Category Archives: Give

Monday Morning Moment – Syrian Refugees – No One Puts Their Children On a Boat…Unless

What drives people to leave everything behind – everything they have known and owned – and board a sea-bound, over-loaded boat for an unknown future? My sense is it’s running for one’s life…rather than their path to terrorism.

These days in the US, we are adjusting to a new presidential administration and changing policies. Protests and social media wars abound. How to understand and what to really believe are challenging.

What is true?

A wise friend responded to my voiced struggle of what to think about our nation’s changing views on immigrants and refugees:

“The people trying to escape evil we want to welcome. The people who want to export evil we want to identify and shut down.”

Though not prepared myself to address the latter, I would like to highlight the plight of refugees…especially Syrian refugees. A poem I discovered just yesterday is real and riveting…and can put the reader on that sagging boat, holding our children tight, and hoping we will make it to that distant shore. With no idea what will come next.Photo Credit: CNN

Warsan Shire, a young Somali woman who grew up in London, writes deeply personal poetry about life and struggle. Her poem Home is a powerful description of the refugee experience…especially the Syrian, but it could speak to others as well [read the whole poem here].

No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city running as well

You only leave home
When home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
Fire under feet.

You have to understand,
That no one puts their children in a boat
Unless the water is safer than the land
No one burns their palms
Under trains
Beneath carriages
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

No one crawls under fences
No one wants to be beaten
Pitied

No one chooses refugee camps.

Go home…

Refugees
Dirty immigrants
Asylum seekers
Sucking our country dry…
Messed up their country and now they want
To mess ours up

How do the words
The dirty looks
Roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
Than a limb torn off

I want to go home,
But home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
And no one would leave home
Unless home chased you to the shore

I don’t know what I’ve become
But I know that anywhere
Is safer than here.          – Warsan Shire

What can we do for refugees? Jesus’ teaching prevents his followers from blaming others, airing our impotent opinions, or sinking into compassion fatigue. Jesus poured his life out for us…all of us…and teaches us to do the same.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40

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To the refugee (probably not reading this, but I want to come out of silence somehow): There are those of us, in this country, who will do what we can to welcome you here and to be neighbor to you when you finally arrive. Forgive us that we haven’t done more. We have been shaken out of our slumber of unbelief at your suffering. Praying for you until you are home again…wherever that will be.

Home by Warsan Shire

YouTube Video – People of Nowhere – Lior Sperandeo

Baptist Global Response

Loving the Alien – PDF – Bible Study from Jubilee Centre, Cambridge, UK

Scripture and Immigration

5 (Biblical) Reasons Christians Must Care for Asylum Seekers – Matt Darvas

5 Friday Faves – Hurricane Matthew, Engaging Older Adults, Life After Downton, Leading Change, and a Fall Evening

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It’s Friday, and tomorrow Hurricane Matthew is supposed to move into Virginia. Wind and rain. Hopefully we won’t lose power, but over a million folks in Florida did, so we wait and see.

Here are my favorite finds of this week. Two are actually blogs by the same writer, Carey Nieuwhof. He is a wise leader and gives excellent counsel to those of us who also want to lead well.

  1. Hurricane Matthew – The Caribbean and Florida have been hit hard by this week’s hurricane. A Category 4 storm through the Caribbean and now Category 3, passing through Florida and into Georgia tonight. Hundreds of deaths and the storm devastation is massive. I am so thankful for disaster response agencies who take definitive action quickly in times like this. Baptist Global Response (BGR) is that kind of organization, working with local partners to help in the life-saving areas of clean water, food security, shelter and supplies and general health of the peoples most hard-hit. Because of the work of other NGO’s already in Haiti, BGR is targeting its disaster relief efforts on Cuba.blog-hurricane-matthew-commondreamsblog-hurricane-matthew-wtvrPhoto Credit: Common Dreams; WTVR

2) Engaging Older Adults – Carey Nieuwhof posted a helpful 5 points list on engaging older adults. Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing. This post could just as easily been written any group of older adults who could be a tremendous resource if engaged…otherwise they are going to just keep getting on those buses.blog-senior-citizens-bus-tours-angeltourPhoto Credit: AngelTour

Not that older adults don’t deserve vacations after so many years in the work force and serving in their churches and families. Still, Nieuwhof makes a serious case for mobilizing seniors back into service where they are needed to mentor, model, guide, and cast vision for the next generations. The Fall Leaf bus tours are upon us, but we also need these valuable men and women among us as well.

3) Life After Downton – What to Watch Now – I do miss Downton Abbey, but fortunately we do have other viewing options. Amazon Screening Room lists out lovely period pieces that can scratch our itch for Downton. Two I’ve already watched are Doctor Thorne and Grantchester. Would love to hear some of your recommendations!blog-dr-thorneblog-after-downtonPhoto Credit: Screening Room

4) Leading Change – Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, is also a writer and speaker on leadership. carey-nieuwhof-blogPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

He wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition. In a blog this week, he takes from his book, focusing on how to lead through change in the face of opposition. A few of his observations are:

  • People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.
  • Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change.
  • Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition.
  • Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.

5) Firepit on a Fall Evening with S’Mores – This week marks the true arrival of Fall here with temperatures dropping and leaves just beginning to turn colors. We had our first marshmallow roast on an outdoor fire. Making S’mores – that camping treat of graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and melted marshmallows. Thus marking the start of my favorite season. Lots of pics to follow of brilliant Fall leaves and fun times outside without the heat of summer.blog-smores-and-a-firepit

Be safe out there. Hope you East Coasters in the States are not too troubled by Hurricane Matthew. Have a restful weekend. Leave us your favorite finds of the week in the Comments below. Thanks.

5 Friday Faves – Video Games, NFL Man of the Year, Hospitality, Writing, and Animal Courage

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It’s that glorious Friday again. Here are my favorite finds of the week:

1) Video Games – What is the appeal of video games for our boys and men? It is a mystery to me. I do understand the gaming camaraderie between players – some friends, some strangers who become friends, kinda sorta. The cutting-edge graphics designed mostly for the eyes of our guys are clearly appealing. And levels…oh, the levels keep our boys and men coming back for the challenge – the competition on an even playing field – without judging from outsiders. Well, except for the occasional run-ins with wife or mother. Lastly, it’s the welcome mindlessness, I’m thinking. The momentary escape from organic chemistry, or frustrating job, or Master’s thesis, or [fill in the blank].

We all have indulgent time-wasters, and I battled with my boys over video games more than I should have. My regret over that transformed into joy this week, as the guitarist son of mine actually turned a video game theme into a lovely work on classical guitar. Who would have thought it? To see Nathan smile (at minute 1:40 in video) makes me wonder at the sweet memory he has of that game’s music. Hello again, Legend of Zelda. Don’t remember you like this.

2) NFL Man of the Year – I’m not a big football fan, but when we came across the NFL Honors program the night before the Superbowl I was intrigued. Football seems all about leaving it on the field. This was a salute to a band of brothers and the stand-outs among them, both on the field and off. There were three nominees for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for 2015 – Anquan Boldin, Eli Manning, and Benjamin Watson. Each man’s character and philanthropic work were highlighted in video vignettes. With all the tabloid coverage of the antics of some of our professional athletes, it was inspiring to see how others spend their off-season time. Anquan Boldin, the San Francisco 49ers wide receiver, received this year’s award from the Payton family. Read more about Anquan’s work in the global community here.Blog - NFL Man of the Year 2016 - Anquan Boldin (2)Photo Credit: Mercury News

Another highlight of the Man of the Year NFL Honors focus was a welcome reminder of Benjamin Watson and his redemptive statement on Facebook (regarding the 2014 Ferguson Decision). In this profession of moneyed celebrity, it was refreshing to see upclose the caliber of such men as Boldin, Manning, and Watson.

3) Hospitality – Hospitality is defined at Google as “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” We live in a culture today of “come as you are; just hanging out with friends; bring your own food/beverage”. I love the comfortable sound and easy experience of that. However, I hope we don’t lose the great global habit of extending generous hospitality – where nothing is expected but the welcome presence of the guest. We lived for many years in North Africa where they expect hospitality of themselves and they lavish it on their guests. Even in the poorest of homes, the cookies and fruit are beautifully presented, and the tea is poured with great ceremony. I learned so much from my Arab and Berber friends and neighbors…and don’t want to forget ever to extend hospitality. There is a difference between service and hospitality – described in TED Talks and distinctive in industry. [I wrote about this here.]

“Hospitality is about looking out instead of looking in…I can look outward and help someone else.”Bobby Stuckey.  The Bible is full of examples of hospitality and encouragements toward it. We are to extend blessing even as far as to our enemies. Benjamin Corey writes eloquently about this Biblical hospitality. Finally, Rosaria Butterfield, in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert says this: “Hospitality means bringing the stranger in…you have to meet and respect people where they are…I believe strongly that hospitality is just the ground zero of the Christian life, and of evangelism, and of everything else that we do, apart from the formal worship of God.” Blog - Hospitality - The Secret THoughts of an Unlikely Convert - Rosaria ButterfieldPhoto Credit: Amazon.com

It’s good to remember that we can extend hospitality in a less-than-perfect house, where toys are still scattered and books a bit piled. It’s more the attitude of the heart in celebrating the other. Also, by definition, hospitality doesn’t have to be based in the home. I will never forget spotting a friend, whose husband was also in graduate school, walking up my driveway, with a pot of coffee and favorite mugs. It turned my morning of home-schooling littles in something altogether other. Extending hospitality…mobile and on-the-fly.Blog - Hospitality

4) Writing – I am always grateful for help in this skill of writing. Finding Chris Bailey’s blog (A Life of Productivity) and book (The Productivity Project) was a great boon to organizing my life and writing (my notes here). Daniel Darling’s blog this past week was another huge encouragement. He writes on how to be a prolific writer.

Darling gives 6 helps in writing: 1) I don’t wait for inspiration, for a cabin next to a mountain stream, or a light bulb. I just write; 2) I write from my passions on topics that interest me; 3) Always be cultivating and chronicling ideas; 4) I try to be curious and always learning; 5) I write in short bursts, in the margins of life; and 6) I try not to be a jerk. Don’t miss how he fills out the story on these points on his blog.Blog - Writing & Journaling - Joy List

5) Animal Courage – When our kids were small and we were living overseas, we took with us this wildlife video entitled The Bear. Like other children’s videos (a lot from Disney), there were story bits that needed processing with a loving adult (like how often the mom dies in these stories…sigh). The Bear was filmed with an intentionality of demonstrating the real life struggle of life in the wild for these animals. Also depicted was the almost-human qualities of care and courage in these animals. I have used one scene of this movie in talks over the years on how gracious it is to have an advocate. One stronger or more influential than we are who stands with us, sometimes out of sight, against an adversary. The plot story involves a bear cub, orphaned when his mother dies (again?!) and an older adult male, beleaguered himself by hunters and the sheer strain of survival sometimes, who becomes the cub’s protector. Here’s the scene (fast-forward to minute 2:30 for time’s sake if needed).

I love this scene. It actually reminds me of us sometimes…and God. We stand as tall as we can and roar (like a wee cub) against the wrongs of this world – wrongs against us sometimes. We are not always aware, but the LORD (I believe from experience and His Word) issues a God-sized roar against those same wrongs. Our adversaries will be reckoned with.

YouTube Video – Scene from the film The Bear, 1988 (Cub & Cougar at 2:30 into scene)

Film The Bear

Top Ten Most Courageous Animals

Happy Friday! Have a weekend full of extending and receiving hospitality, quiet times of refreshment, and reflection on the God who watches over us. Also, hug those video-gaming men of yours…when they take a break (don’t want them to lose a level in the midst of wrestling them down to the floor), right? Right.

Any favorites you want to share? Or memories…or words of wisdom. Would love to hear them (Comment below).

5 Friday Faves – Housing the Homeless, Christmas Cookies, Sunrises in Winter, Healing from Trauma, and a Christmas Cactus

Blog - Friday FavesThis Friday came in so fast. I wish the time would slow down some…so much to savor and celebrate. Even those painful realities of life need time to process and make good decisions about…time… We grab hold of the minutes and squeeze the good out of them before they scatter. This is one of the reasons I write…I write to remember… all the good…and the hard… to take nothing for granted.

1. Housing the Homeless – The journey to housing for our homeless neighbors is complicated. Some we see at intersections in our cities, with their cardboard signs, have made a life, of sorts, on the streets. I have no idea how they survive winter. Others are freshly homeless, living in hotels, until they can’t anymore. Homelessness doesn’t come with its own guide of how to regain normalcy…the homeless need a compass. Thankfully, there are agencies who help these neighbors of ours, and help us learn how to help better. In our city, two agencies I want to highlight are Caritas and Hilliard House (or Housing Families First). Find out how you can get involved. “Homelessness isn’t a lifestyle, it’s an emergency.” – Caritas

L.A.'s Skid Row is home to more than 8,000 homeless people. With the help of domestic hunger funds given through the North American Mission Board, Set Free Church was able to provide a hot meal on Thanksgiving last year. Photo by Greg Schneider

Blog - Homeless - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

2. Christmas Cookies – Once a year, plates of cookies come out that speak love like none other. Home-made, cut-out decorated Christmas cookies amaze me. I don’t bake them but am grateful for the hands that do. So much work in making the buttery cookie dough, cutting them out, baking and then decorating them. A frosted Christmas cookie and a cup of coffee in front of a fire…bliss.Blog - Christmas Cookies - from Josh Griffin's FB page - by Patricia Good EckardPhoto Credit: Facebook.com – Cookies by Patricia Good Eckard

3. Sunrises in Winter – I don’t know what it is about sunrises in winter, but they catch me by surprise every morning. Rolling out of bed in the still cool darkness, pulling on socks, sliding into slippers, and making my way to bathroom, and then kitchen. Somewhere in the middle of that first cup of coffee, my eyes are drawn to the window…and then glory! The light of the morning sky… Maybe it’s because the trees are bare and we are able to catch the hues of light earlier, but I love winter sunrises best. They take the chill off and fill me with anticipation of the day. Joy…Blog - Winter Sunrise

4. Healing from Trauma – Recently I have been learning more about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and wrote about a valuable resource here.  Then, a friend told me about training she received last month in Amman, Jordan. It relates to caring for non-western peoples who have experienced severe trauma. The Trauma Healing Institute provides training in the US and internationally. “The Trauma Healing Institute at American Bible Society is equipping people, churches, and NGOs around the world to care for the more than one in seven people worldwide who suffer severe wounds of the heart and spirit in the aftermath of conflict, disaster or abuse.” I hope to sign up for this training in 2016. Watch the film Hope Rising to learn more.

5. Christmas Cactus – My mom-in-law is a master gardener. Her sunroom is its own botanical garden. She is always encouraging us to take some of her plants and we have two blooming Christmas cacti right now, because of her. My husband is our gardener (fortunately) or we would not have house plants. I love how these cacti, (or cactuses), “know” to bloom around the holidays (Thanksgiving or Christmas). From the plant family Schlumbergera, the Christmas cactus can be nurtured to bloom right on time. I am pretty sure Dave doesn’t follow a particular plan, but our plants are very forgiving…and are blooming just as they were meant to… Merry Christmas.Blog - Christmas Cactus (2)

The Peril & Blessing of Gift-Giving and that Greatest Gift

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Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

I am undone by Christmas gift-giving. Once upon a time, seemingly long, long ago, giving special gifts was something I did well. Not so much any more. The whole Christmas shopping experience has become quite overwhelming for me. If you give me a definite idea or suggestion, I am empowered. It will be done! To shoot in the dark for a gift that, just knowing you, I know you would love?…not so much.

What a blessing you are who just intuitively know what will please or what will be treasured…those gifts full of meaning, or thoughtfulness, or wonder – gifts that aren’t seeming burdens or requiring a return. You are a blessing to us all. I don’t even compare myself to great gift-givers any more…resigning myself to the writing of checks or the occasional joy of tripping over “just the right gift”.

This is my tribute to the great gift-givers in my life. Here are examples of late:

  • those old friends retiring and moving away who gave all of us, at their send-off, a rose and two marbles – a “shooter” and a “keeper”. So meaningful because he collects marbles and is always a great “shooter” in real life, and she is such a “keeper”. I will miss them. The marbles go in my work desk to remember them every time I open that drawer.2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 002 (2)
  • that neighbor who baked Christmas cookies with her kids and sent them with their dad around the neighborhood delivering their photo Christmas card and cookies. Such a sweet visit at the door as we talked about spelling bees, and sledding, and no Christmas travel because of work. Blog - Gift-Giving - Christmas cookies
  • those friends who show up with surprises (pictured at top of blog) – the wooden ball Nativity from Bizarre Bazaar (where she fought the crowds of shoppers for those special finds); the cross inscribed with “love”, from a friend (in major transition with what time to shop?!), a silver pillow with “Peace on Earth” in red letters (from a woman in full-time ministry). All working women with little time to shop but hearts so full of love, they do what’s necessary to lavish that love on those around them.

During December each year, before falling asleep, I try to read through my stash of Christmas books. One of those is Andy Andrews’ Socks for Christmas. It’s a shortish story about his growing up in the 60’s Christmas…and the hard reality that, for some children, socks would be a gladsome gift.Blog - Gift-Giving - Socks for Christmas - Book

Sometimes even the smallest of gifts like socks meets a great need.

What about the greatest of gifts – that of the Christ child? The greatest of gifts from the greatest of Gift-givers to meet the greatest of our needs – that need for a Savior.

Ann Voskamp, is a writer and blogger, homeschool mom and farmer’s wife. As she talks about daily trips to the barn, she paints a story about gift-giving. It’s so real, I can feel the cold of the Canadian winter and the musty smell of hay and animals.

“Too often we think that Christmas is something that we can buy or create or make by hand. Ultimately Christmas isn’t a product that we can wrap up but it’s a Person that we unwrap. Christ comes to the manger, that cradle, that trough. The mire and the stench [of that barn…of our lives]. It doesn’t end there. That manger is wood and it’s nailed together. That manger takes us right to the cross. We are saved only through another tree – the tree from the garden, the tree at the manger, the tree Jesus hung on to save us…From the beginning of time, we’ve been coming to this place – the Messiah coming to redeem us…In the cross is the white-hot burn of His love.” – Ann Voskamp

For you glorious gift-givers, thank you. You reflect the joyful, creative generosity of God. For those of us who struggle, we will press our way through that part of Christmas. We will be glad for you and glad for the One who knew exactly what we needed not just for Christmas but for always…and gave us more that we could “ask or imagine”.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

[P.S. Gift ideas that stretch across the globe to touch families in need can be found on the pages of the BGR Christmas catalog. If you can’t figure what to give to folks who have pretty much everything, here you can find plenty to give to others, in their name. ]

Jesus is the Greatest Gift – Christmas Gifts for Neighbors – Ann Voskamp

The Cross-Centered Christmas: An Interview with Ann Voskamp – Tony Reinke, DesiringGod.org

The One Thing Your Christmas Can’t Afford to Be Without – Ann Voskamp

Baptist Global Response – Christmas Catalog

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Socks for Christmas: A Child’s Discovery of the True Riches of Christmas by Andy Andrews

5 Friday Faves – Frost, Blessing Bags for Homeless, Charlie Brown Christmas, Seasonal Treats, a Christmas Poem

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Happy Friday! Here are my 5 Faves for this week – hope they stir up some of your sweet favorites of life.

  1. Frost – For those of you already faced with lots of snow, a frosty morning is no novelty. Remember those first frozen-dew-etched leaves? So beautiful. What a quickly passing sight it is, too, as the sun appears and burns off the frost. I’m glad I didn’t miss it this morning.2015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 0482015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 0562015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 062

2) Blessing Bags for Homeless – As the weather gets colder, I wonder at how those fare – those standing beside busy streets, cardboard signs lifted, asking passersby for help. A few coins or even a granola bar pulled from the grocery bag seem so inadequate. This how-to of making blessing bags for homeless comes at a great time.

Blog - Blessing Bag for HomelessPhoto Credit: pinterest.com

It’s an activity the whole family could work on together. More expensive, sure…but also more substantial for those weathering the cold on the streets of our cities.

3) Charlie Brown Christmas – This year marks the 50th anniversary of the broadcast of this Christmas special.  You can find some of the history of how it was written, produced, and actually debuted, in the midst of controversy, on our TVs years ago, here and here. The sweet and angsty story of Charlie Brown and buddies is set beautifully to the jazz music of Vince Guaraldi. My favorite scene is when Linus explains to Charlie Brown what Christmas is all about.Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown #2“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” – Linus

4) Seasonal Treats – Every holiday has its special edibles. I have long loved Little Debbie cakes with their seasonal offerings – don’t know how Little Debbie stayed little if she ate her own confections. Blog - Friday Faves - Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes BoxPhoto Credit: the-holidaze.blogspot.com

Various concoctions of chocolate and peppermint are favorites in these parts. What are some of yours?Blog - Friday Faves - Christmas Cookies2015 November Phone Pics - Sadie, Blog, Delaware Thanksgiving 271Blog - Christmas HoHos (2)Sidebar: the last HoHos I ever ate were in Cairo, Egypt, a long time ago.

5) a Christmas Poem – Every Christmas that I can remember, growing up, a poem by Francis Thompson (1859-1907) was displayed in our home. I loved it. Entitled Little Jesus, it was written as if a child were speaking to Jesus about His own childhood. It still fills me with wonder to think of God condescending to take human form for our sakes – identifying with us, even as a child.Friday Faves - Christmas Poem, First Frost, Charlie Brown, TreatsPhoto Credit: narrowridge.blogspot.com

Do you have a favorite Christmas poem, or seasonal treat, or some other favorite to share? Please do so in the Comments. Hope your weekend is peaceful, even in the midst of what can be crazy December.

2015 December - Christmas, Retirement, Sadie, Blog, Frost 055Autumn still with us in December.

5 Friday Faves – a Favorite Charity, Tablescaping, Brunswick Stew, Christmas Commercial, and Thanksgiving Songs

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What a week, huh?! The world is all a-chatter about how to wisely and compassionately respond to the needs of displaced peoples…especially Syrian refugees right now. I want to write about this soon, but for now, the blogosphere is full of solid commentary on how we might respond and what’s at stake. For today, I will focus on lighter fare…except for #1.

  1. Favorite Charity – Baptist Global Response is a relatively small charity with a wide reach. It is the disaster response/humanitarian relief arm of the Southern Baptist Convention and partners with many other local and global agencies. Their work alone with Syrian refugees (and other internally and externally displaced peoples) means so much to me. Consider BGR in your Christmas giving – it’s a start in touching the lives of Syrian and other refugees.

Blog - Baptist Global Response - refugeesPhoto Credit: GoBGR.org

2. Tablescaping – A beautifully set table is its own art form. So many meals these days are plated and eaten in front of the T.V. or computer. Sitting together, face-to-face, around a table makes for a very different communal experience. This week, I attended Mt. Vernon’s Women’s Christmas Event. The theme was The Sights, Sounds & Flavors of Bethlehem. Each banquet table was prepared by different tablescapers. Beautiful.2015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0692015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0702015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0652015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0482015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0382015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 042

3. Brunswick Stew – A favorite restaurant of my childhood in Georgia was Old Hickory House. Some of the restaurants have since closed, but at least one remains. I remember well the tangy sweet barbecue and Brunswick stew. This week I discovered a blogger who also knew Old Hickory House. He gifted us with the recipe for that hearty stew. Blog - Friday Faves - Brunswick Stew

4. Christmas Commercial – I love Hallmark Christmas commercials and you can find a bunch here.  This week a different annual favorite came to my attention. The John Lewis Department Store, in the U.K., puts out its own Christmas commercial each year.  I came across this video through a Country Living blog on how old people have so little contact with others. This is a sweet metaphor on that.

5. Thanksgiving Songs – There are some church hymns we only sing on their respective holidays. Thanksgiving songs aren’t usually sung in more contemporary evangelical churches, and I miss them. My favorites are We Gather Together and Come Ye Thankful People, Come. Maybe updated versions would bring them back in our worship services (up for arranging them, Nathan?).

Two other Thanksgiving Songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Brianna Haynes are also lovely…didn’t know them until this week.

What were your favorites this week? I’m closing with a quote from C.S. Lewis – seems appropriate as we struggle in the U.S. over our response to the current world crises. Great weekend, Friends.

Blog - Friday Faves - C. S. Lewis on Love - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Love Your Neighbor – Henrico Christmas Mother – How We Can Help

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As October winds down every year, stores are transformed into a shopping wonderland with Christmas just weeks away. Toys for children and presents under the tree are part of the wonder of the season. Henrico Christmas Mother is a local non-profit that helps “keep Christmas” in the lives of even the poorest of our neighbors.

Henrico Christmas Mother provides a unique and amazing shopping experience for qualified applicants, to brighten their family’s Christmas. Moms can choose gifts for their children from an enormous array of possibilities…without any cost. Thanks to the incredible generosity of their neighbors.  They also receive boxes of food to help during Christmas break when the children are home more, without the added breakfast and lunch programs available to them at school.

Harriet Long, a retired educator who I don’t think ever truly retired, is this year’s Council President of Henrico Christmas Mother. The Council is made up of past Christmas Mothers and representatives from the 5 Henrico county districts. Mrs. Long was Henrico Christmas Mother in 2013. These volunteers on the Council lead the huge effort made each year to fulfill their mission:

“To provide assistance in the form of food, new clothing, books and toys to qualifying families, adults with disabilities, and the elderly during the holiday season.”

2015 October - Christmas Mother - Ken & Harriet Long 003Harriet Long and her husband and #1 volunteer, Ken

I caught up with Mrs. Long this week to learn more about the year-round operation of Henrico Christmas Mother. As she talked about the community they serve, her eyes brightened. She has, for years, seen the difference made by Henrico Christmas Mother. Thinking that Henrico County had a fairly affluent citizenry, I was surprised at the number in our county in need of help. 40% of students in the Henrico County Public Schools live at or below the poverty line. 20% of Henrico County citizens receive some sort of public assistance.

Through the generous support of Henrico County Government and the Henrico County Public Schools, along with donations from private citizens and corporations, Henrico Christmas Mother serves hundreds of our neighbors.

2014 December Christmas Mother (48)

I saw that “neighbors helping neighbors” motto at work last December when I volunteered alongside many more at the Henrico Christmas Mother Warehouse. Harriet and her husband, Ken, were there as well…actually they are there every day during those two weeks of helping moms and dads shop for their families.  The joy of serving neighbors pulsated through that huge warehouse. All the work of packing food boxes, gathering, sorting, by size and age, and displaying items for ease of the moms being served is done completely by volunteers. It’s a sight to behold!2014 December Christmas Mother (29)

 How can we help our neighbors through Henrico Christmas Mother? There are so many ways, and one way might fit you.

Inviting the Henrico County Christmas Mother to speak at your organization or company, especially during Spring and Summer, would be a great help in getting the word out. Neighbors helping neighbors.

Making donations is the way this non-profit organization has continued to serve since 1942. You make financial contributions through their website or mail a check to Henrico Christmas Mother, PO Box 70338, Henrico, Va. 23255.

If you would like to donate items, you can begin to do that, as the Christmas Mother volunteers do – during the after-Christmas sales. Mrs. Long and the Council will begin to prepare for next year’s Christmas Mother starting right after Christmas. New toys, books, and clothing are bought for all ages of children. From 0 to whatever age the child is still a student in Henrico County Public Schools. Hats, gloves, socks, new children’s books, bikes with helmets, coloring books and crayons are always on the needs list.

Henrico Christmas Mother also serves senior citizens of the county as well as disabled adults – those who qualify financially. There are gift tables for them to shop for themselves – costume jewelry, books (including Bibles and cookbooks), pajamas, hats, scarves, gloves, caps, and socks. This service is unique to Henrico Christmas Mother, and donations of items for these adults are greatly appreciated.

The food boxes that are given on shopping day come from student donations through the Henrico Co. Public Schools. Last year, students donated over 110,000 non-perishable food items. Along with the food boxes, giftcards for meats, fruits, and vegetables are also provided on the shopping day. Just ahead of those two weeks of Christmas Mother, donations of soup, cereal, cookies and crackers, in particular are also solicited. Remember that these children are some of the most vulnerable in the county nutritionally during Christmas.

How does this all work?  The Henrico Christmas Mother Council works year round. In August and September, notices begin going out to families in Henrico about Christmas Mother. One flyer is sent in the water bill. Word also goes out through government-subsidized housing and through Social Services. Posters go up in the schools starting in September.

Applications are taken, at the warehouse, the first four Mondays of October. On that day, if the family qualifies, an appointment is made to return to shop during two weeks in December.

Then the fun really begins. The moms come in on their appointment day and are assisted by a volunteer to maneuver around the massive warehouse. They can choose books and clothes for each of their children. Hats, gloves and socks also are available for all the children. The toy tables are arranged by age. 2 toys/child. The parents choose them from a huge selection gathered by the Christmas Mother Council. Then each child receives stocking stuffers, coloring books and crayons.

Finally, the shoppers receive food boxes based on the number of people in the household – food enough for five meals. Henrico County Government staff then help these moms get all the gifts and food to their cars.

This is Henrico Christmas Mother – neighbors helping neighbors.

 2014 December Christmas Mother (12)2014 December Christmas Mother (1)628_Choosing_Stocking_Stuffers2014 December Christmas Mother (8)

I’m so grateful for the introduction President Harriet Long gave me to this great organization. This Christmas, share the joy of helping your neighbors through volunteering, donating, and inviting the Henrico Christmas Mother to speak at your organization or community event on next year’s calendar.

Henrico Christmas Mother provides a true and tested opportunity for us to show love to our neighbors this Christmas and all through the year. We can make a difference in the lives of these families.

Blog - Love Your Neighbor Christmas Mother - Beverly Cocke 2015

2015 Henrico Christmas Mother

2015 Henrico Christmas Mother, Beverly Cocke    (also the Brookland District’s representative on the Henrico County School Board)
“There is nothing like the joy in knowing that you played a small part in bringing a smile to a stranger’s face and sharing the message of love and hope across Henrico during the holiday season. I am honored and humbled.”

2014 December Christmas Mother (33)

The Planned Parenthood Protest – 5 Questions & a Guarded Observance

Planned parenthood Protest beginningYou formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.Psalm 139:13-14

A friend invited me to join her in a protest this morning. A protest against Planned Parenthood. It’s been many years since I’ve participated in such a public outcry. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the protest…thinking “what will it accomplish?” We are so polarized as a culture along such lines. Then I read John Piper’s appeal out of which this nationwide event seemed to have originated.

My Facebook status yesterday revealed my struggle, after reading the article above:

I’ve been invited to a protest Saturday – it is a moral dilemma for me. What will protesting do if I’ve done little else? Protesting is a step …because something has to give here…something has to change. It’s bigger than the group being protested…it’s as big as our culture and our willingness to turn away from human suffering…at all extremes of life. God, help us. We have to wake up. We have to pray…and be willing to reach out to those around us in dire straits…starting with the tiniest ones, and forward. If you don’t read anything else of the article linked, read the last paragraph – my stomach so knotted up, I thought I was going to vomit.

Part of the turmoil in my head and heart was wrestling with how to love like God loves. God loves these babies. God loves those who conceived them. God loves the personnel and supporters of Planned Parenthood. What do we do with all that?

I guardedly decided to go to the protest…tuned to that love of God…

Planned Parenthood in our town is open for business 7 days a week. Arriving shortly after this Planned Parenthood center opened and before the crowd fully gathered, I was more an observer. Right away, I was glad I went. There were so many already there, well-organized, passionate yet peaceful, gentle souls. Just being with them, I could see what some of my next steps will be.

One sign particularly caught my attention. “I regret my abortion.”Planned Parenthood Protest - I Regret My AbortionThis took me back many years to a dear single friend who got pregnant at a very inconvenient and difficult time. She saw no other recourse but to abort, with the committed urging of her boyfriend at the time.  Then they broke up. That was 30 years ago, and she never, to her knowledge, conceived again. She grieved her decision just weeks after…and she’s mourned it ever since.

Planned Parenthood Protest - Looking Out for the Little Guy

Some at this protest today wore these blue t-shirts with the byline “watching out for the little guys”. Given the videos being published in the last several days exposing Planned Parenthood’s sale of fetal organs, we must consider really what is happening here. I can’t watch those videos, but a friend, mother of twins, told me when she watched the most recent one featuring a later-term fetus, she said her babies weren’t much bigger at birth. It really hit home for her!

We must re-think what’s happening in abortion. We must also consider and care for the mothers of these little ones. Also, it caused me to wonder again, “where are the fathers?” It’s like the incident during Jesus’ ministry, when the religious leaders were preparing to stone a woman “caught in the act, in the very act” of adultery. Jesus essentially rescued her from these men…her partner didn’t need rescuing…he wasn’t there. I believe there are supportive fathers going through these painful situations with their wives or partners…but too many women have to make these decisions without the support that could turn the tide for them.

My questions come at this juncture:

  1. What more can I do? – besides protest or support a particular political candidate? Neither of these seem to make much of a difference lately. I’m beginning to ask questions and am determined to be more accountable in this…for what could be my part in this.
  2. What more can the church do? Or others collectively whose eyes are opening to atrocities beyond our imagining. Even if it’s not universal, if it’s happening anywhere, it could happen everywhere. What are options we can genuinely support? Adoption. Fostering children. Supporting the moms. Public awareness. Educating young people to make wise choices.
  3. Is there a better way to serve? What education is best? What financial aid is most empowering/beneficial? What care is needed? Could our schools and community health centers serve the needs of these most vulnerable without the help of Planned Parenthood? We can’t just condemn what is out there, if we are not willing to be a part of something better. I’m going to be asking more questions along these lines…and will let you know what I find out.
  4. Is the clinical need for fetal tissue in the treatment of some diseases circumventing finding a better solution to these illnesses? It’s like with pornography, is the demand feeding the supply? We must raise questions about and fund research for the use of adult stem cells or other remedies in the treatment of these debilitating diseases. We are just assuming fetal tissue is the answer.
  5. Who are those crying out against the racial side of abortion? I want to join them. Statistically, most abortions in the US are performed on black women. Why isn’t there an outcry over that? If this population is the most vulnerable, let’s work together to determine a more substantive way to help them, other than just getting rid of all those precious babies.

Planned Parenthood Protest - signsPlanned Parenthood Protest

Abortion is not going away. We will never, I don’t believe, return to the days before Roe v. Wade. We do have to find a better way…we have to.

Abortion and Race

If Planned Parenthood Loses Government Funding, Here’s a Map of Health Clinics That Could Take Its Place

Planned Parenthood: Invitation, Explanation, Indignation – John Piper

Ben Carson vs. Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger: Her own words circa 1939

Stem Cell FAQs – What are Stem Cells?

Hundreds protest at Planned Parenthood on Hamilton Avenue in Richmond

Pregnancy Resource Center of Metro Richmond

Amazing Raise – Fund-raising Campaign for Pregnancy Resource Center of Metro Richmond

Crisis Pregnancy Center – Bethany Christian Services

Safe Harbor Domestic Violence Shelter

Planned Parenthood Protest - Pray

Going to vs. Being Church – It’s Not Just About Sunday, But Sunday Matters, Too

Blog - Attending vs. Being Church 8Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – Hebrews 10:23-25

This morning, I was heading out of my neighborhood, later than usual, and on my way to gather with my church family. I carefully passed by this tiny little girl pedaling her bike alongside her dad who was walking their dog. Sunday morning. No plans for church, it seemed. It made me a little sad.

I was late myself, so it seemed clear they weren’t attending a church this morning. I wondered, turning out of the neighborhood, what idea that little girl had of church. Then it hit me that I was unconsciously defining church as attending vs. being.

God in Scripture does not define church as an event or a place, but rather a people. We are to gather (Acts 2:42, 46-47) as His people –  to encourage each other, to serve and pray for one another, to worship God, and to support the work of the church (not the place as much as the people). There is a gathering of the church, but there is also a scattering of the church.Blog - Attending vs. Being Church 5Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

As we go out through the week, being the church, we are commanded by God to love Him and to love each other. (Matthew 22:37-40) Why a command? Our default is self. In His kindness, God points us to an upward focus and an outward focus.

      “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.   By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  – John 13:34-35Blog - Attending vs. Being Church 3Crossover Parkville Baptist baseball clinic Stephen Arrington (yellow shirt), Suffolk VA, FBC Monroe, outreach pastorVictor Schloss, SEND City Coordinator for San Diego. With Jason Esparza in gray t-shirt, Stephen Dixon in white and Rachel Field.

As our culture trends more and more toward being post-Christian, we as believers in Christ must make more intentional choices regarding church.* Not making a decision is making a decision.  Are we attending church, not attending church, or being church?

Attending church maybe allows us to check something off our lists, but it’s not what being a true follower of Christ is. In fact, just attending is difficult to continue because our hearts and lives are not invested. It becomes easy, with all the distractions of life, to just not go.

Not attending church doesn’t get us to the place of being church either. When we make a series of decisions where we essentially become unchurched, we are in danger of falling away from God and His people. This is where the urging in Hebrews 10 (at top) is so vital.

Being church is what God calls us to ultimately. He means for us to gather and He means to send us out.

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him [Jesus]. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” – Luke 4:17-19

Being church means so much more than just being church attenders. It means that we are part of a group of Christ-followers. Partners. Both locally and globally. Loving God and each other deeply and taking that love to our neighbors and the nations.

The little girl on her bike, and her daddy beside her, might delight in this idea of church…and the God of this church.

[Jesus speaking] Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20

Salt Shaker Ministry: Being the Church vs. Going to Church – Live Oaks Church – Powerpoint & Bible Study

Going To vs. Being [Church Edition]

Doing Church vs. Being Church

The Local Church – Minimum vs. Maximum by John Piper

I Don’t Go to Church – I Am the Church by David E. Bish

Going to Church vs. Being the Church – RagamuffinGospelFan

*7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America

Attending Church for the Wrong Reasons

Do You Go to Church or Do You Go to Jesus?

Why Is Church Attendance/Going to Church Important

Photo Credits (above) – bpnews.net

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