Worship can be a deeply emotional experience. In fact, sometimes, we lose our focus on God Himself in the midst of the singing of a familiar song. Our minds wander as memories of other times and places take us out of the moment. Not a bad thing necessarily, but…
That happened to me recently as the praise band at Movement Church opened the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. I love this Stuart Townend hymn. He published it in 1995, the year we moved to Cairo, Egypt. New to us, this hymn became a standard in our family from those early days of adjusting to a new life in another country. [This and another hymn of his – In Christ Alone.]
On Fridays, we would join other internationals and a smattering of Egyptian Christians, at Heliopolis Community Church, and we would sing and pray in English. Such a refreshment to our souls as we spent most of our week, learning and using Arabic in our work and with neighbors and friends. English was our worship language.Photo Credit: CCCLux
Sweet memories of hot Friday mornings, singing with believers from all over the world, as the call to prayer broke through from a nearby mosque. Sweet memories of a oneness with each other…and with God.
Then my thoughts sprang back to the present, as the gathered church at Movement sang this lyric:
Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer; But this I know with all my heart – His wounds have paid my ransom.
Because of what Christ did for me…for us…on the cross, I am no longer separated from God by the penalty of my rebellion against Him. The debt I built up through life is paid in one great act of God through Christ – His perfect, sinless life substituted, in death, for my own sin-filled mess…for our own. There is nothing left to pay…nothing. Christ paid in full, on the cross, for all our sins.
At what cost? Oh…we can imagine the considerable cost Jesus paid because our own flesh cringes at the excruciating pain of the cross. Yet, we also must take in, as much as we can, the cost to the Father. Such great love He has…for His own son…and for us…each one of us. The whole world, in fact.
When Stuart Townend was writing this hymn, he was very aware of the emotions that can be elicited in praise music. Just as I have described, the personal joy, refreshment, and happy memories that can be so satisfying in the experience of individual and corporate worship. His hope was to write in such a way as to help the worshiper get beyond himself and to a greater awareness of God.
“The danger now is that we are so focused on the experience our worship can become self-seeking and self-serving. When all of our songs are about how we feel and what we need, we’re missing the point. There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant! I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!” – Stuart Townend
Hymns like How Deep the Father’s Love For Us complement our prayer life and study of God’s Word. For those friends of ours who don’t yet believe…those who say, “That’s nice for you that you believe God. I just don’t believe like you do.”…we have a witness in worship.
It is not just that we “believe”… What Townend describes in this hymn, reflective of the truth of Scripture, isn’t just what we believe…it is what happened and was witnessed by others – the deep love of God displayed in the self-emptying life and death of His Son. Hallelujah!
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.
Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection. Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer; But this I know with all my heart – His wounds have paid my ransom.*
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. – 1 John 3:1
…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20b
You know that experience of events converging and what was foggy before becomes crystal clear? I just had that kind of week. A series of non-random things happened that caused a chain reaction of a magnitude that launched me out of my creative doldrums.
Here’s what happened.
Backtracking a bit, I’ve been thinking solidly for several weeks on social capital – what kind of resource that is and what it takes to have it (or restore it).
Social capital is the willingness of people to help each other. It often replaces money which people would use to buy the same help. Most ways of measuring social capital have to do with trust – people who trust that favors and help will be available when they need it will favor and help others more. Social capital is a lot like real capital. – Simple English Wikipedia
I wrote about social capital twice – here and here. After posting that last blog, the following events had huge impact on how I’ve been doing life.
I tore into it and was so encouraged and empowered by his stories and counsel for artists, like him. No, not like him in the best-selling author part…but like him in the before “possibility-season” of his life.
In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.Photo Credit: Jeff Goins
2) Significant conversations followed. After posting my last blog, a writer acquaintance suggested we get together. Ann Lovell is a seasoned writer and currently employed as a Communications Director. Not only that, she continues busy with her own writing and is editing the manuscript of another incredible author. We talked about writing, and she offered her help. That was huge for me and right out of Jeff Goins’ book. Then another author friend Kevin Prewett with whom I share workspace some weeks also gifted me with good and thought-provoking questions about my writing. So helpful. Finally, through one more conversation, I realized how my own focus had been more on guiding and encouraging younger writers and artists around me without noticing my own craft had gone untended. That conversation, with our guitarist son Nathan Mills, was much illuminating. This time I benefited from a younger artist.
Significant conversations all.
3) A “Come to Jesus Moment” happened with my best friend. The one person in my life who has read all the blogs and has celebrated every high and encouraged me through every low is that husband and friend of mine, Dave. I am sometimes guilty of giving counsel too quickly (ok, advice…really. Unasked for advice. Dang it!). It’s much easier to look in others’ lives and suggest a small tweak than to face full on what totally needs rerouting in our own lives. In the last couple of years, taking early retirement and being too much on the outside looking in, I have time to come up with a prescription for anyone else’s problem. [Yes…guilty.] Not that I’m wrong, necessarily, but the situation is not mine. Most probably, Dave, or Nathan, or whomever it might be knows far more about where he/she is on that trajectory toward next steps than I could possibly conjecture. So here’s the “Come to Jesus Moment”. Over the weekend, Dave and I were talking about this season of life. We resonated together about lost social capital…those strong influencer groups with whom we once were a part and now not so much. In that brief conversation, when I would usually cheer on Dave to rally, the proverbial light bulb went off. Not just for him but for me as well. It is still possible to reclaim ground lost. Now was the time to act.
4) I applied for a job. I’d been toying with this for awhile. Until my dad died, I was making so many trips to help care for him, it seemed impossible for me to work anywhere. I would toss around options with family and friends (teaching ESL, hospice, school nursing), but nothing seemed to fit. Then for several months, I would hear of friends being hired into the coolest jobs and struggled to have unreserved joy for them. It was time for me to either continue with contentment in my current state of not working or take aim in one direction or another and do something. One job caught my eye. One job. I did the hours of updating my resume, pulling together samples of my writing, and crafting a cover letter. If I don’t get that job, I’ll apply for another.
5) I took the Social Capital Challenge. A couple of months ago, I discovered Jordan Harbinger online. He writes and podcasts for a website called The Art of Charm. He invites his readers/listeners to something called a social capital challenge. I signed on…weeks ago for a month-long challenge…and then did nothing.
Today I created a written goal and posted it somewhere public.
I joined the Facebook page for The Art of Charm Challenge just now, and here was my first posting.
“Hello, everyone. I signed up for the challenge weeks ago. Even though its email reminders, baby to bigger steps, have been feeding my inbox, I wouldn’t even open them. Until today. Today I am ready. My goal is to have a manuscript with the art work publish-ready by the end of the year. My co-author and I had our first sit-down today, to share story idea and flesh it out some and to do the beginning photographer for the illustrator. Whew! There it is.”
Pre-ordering this book was an excellent plan, because the Barnes & Noble store near us is having to re-order already just 3 days into the launch. These books are flying off the shelves.
Why? Goins has already proven himself as a fascinating story-teller and wise counselor regarding creative work and turning dreams into reality. This book is a thrilling culmination of all that for those of us who want to put our work out there and make a living at the same time.
In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins gives 12 principles of how to actually be effective and successful as a creator (whether it’s music, writing, painting, or any other creative work). Reading his principles and the stories of artists and crafters through history give not only hope but tools through which we can make a living with our craft.
I’m so glad I bought this book early. Reading it is like having a successful and kind mentor guiding me through the next steps of my career. Whatever your passions, you will glean so much from Jeff Goin’s own journey and wisdom.
3) Community – We need each other. Community is something we experience when we reach out to those around us to help in whatever way we can. Community is also receiving that help when we are the one in need.Photo Credit: Army
How do we teach and model community to our children? How do we raise them to be situationally aware and compassionate to those around them? Please share your experiences (in the Comments below) of what you’re doing to raise up children to be adults who are socially responsible…who genuinely care about those around them.
This little video went viral and you’ll understand why. Beautiful!
4) Situational Awareness – This is a life skill that fascinates me. In fact, I wrote about it in detail here . Situational awareness is a discipline of being tuned into your surroundings in such a way that you can be alert to a threat or crisis before it actually happens. It came to mind this week when I saw this fascinating video below about things we can easily miss if we’re not alert to our surroundings. Watch Evan below.
Hopefully it didn’t just make you uncomfortable. Hopefully it made you think how we might not just be aware of a threat or a crisis, but that we might intervene early enough to change the situation. To get avert the crisis and to get help for that person in trouble.
A friend of mine lost a brother to suicide. His was a terrible impulsive final act and his family will grieve for a long time. What about those who show signs of depression or deep sadness? Maybe we can help there as well. It’s tragic when the family has to fight alone for the life of a loved one. I don’t have answers here, but we all have community agencies who can help us.
5) A Memorial – The news cycle is fast and fickle. We hear news (usually bad news) and then while we’re still coping with the fallout, media moves on. We forget too soon, even when that’s not our desire. Today is my older brother’s 71st birthday. Robert died suddenly 10 years ago. His online memorial is here. Today, I remember him. Also today, I want to remember 17y/o Sarah Harmening.Photo Credit: 11 Alive News
I did not know her at all until a bus accident in Georgia sent many to the hospital, and her life was gone. Still, the little I know of her made me want to pause and remember her with you. Below you will note her journal entry, written on that bus sometime before that accident. As she herself wrote, I believe with her that, in her life and in her passing, “God is going to do incredible things”.
Don’t Look Now, But… – this is a hard read about the ambush and killing of these Egyptian Christians. This article found me and I’m glad I read it although it was disturbing. I don’t know if all the details are true, but this is true: 28 lives were taken and bear remembering.
This Friday Faves was not as light-hearted as most are. Still it’s what continues to resonate in my head and heart going into the weekend. Be safe out there, pray for one another, and let’s be kind to those around us…we never know what a difference that can make.
Mom: Let’s Stop Drinking the KoolAid – OK…this is a rant on our focus on nutrition for our children – which is a good thing until it becomes an all-consuming thing. Good article wherever you stand on this.
Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of the goodness of God.
Yesterday, after unloading the back of my car at my favorite thrift shop, I walked inside to shop a bit. My mind was pretty much at a peaceful neutral…then the song playing over the sound system drew me to attention. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I sang along rifling through the rack of summer shirts.
This song never leaves me the same and I have written about it previously here and here. We sing it often at Movement Church and I’m grateful.
Grateful for a God who knows us perfectly and who lavishes His love on us. A God who is faithful to us when we are not faithful…when we wander from Him. Scripture calls us to count our blessings. When we do, we are reminded of what we receive from the hands of God. However, it doesn’t stop there – we are drawn to the beautiful face of God. No matter our struggle, no matter what disrupts our sleep or disturbs our joy, no matter what…when we turn our thoughts to Him, our hope and peace and confidence are marvelously restored.
Whatever the “what isn’t”, in the economy of God, there is the glory of “what is to come”. We have that assurance because of what has already come to pass…through a God who blesses without counting it out…just to the deserving. He is generous to all His children. So generous.
For most of my life, I was a “cup half full” kind of person…in fact, some would say it was more a cup spilling out annoyingly, splashing on some in my life who preferred a less idealistic, more “realistic” look at life. In getting older, my focus is drawn away to the negative side of life and the world’s experience. No wonder our faces fix in frowns and we fight grumpiness in our elder years. “Cup half empty” lives. I don’t want that for myself…or for those in my life.
So here goes Worship Wednesday – counting just a few of the amazing blessings of life today, at the hand of a God who has brought me – and all His children – “thus far” (1 Samuel 7:12).
Jesus – His life, teaching, death, resurrection; his continued presence in our lives through the Godhead; and his provision and promise of eternal life to all who believe,
1 year cancer-free (actually except for last year’s diagnosis, my whole life cancer-free, thus far),
Godly moms (my mom and my mom-in-law) who showed us the essence of unconditional love and faithfully pointed us to God,
Faithful fathers who provided financially and taught us so much about getting along in life,
A husband whose love for God informs and infuses his love for the kids and me, and others,
Our children – blessings I never thought I would enjoy, marrying later in life, and continue to be a source of great joy (including bringing the great gift of grandchildren along with them!),
Friends – oh my goodness, friends all over the world – who love no matter what. What a blessing!
A community of faith wherever we lived where the Word of God is treasured and serving Him through serving others the standard – Movement Church today,
Extended family who we have the privilege of loving across a lifetime…and who love back and never give up on us,
A world full of people to share Jesus with – in word and deed,
The beauty that surrounds and fuels us – nature, music, good company, the influencers and multipliers in our lives, food, clean water, and sleep (it’s a beautiful thing, right?),
Purpose – work that matters, hobbies that can leave a legacy (for me writing, photography, hospitality), and at every turn, the possibility and opportunity to glorify the God of the universe through our small lives made large by His Spirit.
I do not always count my blessings…there are days that I want more or different or less, even, of some things. We looks to others’ lives and want what they have rather than just being glad they live next door (or next somewhere). Facebook is not always our friend those days…but when my heart’s right, everything in real life and on social media can shimmer with the kindness, mercy, and sometimes the justice of God. He knows what He’s doing…and His love rains down good in all kinds of ways…we can count on it.
Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.
Robinson wrote a fifth stanza that is often omitted. Here it is:
O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed Linnen [sic]
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day.
How about you? Want to count some of your blessings in the Comments below? Would love to celebrate God with you.
Postscript: Don’t miss the video below with the Aeolians singing this great hymn accompanied by pipe organ. We don’t often get to hear this sort of musical feasting very often anymore. Glory! A glimpse of the worship of which we may be a part in Heaven…thanks to a faithful God who restores a repentant people.
When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.
There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each of us can hear in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking the magnificent acts of God in our own languages.” They were all astounded and perplexed…
But Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them…“God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. …Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” – Acts 2:1-12a, 14a, 32, 36
We are in the season of Pentecost. Last night, the Jewish celebration of Shavuot began, and for the Christians, Pentecost Sunday is just ahead of us. For the Jews, it is a dual commemoration – one of the giving of the Torah (God’s Law) at Mt. Sinai, as well as the celebration of the wheat harvest (Festival of Weeks). For the Christians, Pentecost is the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ.
Because of the Jewish celebration and pilgrimage of old, the apostles (in Acts 2) had an audience of many unfamiliar with the Hebrew and Greek languages. This was essentially the first time the Gospel was preached to the nations, and the Holy Spirit’s grand entrance into our lives made it happen.
Depending on our church tradition, we celebrate Pentecost in various ways. How we see the Holy Spirit at work in the world, and in the church, also differs.
Completing the triune Godhead, with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is a mighty force in this world. Incomprehensible in His power and movement in the world and yet as intimate as that still small voice, almost audible to those who attend to Him. Almost audible and completely understandable in His gentle ways with God’s children.
How is it that we allow ourselves to be mesmerized with the seen and discount the marvelous and miraculous all around us?
I usually pray to the Father as the model Jesus taught us, in His instruction to the disciples. It is in Jesus’ name, that come to the Father, because through Jesus’ righteousness and death for us, we have access to God. It is through the Holy Spirit, we pray rightly. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we find the words to pray. Sometimes, when we can’t find the words, the Spirit lifts the contents of our heart to the Father…better than we can ourselves. What an incredible mercy of God!
Where do we see the movement of the Holy Spirit in today’s world?
making truth and the path to righteousness joyfully clear to us
convicting of sin in a world grown comfortable with it
healing in an impossible situation – be it disease or addiction, broken relationship, or a life of sorrowful decisions
opening shut doors to the Gospel – that we might serve in word and deed
calming anxious hearts and fearful minds
giving courage on the battlefield and compassion toward an enemy
restoring joy in the darkness of depression and grief
ministering to those deprived of human comfort – those in prison or isolated by other life circumstances
setting peace within our hearts through the hearing or reading of God’s great promises
moving in ways unseen across our world and across the ages that we will only know fully in Heaven.
Today, around the world the celebration of Pentecost begins. In this season, let’s quiet our hearts before God and hear the counsel of the Holy Spirit. He points us to the fullness of who God is – One in unity, and us with Him, through Christ (John 17:21).
There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord
Your presence, Lord
There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord
Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness
It just happens over time…the ignoring of people around us. Think about this morning, coming into work. Retrace your steps, and think of the people you passed within speaking range…but you didn’t…speak, that is. In another season of life, I might have slowed down to walk with someone a ways behind me, or even run a bit to catch up with someone ahead. Just to use that time to connect a bit. We race into our work stations, heads down, as if the most common courtesy of greeting and inquiring into another person’s life just takes too much time away from the “important”. We sit down in meetings before they start and get lost in our thoughts, or our laptops, or our phones. We just ignore those around us…
Time itself seems to become more important than people. We circle up with our team, or go one-on-one with our boss or a consultant… when including a colleague, intern, or member of another team could have added greater value to that conversation. Are we more in a work culture today of tight circles when larger collaborative ones might prove more profitable? Do we just ignore those working around us who, by our actions, seem of little consequence to our workday? It’s not intentional maybe…but it becomes habit and then part of our character…communicating that people don’t matter.
Throughout my professional life, I have tried to be tuned into those around me, whether they currently are in my work group or not. My nature is to notice and my desire is to acknowledge. In various work situations, it’s been from a place of influence rather than from a position of authority. Any task or responsibility entrusted to me had to be accomplished through winning the confidence and cooperation of those around me. No authority to just delegate or task others with work. Gifted colleagues have always been willing to work on projects with me. People recognize when they are truly valued, and they engage more solidly when they are genuinely respected/regarded. We can build capacity for noticing people.
Ignoring those in our workplace over time has consequences. Just like that adage “Hurt people hurt people”, I think “Ignored people ignore people”. It’s a contagious work culture practice which has been widely researched. Productivity, employee engagement, longevity, and work relationships within teams and across the organization can all be negatively affected by just the casual neglect or lack of regard for colleagues.
Sidebar: As I was reading and thinking about this issue, the chorus of a strange little song kept coming into my head. The Broadway musical, “Chicago“, has a woeful character who laments about his smallness in life, as if people look right through him. The song is “Mr. Cellophane”.
O.K….back to workplace culture. What would happen if we determined to be noticers and acknowledgers at work? This is not a soft practice…it’s brilliant really. Taking little time, we can, each one of us, actually humanize and elevate the workplace experience for everyone we encounter through the course of the day. This is not an exercise of rewarding a job well-done but of noting the person behind the job…as valuable. Period. Full-stop.
I’ve known some great champions in this through my professional life, and I aspire to be like them. Real servant leaders. We may not think of ourselves as leaders, but we can all lead out in serving, noticing, and acknowledging those around us.Skip Prichard writes about servant leadership and lists 9 qualities of these “noticers”.
9 Qualities of the Servant Leader
1: Values diverse opinions
2: Cultivates a culture of trust
3: Develops other leaders
4: Helps people with life issues
6: Sells instead of tells
7: Thinks you, not me
8: Thinks long-term
9: Acts with humility
Consider this challenge as I make it for myself to genuinely and honestly take note of people, moving through our workday. This is not about being only polite, but being “in the moment” with those around us. It may start with a greeting, and then an inquiry, and before we know it, true caring could follow. Translated into workplace language, that is employee engagement where ideas are exchanged toward better solutions for everyone.
I can’t close this topic without a shout-out to any one of you who’s having that experience of being ignored. You know, of course, that it doesn’t change anything of who you are…but it can harden your heart toward colleagues and dull your thinking in your job. I appreciate Jon Acuff’s piece on being ignored, a piece about Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Marcus Mariota:
“Throw the passes when no one is watching. Write the pages no one sees. Work through the business plans people don’t believe in yet. Hustle long before the spotlight finds you. You don’t need the whole world on your side to create something that changes the world.”
What a week! How about for you? I’m on the other side of a medical emergency and thankful for timely and excellent care and for a rapid return to health. The weekend around here promises to be a sweet one with beautiful weather, outings with a son whose birthday we’re celebrating, a family gathering, and a long-awaited visit with an old friend. Oh…and rest, of course. Don’t want to overreach my recovery. Hope you have a weekend that fills you with anticipation as well…even if it’s just much-deserved rest and solitude.
Here are my favorite finds for this week.
1) Eurovision Song Contest – Since 1956, a European song contest has been held annually, much to the delight of all the countries participating. I never heard of it until a Portuguese friend of ours introduced us to it this season. [We know Tiago thanks to his friendship with Nathan on Krue.TV and Patreon].
In the Eurovision contest, each participant country puts forward an original song sung by person(s) from that country.
In the final TV extravaganza, the songs are performed and then judges vote on which should win the prized Eurovision title for that year. Along with the judges, citizens of all those countries can cast votes as well (only not for their own country; they vote for their favorite of any of the other countries). The process is fascinating and suspenseful as the votes are counted and the various songs rise or fall on the leaderboard as votes are announced.Photo Credit: SBS
Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won with the song Amar Pelos Dois, written by his sister. It is a lovely but sad love song reportedly reminiscent of Portugal’s folk tradition.
A YouTube video with the lyrics posted in Portuguese and English can be viewed here.
During the televised competition, our friend, Tiago, did a livestream of it on Krue.TV so we could enjoy watching. When Portugal won, his joy was uncontainable…reminded me of watching friends whose favorite team won the World Cup. So congratulations, Portugal, on the long-awaited first Eurovision win!
2) Expertise – I grew up at the end of the Vietnam War during the era of Hippie politics. Free speech was a really big deal, and we had opinions about everything…really not so dissimilar as today. A popular adage of those days was “Don’t trust anyone over 30”. Today, all of us of that era have been “over 30” for decades. We find ourselves faced with much the same thinking in a younger generation. [Maybe we modeled too well.] Let’s consider the concept and actuality of expertise.
Are there those in our lives who have, by deep study and long experience, become expert in their fields and worthy of a hearing and a following? Expertise is defined as “basis of credibility of a person who is perceived to be knowledgeable in an area or topic due to his or her study, training, or experience in the subject matter”.
With the wide use of internet searches and the palpable power of social media, we can all be self-proclaimed “experts”. Those with more knowledge and more experience are just “extra voices” in the conversation. In my younger years and too often since then, my own thinking has bent toward valuing my own generation’s thinking above those “over 30” (or 40, or 50, or 60). Of course, those younger sometimes get the same treatment (just search the enormous commentary on millennials on the web). That view of trusting my own generation has softened, over the years, as I’ve experienced the wise leadership of many. I regret thinking so highly of my own view and have tuned myself toward becoming a life-long learner (using my writing as a way to curate wisdom gained from others, as an example).
I haven’t read the book but DeYoung’s review opened the door to Nichols’ belief that our culture has a growing distaste for expertise (as derived from knowledge and experience).
DeYoung lists Nichols’ prescriptives in brief and they follow:
For experts: don’t drive outside your lane. Stick to what you know. By the same token, stop making predictions.
For the rest of us: Be ecumenical—don’t get all your information from the one source that magically you always agree with. Be less cynical—most people are not out to get you. Be more discriminating—consider whether the source you’re reading has editors, is tied to a reputable institution, is transparent about its sources, and present facts that are testable and checkable.
For everyone: Be humble. This goes for experts and laypeople. If you are an expert, use your knowledge as a servant not as a master. If you know stuff, use it to help others, not yourselves. At the same time, all of us have good reason to assume we don’t know as much as we think we know. Let’s be humble enough to learn from others.
3)– Food Festivals – Food festivals abound in the spring of the year. We’re headed to one this weekend – the Lebanese Food Festival. Like many national food specialties, Lebanese food is very time-intensive and ingredient-rich. I’m very thankful for the folks at Saint Anthony’s Maronite Church – for the food, the music, the conversations, and the occasional brush with our local dignitaries.
4) Anti-Aging – There is so much written these days on staying young and staving off aging – it’s enough to make you old trying to keep up with the latest on keeping from getting old. When you have a life-threatening event in your life, you realize all over again the gift of life. I wouldn’t mind growing old. However, I can’t deal with the myriads of tips on how to live young old.
Benjamin P. Hardy, one of my latest favorite writer/researchers, posted a fascinating piece this week entitled How to Reverse Aging and Become Whoever You Want To Be. He gives research findings (in very engaging, almost story-telling, ways) that are riveting in their support of his prescriptions. One study he shared was about a group of men in their 70s who were to share a living space for five days. It was designed and outfitted as a dwelling set in 1959. They were only to talk about their lives, careers, interests, as they would have in 1959. The impact on their thinking, and even their physical agility and capacity, was amazing. My sense from this and my own experience is we think ourselves old, and too often believe ourselves old by the behavior of those younger than we are. No harm, no foul. Just how we probably trip ourselves up.
Hardy’s prescriptions have to do with making goals for our present lives:
1. Determine your goal.
2. Commit to your goal by leaping into situations that require you to live up to your goal.
3. Determine the roles you will need to play in the various situations you create.
4. Act the part until you become the part.
5. Develop relationships with people who have your back and can help you achieve your goals.
6. Repeat — but at higher levels, with more strenuous leaps.
What Is Your Goal?
“This is a fundamental irony of most people’s lives. They don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives. Yet they are very active.” — Ryan Holiday
Most people are wandering through life like they wander on the internet, reactively scrolling their news feed and landing on the random pages that appear. They haven’t determined what they want, and thus they haven’t consciously designed their environments. Rather, they adapt to and become the product of whatever environments they wander into.
However, when you decide what you want, the universe conspires to make it happen.
[I love this young Benjamin P. Hardy. He has given me such rich fuel for living, of late. Read his blogs and follow him on Twitter.]
5) Blue Bloods – As much as I like to watch TV, I don’t watch that often…usually using it as a nap-generator. However, this week, I saw one of my favorite shows – Blue Bloods in its season finale (Season 7, Episode 22, The Thin Blue Line). It was so so good.
Blue Bloods is about a family that makes its living in public service – either in law enforcement, the court system, or nursing. Their Sunday family dinner gathering scenes are so appealing to me.Photo Credit: Huffington Post
On this season finale episode, son Danny, a NYPD detective, confronts a Mexican drug cartel and acts against it in a bold and risky (and unsupported) way. He was successful but the cost was huge. The cartel ordered his home to be bombed. Danny, arriving as his house is blazing, he searches for his family, and, relieved, finds them shocked…but OK.
He blames himself for their loss, and when the family gathers on that Sunday (his family now staying with his father and grandfather), he didn’t want to come down for dinner. He was persuaded and asked to pray over the meal. That scene (not on YouTube yet) was just beautiful. Here is a bit of it:
Wife Linda: It’s just a house, Danny.
Danny: It’s our home.
Linda: We made it a home. Without us, it’s just a house.
Danny’s youngest son: And we’re still that us.
Danny’s Father: When we have everyone we love, we have everything. For that we should be grateful. No matter the hardship or the loss, this family does not stand down…ever.
Danny then prayed…with his family.
Loved it so much. This family does not stand down…ever.
On this quiet, rainy Friday morning, I’ve looked back on another week of days. Days that can transform our thinking as we brush shoulders with people like us and not so much. Days that introduce different ways of thinking that require us to check our own. Days that arrest us with their beauty and days that move us to note beauty where it seems lacking…but it isn’t. Here are five of my favorite things of this week. Your thoughts, please? In the Comments below.
1) Beyond the Guitar – Over the last few months, I have discovered a strange dichotomy in my experience of video games and beautiful music. In my mind, those two things did not exist together. I was wrong. Not a big fan of video games, I am now drawn to the music of many. Thanks to the arrangements of classical guitarist Nathan Mills. His most recent arrangement and YouTube posting of Yearnings of the Wind composed by Yasunori Mitsuda is hauntingly beautiful. This song is from the music score of popular video game Chrono Trigger: 600 AD.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar, Patreon
His arrangement begins almost like a melody you would find opening a turn-of-the-century music box. Pure and lovely. Then it moves to a romantic rendering of Mitsuda’s piece, such that you might hear in the background of a small café in Italy. Just wow!
Funny thing: I love this piece and have not one bit of sweet nostalgia from playing this game…as so many will have growing up with this game.
2) Recognizing Doublespeak – From the time our children were small, we tried to teach them how to cut through messages that seemed true but were not. We wanted them to be critical thinkers and not take the things they heard as fact just because they were spoken with authority from authorities. We wanted them to be able to distinguish between manipulation and persuasion.
Doublespeak is defined as language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. Doublespeak may take the form of euphemisms (e.g., “downsizing” for layoffs), in which case it is primarily meant to make the truth sound more palatable. It may also refer to intentional ambiguity in language or to actual inversions of meaning. In such cases, doublespeak disguises the nature of the truth. Doublespeak is most closely associated with political language. – Wikipedia
“What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it, and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.” – Edward S. Herman
“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible…Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness…the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. Whether there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms.” – George Orwell in Politics and the English Language
When we gather around the dinner table these days, our children are adults and have their own ideas and tolerances about doublespeak. We still talk about current events under the microscope of discerning the doublespeak, what the intention of the speaker is, and what bias I bring to the interpretation.
A high-ranking government official in the US was sacked this week. For weeks prior to his dismissal, his firing was insisted upon by one political party. Immediately after his firing, the action was deemed suspicious by the same party. Whatever was warranted in that action, we struggle with determining what is true and noteworthy in our present political climate.
What we believe about something can be affected by cleverly crafted messaging. I really loved The Oatmeal comic You’re Not Going to Believe What I’m About to Tell You . It’s a graphic illustration of how we might be made to change our mind on something. The key here is the compelling nature of the message and our core values. Our core values inform our worldview. Our worldview can change as we absorb a changing culture’s views. That is why revisiting such things with people you trust, whether they share your worldview or not, is important. Otherwise, we begin to believe the messages – the doublespeak – without thinking critically what we are really buying, and giving up, in believing/accepting the message. Something to consider…
3) On Distraction – I struggle with distractions, always have. Long before the various diversions found online became my struggle. Photo Credit: Flickr
This week, David Mathis posted a great piece entitled You Can Defeat Distraction. He talked about the importance of “setting our minds” on what matters. Where our mind is “at home” is also a factor. I want my own thoughts to return to God and the things of God. Just this week, an ancient Scripture verse has been on my mind: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5) This consideration follows Mathis’ take on defeating distraction. If I can truly say “I love God” with how I spend my time and who and what I invest my time in, then the issue becomes a non sequitur – Distraction is checked.
4) Uncelebrated Moms – Mother’s Day is a holiday celebrated around the world (not on the same date but remembered still). As Mother’s Day looms here, we prepare in the US to celebrate and be celebrated – fueled by TV commercials, social media blasts, and sometimes wild expectations of our own.
It got me thinking this week about the moms who aren’t celebrated. Let’s celebrate these moms here. I want to celebrate my youngest son’s birth mother who could have aborted him in a culture where she would have been shamed if her pregnancy became public. I celebrate the foster mother who loved him for 14 months until he came home to us (see pic).
Let’s celebrate the moms who aren’t in positions of being celebrated this week – those moms who miscarried; those moms who lost children to accidents, wars, or other calamity; those moms who care for children unable, by physical or mental challenge, to celebrate them; those moms whose children have walked away from them…for reasons they don’t understand.Photo Credit: Soldiers Magazine
Not all of us have moms who are easy to love. I did and still do in my mom-in-law. Still for our own sakes, and that of the next generation, finding something to celebrate in these moms can be so redeeming…for them…and for us.
5) Colored Glass – To close, I want to tell you about a joy from my childhood. My mom grew up just after the Great Depression. She knew a level of poverty I can’t begin to understand. Because of it, and maybe because of her own inclination, she surrounded us with beauty growing up. In the small house where she raised four children, she and my step-dad built open shelves across the windows in the kitchen and dining room. On this shelves she displayed mid-century whiskey decanters which she filled with colored water. I wish I had a picture from those days…it was so beautiful to my little-girl eyes. Walking into those rooms, on waking from sleep, with the early morning sun streaming in, seeing those decanters was like looking through stained glass windows.
Because of this, because of my mama, I have always loved colored glass.
Welcome to the weekend y’all. If you’ve had some favorites this week, please comment on them below.
Bonuses: A Quote on The Love of God/the Like of God, and Ducklings
When you are face-to-face with Love himself, you become more loving. When you are face-to-face with Kindness himself, you become more kind. When you are face-to-face with Generosity himself, you become more generous. When you are face-to-face with Hospitality himself, you become more hospitable. It’s how Jesus works. He rubs off on us. While Martha (Luke 10:38-42) is busy trying to be like Jesus, Mary spends her energy being with him. And in being with him, Mary becomes like him.
It was at Jesus’ feet that Mary learned she was deeply and dearly loved. But she also learned something more. At Jesus’ feet, Mary learned that Jesus liked her. And when you know that you are liked…it changes everything…in Christ we are the apple of God’s eye, he takes great delight in us, he rejoices over us with singing… – Scott Sauls, Befriend – Create Belonging in An Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear
Another Friday…they come so fast. Today, I am not in my usual spot but didn’t want to miss sharing this week’s favorite finds. Enjoy…
1) Adoption – I don’t hear the phrase much anymore, but in my child-bearing years, when asked what a couple wanted (boy or girl), the response was often, “I don’t care…just as long as it’s healthy.” A wise older friend told me one time that God gives life and every child is perfect in His eyes. One population we see less of in our country these days is people with Down Syndrome. Photo Credit: Flickr
Of of the genetic tests done during pregnancy, one is to rule out Down Syndrome in the fetus. If the parents have objections to keeping a baby with Down Syndrome, abortion is an option to some…as is adoption. Raising a child with health or developmental issues is challenging. We adopted such a child and thrill to see how he continues to meet his challenges…and to bless all around. We did not adopt a child with Down’s but we have friends who did. The videos below are a beautiful sampling of this population of perfect children and adults.
2) The Last of the Mohicans – To be honest, I have never been able to watch this painful and beautiful film all the way through. Its theme (originally composed by Dougie Maclean and arranged for this film by Trevor Jones) is exquisite. Listen here on YouTube with a composite of scenes from the movie. When Nathan arranged this grand orchestral piece (“Promentory”) for classical guitar, I knew it would have to be extraordinary. See what you think. Listen here:
3) On Being Single – The whole dating scene in my 20s was something I pulled out of long before marrying. It wasn’t pretty. By the time I entered my 30s, life was filled with great friends, strong family relationships, challenging work, and serving in church and community. Loneliness crept in at times, but it still does even after marrying later in life. These days I am privileged to enjoy the friendship of several women (and a few men) who are single. Do some of them want to married? Yes, but not all. When I saw the video below, it resonated – how society can mis-communicate the great value of these women and men…I never want to do the same.
4) Craveability – A few years back, I took myself off of sugar. For over a year, I just refused to eat it (desserts, snacks, etc.). It was a healthy choice for me at the time. I lost a lot of weight and stopped craving sugar. Gradually, as with many lifestyle changes, I went back mostly to my old ways (still not eating chocolate or doughnuts – two trigger foods). I watched an interesting YouTube video this week on crave ability – Michael Pollan on Cooking. In it, Pollan compared the nutritive value of food cooked by corporations vs. that cooked by humans. Now, corporations (restaurants, food processing companies, etc) don’t really “cook”. His premise though was compelling. When we cook, we control how much sugar, salt, and fats we add to food. When we buy food already prepared commercially, the craveability factor is at work. Foods we return to buy again and again have been developed to tap into our cravings.
My husband was on a work trip to California this past week. A much-loved fast-food restaurant was on the list of eateries. In-N-Out Burger. He and his colleague even ate there twice one day. Now, the food must be pretty special, but it speaks to Pollan’s observation about how we eat when driven by cravings. If we were eating at home, we have French fries rarely. Yet, eating out (for lunch each day, for instance), we might have fries more often.Photo Credit: Marco Fischer, Pexels
We in the US have a fair amount of food weirdness in our striving to eat healthy or, on the flip-side, in our indulging of cravings. Considering what is behind our food preferences, even our addictions, might help us make wiser choices in what we eat – especially related to sugar, salt, and fats.
5) Honoring – Respect and honor are two very different actions and experiences. I’ve heard people say, “I just don’t respect him/her.” or “He/she doesn’t deserve my respect.”Therecan be such derision or contempt in those statements, they also seem to communicate “can’t” and “never will”.Honor is defined as “valuing or esteeming highly.”We live in a culture that defaults to valuing self over anyone else…we have to fight against this strong pull to elevate ourselves over even those we say we love the most. In one of the Apostle Paul’s letters, he writes: Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10) Whether someone deserves honoring or not is of no consequence. We choose to honor others.Photo Credit: Pinterest
Do we choose to honor others in our every word and deed? Think about the trash talk we can so easily fall into in relationships. It seems harmless enough but it sets us up to follow suit with dishonoring actions and attitudes. My hope is to be a person you can trust to keep your name safe on my lips.
In our current political climate and knee-jerk one-upmanship in social and work circles…what if? What if we tried to “outdo one another in showing honor”? How would that change our homes, workplaces, world? How do we teach that sort of valuing to our children? How do we re-awaken our hearts to it as adults? I would love to hear your thoughts (in Comments below).
Well, those were my favorite finds this week. How about yours? Please share any of those in the Comments. Have a safe and refreshing weekend.
Quote about Prayer:
“The greatest thing we can do for one another is to pray. Prayer is striking the winning blow at the concealed enemy; our service is gathering up the results.” Corrie ten Boom, Not Good If Detached
The strongest memories I have of the song Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship across North Africa. When our children were growing up, we “attended church” – expat families, from various Christian denominations, who gathered once or twice a week to worship in English. We sang great hymns, old and contemporary, with guitar accompaniment, and worship leaders with more British accents than American. I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then with lyrics projected on the stuccoed front walls.
We sang Be Thou My Vision, this old Irish hymn, across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British accent.
Now to Rend Collective. I heard this group for the first time on my radio a few years back. The song was Second Chance. I jotted down the group’s name and song and would later buy the album based on that one song. Have you ever done that?
When I heard You are My Vision, my first thought was how could anyone mess with such a great hymn that so truly magnifies God? As I listened, the personal nature of this version drew me in. This old Irish hymn written in the 8th century has been, not-so-much updated but, celebrated by an Irish group of young worshipers. Not celebrating the song so much as celebrating the Savior of the song.
We no longer “attend church” in various African countries. Today we are deep in the life of church, bringing our own stuff to the stuff of many others. All of us collectively love God, albeit imperfectly, of course, and want to express His perfect love in our communities.
This Sunday during worship at Movement Church we sang Be Thou My Vision, and I was reminded of its great truths and of other years, in other places, where His truth was being made known.
Worship with me through the lyrics and music of Rend Collective’s You are My Vision.
You are my vision, oh King of mine heart. Nothing else satisfies, only You, Lord. You are my best thought, by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, Your presence, my light.
You are my wisdom; You are my true word – I ever with You and You with me, Lord. You’re my great Father and I’m Your true son. You dwell inside me, together we’re one.
You are my battle shield, sword for the fight. You are my dignity; You’re my delight. You’re my soul’s shelter, and You’re my high tower. Come raise me heavenward, oh, Power of my power.
I don’t want riches or a man’s empty praise. You’re my inheritance, now and always. You and You only, the first in my heart – High king of heaven, my treasure You are.
High king of heaven, when victory’s won, may I reach heaven’s joy, oh, bright heaven’s Son. Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.