Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. – Hebrews 10:22a, 23
America’s Hymn Queen. Fanny Crosby (1820-1915) was an American songwriter. In fact, she’s considered American’s “hymn queen“. She wrote the lyrics to more than 8000 hymns. Many in church today do not sing the hymns of old, but even my millennial era children know all the words to Crosby’s Blessed Assurance.
The history of the hymn is a quick glimpse into Fanny Crosby’s life. She was visiting in the home of a composer friend who had just written a melody. The friend, Phoebe P. (Mrs. Joseph K.) Knapp, asked her what came to mind upon hearing the melody, and Fanny responded immediately, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” She then completed the rest of the lyrics shortly thereafter.
Fanny wrote both secular and sacred music and taught school. She was also profoundly concerned for the urban poor and lived most of her life in and around the poorest neighborhoods of New York City. She was a vocal protestor against slavery and testified before the U.S. Senate in support of education for the blind.
Blind all her life. Her physical eyes were dark but her spiritual vision was crystal clear. She commented often how if she’d been sighted she might have missed the depth of awareness of God and His nearness to her. [Autobiography of Fanny Crosby]
Her songs communicate strong emotion and deep devotion. I am thankful to have grown up attending summer revival meetings and church camps where these hymns were regularly a part of the program. Some of my favorites are: I Am Thine, O Lord; Jesus is Calling; Praise Him, Praise Him, Jesus our blessed Redeemer; Redeemed how I Love to Proclaim it; and To God Be the Glory. Just remembering the titles of these great old hymns takes me back – to warm summer nights; women fanning themselves with paper fans advertising the local funeral home; preachers making passionate appeals as if a matter of life and death; singing “one more verse” of one of those Crosby hymns.
Or at church camp, by a lake, around a huge crackling fire popping and sending sparks up to the dark night sky; all of us circled around, singing and praying…for our sinful teen-aged selves or for the friend on either side of us. Those were experiences deeply imprinted in my life’s story – those experiences, Crosby’s hymns, and the God of those hymns.
Some of my contemporaries write about those “contrived” experiences as emotional ploys to bring some weak soul to a public profession of faith. All I know is that God grabbed hold of me in a very real way through the music of those old hymnists like Fanny Crosby.
She was one who knew God – who saw Him with eyes that couldn’t see anything else. And at some point, early in her life, she became one who only had eyes for Him…and that intimacy is reflected in her hymns. God Himself is marvelously magnified in her hymns. Blessed assurance.
Another Friday has gloriously arrived. Before we head off our computer and into the weekend’s activities (great idea to do life unplugged for a couple of days if you can…me, not so much), here are my favorite finds for this week.
2) Designed ‘We’ – One of my husband’s core values is “We is better than me.” I had not seen the news report about the Air Canada flight that almost landed on a crowded taxiway this past week. When Dave told me about it, he talked about how in air traffic control, there is actually a “designed ‘We'”.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
With the Air Canada flight, the controller instructed the pilot to land on one runway, but he descended to the taxiway right beside where he was instructed to land. I would have thought the controller would have seen the pilot was coming in wrong, but, before it was too late “an unidentified voice” (on the audio released) interjected. He saw the error and the pilot was able to correct before plowing through four other planes lined up on the taxiway. Whew!
The skill of pilot and copilot and their working in team relieves all of us who travel often by air. Also crucial is the role of the air traffic controller and team is crucial for our safety in the air and on airport take-offs and landings. The film Sully demonstrated this real life situation masterfully…the critical importance of team, or many eyes on a situation, and fast thinking and execution.
Designed redundancy (the American use of that word) is worked into the air control team structure. News reports allude to the possibility the controller was working alone (we will know more after the investigation). Still this sort of team makeup is vital in situations where there can be no tolerance for error. We rarely ever hear of a crash based on air traffic control error because of such a built-in team fail-safe.
Something to think about, not just in safety situations, but in any workplace where the outcomes really matter. To establish a “designed ‘we’ and never just a me”.
3) Tour de France – You are either a fan or not so much. Even with the years of doping scandals, this race remains an annual summer favorite in our home. In fact, the only reason we have cable TV is the easy access to NFL Football and this bike race. The Tour de France is an amazing spectacle of beauty, skill, endurance, and fan support.Photo Credit: NBCSN, Screen Shot
This year’s race, a week in and a week to go, has been full of drama and incredible finishes. Amazing bikers abound every year While the current favorite is Christopher Froome, several this year have a chance to wear the Yellow Jersey and win it all. Yesterday’s Stage 12 is an example of how this year’s Tour is going. Here are highlights:
4) Franklin Engraving – Just a shout-out to a artist in Virginia. Katie Franklin is an engraver and has now incorporated as a small business. Franklin Engraving. She pours her energy, intelligence, and creativity into beautiful and personal works of art made to order. Check out her Facebook page to order. Her webpage will be up shortly.
5) Mission BBQ – Rewarding customers with great products, ambiance, and service can turn all of us from occasional consumers to regulars. A further step is to get us back is to extend hospitality through special offers like Birthday Clubs. I love Mission BBQ‘s strategy on this. Sign up online for a birthday club and get a free sandwich on your birthday. Not bombarding my inbox with emails…just an occasional invitation to remind us of special days (veterans and first responders are also fed free on holidays). This restaurant is all about America in honoring ways. Do you have one in your city? Or a restaurant like Mission BBQ?
That’s my Five. How about you? Any favorites from your week you would share in Comments below. I had so many great finds, the bonuses follow. You might find some useful or inspiring. Have a great and safe weekend.
Happy Friday! I hope you’re ending your week on a high note. If not, you might find some help right here. So pick your Friday Fave, and dig in.
1) Financially Fit – One of my absolute favorite blog writers and thought leaders today is Benjamin P. Hardy. Unless I didn’t notice it before, he has been ending his blogs lately with a free Going Big Checklist. The checklist speaks to a person’s desire for financial freedom and heightened productivity. I got it and it’s really good! He also recommends a financial coaching firm by the name of Financially Fit. Hardy is actually one of their clients and has been for over a year. As incentive to do a phone appointment with one of their consultants, I could receive Hardy’s upcoming book The Proximity Effect. Sold!Photo Credit: Financially Fit
Before my appointment, I poured over their website. It was informative, user-friendly, and convincing. My conversation with Chris Patton, a client consultant, was even more compelling.
The focus of this company is to educate, motivate, and provide accountability to their clients toward debt elimination and wealth creation. I’ve never pursued wealth, myself, but after talking to Chris, the idea of creating greater cashflow was intriguing. Just think, to have the money to fulfill big dreams and life aspirations (not just for yourself but to help others) is something to consider.
Anyway, I’m also considering signing on for financial coaching with Financially Fit. The price is incredibly reasonable and there are no entangling strings attached. Check out their website, read some of the stories of people who have eliminated their debt and created wealth, and educate yourself. I’ll check back in with an update on my own financial fitness.
2) Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills, classical guitarist, continues to create beautiful musical content. Currently he is posting Daily Shorts – arrangements on request – on his Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. They are tasty morsels of favorite themes that he arranges for classical guitar. Follow him and you won’t miss these dailies.
Inspired by violinist Lindsey Stirling‘s piece on YouTube. Both are gorgeous using different instruments. Here’s Nathan’s version:
3) Addiction Recovery – I’m not talking about street or prescription drug addiction but one that can cause some of the same struggle. Recently, I wrote about a sugar detox. Today I’m a week into dealing with my dependence on sugar. About three years ago, the articles written on sugar intake’s negative impact on the brain (especially memory) were beginning to pile up in my social media streams.Photo Credit: Pixabay
Memory especially is something I’d really like to retain. After watching my dad’s spiral downward with Alzheimer’s, it’s been cause for daily reflection – both on how much he loved sweets, and how much I love them.
I’ve successfully gone off sugar in the past, and I’m hoping to do it again…at least detoxing, and then strongly curbing my dependence on sugar. The first days of “no sugar” were not that hard. Then yesterday, I hit a wall of sorts. Depression is a struggle sometimes, and my ready remedy historically is a carb load (some sort of sugary or fatty carb-filled treat to sedate my troubled brain). An emotional cloud settled around me yesterday, and sugar wouldn’t be my go-to to pierce the cloud.
I have found that certain activities can effectively help with bouts of depression. They are:
Prayer – I prayed. It did help.
Exercise – Walked with the neighbors. Also helped.
Serving others – Helped a refugee family with paperwork and shopping. Also helped.
Still, the darkness didn’t lift altogether. Then something amazing happened. I texted the parents of our little grandson a longing sort of message (that not many adult children love receiving). My daughter-in-law wrote back quickly and proposed dropping by after an errand.
Added immediately to my list of depression aids and dealing with sugar withdrawal and addiction recovery – GRANDCHILDREN.
In very close proximity. If you struggle as I do, this is something I highly recommend. Even if you don’t have any in your family, find some! We have two grandchildren who are a complete delight to the heart and a brightening of any burden. OK…enough. Doing better today and still off sugar. Whew….
4) Parenting – Anyone who is a parent and wants to do right by our children have already read much of what’s out there. Victoria Prooday, an occupational therapist, writes a piece that won’t necessarily give you new information. However, The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Children – and What to Do About It does succinctly propose direction for weary parents of over-stimulated, emotionally distant children. Prooday posts provocative statistics which may not be wholly verifiable, but her statement of problems of children today is spot-on. Technology addiction, sedentary lifestyle, and emotional disconnectedness are three areas that parents must address to help children grow into healthy adulthood.
Being a visual learner, I love infographics. Here’s one on caring for “one another”. The teaching of Jesus focused on this as second only to our love for God. We all long for community. No matter our religion, the wisdom of “one-anothering” can transform our relationships. What do you think?Photo Credit: Overview Bible
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall. – Ephesians 2:14
Racial segregation in the church must break the very heart of God. How is it that we, who love Jesus and want to live as He modeled and taught us, continue to live and worship apart from one another racially?
We live in a racially complex city. Richmond, Virginia, was once the capital of the Confederacy. Even now, the racial divide is shamefully wide. The church, both black and white congregations, has Christ’s mandate to come together. To be reconciled. To live at peace with one another. To enjoy community together.
My family is part of a church that has a vision to reach Richmond. Our city is ethnically diverse. To reach Richmond includes figuring out how to not just be another white church in the neighborhood.
Erskin Anavitarte is a Christian songwriter. On his website, he also identifies as a diversity spokesman and adoption advocate. He is a Kingdom builder and a reconciler. This is a man who calls us to enlarge our lives and our churches to include one another.Photo Credit: Erskin Music
He wrote a little song Black & White which really touched my heart this week. Simple and yet profound lyrics.
“One song may not make much difference, but my prayer is that we remember that God made us all and perhaps bridging the gap begins by focusing our eyes on Jesus. That’s the message of this song.” – Erskin Anavitarte
After our country’s last election, I was burdened afresh how racially polarized we are as a nation, and even in the church. This can’t be the case, in daily life, for Christ followers. Not in daily life. Not in corporate worship. How do we come together?
As we worship the Lord today, we ask Him for wisdom and for opportunity. We ask for compassion and understanding. We determine to “love beyond the limits of our prejudices…to speak love and embody love” (Rev. Michael Walrond, Jr.).
Today, I want to make it a priority to discover the black church in the same neighborhood as our white church. To find those who love God as I do…and this city in a way that can stretch my own love…and maybe it could go beyond the reach of either of us. Just maybe.
[Let’s close in worship now. Check out the super helpful links below, later.]
[Links below showcase Christian comedians who help us with some of the things that unnecessarily make us uncomfortable with each other’s church cultures…although I couldn’t find one that caricatured white church worship for blacks. Could someone help me?]
Hope you’ve had a good week, since it’s pretty much done. Deep breath! Friday Faves coming at you right now.
1) Storytelling – When I was growing up, listening to stories was one of our favorite forms of distraction. Huddled around a campfire or under blankets at a sleepover, we would listen to funny or scary stories that kept us wanting more. In these days, good storytelling seems a neglected art form. Our friend Tom Elliff tells great stories and we never grow tired of him repeating them. Very little of Tom’s storytelling has been captured on film (you can enjoy some of his stories in this sermon). Fortunately for us, Tom has published some of his stories because you don’t want to miss them.
Communicator David Grossman has written many helpful pieces for us who would love to sharpen our storytelling. Two are linked below. His quick formula for excellent storytelling is depicted here:
I’ve written previously about storytelling here and here.
How’s your story-telling? Please comment below about your experiences with story-telling or good story-tellers.
2) The Restorative Nature of Music – I love music. Choral music is my favorite, but some instrumental music, as well, has captured my heart (this musician in particular). I sang in choirs from the time I was a small child. In college, I had the opportunity to sing with the Emory University Choir, a very different experience than that in a smallish Baptist church choir in the South. It amazes me to this day how music can touch emotions…even to the point of being therapeutic and restorative. Whether it is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Alzheimer’s Disease, music can have a positive soothing effect.
Watch these two short videos of the impact of music on two elderly persons. So beautiful.
3) A Film Company – I don’t know how I first became aware of local filmmaker Nathan Clarke. He is the founder of Fourth Line Films in Richmond, Virginia. Here is how he describes the work of this company:
“Fourth Line is a Richmond, Virginia based production company specializing in documentary and authentic storytelling. As lovers, students and champions of film, we know the inherent power of a good story exceptionally told. That’s why we apply cinematic tools and techniques to produce engaging, authentic stories that captivate audiences. We strive to create films that don’t just entertain, but incite a response.”Photo Credit: Fourth Line
4) Ethnic Food – Across the street from each other are two of my current favorite ethnic restaurants:
Habanero Mexican Grill – This is a tiny restaurant with most of the seating under umbrellas on the patio. It’s an order-at-the-counter experience, but they handle groups really well. Mexican food doesn’t always love me, so it’s not my go-to dining experience. This is the exception. Really great fajitas and taco salad, just to name two.
Mediterranean Bakery & Deli – This restaurant (deli and market) caters to anyone who loves Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food. So good. The grocery products, the music, and the tastes and smells take us back to our life in North Africa. The fatayer (an inexpensive pie of meat or spinach, with or without Feta cheese added) is so yummy. Always our go-to.Photo Credit: Mediterranean Bakery, Twitter
If you’re a Richmonder, please take a moment to comment below what your favorite ethic restaurants are around here. Thanks!
5) A Sugar Detox – I can’t believe I’m writing on this topic outside of a piece on addictions. Still, mentally and physically, my resolve is steely right now to deal with sugar in my life. After a few days of family vacation ahead of us, I’m coming back to do a sugar detox. Photo Credit: Pixabay, Saramukitza
Diets of any kind are suspect for me because they never seem to have lasting impact. Diets also force you to be “consumed” with food – which is so counter-intuitive since it’s the unhealthy consumption of food that is already the problem.
Twice in my life, I came completely off sugar – once while pregnant with Nathan, and the second time 3 or so years ago. Both times were very positive experiences, once I got past the addictive pull of sugar. Even now I just don’t eat chocolate or doughnuts (two lovely trigger foods for me)…everything else has become fair game again…and I am quite fond of sweet treats.
So…here’s the weekend. Hope you have a safe and refreshing one with lots of loves around. The world today seems to breed loneliness which is so odd with the myriad ways people are able to be “connected”. It helps for me to be aware, and to reach out instead of throwing a pity party of one. Hope you have no idea what I’m talking about. For the rest of us, let’s reach out.
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
Weeks never seem to drag anymore. Friday has come again with lightning speed, forcing a break in our routine. In Virginia, today marks the last school day of the year for public schools. Summer has officially begun.
It’s not my favorite season of the year (OK…I know I’m in a minority here but heat and bugs come with summer, not just the beach). Having the kids home for the summer was always a joy so I will take that part anytime.
We have a big gathering of family coming up soon which is being made possible through Airbnb. That part of summer which does include the beach and baby snuggles along with late nights of laughter and games and movies with the babies in bed is a delight.
So without further ado, here are this week’s Friday Faves:
1) Seasonal Favorites – I’ve sung the praises of fruit in season once before. Orchard-fresh fruit and vegetables right out of the garden are so good. You just slice up summer squash and zucchini, lightly olive-oil spray it and roast in a hot oven and you can almost forget the cheesy casserole you were going to make out of it. Such sweetness in summer vegetables.
Dave’s favorite Honeycrisp apples are hard to find in the US summer – when found they often taste like last year’s harvest or are prohibitively expensive.
When the apples fade, we have watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries…and peaches!!! Glory!
Finally, I want to celebrate the small family businesses just open for the summer (and sometimes closed on Sundays) that bring all kinds of sweetness our way. Less than an hour away, we find Sno-To-Go. The weighty decision of whether to cool down with a cup of ice cream or a sno-cone is over. Stuffed snoballs are the perfect combo.
What’s your favorite summer to-go place for treats like these?
2) Beyond the Guitar – Classical Guitar Video – Here’s Nathan Mills‘ latest arrangement posted to YouTube. It is Japanese composer Yasunori Mitsuda‘s Frog’s Theme from the video game Chrono Trigger. For many of you gamers out there, this will be another musical delight. For us non-gamers, it is also an incredibly lovely melody, especially rendered on classical guitar. Enjoy the video below:
3) Scruffy Hospitality – [MEN – don’t pass this by – you are part of this.] What a gift to lavish hospitality on those you love or hope to know better. Too often we hesitate because the thought of getting the house ready, putting together just the right menu, and aiming for a “Pinterest-perfect” presentation exhausts us before we even make the invitation. Two articles I found this week gives freedom and empowerment to us all to extend hospitality – and scruffy is so much better than no hospitality. Robin Shreeves wrote a great piece on this, as a woman who threw off her need to have everything perfect. Photo Credit: Jason Lander, Flickr
Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together. – Jack King
I’m so glad he wrote about hospitality. Our hesitancy as both women and men can be conquered…especially if we help and encourage each other.
4) Hilarious Commercial – Commercials are fascinating to me – when they are done well. So many are just silly. In fact, in the days when our kids were small, and we would fast-forward through the commercials on homemade videotapes, our little Daniel would say, “No! I care about that!” Me, too, Daniel. A young businessman in Colorado Springs, Co., Joe McCloskey, Jr. , is an agent with Farmers Insurance. I don’t know who advised him or he is this creative, but he has put up several homemade video commercials on YouTube. The one below is the most recent and the most professional. It is hilarious. Don’t just scroll through. You will send your endorphins out the roof. I don’t think you can watch with out laughing out loud. Oh, and notice “Call Me For A Quote – 719-237-9455”. So creative.
5) Father’s Day – We all have fathers – whether very present or long-time absent. Some of you may be fathers. Some of you may have wanted to be fathers but are not able to be…for whatever reasons. This day of commemoration usually means a good meal and some sort of gifting or pampering for you fathers. For all of you, with or without children, you can be influencers…and we need you. My biological father was absent long before my parents divorced. Thankfully I have had a rich heritage of good fathers through the rest of my life – my step-dad, brothers, uncles, husband, father-in-law, son/son-in-law, and good and strong male friends – most of whom were spiritual fathers only…but fathers nonetheless.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9
Our saving is not by our own works! Hallelujah! How is it then, that we trip ourselves up on a daily basis with trying to please others when God Himself is already pleased? He sees us through a grace-colored lens…not that His vision ever needed correcting. From forever, we were made in the image of God and, as His forgiven ones, He sees us as Christ-redeemed and Spirit-filled.
Why then are we wooed into thinking that we must perform a certain way to be accepted? Even from the beginning, as complete and perfect and beloved as Eve was, the persuasive other-than-God message of our needing to be more has been driven into our flesh (Genesis 3:4-5).
God saved me as a young child out of the bondage, even then, of wanting to be good for my weary mama. She was raising four children on her own, and I thought if I could only just be good for her it would lighten her load. She didn’t require it of me; I required it of myself. The Gospel message of Ephesians 2:8-9 above was so winsome to me, even at nine years old.
Unfortunately, through the years, I have listened to my own flesh and those not-of-God messages (whether from Satan or the world or church culture). I have often struggled with needing the approval of men and women over God. Needing my own approval (as if mine was more substantive than God’s…sigh).
A concept that became very real to me in my 20s was performance-based acceptance. Measuring myself up against others (or my own evaluation of those others) was a struggle. Then when those others are also Christians, it can get even darker. These are my brothers and sisters. Our gains individually and together reflect the work of God. Full-stop. Any measure otherwise discounts Him.
Even the Apostle Paul who all-out raised the bar on performance understood the error of that and how meager it was compared to knowing and enjoying the love and grace of God:
“…although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.
But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:4-10
The glorious life God means for us to have is drenched with His love and grace. No safe or controllable grace here…it is the magnificent, sufficient grace of God that breathes out of us in every circumstance of our lives…in our response to Him in us.
Tiffany Lee (Plumb) writes about this in the worship song Exhale. The physical act of breathing is a new interest of mine. We can all forcibly exhale (to blow out a birthday candle or set dandelion seeds in flight), but it isn’t a natural state. To exhale is the response to inhaling. It follows. It always follows.
What are we breathing out to the world, including to those we most love? It follows what we’re breathing in. No guilting here. It is the quiet reality of our lives. What we take in informs what we give out.
It’s okay to not be okay
This is a safe place
This is a safe place
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be ashamed
There’s still hope here
There’s still hope here
No matter what you’ve done or who you are
Everyone is welcome His arms
Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Spirit come tear down the walls
That only You can
That only You can
Reconcile this heart to Yours
Right now God
Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Oh God we breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
Oh God We breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Too often God’s grace is communicated as something we enjoy for ourselves. His grace is not meant to be kept for ourselves. The deeper we understand God…the more we experience His grace for our lives…the more we naturally want to lavish it (Him) on others. Not to please Him by our performance, but in our pleasure of Him.
Closing with John Piper‘s message on this (from over 30 years ago):
For some of you these are the very days in which for the first time the beauty of the gospel of grace is beginning to shine on the horizon of your soul. But others of you look back months or years or decades, to a golden era of faith when Christ was powerfully taking shape in your life. But something has changed. There has been a kind of settling into the world, and the vibrant sense of being an alien and an exile in the world has faded. And the powerful shaping forces in your life are not coming from Christ within but from the world without.
The word of encouragement and admonition to us all this morning is this: the Spirit of the living Christ can be poured into us afresh today… Therefore, I urge you, take your amateur hands off the clay of your life and yield yourselves into the sovereign hands of God. Disavow the praise of men and all your efforts to achieve it. Turn your hearts to Christ and say: I am not my own; you have bought me; forgive me; be formed within me. Not to me, O Lord, not to me, but to your name give glory (Psalm 115:1). Amen. – John Piper
Breathe Him in, Dear Ones, and your exhale can refresh a weary world.
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.
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.