and then terrible again.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

A two-minute conversation full of accusation and misunderstanding was rough on me and rough on him, too, maybe. We secured another company to do what we needed, and the gentleman above may remember me as a demanding and unyielding woman for a few days. Our conversation may make it harder on the next person who calls, and for that, I am also sorry.

The marvel is what a wonder in life it is to be forgiven. When people apply grace. When margin is extended for failure or unintentional misspeak. When we are given the benefit of the doubt. When a choice is made not to be offended. When a cheek is turned. When a harsh response is withheld. Even when we feel completely justified to do otherwise.

Forgiveness – that incredible experience of not getting what we might have deserved; that generous letting go of an opportunity to have the upper hand; that treating another person just as if they hadn’t wronged you. This is not doormat behavior…this is giving grace.

Kelly Delp‘s piece this week On Becoming an Outsider reminded me of times when we lived overseas. Day after day, person after person dealt gently with our offenses… We were foreigners; we didn’t know; we were forgiven.

On Becoming an Outsider

It wouldn’t hurt, maybe, if we treated each other a bit more like foreigners… in a good way, of course.

3) Old Trees – Tall trees that have stood sentinel for decades upon decades deserve our gratitude and respect. In our backyard, we have had two giant oaks shade us in summer and drop leaves and acorns all Fall. Now, one has died. Some sort of blight. Just seeing it without green leaves in summer seems so wrong alongside the healthy sister tree. Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and nature

So…it must be taken down…sadly.

Honestly, it was just such an excellent tree service company…and the way they took down that tree carried a measure of respect as well…I could have been imagining, but I don’t think so.

“Dust to dust” came to mind as that massive tree was chipped (branches) or hauled off (trunk) and the stump ground to mulch.

Grateful for that tree…and for the one still standing in the center of the yard.

4) Signage – Signage is a form of communication, either in words, symbols, or images. As new drivers, we all learned the importance of attending to signs to keep ourselves and others from harm. We read labels and note landmarks. Signage can communicate much more than the literal messages. Take the signage below as a for instance. It’s in a local church building. What does it say to you?

Everywhere you looked in and around this building, signs pointed to community – how folks could serve God and serve one another and with one another. This isn’t my church (I was there for a meeting), but the signage was so engaging and empowering.

Another sign that finally moved me to action was the sign below. Several of these have been placed around our city because of the daily presence of people begging at intersections. It seemed a hopeful “No worries. Your city is watching out for the homeless.”

This week, I called the number on the sign. It was our county’s social services division. The voicemail instructions were helpful and as promised I received a call back later in the same day. That was when I discovered this phone number was meant to start the process for homeless to get “in the system”. The person answering my question was honest and forth-coming. If someone was homeless (or would be in 3 days), if they called this number, it would start a process whereby he/she could get housing…as to when? Days, weeks…

This sign, its agency, and the church community above (and others like it) have the skills and desire to make good happen. Then there might be a place to sleep for that one begging …sooner.

5) a Pile of Books – Truth be told, I didn’t get nearly far enough on my summer reading list.  We always plan an annual get-away to the beach for a few days, once the high season is over. A few of these books will be coming along.

One in particular will definitely make the cut. In this season of life, I seem always to be culling one thing or another from our stash of wonderfulness. Thinning out some of our books, I found Calvin Miller‘s Walking with Saints – Through the Best and Worst Times of Our Lives. Flipping through the pages of this old book of Dave’s I realized it was one that needed to be read sooner than later.  It was a Christmas present, bought in Cairo, by a little boy who loved his daddy and loved to draw. That gift inscription alone means it will stay in our stash of stuff for the next forever.

Do you have some books on your must-read list? Please tell us about them in Comments below. Also, do you have books that have made it to be a sentimental favorite? Those stories are meant to be shared as well.

That’s the 5 this week. Hope your week was full of new and old favorites. Enjoy this first weekend of Fall…either for real, or through the images and stories of those of us who have the sweet experience of this season. Blessings.

Bonuses:

This Guy:

You Have 15 Minutes to Respond to a Crisis: a Checklist of Dos and Don’ts – Davia Temin

My name is Amy and I’ve never been pregnant

Quote: Why does “Mid-Century Modern” sound so cool when describing architecture or furniture? It was made in the 1950’s. I was made in the 1950’s. Next time someone asks me my age, I’m gonna say, “Mid-Century Modern.” – Jody Ohlsen Collins

Quote:  One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now. – Paulo Coelho

Photo Credit: Musicnotes, Twitter

The Professor Goes to Prison (Teaser) – YouTube

Photo Credit: Mystic Prayers, Facebook

Photo Credit: NPR Twitter, PBS

Koshari (Egyptian staple) rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas, red vinegary sauce, and fried onions on top – Yum!

Photo Credit: Kim Audi, FacebookPhoto Credit: Wikimedia

Photo Credit: Toby Mac, Facebook

Photo Credit: Kitchen Food with My 3 Sons, Facebook

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed, to Bless a World in Pieces – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. Even those who don’t believe God is will use the expression of being blessed. I wonder, “by whom” and “why?”

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They both cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love that He loves them, also.

“[We need to] come out of Moral Superiority Castle, cross over the stagnant moat of separation and meet the kingdom of God where justice and mercy meet, where the never-ending stream is full of justice and goodness; where people are messed up and broken and dirty like old cracked pots that leak and feel pretty useless and that, that is where we are and where we are a part of the repairing and restoring and transforming of the world. It is a place of tension. It is a place of unresolved hurt.

No-one said that where justice and mercy meet was a comfortable place.” – Kevin Lewis

Worship with me.

Bring heaven to earth, Lord
Bring peace where there’s fear
Bring life where there’s death, Lord
Bring joy in these tears
Bring love where there’s lust, Lord
Bring hope where there’s pain
Bring rest where there’s chaos
Bring faith where there’s fame

You invite us to partner with you
To see your kingdom come

We are blessed, to bless a world in pieces
We are loved, to love where love is not
We are changed, to be the change you promised
We are freed, to be your hands, O God

Bring home to the homeless
Bring keys to the chained
Bring worth to the purchased
And touch to the shamed
Bring flesh from your word, Lord
Bring truth where there’s spin
Bring risk where’s there safety
And grace where there’s sin

In the broken, we shall see restored
The image of our King

We are blessed…

Lord we cry out to you
Change the atmosphere
Breathe new life in all who gather here

We are blessed…

Bring justice to profit
Bring patience to growth
Bring wisdom to progress
Plant trees on this road
Bring freedom from debt, Lord
An end to excess
Bring closer your kingdom
By quiet success

May we grow in the knowledge of you
Through every heart and face

We are blessed…*

Postscript: Andy Flannagan, in a town meeting with London mayor Sadiq Khan, at a local church, talked (in this video clip) about what we as Christians do well. He closed with “The harder thing is to go back to the Jericho Road to work out how to stop anybody else getting mugged.” (Luke 10:35-37)

*Lyrics to We Are Blessed – Songwriter: Andy Flannagan

Andy Flannagan Website

Blessed to Be a Blessing – Mike Pettengill

Monday Morning Moment – Truth Matters

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

“What is truth?”

Centuries ago, a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, asked this question of an innocent man, brought before him by accusers. Religious leaders who wanted to destroy him. Men who would have their way no matter what it meant for this man…even death.

Pilate was complicit in the death of Jesus Christ because he found no evidence against him, yet, to satisfy the loud voices crying out against him, he washed his hands of the matter and sent him out to be crucified.

Truth matters.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

This morning I read a local news account which has disturbed me all day.

The article surprised me because I actually knew the particulars of the story very well. The reporter described a recent event and then added a completely unrelated previous event. The first was morally neutral, but the second event was scandalous. The innuendo was clear. The article fairly sizzled with the possibility…probability that the two events…the two persons (very different from each other) were linked. Thus casting a shadow on the innocent one with the clear guilt of the other. Just a shadow. Just a possibility of wrong.

Just innuendo and nuance.

Did this reporter lie? She did not, in so many words. Did she shade the truth? Yes.

“The Greek word for ‘truth’ is aletheia, which literally means to ‘un-hide’ or ‘hiding nothing.’ It conveys the thought that truth is always there, always open and available for all to see, with nothing being hidden or obscured. The Hebrew word for ‘truth’ is emeth, which means ‘firmness,’ ‘constancy’ and ‘duration.’ Such a definition implies an everlasting substance and something that can be relied upon.

From a philosophical perspective, there are three simple ways to define truth:

   1. Truth is that which corresponds to reality.
   2. Truth is that which matches its object.
   3. Truth is simply telling it like it is.” – Got Questions

Telling the truth is a huge core value in our family. Growing up, our children knew that lying would bring a most undesirable consequence. We would rather know they were telling the truth, even when it exposed something that would grieve us as their parents.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture

We live in a culture today that seems to thrive on a semblance of “my truth” or “truth as I know it”. What that means is “If I can convince you I am right then we will all be better off…well, especially me.” There seems almost a fever for exposing lies. The irony is the lengths people will go to to expose falsehood in others – political opponents, for instance. Even lying to do so. Making lying a necessary “evil” or a “moral high road” to bring down the greater villain or threat.

I know personally how easy it is to be deceived and to deceive oneself. In my 20s, I had my Sunday life and my “rest of the week” life. Politically, I was fairly soft on the issues, bowing to those in my life who were more articulate or who had done their homework… more than me. Spiritually, I wanted the world too much to be faithful to the God whom I owed everything. I wanted to be liked, admired, accepted…the tinsel of a life pleasing to others blinded me for awhile. I was deceived.

“Once you take to the habit of deception, every new lie comes that much easier. Though to me it wasn’t so much lies as a matter of judicious editing. We all inevitably present a version of ourselves that is a collection of half-truths and exclusions. The way I saw it, the truth was too complicated, whereas the well-chosen lie would put everyone’s mind at ease.”  Caroline Kettlewell, Skin GameGoodReads

I can actually tell you the moment that the scales fell off my eyes (another time). At that moment, I remembered that truth was the hinge that swings open the door to life as it’s meant to be lived. Or maybe truth is the door.

For sure, seeking the truth and speaking the truth are huge. In our home, with our kids growing up, even just watching a movie, we would point out the messages that had lies as the foundation. [That might have driven our kids nuts, when I think about it now.] We would do the same about the latest social commentary and, as they went off to college, we talked about what they would encounter in terms of worldviews different from their own.

In my younger years, I loved how journalists rabidly exposed lies, protecting us from evil politicians or uncivil servants. These days, the vigilance of reporters and partisan politicians regarding “what is truth” seems too self-serving and mean to be righteous.

“The fact is, the truth matters – especially when you’re on the receiving end of a lie.”Ravi Zacharias

If I have been harsh in this writing, please forgive me. That article of earlier in the day is still ringing and stinging in my ear. Truth is not meant to be a hammer and everything else a nail. Even the One crucified gave us the example of Truth lived out in love (Ephesians 4:15).

So…for our children. Thank you, for not being too hard on us while we taught you, out of our own mistakes and short-sightedness. Thank you, for still being willing to have truth conversations with us. Thank you, for continuing to seek the truth, even in the midst of a culture of innuendo, nuance, half-truths (definitely a misnomer), and sizzling stories that beg to be believed.

Also, thank you, you influencers out there, who also love the truth and guard it with your life and that influence.

Exposing lies is important, but if the desire in going after the truth is really motivated by the desire to destroy someone in your way…or to elevate your own agenda…no matter how noble…it can’t be worth what is lost along the way. It must not be.

Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

Got Questions – What Is Truth? – an excellent read on the truth…and The Truth

Monday Morning Moment – the Essence and Ethics of Spin in Our Work, Our Politics, and Our Community – Deb Mills

Worship Wednesday – When Storms Come, We Still Have a Good, Good Father – Chris Tomlin & Pat Barrett

Blog - good good father - timesofmaltaPhoto Credit: TimesofMalta

[Adapted from the Archives – on the occasion of Hurricane Florence moving toward the East Coast. Praying for mercy for those in its path.]

For I proclaim the name of the LORD; Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:3-4

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.Psalm 46:1-3

When we lived in Morocco, we loved walking along the coast – along both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. There were sandy beaches aplenty, but my favorite parts were the rocky outcroppings which stood as sentinels against the crashing waves. I will never forget one time, walking with a friend who prayed aloud as we stood by the shore on a stormy day. He said, “Lord, may the storms of our lives break on the rocks of Your mercy.”

Storms come to all our lives…shocks, interruptions and losses that shake our faith and cause confusion in our understanding of good…and God. We want to explain how such things can happen in the presence of a good God. However, our attempts at explaining fall pitifully short. How can we explain our experience of that good Father in the midst of every storm? He is present, even in His silence…we lean in, and we find strong support…through every storm.

Blog - Good Good Father - godisgreatitstruePhoto Credit: GodIsGreatItsTrue

“Life is hard and God is good.” – Marshall Shelley

These words were spoken by a father whose tiny son, Toby, lived 2 minutes in this world. Toby is short for Tobiah which means “God is good”. Shelley goes on to describe more of his wrestling with Toby’s brief life in a Christianity Today article.

“Why did God create a child to live two minutes?

He didn’t.

He didn’t create Toby to live two minutes…He didn’t create me to live 40 years (or whatever number he may choose to extend my days in this world). God created Toby for eternity. He created each of us for eternity, where we may be surprised to find our true calling, which always seemed just out of reach here on earth.”

I can’t explain the goodness of God but I know it. He is a good, good Father. He has brought me through hard places; He is with me through dark nights when I can’t sleep. How can we bask in His goodness in easy times and not believe, even when our hearts are broken, that His goodness extends into the hard as well? Because of His comfort thus far in my life…and that of beloved others…I determine to trust Him in the present hard…and with the future.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the LORD is good; His loving-kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 100:4-5

What a blessing to read the Psalms and rejoice with those inspired writers who give us pictures of God present in our storms. Our hearts are also gladdened by modern-day hymn-writers who remind us of the truth of God’s goodness. Casting Crowns’ Praise You in the Storm and Just Be Held, and then David Crowder’s I Am all remind us of God’s presence with us in the midst of storms.

Chris Tomlin and Pat Barrett’s song Good, Good Father gives voice to my experience of the goodness of God. I hope you are encouraged by it, through whatever storms break over your lives today.

Worship with me.

Oh, I’ve heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You’re like
But I’ve heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night
And You tell me that You’re pleased
And that I’m never alone

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Oh, and I’ve seen many searching
For answers far and wide
But I know we’re all searching
For answers only You provide
‘Cause You know just what we need
Before we say a word

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

Cause You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

You are perfect in all of Your ways
Oh, You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

Oh, it’s love so undeniable
I, I can hardly speak
Peace so unexplainable
I, I can hardly think
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
As You call me deeper still
Into love, love, love

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am

You’re a good good Father
It’s who You are, it’s who You are, it’s who You are
And I’m loved by You
It’s who I am, it’s who I am, it’s who I am
You’re a good good Father

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways*

“This I recall to mind and therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses never cease. His compassions [his mercies] never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the person who seeks him.” – Lamentations 3:21-25

“Life is hard and God is good.” That is the meaning of Lamentations. That is the meaning of Job. You might say that is the meaning of the Bible. Life is hard and God is good…and many of you are right in the midst of proving it to be so now. At least if you would trust him, if I could persuade you that God is trustworthy in it, and if you held on to it, you would discover that life is hard and God is good.

O, that God would give us eyes to see his mercies in our lives and we would see them all the more clearly and know that they were mercies if we knew the price that he paid for them for us. He sent his son Jesus Christ into the world to die so that my guilt will be taken away, his wrath would be removed from me, and there would be a free, open course for his mercies to flow to me while he is just. Even though I am a sinner, I can be treated with mercy. That is a glorious thing that God has done in Jesus Christ. We would taste the mercies all the more sweetly if we knew the price.” – John Piper

BLog - Good good father - midspointofviewPhoto Credit: Midspointofview

Lyrics to Good, Good Father by Pat Barrett and Tony Brown

The God of Joyful Tears and Sorrow – Trevin Wax

YouTube Video – Good, Good Father – Housefires II (featuring Pat Barrett)

If This is Spring There Must Be a Tornado Somewhere – Tom Elliff

Blog - Good Good Father - onegirldesignshoppe

Photo Credit: OneGirlDesignShoppe

Monday Morning Moment – Thriving Under a Narcissistic Boss and a Not-so-random Inspiring Other Story

If you can spell narcissism, then you have made a study of it somewhere along the way. Possibly trying to figure out how to work successfully with a narcissistic colleague or boss…

[Hard topic for a Monday morning but you will have a sweet story at the end.]

Many years ago, in nursing school, the term narcissistic personality disorder came to my awareness during our coursework on mental health. It is defined as “a mental condition in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of extreme confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Someone can be narcissistic in temperament and behavior without having a full-on personality disorder.

10 Signs Your Boss or Manager Is a Narcissist – Preston Ni

The experience of having a narcissistic boss or coworker is not mine personally. In fact, this dark topic isn’t one I’d prefer to cover…except for an interesting happenstance this past week. So…here we go.

One favorite podcaster you have seen referenced here in the past is Carey Nieuwhof. Last week he published a leadership podcast which showcased a conversation he had with Erwin McManus.

Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast 212: Erwin McManus on How to Spot a Narcissist in Leadership, Overcoming the Need for Approval, and What He Experienced at the Global Leadership Summit 2018

McManus (starting at minute 35 in the podcast) talks about the high incidence of narcissism in top-tier leaders (CEOs, etc). His focus is on megachurch pastors and the battle against pride. His observations were spot-on in many ways. “Humility is best-expressed in a willingness to decentralize power. The more decisions you make, the less humble you are. You can never know you are humble; you can know if you do humble things.”

In Nieuwhof’s shownotes, he highlighted these points by McManus:

A Narcissist has:

A high need for praise because the world needs to be about him.

A view that there is no one in the world who can do something better than she can.

A Narcissist doesn’t:

Ask for help because he doesn’t believe anyone else could ever solve a problem that he can’t solve.

Take risks because if she fails it will completely violate her identity.

Accept responsibility for failure, because in his mind the failure was someone else’s fault.

McManus’ take on narcissism was so insightful, I did something rare – publishing a comment on the podcast. Somehow that comment, commending Carey for such an insightful interview on narcissism, got swallowed up in other comments on how hurtful their associations with Mr. McManus had been. Where my original comment went is a mystery, but as others commented, bouncing off my own, I was drawn into their pain.

Whether or not Mr. McManus struggles himself with narcissism is not the focal point here. As I listened to the podcast again, he never denies his own particular bent. I don’t know him so I can’t say. As a successful mega-church pastor, he, like others, has had his critics (covered in another Nieuwhof podcast).

What is clear, in this interview and the comments below, is the huge emotional cost to those who come under such a leader.

5 Signs You Might Be a “Christian Narcissist”

Leadership coach Lolly Daskal has written an empowering piece for those who work for a narcissistic boss. Daskal poses two options for those employees – either quit or “stay and deal”.  Here’s how to stay, in 10 points of action, according to Daskal:

  1. Understand the source – Quite probably your boss is not going to improve. You have to start with that understanding.
  2. Respond, don’t react. Don’t allow yourself to be drawn into a conflict. The narcissistic boss has skills on how to stay on top of any situation. Learn to respond in a way that “keeps you in control of options and choices. If you feel yourself reacting, step away and regain back your control.”
  3. Set clear boundaries. These are for your own benefit. They are a reminder to you of what is right and reasonable in terms of your own operations. Boundaries are essential. You set them for yourself.
  4. Don’t allow them to get under your skin. “Use emotional intelligence to manage your thoughts and actions…remember that any cruel behavior and words reflect badly on the narcissist, not you.”
  5. Don’t feed the beast. “The more you feed the bad behavior the worse it will become. Narcissists surround themselves with only two types of people: those who enable them and those who bite their tongue. Anyone who doesn’t fit into one of these two categories will certainly be fired or banished.”
  6. Don’t empower those who don’t deserve it. “Refuse to follow those you don’t admire, those you don’t trust, and those who lie. Just do your job to the best of your ability and with respect, honor and integrity.”
  7. Fact check everything. Wisdom is to always confirm the facts… especially as far as your work and your work relationships are concerned. No matter what your boss tells you about a situation or a coworker or other work team, as much as you can, be sure you have the facts…before you go too far in your own assessment or putting together a solution.
  8. Don’t argue. The last thing you want to do is argue with a narcissist, because everything you say and do will be held against you. Don’t argue or engage but instead make them invisible–the last thing a narcissist wants.”
  9. Don’t be provoked. Keep your cool. Stay calm.
  10. Stay focused on what’s important. “Working with a narcissist boss means a constant pull to play by their rules and for everything to revolve around them, with no accountability or responsibility when things go wrong. It’s easy to feel angry and frustrated. That’s when you have to take a step back and reconnect with your purpose in being there.” – Lolly Daskal

A Mild Case of Narcissism? – Dana Robert Hicks

As a writer, topics can almost force themselves to be written. I wrestled with this one because maybe it isn’t relevant to most of you….which would be a very good thing. Unfortunately, this topic wouldn’t let go. Then last night, I came across a piece written sometime ago by Joni Eareckson Tada, an advocate worldwide for persons with disabilities. At 17, she became a quadriplegic after a diving accident. That was over 50 years ago.Photo Credit: CBN News

This incredibly gifted and giving woman is the epitome of a person without a bent toward narcissism. She ever points to God and others … empowers others…gives others a voice. She has an accurate understanding of herself, honest about her strengths, weaknesses, and limits. She is diligent and determined to have a positive impact on the lives of those around her.*

[*See article by Carey Nieuwhof below.]

If you’re struggling with figuring out how to thrive under a narcissistic boss, either get out or figure it out. Lolly Daskal’s advice and that of others can help…as well as the refreshing stories of folks like Joni. The light of a life well-lived, no matter the circumstance, can break through any dark place we find ourselves. We can all aim for a life well-lived whatever our work situation, for sure.

Postscript:

“If I were to nail down suffering’s main purpose, I’d say it’s the textbook that teaches me who I really am.” – Joni Eareckson Tada

Whatever our struggle with a difficult boss, we can take that struggle and let it shine a light on our own issues; our own bent and character. If you feel blocked at work somehow, you can respond in bitterness or betterment. You can take heart that learning what being blocked does to your heart and mindset moves you to an understanding of how to grow in ways that no one can block.

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving AccidentJoni Eareckson Tada

Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni and Friends

Joni’s Favorite Quotes on Suffering (We would do well to make copies of these and put them at eye-level at our work stations. Perspective.)

What Self-Aware Leaders Know that Others Don’t – Carey Nieuwhof

5 Friday Faves – Divine Appointments, the Dark Side of Children’s YouTube Videos, Senate Confirmation Hearings, a Fostering Film, and Things That Have Almost Always Been

Happy Friday! Quickly, here are my 5 favorite finds for the week.

1)  Divine appointments – There is something other-worldly by chance encounters, or visits with old friends, or even an oatmeal breakfast that seem larger than life. I’ve had all three this week and all struck a chord of the wonder and mystery of life…of how circumstances are orchestrated such that only God could be responsible. Why? Because of how deeply and lovingly they penetrate the heart.Visit with an old friend – no agenda; no pretense; just a heart rest.

A bowl of steel-cut oats made into a feast by another dear old friend.

Photo Credit: PXhere  [A chance meeting turned into an opportunity and maybe a friendship.]

On the chance encounter: Have you ever spotted someone in the grocery story and something about their appearance or demeanor drew your attention. The image above is a stock photo, but here’s the story. Today while lost in thought over what to buy for Dave’s birthday supper, I noticed this woman in the coolest dress and matching jacket. The fabric was olive green camo. She pulled it off stunningly. I wanted to say something but didn’t.

We ended up in the parking lot at the same time (totally “accidental”; no stalking going on here). I determined if we stowed our carts at the same time I would compliment her fashion sense. We did, and I did. Then a several minute conversation launched easily. She made the suit out of men’s cotton tshirts. Then we talked about our careers, our children, our hopes to make a difference in the world, our faith and our culture. She is an amazing woman…

We exchanged phone numbers and I hope coffee together will follow. I’m currently in a study on justice and longing for an avenue to bring a voice to the voiceless in this city. This woman is a part of that kind of work every single day.

A divine appointment.

2) The Dark Side of Children’s YouTube Videos – Leaving a child unsupervised with a smart phone or tablet is risky. I’m now more convinced than ever after discovering writer artist James Bridle. He wrote an essay entitled Something Is Wrong on the Internet. If you have children, or care about children, please read it. It is a bit freaky. The video below also tells how he sees how the internet, with apps such as YouTube, using bots and AI devices, is drawing children into content we would never want them to experience.

Who makes these videos? Can you even trace their creators?

“The more time you start to spend with them, the crazier and crazier you start to feel you may be….deep strangeness and deep lack of understanding…Who is making them? Some of them really and clearly by people who shouldn’t be around children at all. ” “There are real people trapped within these systems…even if you’re human, you have to end up behaving like a machine just to survive.” Kids drugged looking at these videos. A few auto-clicks away from videos opening surprise eggs will be videos with sexual or violent content still with cartoon characters or superheroes involved. Creepy wrong stuff!!! “Kids’ worst nightmares”.

“Inequality of power [and understanding] always leads to violence.”

“We need to stop thinking of technology as a solution to all of our problems, but think of it as a guide to what those problems actually are, so we can start thinking about them properly and start to address them.” – James Bridle

The Internet as Monster – Rob Dreher

3) Senate Confirmation Hearing – The greatest distraction of my week has been the Senate Confirmation Hearings. 4 days of high drama and brilliant oratory. All toward the determination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh‘s worthiness to replace Justice Kennedy on the US Supreme Court Justice. It was a rollicking, hold-on-to-your-seat experience for those present and for the rest of us watching remotely. The last day when witnesses (i.e. non-Senators) gave their testimony of Kavanaugh’s fitness for the Supreme Court was especially gripping.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Don’t miss the 4th day of hearings when witnesses gave their testimony (5 in favor and 5 opposing) of Judge Kavanaugh’s character and judicial preparedness for taking a chair on the Supreme Court. YouTube video linked here (1 hr 39 min into the video begins the witness panel).

The last of those witnesses was Akhil Reed Amar, Law professor at Yale University, a registered Democrat, staunch liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton. He actually gave testimony in support of Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Here are his closing remarks:

“Responsible naysayers must become yaysayers of a sort; they must
specifically name better nominees realistically on the horizon.
If not Brett, who?
Distinguished Republicans: Kavanaugh is your team’s brightest judicial star. Rejoice!
Distinguished Democrats: Don’t be mad; be smart, and be careful what you wish for. Our party controls neither the White House nor the Senate. If you torpedo Kavanaugh, you’ll likely end up with someone worse —less brilliant, less constitutionally knowledgeable, less studious, less open-minded, less good for America.”
.

Senate Concludes Kavanaugh Hearing; Confirmation Likely – MPR News

Akhil Reed Amar Testimony Transcript

4) A Fostering Film – A funny and endearing and hopeful film on fostering children debuts this Fall. All I know about Instant Family is the trailer but it’s already on my calendar. Have a look:

5) Things That Have Almost Always Been – British novelist Matt Haig‘s book Notes on a Nervous Planet came to my attention via the following Twitter photo:Photo Credit: Notes on a Nervous PlanetMatt Haig, iAuthor on Twitter

Haig writes and speaks about anxiety and depression. He knows these experiences personally. I have only read quotes from his books but they are now on my “to-read” list.

The page above from his book Notes on a Nervous Planet was a beautiful study into the things that endure. I’m surprised that Haig describes himself as an atheist. Comforted by the things that have almost always been would seem to lend itself to the great comfort of knowing the God who has always been. No matter his thinking on this, his writing reminds us of the wonder of life including the reasons to stay alive (the title of his earlier book).

By the way, this would be an idea for a great night out with  a love or night in with a friend – to come up with our own list of the enduring stuff of life.

Notes on a Nervous PlanetMatt Haig

Goodreads Quotes from Notes on a Nervous Planet

Reasons to Stay Alive – Matt Haig

Goodreads Quotes from Reasons to Stay Alive

YouTube Video – Matt Haig’s Top 5 Tips on Good Mental Health in a Social Media Age

That’s it for me. How about you? Please comment below about your week’s favorites…or thoughts on mine. Blessings.

Bonuses:

Quote: “Leaders aren’t great because they have power; they are great because they empower others.” Lolly Daskal, TED Talk

Why You Can’t Name the Virtues – Karen Swallow Prior

A Neuroscience Researcher Reveals 4 Rituals that Will Make You Happier – Eric Barker

The State of Your Attention Determines the State of Your Life – Srinivas Rao

TEDed – How the Sugar Affects the Brain

5 Ways to Pray for Trafficked People

Photo Credit: Charles Spurgeon, Prince of Preachers, Facebook

Wednesday Worship – the God Worshipper – Psalm 15

Photo Credit: Knowing-Jesus

Worship. Such a tension to keep the focus on the Lord and not on our own preferences, our own pleasures.

King David had his own slippery slopes through life, but worship that pleases the Lord was clearly something he understood. Psalm 15 came up in my regular Bible reading this week and is still working its work on my heart.

Lord, who can dwell in your tent?
Who can live on your holy mountain?

The one who lives blamelessly, practices righteousness,
and acknowledges the truth in his heart—
who does not slander with his tongue,
who does not harm his friend
or discredit his neighbor,
who despises the one rejected by the Lord
but honors those who fear the Lord,
who keeps his word whatever the cost,
who does not lend his silver at interest
or take a bribe against the innocent—
the one who does these things will never be shaken. Psalm 15

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

Who is that person?! That person who lives a life of worship as if he enters the “holy of holies” as he would enter his house or his workplace or his church.

What we do briefly on a Sunday morning matters to God, for sure. What we are about through the week (including Sunday morning) is the substance of the life of a worshipper. There is no separation of sacred from secular. Of daily or divine. We all know this in our hearts.

Psalm 15 puts me on my knees. Let’s break it down. How does the psalmist describe one who essentially lives in the presence of the Lord?

10 rules are laid out in Psalm 15. The first three are in verse 2. These only God can see whether we live by them or not. Now others may see our actions but these verses pertain more to the content or motivation of our hearts. The other seven are listed in verses 3-5. These are straight-up actions toward those we encounter each day.

Here they are in Easy English*, these rules or habits that mark a true worshipper:

1) She “makes no mistakes”; lives a life of integrity and uprightness. Consistent. Honest. What you see is what you get.

2) She does what is right and fair. Practices righteousness. In fact, he works righteousness into every situation, as one would knead bread.

3) He speaks out loud what he knows to be true in his heart. She does not withhold the truth in timidity, but acknowledges the truth with courage.

4) She tells no lies about another. In fact, even if something seems true, she reminds herself that telling it won’t help the person or the situation. He refuses to speak ill of others. No slander. No back-biting.

5) He does nothing harmful to his neighbors. No mean intentionality. Nor cruel or indifferent neglect.

6) She does not harm others with words. She makes no slurs nor discredits them. He does not make slurs or gossip about others. [Similar to #4; the repetition shouldn’t be lost on us. Our mouths can betray what’s in our hearts which can disqualify us for true worship.]

[Sidebar: If we can determine to speak truth in love, the temptation to talk about others INSTEAD of to them would be less a problem. What do you think?]

7) He does not keep company with bad people. He despises those who show themselves despicable. She does not seek the favor of those who reject God.

8) He gives honor to those who fear God. She serves those who serve God.

9) She keeps her word no matter what it might cost her. He is dependable and trustworthy.

10) He uses money to bless not to profit. She is generous. He remembers the poor.

*A Place for You – Psalm 15 in Easy English – Gordon Churchyard

Psalm 15 – the Character of the One God Receives – David Guzik

We look at these rules and spiritual habits and wonder how we can offer pleasing worship to the Lord…ever. We are imperfect and follow Him imperfectly. The key is the aim of our hearts. If we tune our hearts toward God as a matter of life, we set our aim on Him. In such a way, that the arrow of our lives hits the center of the target of these habits…these disciplines…these practices.

I always loved Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God. He was a monk who struggled against the mundane of serving God and the brothers in his monastery. Then he caught onto the idea that God was in the mundane…as in any of the holy sacraments.

Writer and farm wife/mother Ann Voskamp wrote about this in her blog How to Practice the Presence of God. In her critique, she posed the question of how can you practice His presence. “God’s presence needs no practicing because God’s presence has no end. God presence needs no practicing because it’s perfect and it’s present everywhere.” 

What she says is true, but we are frail in our faith and too often distracted by the many tantalizing imperfections of life. We miss God if we don’t make seeing Him a practice. It’s less like practicing the piano and more like practicing medicine. Less works. More faith. Faith in a sure truth and great God. Worthy of worship in every aspect of our lives.

We know Him and we live in ways that reflect knowing Him.

No song today through which we might worship together. Songwriter Hoss Hughes has penned a sweet response to Psalm 15 (see link below).

YouTube Video – “Never Shaken” – Psalm 15 worship song personalized by Hoss Hughes

I do love how the psalm ends.

“The one who does these things will never be shaken.” Hallelujah!

How to Live the Psalm 15 Life – Kenneth Copeland

Singing with Jesus – Psalm 15 – Acceptable Worship