Category Archives: Music

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

5 Friday Faves – First Responders, Fall TV, Getting Older, a Narcissist Culture, and Visual Aids

As I write it’s raining… This Friday – lots of country music and YouTube videos…and a grateful heart. Oh…and just as I was about to publish, Nathan Mills‘ arrangement of John Paesano‘s Spiderman theme (for the PS4 game of the same name) just got posted. Enjoy.

1) First Responders – This has been quite a week – between the observance of the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the Hurricane Florence pounding away in the Carolinas right now.

We have listened to news reports, documentaries, and one another talk about these two occurrences all week. All I want to say is:

“Thank you, all you who go in as others are running out. All of you, first responders, who seek to protect and care for us. Thank you. May God keep you safe.”

Photo Credit: Health.mil

2) Fall TV Shows – Nope, not talking NFL football here. Nor is this heralding the many Fall-themed Hallmark movies on the horizon. This fave marks the building excitement for premier weeks for our favorite TV shows. You tell me your favorites, I’ll tell you mine. Fall is maybe my favorite seasons…this being one reason among many.

When It's "Fall" in the South

Happy first day of fall, y'all! 🔥😅

Posted by It's a Southern Thing on Friday, September 22, 2017

One TV show not coming back yet is Stranger Things. This might help:

3) Getting Older – Country artist (and Songwriters Hall of Famer Alan Jackson turns 60 this month. That’s still real young, but his song The Older I Get rings true to the experience of…getting older. The lyrics of this poignant country song ring true…they can speak for themselves.

The older I get
The more I think
You only get a minute, better live while you’re in it
‘Cause it’s gone in a blink
And the older I get
The truer it is
It’s the people you love, not the money and stuff
That makes you rich

And if they found a fountain of youth
I wouldn’t drink a drop and that’s the truth
Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet

The older I get
The fewer friends I have
But you don’t need a lot when the ones that you got
Have always got your back
And the older I get
The better I am
At knowing when to give
And when to just not give a damn

And if they found a fountain of youth
I wouldn’t drink a drop and that’s the truth
Funny how it feels I’m just getting to my best years yet
The older I get

And I don’t mind all the lines
From all the times I’ve laughed and cried
Souvenirs and little signs of the life I’ve lived

The older I get
The longer I pray
I don’t know why, I guess that I
Got more to say
And the older I get
The more thankful I feel
For the life I’ve had, and all the life I’m living still*

*Lyrics to The Older I Get –Songwriters: Adam Wright, Hailey Whitters and Sarah Allison Turner

[Along with getting older with its sweet upside of grandchildren and finding clarity and contentment…there is the sadder side of losing people we love. That happened for Alan Jackson this week with the unexpected death of his oldest daughter Mattie’s husband, Ben Selecman…married less than a year. Prayers for this family.]

Age of Maturity – Consider This Radio Show – Annette Petrick

4) A Narcissist Culture – What happened to a once civil society? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg spoke this week on the divisive and partisan Senate confirmation hearings of recent years. She reflected on her own hearing and that of her good friend and conservative Justice Scalia. Both of them confirmed to the Supreme Court by an almost unanimous Senate vote.

Some would say what has changed is the caliber of leaders in office now. Narcissist is a word used frequently in mainstream media.

I wrote earlier this week on narcissistic bosses and how to thrive under such leadership. We may not have chosen our boss, whether he or she is over a company or country, but we can determine to do what we can to help…not harm.

Do you get weary of the contentious nature of our press? How about the behavior of our elected officials, on both sides? Maybe a lifetime in the political arena (whether in public or private sector positions) brings the cynic out of everyone. Maybe the goal of doing whatever possible good we can breaks down if our boss is just too difficult or just too not like us.

The more I read on narcissistic bosses, the more I find that many who rise to the top have some of those traits. It’s what helped them get there. We can raise our backs to that and make as much noise as we can to get rid of that person or disrupt every process or decision.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Or we can seek out what is wisdom in handling a narcissistic boss… for our own sakes, the sake of the company (or country), and even for his. It is one thing to feel helpless and a whole other thing to escalate a situation and add to the damage, whatever it is.

Author and blogger Eric Barker has written a Wall Street Journal best-seller entitled Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong. I haven’t read the book yet but his article is intriguing.

In this article 5 Scientific Secrets to Handling a Narcissist, he gives some excellent counsel on what to do. Some of his advice may be hard to stomach…but stirring up a narcissist with negative, blaming banter will not get anyone where they say they hope to go.

Here are Barker’s 5 bits of excellent advice:

  1. If at all possible, just steer clear of him. – Do your job. Do it well.
  2. If he’s your boss, kiss up or shut up. – A narcissist doesn’t want to hear your take on things, especially if it is against his take. Until you decide to leave your organization, do your best to just get along. He is much better at deflecting and retaliating than you probably are at exposing his faults or unfitness for the job.
  3.  Know what you want and get payment up front. This relates to folks who have something (information, relationships, influence) the narcissist wants but doesn’t yet have. I can’t even think of an example…can you offer one?
    “Now I’ve been very negative toward narcissists (understandably) but they can be worked with and can even be good employees. Yes, really.Why? Because they want something. They really need to look good. And if you can align your desires with their desires, you may find yourself with an unstoppable achievement machine…They get what they want when they do what you want.” – Eric Barker
  4. If you have a raging narcissist within hearing and one who lets you close, ask some of equivalent of: “What would people think?” Let them answer the questions. Emphasize community and use disappointment, rather than anger, to keep them in line. They want to look good. So help them look good by helping them do good.”
  5. Be Dexter. Dexter was the focal character of a TV show of the same name. He was a forensics technician working murder cases. He became a serial killer of serial killers. Whew! I never watched the show but know of its cultish popularity. The thing is, all of us  can become narcissistic. Especially in cultures where narcissists rise to power. If we can confront the narcissism in ourselves then we can fight it by nurturing empathy – refusing to give into the impulse to self-elevate and direct that impulse to empower others. Something to think about.

5 Scientific Secrets to Handling a Narcissist – Eric Barker

How to De-Escalate a Fight with a Narcissist – Elinor Greenberg, PhD

Dealing with a Narcissist? – Try These 5 Negotiation Tactics – Tanya Tarr

Barking Up the Wrong Tree Quotes – GoodReads

Hostage Negotiation: the Top FBI Hostage Negotiator Teaches You the 5 Secrets to Getting What You Want – Eric Barker

This Is How to Raise Emotionally Intelligent Kids: 5 Secrets From Research – Eric Barker

5) Visual Aids – I am a visual learner. By that, information intake comes easier with images. I used to think because of being a voracious note taker that auditory learning was my preference. No, it was that innately, writing the notes was salvation for me because they gave me visual cues to master the auditory information taken in…later. Looking at my notes.

This week, I began a study of Genesis through Community Bible Study. The study opened with a YouTube visual that “storied” the beginning journey of the God and humankind. Genesis 1-11 in less than 8 minutes, being drawn as we watched. So good.

A big part of why children’s books are so attractive for a visual learner is the rich illustrations that accompany the story. One of my favorite artists is Marjolein Bastin. She paints the world around us with all its beauty, tiny detail, and true-to-life (im)perfections.

You might enjoy this short article and stunning video of hers where she describes “Why I Create”.

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That’s this week’s faves. How about you? please share some of yours with all of us through the Comments.

Be safe out there. Be kind to those you love and those you don’t yet… you never know what could change.

Bonuses:

Pull out that wedding dress – if it still fits, why not wear it from time to time?…for your pleasure and those who loved seeing you in it that one other time.Photo Credit: Brittney Kluse, Facebook

Meet the Nativity

Meet the Nativity and Find Your Family – Glen Scrivener

American Idol SweetheartsCaleb Lee Hutchison and Maddie Poppe fell in love while competing in the 16th season of the ABC music show American Idol. Maddie eventually went on to win with Caleb coming in second. Renditions of songs like Maddie’s Landslide and Caleb’s Don’t Close Your Eyes took them straight to the finals and into fans’ hearts. Here they are on the Live Tour singing together You’ve Got a Friend. So darling.

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

5 Friday Faves – Tavern Music, Kindness, International Overdose Day, a Film and its Book, and Signs of Fall

Friday! A holiday weekend is upon us here in the US. Labor Day on Monday. Where we live that means this is the last weekend before public schools start their Fall session. On this hot, thunder-stormy weekend, the last sweetness of summer will be savored.

Here are my five faves of the week:

1) Tavern Music – My heritage is a mix of Scottish-English. I’m thinking, because of that, tavern music might be part of my family’s DNA. When Nathan Mills arranges and plays a tune reminiscent of Celtic music, he might come by the joy of it quite honestly.

Hearthstone is an online video card game set in a tavern. The theme music has very much a Celtic feel to it. Beyond the Guitar was actually asked by someone on the Hearthstone creative team to do an arrangement. Here it is for your enjoyment.

2) Kindness – Author Peter Economy has written a couple of pieces on kindness – one on kindness quotes and the other on the impact of kindness when expressed by our leaders.

“There is something incredibly appealing about leaders who place themselves on the same level as their employees without losing their authority as leaders. Tapping into kindness and small (and big) acts of showing your appreciation for your team allows those around you to know that you care–leaving them feeling like their work matters, and encouraging their engagement and loyalty.”Peter Economy

I find my tendency is to think I am kind but that kindness is not necessarily executed in a way others experience. It’s worth a few moments to consider how we think of kindness, what it means and how we could actively and intentionally express kindness at work or wherever else we find ourselves.

Photo Credit: Flickr

3) Overdose Awareness Day – Put August 31 on your calendar for next year. It is International Overdose Awareness Day.  We must bring this out of the closet. #NotOneMore

Photo Credit: Facebook

“Today is National Overdose Awareness Day! It still surprises me on how many people I talk to seem oblivious to this epidemic in our country and throughout the world. In 2017 the official number of deaths was over 72,000 people. (more in 2018) These 72,000 people were Mothers and Fathers, Daughters and Sons. Aunts and Uncles. Just think about how many peoples lives were affected by 72,000 deaths. Addiction is real……..Addiction kills……..Lets all get together and find ways to talk about this beast that kills more people than car accidents, guns, breast cancer, The Vietnam War. I pray that my Facebook friends never have to be touched in anyway by the Overdose of a loved one. Unfortunately, the math says …………..you more than likely will.”Jeanne Barney

4) A Film and Its Book – A strangely titled little book continues high on my top 5 books for recreational reading. It is:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Photo Credit: East Ridge News Online

This book gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of those who endured the 5 years of Nazi occupation of the English Channel islands during World War II. It is a story mixed with deep affection, dry humor, long grief and sweet romance. I highly recommend this book to anyone – men or women.

This year marked the debut of the film of the same name (aired on Netflix in the US). I’m so thankful Netflix picked it up otherwise we might have missed it altogether. Such a lovely film, true enough to the book, and a feast for the eyes. Several actors from our beloved Downton Abbey are part of the cast. You will love it…trust me.Photo Credit: Battle Royale With Cheese

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Trailer

5) Signs of Fall – This week has been hot and humid, but still there were signs of Fall all around us. Pumpkin spice has entered all of our coffee shop experiences again. Our young ones are back in school. The geese have taken wing for distant places again..

Photo Credit: Max PixelAnd Dave’s garden has the messy, overgrown beauty of late summer. Last blooms pushing out and flowers turned to seed for the birds to eat and scatter. Early brown leaves and surprise buds that couldn’t wait until Spring. Welcome Fall, my favorite season of the year.

What signs of Fall do you love…or not so much?

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Hope your weekend is filled with kindnesses.

Bonuses:

“To know the will of God, you need an open Bible and an open map.” – William Carey

Raising Our Kids Near Their Grandparents Is The Greatest Gift We Could Ever Give Them

Skim Reading Is the New Normal. The Effect on Society Is Profound – Maryanne Wolf [Along these lines, check out On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior]

Charlotte Non-profit Restaurant Hires Those Considered ‘Unemployable’ – Meilin Tompkins

Photo Credit: Quotes Gate, Facebook

Ethics in the Workplace: 5 Ways to Honor Christ from Cubicle to Boardroom – Leah Marianne Klett

Kids' Sports – Leanne Morgan

Some say professional baseball is boring. Imagine how entertaining it is when it's being played by toddlers with no talent.

Posted by Dry Bar Comedy on Friday, August 24, 2018

Tulane Psychiatrist Wins National Award for Research that Shows How Trauma Seeps Across Generations – Keith Brannon

The video below is a biopic on a neighborhood near and dear to me heart in the Richmond metro area. For you, Lakesiders:

Worship Wednesday – Son of David, Have Mercy on Me – Ghost Ship

Photo Credit: Shelly Duffer, Bobby Nicolescu

They came to Jericho. And as he [Jesus] was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (the son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was sitting by the road.  When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Many warned him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called the blind man and said to him, “Have courage! Get up; he’s calling for you.” He threw off his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

Then Jesus answered him, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“Rabboni,” the blind man said to him, “I want to see.”

Jesus said to him, “Go, your faith has saved you.” Immediately he could see and began to follow Jesus on the road. Mark 10:46-52

Photo Credit: Free Bible Images

On Sunday, our pastor Cliff preached on the persistent faith of blind Bartimaeus. As you read in the passage above, this is a gripping story of a man who knew darkness too well. He also must have heard of the man Jesus. In this moment, in close proximity to Jesus, he cried out for help.

He must have sounded like a mad man in his desperation to be heard. Those around him tried to shush him, but he would not be silenced. He knew help was almost within reach…in the person of Christ. I can just imagine the pitch of his voice rising higher and higher, not caring if he sounded the fool. He was so focused on Jesus hearing him that he had to be told that Jesus had indeed beckoned him.

When he was brought near, Jesus asked him that incredible question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

“I want to see,” gasped Bartimaeus. I want to see!

…and Jesus gave him his sight.

[Catch Cliff’s sermon in its entirety via this week’s podcast. So powerful.]

We have times when we cry out to God to help us see. Or maybe we just want to see without having to face what keeps us blind…if we’re honest. Our God is a confessional God. When we are willing to say out loud what is going on in the darkness of our hearts, He will take the scales off our eyes.

Eyes opened, we will begin to see who God truly is, and who we are apart from Him. We will see clearly our need for Him and our need for one another. What comes after is what happened to Bartimaeus. He left the side of the road where he was bound in his blindness, and followed Jesus on the road.

When we can really see, there is nowhere else we would want to be.

Worship with me to the Christian band Ghost Ship‘s Son of David:

The blind won’t gain their sight by opening their eyes.

A king is coming to His city, and crowds around are following,
If I could see, I would follow too.

He heals the sick with His hands, as He walks by, they reach for Him;
If I could see, I would reach out too.

The blind won’t gain their sight by opening their eyes.

Son of David, have mercy on me! (x2) Son of David, I want to see!
Son of David, have mercy!

I cannot leave this gate since I cannot see my way, but I can stand and call His name.

No I could never leave this gate but I will stand and shout His name, and I will count on His grace!

Son of David, have mercy on me! (x2) Son of David, I want to see! Son of David, have mercy!

I was blind – now I see! Jesus saved me!*

Photo Credit: FaithHub

After Cliff finished the sermon on Bartimaeus, he had an altar call. For those unfamiliar with that, it is a call to action on the part of any in the church who sense their need for Jesus in that moment. It’s an opportunity to privately and publicly “get right” with God – dealing with some hard thing in our hearts, and setting a different course in our lives. This sort of thing seems unusual in the church today, but it is fitting. When we recognize our need, and realize that Jesus can, and wants to, meet us at that need…what would hold us back? Bartimaeus gives us an example of deep desperation and unbridled desire to get to Jesus. When he did, he was rewarded with sight…and a Savior.

Even as a believer, it is too easy to turn a blind eye…on our sin, on our neighbor, on the world. We could all use an altar call from time to time, where we shed our timidity, or self-importance and pride, and run to Jesus…

…and, like Bartimaeus…just keep walking, with our eyes on Him.

[Truth: I met that altar call with a heart deeply moved, a mind set on confession, and feet frozen in concrete. When we think of Heaven, God’s winsomeness and our eyes clear (1 Corinthians 13:12), every pretense will be gone. Silly self-consciousness won’t even be a memory. Maybe one day, in our church gathered, this side of Heaven, we will become “a people marked by confession”. Thanks, Cliff, for leading us in that way.]

*Lyrics to Son of David by Ghost Ship – written by Cam Huxford IV and Shay Carlucci

The Blind Won’t Gain Their Sight… – Shelly Duffer

Worship Wednesday – MercyMe’s “I Can Only Imagine” – My Story About This Song

Photo Credit: New Release Today

The film I Can Only Imagine debuted in the Spring of this year. It’s the story of how a young man, Bart Millard, came to compose one of the most beautiful poignant songs written in recent years.

Millard is the lead singer for the Christian band MercyMe. The song I Can Only Imagine was inspired by his own faith walk and the death of his father to cancer. The lyrics express the wonder at what Heaven will be like for us when our time comes. Photo Credit: To Save a Life

The film featuring this song chronicles Millard’s early life with an angry, abusive father. Bart hated his father, and although he was sure God could forgive his father, Bart believed he himself never would.

Bart Millard: ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Was Born From a Life of Abuse – Jenny Rapson

It is a powerful story that resonates with many of us. My biological father (not this Dad) wasn’t physically violent toward me but he was emotionally abusive in his neglect and indifference toward us four children. Our older brother may have experienced worse abuse from our dad but he never talked about it. What makes me wonder is how angry he was as an adult. My brother died a few years ago, finally beginning to heal out of decades of bitterness and rage…just before he died.

This song and film, birthed out of a childhood marred by violence, remind me of how good God is and how He works healing even in the worst of situations.

My mom loved this song. I didn’t know its significance to her until right before her death in 2002. We were living overseas the year the song came out (2001, and I don’t remember even hearing it until Mom asked a friend to sing it for her, just days before she died. After her funeral, as we returned to “normal”, it seemed I heard that song every day for months. It had become wildly popular, winning two GMA Dove awards, and successfully crossing over to pop/country charts. That connection with her, day in and day out, helped me to grieve and heal the loss of the woman I loved most in the world. . Imagining her life in Heaven was very good for me…then and now.

Years later, when my older brother died, I heard the song again in an odd situation. We were visiting Dad, in the house where I grew up. My brother lived with them for many years, and I went into his bedroom. He had been gone for a few weeks at that time. There was an old-timey, pale blue box radio in the bathroom he used. I switched it on just to see what station he listened to. It was a Christian station which was strange because, although he was a Christian, he wasn’t into “churchy stuff”. The song that was playing when I turned on that radio was “I Can Only Imagine”. There…in a sacred moment, missing my brother, the Lord comforted me again…with this amazing song…and message.

Worship with me please.

I can only imagine what it will be like
When I walk by your side
I can only imagine what my eyes will see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine

Yeah

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes
And I find myself standing in the sun
I can only imagine when all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you
I can only imagine, yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
Or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?
I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
Yeah
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine*

Just this week, I saw the film for the first time…in the living room, lights dimmed, with sweet family. Some in my close circle of family and friends don’t rush to watch “Christian” films because, they say, they are too amateurish and trite. Not this one. Beautifully filmed, raw dialogue between Bart and his father, layer upon layer of brokenness. Then…the miracle of healing. Of God piercing through the pain and bringing beauty out of ugliness. Reconciling…first with Him…and then with each other.

See the film. Listen to Bart sing his own story of wondering about Heaven…and then let all that settle around you as it has me so many times…just the thought of what Heaven will be like…seeing my Mom again…my brother…others who have gone ahead…and especially the God of this universe…the One who saved me…the One who saved Bart’s Dad and Bart, and then the One gave Bart grace to forgive.

*Lyrics to I Can Only Imagine Written by Bart Millard

YouTube Video – Bart Millard Reveals the Origin of His Biggest Hit “I Can Only Imagine” – Huckabee

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – “Forgiveness” Scene

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

5 Friday Faves – the Fortnite Phenomenon, Back to School, Clean Comedy, God’s Heart for Justice, and Bonuses Make Five

Happy Friday! One of those weeks that so rapidly entered history. Lots of travel and family and birthdays and then work, of course. Will go right to the faves before the clock runs down. Hope your weekend is long and lovely.

1) The Fortnite Phenomenon – Not a gamer myself, but when the game Fortnite comes up in conversation with men and boys of all ages, it’s easy to see what a phenomenon it is. A multi-player battle game (with elements of construction as well), Fortnite is free-to-play and wildly popular right now in the gaming universe. A unique component of the game includes avatars who break out into dance. These dances are emulated by player fans, and you would recognize some of them because of boys, in particular, master them as they master the game. These dances have become part of Nathan Mills‘ (Beyond the Guitar) classical guitar repertoire. His YouTube channel subscriber numbers have more than tripled since his first post of Fortnite Dances…and views of his videos are in the millions. Enjoy the latest…as the commenters clamor for Fortnite Dances #4.

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Fortnite Dances on Guitar (Part 2)

YouTube Video – Beyond the Guitar – Fortnite Dances on Guitar (Part 1)

2) Back to School – That time of year is back. So much new happens as summer ends, and Fall stretches out before us. Routines and rhythms crank up again. Growth spurts require new clothes. Then there are all the school supplies required for starting a new year.

As our children grew up, we had varying seasons of “back-to-school” between home schooling and other schooling, both in the US and in Africa. It was never easy for me to see them off, when we didn’t homeschool. I missed them…and those moments together when they talked about life as they saw it. I also missed being able to protect them from some of the meanness in the world. Still, the start of the school year is a hopeful time of anticipation and wonder, of new beginnings and possibilities.[Kudos to the teachers, Stacie Mills & Kirby Joseph, whose classrooms pre-student-return, were my inspiration on this fave.]

How thankful I am for teachers who really care for their students. Teachers who see themselves as partners with parents, even the most woefully unprepared ones…for the sake of these kiddos who will hold the future in their hands one day. What a marvel this is.

Putting the Basket in the Water: Trusting God in the Next Phase of Your Child’s Life – Ashlei Woods

The Trauma-Informed Teacher – Silent Front Line

3) Clean Comedy – So just this week I discovered Dry Bar Comedy. It showcases stand-up comedy that is actually family-friendly. No profanity. No sex. No mean putdowns. The first act (on video) that I caught was Leanne Morgan, a gorgeous Southern woman who puts her arm around our experiences of being female at all ages. Hilarious!

Another clean comic (not with Dry Bar) who I adore is John Crist. His tour this Fall brings him to Richmond, Virginia, and we have tickets. Crist is a preacher’s kid and uses that church experience as fodder for many of his routines. You can see his videos on his website or YouTube channel. Don’t miss him…high energy, so funny.

Michael Jr. Comedy – another favorite of mine.

4) God’s Heart for Justice – For the next six weeks, I’m digging into a study on God’s heart for justice through the International Justice Mission. I bought the book, but if you sign up for daily emails, you can glean great good just in that content and the resource videos.

It’s too easy to turn a blind eye away from the injustices of this world – human trafficking, poverty, racial and religious oppression… Arise focuses on the Biblical definition of justice and the mandate for each of us in turning the tide on it…until Jesus returns and rights all wrongs. We too often are numbed by the immensity of the problem, when, in fact, we can swing the pendulum toward justice… Each one of us can do something. Sign up for daily emails and discover your place in God’s mission of love for those most vulnerable.

Arise: A Study on God’s Heart for Justice

5) Bonuses: 5 bonuses make up my fifth find. Please don’t miss them.

What’s Happening to Our Kids? Technology’s Latest Disruptions – The Middle School Relationship – Alex Whitcomb

Leaf by Leaf: Satisfied (the journey of Mom Melissa and Teen Daughter Maggie through Stage 4 Colon Cancer – and Maggie’s Death and Homegoing – one of the most beautiful stories I’ve ever read

72 Challenging and Truthful Leadership Quotes from Craig Groeschel Opening This Year’s Global Leadership Summit – Brian Dodd

 YouTube Video – Faith In Imagination: The Fantasy Makers – Trailer

YouTube Video – Aretha Franklin (March 25, 1942-August 16, 2018)  – Nessun Dorma – and the National Anthem as only she could do it. Goosebumps! Thank you, Aretha, for all the music.

That winds down this week. Hope yours was stunning – full of meaningful work, real rest, family and friends, and deep conversations. Be gentle with yourself and each other. – some of those people in our lives. #Friends #Community

Worship Wednesday – Thank God for Vacation Bible School & Those Strong Winsome Women Who Make It Happen

Photo Credit: Monterey Bay Parent

Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:13

But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”Luke 9:47-48

See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 18:10

In the summer of my 9-year-old life, I came to faith in Jesus…at Vacation Bible School (VBS). My mom always worked outside the home so someone must have brought my brothers and me each day for 5 days. I have sown parts of that week deep in my heart and memory.

Strong winsome women leading the Bible School. A week of mornings packed with fun. Koolaid & cookies for snack. Pastor doing the Bible lesson for us like he did our parents on Sunday. Big songs I can still remember. Bible verses we memorized. Craft time. Friday night “graduation” service where we performed for our parents.

This was the Vacation Bible School of my childhood. I asked my daughter what she remembered about Bible School. Some similar memories…the songs stay with you. Here are some she remembers from her childhood:

Jumping Up and Down, Shout Hosanna

Kind, K-I-N-D, Kind; Love Is Kind

Romans 16:19 – Be Excellent at What Is Good

Ain’t No Rock Gonna Cry in My Place

Behold What Manner of Love the Father Has Given Unto Us

For today’s Worship Wednesday, I just wanted to thank God for Vacation Bible School. Although having received solid Bible teaching as a child through Sunday School, preaching, and my parents, VBS sealed the deal for me that year I was 9.

We have young moms in our lives today who seek out Vacation Bible School for their children through the summer…sometimes more than one. The churches who have made VBS part of their DNA amaze me. It has to be very hard work to pull off that kind of programming (even if it’s shortened time-wise to 2-hour evening sessions).

Earlier today, I talked to one of those strong winsome women who make VBS happen at her church. She talked about how the success of the Vacation Bible School hinges on their volunteers. She is blessed to have workers who really love the children of their church…sounds like they follow how Jesus thinks of children.  I’m thinking this friend models that for her volunteers. VBS has to be led by a woman (or it could be a man) who casts this vision for other adults and gathers them to extend themselves farther than they might usually be inclined. Photo Credit: Midway Community Church

Vacation Bible School makes for an obvious outreach opportunity for kids within the church community, but more than that, it’s an opportunity for an extended and concentrated touch into the lives of the kids in our own churches.

I will spend eternity with the Lord because of a Vacation Bible School…because some strong winsome women did the hard work (including recruiting the pastor and other Godly men) to break up a long, lazy summer with a fun, penetrating, life application of the Word of God.

Every Breath I Take (lyrics & music)

All That Is Good (lyrics & music)

Deep Cries Out (lyrics & music)

God Is For Me (lyrics & music)

VBS in the 1980s: Cookies, Kool-Aid, Songs and Jason – Holly Hollman

10 Myths People Believe About VBS – Part 1 and Part 2 Lori Hatcher

What Jesus Thinks About Children – R. Kent Hughes

YouTube Video – Never Let Go of Me – Songs from Shipwrecked 2018 VBS

YouTube Video – Honest VBS Volunteer – John Crist

Worship Wednesday – You Say – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Living All In, Cheryl

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.2 Timothy 1:7

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it?  Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?Numbers 23:19

The most deceiful thing Satan does is to distract us from our love for God by tempting us to focus on ourselves. That “self” that is not enough, or is utterly broken, or is, in another direction, worthy of all good things. Satan even uses the first person pronoun such that it sounds like we are acknowledging those lies…those lies about ourselves that fill our minds and cloud the truth of both who God is and who we are in Him.

Anxiety and depression are both a storm of thoughts that draw us down and make us small. Not the small of we decrease such that He might increase…no. Small in a way that He is made smaller still.

Pastor David Jeremiah recently preached about how we lose ground emotionally and spiritually by taking our eyes off God…and believing lies about our situation or identity. He uses a study of Elijah’s life to demonstrate this. In his sermon, The Aftermath, Pastor Jeremiah recalls how Elijah in what should have been a triumphant time of his life was drawn down by exhaustion and fear (1 Kings 19). As Elijah struggled with discouragement, he was vulnerable also to the lies of Satan. He was convinced that he was alone and was right to fear…even for his life. Dr. Jeremiah referred back to a book he had read by Martin Seligman about how our problems can feel personal, pervasive, and permanent. When our eyes turn away from God and onto our selves, we lose perspective and our thinking turns negative and even abusive at times.

Lauren Daigle‘s song You Say is not one I would usually highlight because its focus is more on God’s view of us rather than our focus on Him. However, it has really touched my heart in the honesty of what happens when we lose sight of the great God we serve who loves us perfectly and completely.

Daigle tells the story behind the song here. This is an excerpt:

I think a lot of times we build these complexes based on insecurity, based on fear, based on rejection, and lies that we have to constantly overcome. And so this song for me was just a reminder of identity. It was a reminder that I know when I’m weak, He’s strong—so how do I change that and bring that into my every day life? When I feel inadquate how is it that there’s always these moments where I feel like God just steps in and supercedes my inadequacies. This entire song was so every single day I would get up on stage and remind myself—no, this is the truth, this is the truth, this is the truth. Don’t get buried in confusion. Don’t get buried in waywardness. Just remember to steady the course, steady the course.

That’s the story behind “You Say.”Lauren Daigle

Please worship with me…this good God of ours.

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough
Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up
Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?
Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, o-ooh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And You say I am held when I am falling short
And when I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
Oh, I believe

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at Your feet
You’ll have every failure, God, You’ll have every victory, o-ooh

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
You say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe, oh I believe
What You say of me
I believe

Oh I believe, yes I believe
What You say of me
I believe*

Oh God, today, I will believe what You say about me…and what You say about all of us…and more than that, I believe what You say about Yourself. Thank You, Lord, for the truth you wrap around us. I stand in that. We stand forever with You. You are enough.

*Lyrics to You Say – Writers: Jason Ingram, Paul Mabury, Lauren Daigle

Lauren Daigle – Story Behind the Song ‘You Say’

When God Fights Your Battles…the Good News Is That You Win – Anne Peterson

YouTube Video – David Jeremiah – July 24, 2018 – The Aftermath – Turning Point Radio

Sheryl Sandberg Says the ‘3 P’s’ Have Helped Her Become a Stronger Person After Her Husband’s Tragic Death – Shana Lebowitz

5 Friday Faves – Solitude, a Culture Wall, Like a Mother – Serena Williams, Our Children, and Food With a Friend

Check this week as done. For us around here, it’s been a week of great highs punctuated by distinct lows. How amazing that we can pray through and lean in to God and each other for the lows…and celebrate the highs, in quiet and in company. Life is good and real.

1) Solitude – Writer, philosopher Zat Rana caught my eye with his article The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught You. Turns out his view of that most important untaught skill is solitude. That ability to just enjoy being alone. Sitting or walking alone. Lost in your own thoughts. Except for a self-portrait for a photography class, you won’t see many signs in my life that solitude is something that comes easy.

“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Blaise Pascal

The Most Important Skill Nobody Taught YouZat Rana

According to Pascal, we fear the silence of existence, we dread boredom and instead choose aimless distraction, and we can’t help but run from the problems of our emotions into the false comforts of the mind.

The issue at the root, essentially, is that we never learn the art of solitude. – Zat Rana

[My husband who often sits by himself at dawn and dusk to recharge. For him, solitude is something that has come naturally.]

Rana talks about how technology has connected us in a myriad of ways but the connectedness is more virtual than real. – We now live in a world where we’re connected to everything except ourselves.”

“Our aversion to solitude is really an aversion to boredom…we dread the nothingness of nothing. We can’t imagine just being rather than doing. And therefore, we look for entertainment, we seek company, and if those fail, we chase even higher highs. We ignore the fact that never facing this nothingness is the same as never facing ourselves. And never facing ourselves is why we feel lonely and anxious in spite of being so intimately connected to everything else around us.” – Zat Rana

Everything I Have Learned in 500 Words – Zat Rana

2) A Culture Wall – Benjamin Hardy is a writer, organizational psychologist dude. I am reading his book Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discovering the Keys to Success. This week he posted about having a culture wall, and it totally engaged this visual learner. Designed by Gaping Void, this is an art-as-inspiration tool for the workplace.Photo Credit: Benjamin Hardy, Medium; Gaping Void

Looking at Benjamin Hardy’s culture wall got me thinking of the truths that keep me going at work and at home. Coming up with those sayings or mantras, as a team, or family, would be an excellent exercise…and then making the art happen would flow naturally out of that. It doesn’t have to be 20 pictures, like Hardy’s. Even one is a good start.

[Sidebar – Guitarist, YouTuber Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, in his videos, often features a “nerd shrine” with striking wall art. I wonder what a culture wall would look like in his studio.]

These 20 Pictures Will Teach You More Than Reading 100 BooksBenjamin Hardy

3) Like a Mother – Serena Williams – American tennis champion Serena Williams made it to the Wimbledon final this year. She didn’t win but she played #LikeaMother.  The expression “like a mother” brings all sorts of images to mind…and makes for marketing genius… Two examples are a Lysol commercial and one by Gatorade, the latter featuring Serena Williams.

Here’s to Serena Williams…including a couple of interviews where she and husband investor Alexis Ohanian describe how they met.

4) Our Children – Writer Frederica Mathewes-Green could have been a buddy of mine in college. In those days of the Vietnam War, we were those conflicted ones who wrote our high school sweethearts away in the military and we vocally protested at the same time. The Roe v. Wade decision was very new and felt very progressive to all of us, in those days…the “make love, not war” crowd. I was young and being pro-life or pro-choice wasn’t even on my radar…until after that court case divided us into mostly two camps. Mathewes-Green has written the most definitive piece on abortion and the legacy we are leaving our children in the article When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense.

She writes:

“Whatever your opinion is on abortion, I ask you to read this article. Fresh eyes. Mathewes-Green was around when that court decision was made. She was also feminist, as were so many of us in those days. She is still very pro-women…pro-human.

We expected that abortion would be rare. What we didn’t realize was that, once abortion becomes available, it becomes the most attractive option for everyone around the pregnant woman. If she has an abortion, it’s like the pregnancy never existed. No one is inconvenienced. It doesn’t cause trouble for the father of the baby, or her boss, or the person in charge of her college scholarship. It won’t embarrass her mom and dad.

Abortion is like a funnel; it promises to solve all the problems at once. So there is significant pressure on a woman to choose abortion, rather than adoption or parenting.

A woman who had had an abortion told me, “Everyone around me was saying they would ‘be there for me’ if I had the abortion, but no one said they’d ‘be there for me’ if I had the baby.””

and

“No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”

Photo Credit: CASA

Her article frames this Friday Fave.  Why “our children” as the heading? When I read Mathewes-Green’s article, she reminded me that our children or our children’s children may judge these decades very differently than our culture has – these decades of thousands of babies not delivered alive. Definitely, if those not delivered alive could speak…those silenced by their own mothers (out of desperation with no one offering to help them in life-giving ways)…if they could speak, we might see things differently today. Thankful for women, like Frederica Mathewes-Green, who provide a call to reconsider and a platform for the voices of all our children.

When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense Frederica Mathewes-Green

Video – 50 Mums – 50 Kids – 1 Extra Chromosome

Tending your Garden – Colleen Searcy

5) Food With a Friend – Don’t you love surprise visits with a friend, now living states away? When I got Nikki’s text to meet up for a lunch this week, it was like a healing balm on my heart. She suggested a restaurant new to me: Mezeh Mediterranean Grill.

How have I missed this yummy place? All the food memories of our years in the Arab world mixed together in a big bowl. Pretty much my experience that day.

Add a long conversation between friends (including one other who joined our happy table)…and it was like Heaven here in Richmond, Virginia. Any such happy occasions come to mind for you this week? Hope so.

___________________________________________________________________________

That’s the week. Please comment below on any of these faves of mine or introduce your own… Have a restorative weekend… whatever that means for you and those you love.

Bonuses

Here’s Exactly What to Do If a Tick Bites You – Kate Sheridan

What To Do When You Think Your Life Sucks

I Love Jesus But I Want to Die: What You Need to Know About Suicide – Sarah

The Space Between – Marilyn Gardner

Paris, the evening of the World Cup FinalPhoto Credit: Nikaley Chandler

Tour de France – The Climbers and Rapid Descenders – the stages through the Alps happened this week – so incredibly exciting watching these riders – their toughness and endurance:Photo Credit: Cyclist

Happily Ever After – 100 Wedding Songs for Your Ceremony and Reception – Music Notes

Photo Credit: Jimmy Lee Thompson, Facebook