Category Archives: Volunteering/Serving

5 Friday Faves – Awards Speeches, Castle Theme, Prayer Breakfast, Harmony, and a Comedian

Hello, Friday! You know those kind of days when you work really, really hard, and you come home too tired to eat, much less cook….but it’s a good tired. You sink down in the closest chair…and 10 minutes later, wake up from a nap that felt longer…and…on with finishing the week… Hope your tired is a good tired. Here are five of my favorite finds…just for you!

1) Awards Speeches – We are in that season of awards shows – the Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy, among others. Those of us who watch these shows do so to catch all the gorgeous or peculiar actors in the audience and stage. The fashions are a draw as well. For me, I love to hear what the award recipients say when they receive their award…their prepared words/speech. What they choose to showcase in their few minutes before their peers and the watching world. On the recent Screen Actors Guild Awards show, my favorite speech of the year was by Taraji P. Henson. She spoke for all the actors of Hidden Figures which won the award of Outstanding Performance By A Cast in a Motion Picture.

#sagawards

“We stand here as proud actors." – Taraji P. Henson on behalf of the cast of Hidden Figures.

Posted by Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday, January 29, 2017

Watch her speech in the clip, or read it here. Part of it follows: “This story is of unity,” she concluded. “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside and we come together as a human race. We win. Love wins every time.”

No political posturing. No pitting of one group against another. Lovely. Hopeful. True.

2) The Castle ThemeNathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar has done it again. He has taken the background music of a favorite videogame and demonstrated the incredible beauty to be found there. Castle Theme from Super Mario World is his latest arrangement for classical guitar. I honestly don’t know how he plays as fast as he does. Check it out here.

3) Prayer Breakfast – These days you never know what to expect in public observances. Protests, boycotts, and marches. A quieter but significant  event is the National Prayer Breakfast observed in February each year since 1953, in Washington, D.C. Keynote speakers in the past have included Mother Teresa, Bono, and Tony Blair. This year retired Rear Admiral Barry Black, the Senate Chaplain, delivered the message.  So powerful! He spoke on Making Your Voice Heard in Heaven.  If you can’t watch all incredible 25 minutes, at least watch from minute 22:16. Wow!

4) Harmony – Don’t you love when music and life flow with harmony? Jay Lyons is a filmmaker whose work I follow. In response to the dissonance of voices in this week’s newstream, he and his family wrote and performed together a song about harmony. Watch it here: Our House – Harmony – Jay Lyons & Family. Photo Credit: Music Early Childhood Presenter

5) A Comedian –  While Facebook friends of mine are deactivating left and right because of all the political wrangling going on right now, I had the biggest chuckle when a video featuring comedian John Crist showed up on my newsfeed. It’s about trying to find a parking place at a mega-church. He is new to me and so funny. Several of his videos are posted on his website. Enjoy.Photo Credit: YouTube

So that’s all I’ve got…jumping into my pajamas to fall asleep in front of the TV…don’t even care what’s on. Before I sign off though, I’d like to give a shout-out to Mike Sheley, owner/operator of the brand-new Chick-Fil-A at Smith Crossroads, Lenoir, North Carolina. This restaurant just opened this week. If you know about Chick-Fil-A, you know it’s all about a great-tasting chicken sandwich…and much more. Mike and team have a huge commitment to the community. Even before their grand opening, the restaurant team sponsored a book drive for local elementary schools and filled food boxes for Feeding Children Everywhere (over 10,000 meals total).Photo Credit: Facebook, Chick-Fil-A

Hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re anywhere near Lenoir, North Carolina, say hi to Mike & Jessica Sheley…and “eat mor chikin'”.

 

The US Presidential Election: What Drives Me to the Polls

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Photo Credit: Thunderclap

I will vote. I will vote for the issues, more than for the candidates.

Fear does not drive me. Responsibility drives me. There’s a certain measure of remorse that I have done so little for our country – paid taxes, yes, obeyed the laws, prayed sometimes for those in leadership. We have this opportunity in voting for our country’s highest leaders…not just for our generation, but for the next. This one thing I can do…add my vote to the American many.

No matter the outcome, I will pray for the President. The icky, divisive arguments for various candidates that have darkly colored this election year…will fade. Friendships will continue. After the election, everyone will get back on social media. There will be a handful of congratulatory “told you so” blogs and articles alongside the somber doomsday pieces. Then life will go back to normal…and our country and culture will continue to lean further right…or further left.

What drives me to the polls? Primarily 3 issues.

  1. Life – In graduate school years ago, I took a required statistics course. There was only one textbook – a tiny primer entitled How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. This set me on a worldview to question all statistics. They, like the political polls of late, can be manipulated to suit the researcher. Having said that, even on the issue of abortion, statistics are complicated because not all states report in the same way. Since the Roe v. Wade decision, in 1973, there have been 59,456,623 documented abortions in the US so far (check out the live abortion counter). blog-abortionPhoto Credit: LifeNews

Planned Parenthood just had its 100th birthday. The largest abortion provider in the US, they have reported 7,220,011 abortions, since 1973. Being pro-life doesn’t mean just being pro-baby; it means being pro-human all across the lifespan. I get that, and embrace that. Too bad there aren’t statistics about the life-long impact of abortion on the women and men who conceived. Their choice is protected; the baby’s right to live is not.

Ben Shapiro DESTROYS Abortion Argument: ‘No More Euphemisms’ by Amanda Prestigiacomo

The Most Important Question About Abortion – Video

2. Supreme Court Justices – and all the Federal judges who will be appointed in the next 4-8 years. When the US Supreme Court began their Fall session, I wondered if Chief Justice Scalia’s empty chair was still shrouded. This election is a fight for the right to appoint these incredibly influential men and women.The Courtroom of the Supreme Court showing Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s Bench Chair and the Bench in front of his seat draped in black following his death on February 13, 2016. Credit: Franz Jantzen/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.Photo Credit: National Law Journal

A Scalia replacement would be instrumental in deciding the fate of an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, in determining the boundaries of religious freedom, the extent of LGBT and abortion rights, the nature of political speech and campaign finance, the strength of labor unions, the extent of congressional delegation to executive bureaucracies that regulate the environment, the workplace, private property, the schools, and much more…With so much at stake, it seems reasonable to conclude that his replacement will take the bench only under conditions of unified government. Ironic: Throughout his career Justice Scalia warned against an overreaching judiciary that replaced democratic judgments with its own. Because his warnings were not heeded, the Court grew into a leviathan that touches all aspects of American life, determines where self-government ends and rule by bureaucrats begins.” Matthew Continetti, The Washington Free Beacon

3) National Debt – I’m no expert on economy. However, our family has always tried to live within our means. It is a strong value for us. With the debt where it is now – $19.7 Trillion and counting (watch the numbers fly on the debt clock) – it seems not to even be an issue anymore. It’s just too great…too impossible to bring down… Not meaning to be a downer here…I just can’t fathom the numbers. Maybe one of our candidates can become the president who will bring us into fiscal integrity and still find ways to serve our nation well. blog-national-debt-culture-warPhoto Credit: Culture-War

US Day of Reckoning? – United States Government Debt to GDP (1940-2016) – even I could understand our economic situation and peril. Also listed is our economic standing related to other nations.

Finally…

This year I have probably studied more about the candidates than any year before. The mainstream media, even with its clear candidate preference, has been motivating in turning me into a fact-checker, on all candidates. I am grateful for the few out there who write and podcast that think somewhat like I do…it has kept me from occasionally questioning my own sanity, truly. The two major political platforms are also helpful, whether the candidates line up completely with their platforms or not – it’s not clear (here is a brief summary of both).

[Sidebar: Although this image is from a WSJ/NBC poll – and you can surmise that polls are suspect for me – it is a quick look at some of the platform issues and values of voters – that is, if it’s correct. Sigh..]

blog-party-platforms-vote-wsjPhoto Credit: Wall Street Journal

There are seven other issues that matter to me. Neither of the major party candidates have defined plans that would compel me to vote for either of them.

  • Refugees/Immigration
  • A President for All Americans
  • Poverty/Joblessness/Racial Divide
  • Religious Freedom
  • Economy/Smaller Government
  • Health Care
  • National Security

However, I will vote. It will be a vote that counts, whether it makes a single vote’s difference or not. It will not be about a lesser or greater evil. I will not be distracted by sensationalism or corruption. I completely get that candidates promise things they can’t deliver (in some situations, I’m counting on that actually). I will not risk or withhold my vote – either by voting for one who has little chance of winning or, by not going to the polls, respectively. Nor will I be put off by those who don’t agree with me and vote differently (or not vote at all). This could be a year when not voting, for some, is the only choice…that conscientious objection to what choices we have.

This, at the deepest level, is stewardship. I’m not proud of my inactivity in civil matters. As a Christian, my efforts to make a difference in the world have been more through the church in my own city and in global communities. This year, more than ever, I see that more has to be done – either by the church…or by collectives of people who truly care about our nation’s people…and the peoples of the world. Government is not enough…and making it bigger may not be the answer.

I don’t know…but this I do know. Voting for all of us has come at a high price…of one sort or another. So…it’s the very least we can do.

…and pray…the most.blog-unknown-soldier-national-security-herobox-on-facebookPhoto Credit: HeroBox on Facebook

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.

Worship Wednesday – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

Blog - If We're Honest - behappyPhoto Credit: BeHappy

This is the message which we have heard from him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. . . if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. . . . If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:5-9

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

I’ve always tried to be pretty much a “what you see if what you get” sort of person…and my husband is the same. We tried to raise our children the same. No pretenses. No false fronts. Fully human with both its strengths and weaknesses. This can backfire on occasion when an opinion or action rankles a developed sensibility on the part of another family member or friend.

Fortunately, if that loved one also determines to live with transparency and understanding, there can be great grace. My sister-in-law and I have been friends for all the years we’ve known each other. Marrying brothers, we became sisters ourselves. She gave me the Willow Tree statue below. It reminds me of us.Blog - If We're Honest - Willow Tree from StacieWe talk about everything…all the good stuff and all the hard stuff. For years we’ve laid our lives bare in front of each other, knowing, completely confident, that we’re both safe. I pray that never changes. No matter what is going on in our marriage, or our parenting, our friendships, or our faith, we have determined to love each other always.

This friendship is like others I have been fortunate to have. Clearly, God meant for His children to have these sorts of relationships. Open, accepting, deeply caring, and loving no matter what. These kinds of relationships foster confessional living.

W. David. O. Taylor is a pastor and educator.  In his blog, The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life, he talks about this. He writes to artists but his observations apply to us all.

What does it mean to live a confessional life? It means that we live in a way that trusted others are always being invited to know our deepest weaknesses and failures. Dallas Willard puts it this way: in the discipline of confession “we lay down the burden of hiding and pretending, which normally takes up such a dreadful amount of human energy” (Spirit of the Disciplines, 188).

Anything we keep hidden is a breeding ground for Satan-manipulating, flesh-arousing dysfunction: self-pity, self-aggrandizement, self-protectiveness, self-indulging, self-destructiveness, the very stuff that fights against all our best [artistic] efforts.

What we need, then, is a mechanism to get us un-hidden. We need to get ourselves out of darkness as quickly as possible and back into the light. That is a Christian definition of sanity. That is also often the most difficult thing for us to do. Yet it is in the light that God does his best work of freeing us from the sin that entangles and distorts.W. David. O. Taylor

“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.”
Ephesians 4:25

What is there to gain by showing a false front to those around us? There is so much more to be lost in not being real with ourselves and each other.

When Kevin Davis, of NewReleaseToday, interviewed Francesca Basttistelli about the take-away message of her song, If We’re Honest, she had this to say:

“Writing songs for the first time as a mom for this album showed me where I was at that time. There were no pretenses, and I wasn’t trying to be anyone that I’m not. Once you are a parent, you get a taste for what really matters. You’re not as worried about what people think of you. 

I was also going through transitions of personal and business relationships, and I saw how a lack of transparency and honesty can really harm relationships and holds back all that God can do in a partnership or friendship. I was desperately crying out for that and wanting to challenge myself and others to live a life with more transparency, to quit putting up facades and walls with each other.”

She further talked about how Satan uses our secrets to isolate us from each other…to divide us…and to keep us from being the bold witness that we can be when we lay our lives open before God and each other. Life is too short and too precious to withhold who we really are…no matter how broken, or wounded, or small…we all share in this…this need for a Savior; this need to be known and loved as we are.

God completely understands that about us…and loves us…as will others who love Him first.

Worship with me.

Truth is harder than a lie
The dark seems safer than the light
And everyone has a heart that loves to hide

I’m a mess and so are you
We’ve built walls nobody can get through
Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do

(CHORUS)
Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine
‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides
And mercy’s waiting on the other side
If we’re honest
If we’re honest

Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not
Living life afraid of getting caught
There is freedom found when we lay our secrets down at the cross, at the cross

(CHORUS)

It would change our lives
It would set us free
It’s what we need to be

(CHORUS)

Blog - Francesca Battistelli - If We're Honest - myact4HimPhoto Credit: MyAct4Him

Postscript: Can I just comment on the kindness and sweetness of God in His relationship with His children? I wanted to write about this song this week and struggled with how to talk about it. Then with Francesca Battistelli’s help (through the interview/video on “behind the song”), it dawned on me that this was about confessional living. This was a delight for me because this sort of life is one I’ve lived without knowing what to call it. I searched on-line for confessional living and found the blog by W. David. O. Taylor. In researching where his confessional life has taken him, I discovered he is the one Nathan Clarke worked with to film the Bono and Eugene Peterson conversation. I wrote about that here. How fun is that?!

*Lyrics – If We’re Honest – KLove – Songwriters: Francesca Battistelli / Jeff Pardo / Molly E. Reed

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli – NewReleaseToday

YouTube Video – If We’re Honest – Francesca Battistelli

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Behind the Album, If We’re Honest

The Discipline of Living a Confessional Life – W. David. O. Taylor

Confessional Writing – Wikipedia

5 Friday Faves – Grandchildren, BBC Series, Refugees, Storm Recovery, and Bread

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What a week! Right? For us it was a power outage for four days after a big storm came through last week. Then, the wonder of the birth of our second grandchild. Everything else paled…but even that a lovely pale. My five favorites of the week follow.

1) Grandchildren – Last week, I wrote about a cancer survivorship plan (referenced in Kelly A. Turner’s Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds). She lists 9 factors that she believes make a difference in survival. One is “having strong reasons for living“. If there was ever a strong reason for living it’s these little ones. I married later in life, and was thrilled to even have children, much less grandchildren. What a miracle they are! What a wonder!2016 - Blog - Grandchildren (2)2016 - Blog - Grandchildren (1)

2) After Downton Abbey finished its run, I really missed British TV. Then recently, on Amazon Prime, we discovered Lark Rise to Candleford taken from the Flora Thompson trilogy of the same name. In ways like Downton Abbey, the story-telling in this series is utterly magical. Thompson uses the rural setting of England in the 1890’s. She includes the cultural clashes of hamlet folk and town people. I am plowing through the seasons and am now on the 4th and what appears to be the final season. Say it isn’t so!IMG_6630The cinematography is gorgeous, but the loveliest parts of the series are the relationships and the dialogue. In Series 4, Episode 2, one of the main characters, Emma Timmins, recites a poem of hers (“Gossamer Threads”) which reveals some of the heart of the story:IMG_6631“As I went on my way,/Gossamer threads spanned from bush to bush like barricades,/As I broke through one after another/I was taken by a childish fear./They are trying to bind and keep me here./But as I grew from girl to woman,I knew/The threads that bind me were more enduring than gossamer. /They were spun of kinship and love,/Given so freely that it could never be taken away from me.”IMG_6632Photo Credit: Lark Rise to Candleford

3) Refugees – Over 50 million people are displaced in our world today. We can do something. Our friend, Beth, just spent a couple of months helping in a refugee camp. It’s way too easy to forget about these between homes and countries, especially if they are not coming to the US. If you want to know more and how to serve either for a week or longer, contact Baptist Global Response.12993627_10156889362110061_8126408917090936937_n

4) Storm Recovery – When a thunderstorm with extreme winds passed through Richmond last Thursday night, our neighborhood sustained major damages. Trees falling on houses, cars, and across streets blocking passage. We were without electricity and cable for 4 days. When we lived overseas, we frequently had power outages, but only for hours at a time. Someone said to me during the cleanup, waiting on power to be restored, how we shouldn’t really complain, it being a “first world problem” and all. I had to chuckle. It was actually a third world problem but we aren’t well-prepared for it here. Some of our neighbors have generators, and the buzz of those generators across these several days sounded other-worldly after awhile. Then…the power was back. Very thankful for all the workers from our state’s utility company and many states around.2016 June - Blog Storm Recovery (2)IMG_6512

5) Bread – My husband’s favorite sandwich bread is Arnold’s Healthy Multi-Grain. Today I bought a new bread recommended by our daughter: Dave’s Killer Bread. Blog - Dave's Killer Bread - businesswirePhoto Credit: BusinessWire

The Dahl Family in Oregon has been in the bread-making business over many years. Dave, the son who is the namesake of the bread, grew up making bread but had no interest in it. Then he wound up in prison for many years. On his release, his brother invited him back in the business, and he helped to make it what it is today. Blog - Dave's Killer Bread - bizjournalsPhoto Credit: BizJournals

This is wonderful chewy nutty bread. It’s a bit pricey, but it was on special today, so we’ll be watching for specials in the future.

The company is strongly invested in giving other ex-convicts, like Dave, a second chance to make a fresh start. This Second Chance Project is exciting, replicable,  and noteworthy in its success.

There are my five faves for the week. Please share any of yours in the Comments.

Have a wonderful, restful weekend. God bless!

Bonus Images of the Week

Cherry Season

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Calla Lilies in our Garden, Dad & My Brother Watching The Braves

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Cancer Support Jewelry from my friend KathyIMG_6629

5 Friday Faves – Shared Workspace, Refugee Resettlement, Passion, Doing the Next Thing, and Coming Sit-Coms

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Finally….a sky-blue, birds singing, sunny Friday morning. We, in Richmond, have had an inordinate amount of rain this Spring…but today it’s a happy break in the weather, heading into a rainy weekend. Hope you have time outside. Here are my favorite finds of the week.

1) Shared Workspace – This is my first experience of a shared workspace NOT at my job. How refreshing to be able to hang out with other professionals, drink the coffee, and work…with the doors flung open, street sounds and smells, and occasional breaks of laughter and conversation. Movement Church offers its building as a shared workspace for the community. Friday’s, 9:00am-3:00pm. [3015 Cutshaw Ave, Richmond, Va. 23221]. The coffee’s good…and free.Blog - Movement Church - Shared WorkspaceBlog - Friday Faves - Shared Workspace

2) Refugee Resettlement – Syrian refugees are often in the news, and most everyone has opinions about how they should be resettled. My friend, Beth, is working right now with refugees in Greece, and her stories and pictures have touched my heart deeply. Our city isn’t currently on the list for resettling Syrians – these who escaped their country in war with little else but each other and no homes but a tent now. Maybe yours is a resettlement city. Either way, finding out what is available in your city for displaced peoples is a good thing. We have several such organizations in Richmond (Church World Services, International Rescue Committee, Commonwealth Catholic Charities). A smaller non-profit in the city – Reestablish – offered a volunteer training recently and I went. Wonderful way to serve, in community, the needs of new neighbors.Blog - Refugee Resource Fair - ReEstablish

3) Passion – What are you passionate about? How does it show in your life? What does it communicate to your kids? I read a blog on passion this week and it really got me thinking about those exact questions. Jerrad Lopes blogs at DadTired.  “Parents, we can spend our entire lives teaching our kids the lessons we’ve gleaned over the years. And we should. But ultimately, they will remember what we were most passionate about. Our words will be forgotten, but our lives will be remembered. ” Parenting was never something that came easy for me. This observation by Jerrad on passion is something I am cautiously taking seriously…Do my words match my actions…my enthusiasm? I sure want that honesty/transparency…especially before my children, and grandchildren.

4) Do the next thing In my twenties, writer Elisabeth Elliot was a much needed spiritual guide. I was pretty adrift for awhile in those days and her very pragmatic, mind-clearing take on God and life was what I needed to hear. Her advice for anyone struggling to know what to do in a time of difficulty, loss, or confusion was simply: “Do the next thing.” It is in the doing of that normal next thing that can help us get our bearings – whether it’s shaving, dishes, showing up to a meeting.  Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel resonated when I read Jeremy Statton ‘s article this week: What to Do When You Don’t Know What To Do by Jeremy Statton. “Do the next reasonable thing.” It seems commonsensical – until you are frozen in time, not able to think what to do next…

Blog - Elisabeth ElliotBlog - Jeremy Statton - TwitterPhoto Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, YouTube; Jeremy Statton, Twitter

5) ABC Fall 2016 Sitcoms – I don’t watch a lot of network TV, but there are two shows coming on this Fall that look very promising. They are Speechless and American Housewife. Even if they go downhill after the season starts, the trailers alone are hilarious…and touch a chord with me…if you know me you will so understand. If not…they are still funny enough to take the time to watch (unless you’re my husband…but he watched briefly anyway…because he loves me). Maybe they are only funny to women/moms…would love to know if you’re a man reading and you appreciate the situations…and their comedic elements.

OK…so there are colorful parts…but the human dilemmas of being family and imperfect are so universal…I will be watching for these.

What are your favorite finds this week? Would love to hear and learn from you. Have a great weekend with your favorite folks…if you can. Thanks for spending these few minutes with me.

5 Friday Faves – Customer Service, a Documentary, a Rainy Spring Day, Taking Your Kids to Hard Places, and Nurturing Moms (Not Judging Them)

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Happy Friday! Here are my five favorites from this week…like you, I also have ongoing favorites (like time with my granddaughter, and the rest of the family, and deep talks with friends, and moments of revelation and inspiration – some hard and some gentle) that don’t get shared always…not sure why I wanted to share that even…but here are these! Have a safe and soaring day…and weekend.

1) Customer Service – Taking care of our customers and clients is important. Horst Schulze, renowned hotel executive and speaker, defines customer service as a three-part process: delivering an excellent product (without defect), in a timely manner, with genuine caring. I was facilitating a meeting recently, and one of the participants raved about our restrooms. He says to commend our housekeeping staff, because that level of service takes genuine pride and caring. He also asked me if I had ever heard of these super-gas stations in Texas named Buc-ee’s. Apparently they are amazing. When you travel a lot by car there is pretty much nothing as winsome as a nice restroom. My story on customer service this week relates to the outpatient registration and imaging department at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital.

You know those occasions when you go in to register for service and you hardly see the person’s eyes (either fixed on a computer screen or at paperwork or just walking ahead of you or working the equipment attached to you). My experience this week with these personnel and volunteers was very different. Warm, engaging, refreshingly funny, full of life, making me comfortable, working quickly, and then getting me back out the same door I came in (much appreciated after going down a myriad of hallways)…consummate customer service complete with a snack. 🙂Blog - Customer Service

2) DocumentaryBono and Eugene Peterson – The Psalms This week, a 20-minute film debuted highlighting the friendship of Bono (of the band U2) and Eugene Peterson (Bible scholar and author). Their relationship centers on how The Psalms have impacted both their lives. I got to see a prescreening of the film and reviewed the it here and posted my takeaways from the Q & A with the filmmaker Nathan Clarke. The film is honest, loving, and thought-provoking. Watch it below or here.

Blog - The Psalms, Bono, Eugene Peterson - atu2blogPhoto Credit: atU2Blog

3) A Rainy Spring Day – After a really hot day this week,  our flowers drooped and the greens looked frail…then the cool rain came. Joy! 2016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0212016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0422016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0382016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0262016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0192016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 0122016 April - Spring flowers, Rainy morning, Irises, Garden, Blog 002

4) Taking Your Kids to Hard Places – We don’t usually think of intentionally working hard experiences into our kids’ lives, but think about it. Our children haven’t been to really hard places in the world but they have had to wrestle with how to respond to beggars in North Africa…and here. Our boys have tended to a very ill grandfather. They haven’t been to many funerals, or visited many hospital rooms, or served in a shelter or soup kitchen. I would have done more of that with them, now that I see things differently.  Jamie Dew writes about this in 6 Reasons to Take Your Kids to Hard Places. He observes that, “Seeing poverty and brokenness has the ability to transform the most selfish child into a selfless child. Letting them see the broken world creates the same burdens in their hearts [as it does in ours] and gives them a true sense of dependence on God.” Any stories you have about this? Please comment below.Blog - Taking Kids to Hard Places - thestarPhoto Credit: The Star

5) Nurturing Moms (Not Judging Them) – Moms of all ages and stages have challenging lives – whether they work both inside and outside the home or more inside the home. I was in both camps of moms at various times during our children’s growing up years. Some moms aren’t able to financially do without a job, and others dearly love their work, and the moms who work hard to stay home all have two things in common: 1) they all have children and the responsibilities that go with those darlings, and 2) they need our nurturing, not our judging. Jen Wilkin wote a provocative article on both stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs) and working-outside-the-home-moms (WOHMs). It’s worth your time (women AND men). [Dads, you, too, benefit from nurturing as well.]  I’m always glad for the opportunity to see something differently than I might otherwise – it helps me to love better. This was one of those reads.Blog - Stay at home moms - nurturing moms larksnotesthis

Photo Credit: LarksNotesThis

Bonus: Nathan Mills @beyondtheguitar posted a new arrangement of one of the Zelda melodies on YouTube. A friend of mine who works with PTSD survivors in Japan commended the soothing nature of his Zelda arrangements. Enjoy.

 

Worship Wednesday – How Firm a Foundation – Illustrated

Blog - How Firm a Foundation - blueletterbible.orgPhoto Credit: BlueLetterBible.org

Many years ago, I spent the summer doing construction on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. A group of older American teens and five adults comprised a team who would build a structure over the course of that summer. The building would house a church (and the pastor family would live in the loft). Only one of us had any construction experience but we all had received a couple of weeks training prior to leaving the States.

It was a marvel that we had such confidence (faith, really) to do such a thing.

After flying halfway around the world to Manila, we boarded a ship for an overnight journey south to Mindanao. On our arrival, we were greeted at port by a small group of very enthusiastic Filipinos. They carried us, by bus, straight to the construction site for a look-see.

We must have been the sight.

Eagerly tumbling out of the bus, we were struck speechless at building lot where we would erect a church. It was obvious where we were to build because it was the only open space surrounded by several houses on stilts. It was also obvious why no homes had been built there before.

Covering most of the building site was a tidal pool, and it must have been high tide. We blinked and stared at the deep salt-water pool, complete with small fish popping the surface of the water.

How could we build in such a place?

Blog - Stand Firm - CouragePhoto Credit: NourishtheDream.com

Amazingly, we found that we could build there. A lot of engineering, which I don’t remember now, went into making the site dry (somehow rerouting the tidal water, pumping out the standing water, and filling in the area with dirt and rock).

Our project leader told us our most important job was to build a strong foundation. In this rural area, with more hands than construction companies available to us, we worked shoulder to shoulder with our new Filipino friends. Steel reinforcing bars were tied, and cement was mixed for days as we began pouring concrete footers. We poured a thick foundation and built up with cinder blocks.

I wish I had easily retrievable pictures from those hot summer days in Mindanao. The building went up and finally the sharply pitched roof was laid on.

On our last full day there, we celebrated our work together with those dear friends in that community. They would finish the last details of the building without us as we flew back to the US the next day.

I will never forget that first day, and the laying of the foundation, in particular. Such hard work…not to be short-changed. A year later, a violent typhoon hit that village, and we were sure the church must have been destroyed.

It stood through the storm.

How thankful I am for the sure foundation we have in God’s Word and His work in us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

A great old hymn, How Firm a Foundation, speaks powerfully about this strong support we have through the storms of our lives. Published in 1787, many have written hymn stories about it, but I refer you to the one written by Tim Challies. He also introduces the arrangement done of the hymn by the trio Ordinary Time.

Worship with me:

How firm a foundation, you Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He has said,
To you, who, for shelter, to Jesus has fled?

(In every condition—in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale or abounding in wealth,
At home or abroad, on the land or the sea—
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be.)

Fear not, I am with you; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am your God and will still give you aid.
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow,
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.

When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply.
The flame shall not hurt you; I only design
Your dross to consume and your gold to refine.

(E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sovreign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.)

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.*

I love the imagery of this great old hymn, and thinking about how saints of God for more than 200 years have worshipped Him through these lyrics. Artist Laura Kranz applied her own powerful imagery to this hymn. One image is featured below; the rest you can find at the Overview Bible Project.Blog - How Firm a Foundation - buff.ly - Laura KranzPhoto Credit: Laura A. Kranz

Have a worshipful Wednesday. I pray you stand on such a foundation as God offers us. When we stood, that first day, on the building site…staring at a seemingly impossible task, a group of the church youth, sang a song of dedication. It was My Hope Is Built On Nothing Less. The chorus was perfect for that day:  – “On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand. All other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

It was beautifully ironic as our eyes were riveted to the sight of that tidal pool – at the same time, listening to these precious young people sing about faith, not sight. How firm a foundation we have in Christ!

*How Firm a Foundation – Lyrics and Illustrations by Laura Kranz

Hymn Stories: How Firm a Foundation (+ Free Download) – Tim Challies

YouTube Video – Ordinary Time – How Firm a Foundation

Ordinary Music Website

YouTube Video – Sink My Feet by Jillian Edwards

Carpentry and Building Construction – a Do-It-Yourself Guide

Blog - How Firm - biblevisuals.org

Photo Credit: Biblevisuals.org

Love Your Neighbor – Henrico Christmas Mother Revisited – How You Helped and Still Can

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Henrico Christmas Mother is a great local charity which I recently featured on this blog. Read there for the details. Today I just wanted to revisit their efforts as they come to the culmination of those efforts in their Christmas distributions starting this week. Henrico Christmas Mother is such a great success story in serving our county’s neighbors in need. The success of this charity is driven by the phenomenal support of hundreds of volunteers, schools, and local businesses.

The doors open on Thursday for the elderly, disabled, and families to receive your donations of love and care. Over the weekend, Harriet Long, president of the Council of Henrico Christmas Mother, and her husband Ken toured us around the facility where all this care for our neighbors is displayed.

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The sight of all the toys, food, clothing, and gift items is joyously overwhelming. Donations from students, families, and staff of Henrico County public schools as well as generous help from employees from the county government and other volunteers make for an amazing experience for these families in need. As an example, Moody Middle School  collected 2855 pairs of socks for Christmas Mother. 2855 pairs of socks!

2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 0632015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 0462015 December - Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog, Crosstrain and Friends 001 (16)2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 058

Local clubs, businesses, and churches are also incredibly generous in their help of these families.  The bicycles below are donated by Richmond Area Bicycle Association. Other bike donations come from Henrico County agencies as well as individual donors.2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 085

The carload of stuffed animals and books below came from the Lifeway Christian Store in Richmond. So many companies, organizations, and local businesses donate money, time, food, and clothing to Henrico Christmas Mother…for the sake of our neighbors.Blog - Christmas Mother - Lifeway donation

On Thursday and through all the days of distribution, the toys and other gifts will be out of boxes and on display for moms and others to choose for their children. What an experience to be a part of helping to make for a happy Christmas!2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 055Council Members Mary Shaia and Harriet Long2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 075Council President Harriet Long and #1 Volunteer, Ken Long

As a citizen of Henrico County, I want to thank this year’s Christmas Mother, Beverly Cocke, and all the Council members who are the driving force for Henrico Christmas Mother. You make it easy for us to be a part of loving our neighbors…and there’s still time to help (see below).2015 December - VCU Holiday Gala, Sadie, Christmas Mother, Blog 073

Also don’t miss the video from the Henrico County Public Schools. There is still time to donate to this great cause to make this Christmas a brighter one – for these neighbors of ours:

Please consider a contribution to this year’s Henrico Christmas Mother:

Material Donations will be accepted weekdays from 9am – 3pm from Thursday, December 3, to Thursday, December 17, at the Henrico Christmas Mother Warehouse, 361 Dabbs House Road.

To arrange delivery at other times, please call 804-236-9741.

Consider donating:

New toys:
New clothing – especially hats and gloves
New books
Non-perishable food items
New blankets (full or queen size) or other gifts for seniors or adults with disabilities

Spreading Christmas Cheer – Henrico Citizen

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

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

Blog - Friday Faves

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.