“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” – Psalm 121
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29
There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?
We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because our shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the deep wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, ‘underneath are the everlasting arms!’ You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*
Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. It’s no longer a new song, but it draws me back to the truth of what is most real in our lives. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.
When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless
My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**
“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – Daniel 3:17-18
Any one of us who grew up in church has heard the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three young Jewish men exiled to Babylon. Three young men who were tasked to serve King Nebuchadnezzar in his palace. Three young men who worshiped the Creator God and Him alone.
In the historical account (Daniel 3), the Babylonian king ordered all in his realm to bow before a golden statue. Anyone who did not bow would be thrown to his death in a fiery furnace. These three would not bow. Their answer to the king (stated above) was a proclamation of their God’s ability to save them from death…and even if he did not save them, it did not matter. He alone would they serve.
That day we visited with a congregation who would gather two more Sundays and then disband as an organized church. We sat under the inspired and powerful preaching of Dr. Bill Nieporte. Dr. Nieporte didn’t flinch as he talked about their church “dying…but dying well”. He, nor any of the sweet believers we met that day, had been able to turn around the seeming inevitable. As an older congregation, their numbers continued to fall even in the midst of committed ministry to their community. They knew they would too soon get to the place they wouldn’t be able to manage the expenses of the facility itself.
With what Dr. Nieporte called “courageous faith”, they have given this magnificent old church building to Movement Church. Movement is rapidly growing out of our rented space, and you can imagine what an incredibly generous gift this is.
The congregation of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church is essentially passing a torch to our church to continue to be a light of God’s love to the community they have loved for so many years. One dear man we met, in his 70s, had been a part of this church his whole life (since “cradle roll”).
I’ve been so personally overwhelmed by this generous gift of those fellow believers…strangers until this past Sunday. Many shook our hands, some with tears in their eyes…welcoming us to what would become our own church gathering place. How humbling for us and how challenging as well.
As the pastor gently guided his church through their grieving, he talked of how God, throughout history has moved His people. In two Sundays, they would be “moved” from that location. He even soberly spoke of how a time might come, just as it did for them, when Movement Church could also be called by God one day to relinquish that property. The sanctuary was silent in the gravity of his words.
The place where we call home is far less important than the Person with whom we are home.
The most beautiful part of his message was that God moves His people, but He never leaves us. He is always with us wherever we are. Whether a palace or a furnace situation…He is with us.
“The next stage of our journey begins in two weeks. Stay on the path. Remain in the journey. God will walk with you every step of the way.”– Pastor Nieporte
[Your prayers are much appreciated for the dear church family of Patterson Ave. Baptist Church. Also for their pastor, Bill Nieporte, who not only loses his church family, but his work as their pastor, too.]
Now…back to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:
When Bart Millard, lead singer of the Christian band MercyMe, wrote the lyrics to Even If, he had to have been inspired by those young men who went through fire, believing God alone was worthy of their worship. That story is riveting because God did save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (in fact, He, in some form, walked with them through the fire). However, God did not save them FROM the fire but THROUGH the fire.Photo Credit: YouTube, MercyMe
Millard’s own life and family experiences have at times been a saving “through the fire”.
“God is worthy long before any of those circumstances even showed up. In fact, what Christ has already done on the cross is probably the only thing we need to get through those circumstances. It’s a foundation that was built long before those difficulties came to be. This song is a declaration to God that even if He went silent and never said another word, He’s still worthy to be praised and that He’s our greatest hope in the midst of the trial.” – Bart Millard
Worship can be a deeply emotional experience. In fact, sometimes, we lose our focus on God Himself in the midst of the singing of a familiar song. Our minds wander as memories of other times and places take us out of the moment. Not a bad thing necessarily, but…
That happened to me recently as the praise band at Movement Church opened the hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us. I love this Stuart Townend hymn. He published it in 1995, the year we moved to Cairo, Egypt. New to us, this hymn became a standard in our family from those early days of adjusting to a new life in another country. [This and another hymn of his – In Christ Alone.]
On Fridays, we would join other internationals and a smattering of Egyptian Christians, at Heliopolis Community Church, and we would sing and pray in English. Such a refreshment to our souls as we spent most of our week, learning and using Arabic in our work and with neighbors and friends. English was our worship language.Photo Credit: CCCLux
Sweet memories of hot Friday mornings, singing with believers from all over the world, as the call to prayer broke through from a nearby mosque. Sweet memories of a oneness with each other…and with God.
Then my thoughts sprang back to the present, as the gathered church at Movement sang this lyric:
Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer; But this I know with all my heart – His wounds have paid my ransom.
Because of what Christ did for me…for us…on the cross, I am no longer separated from God by the penalty of my rebellion against Him. The debt I built up through life is paid in one great act of God through Christ – His perfect, sinless life substituted, in death, for my own sin-filled mess…for our own. There is nothing left to pay…nothing. Christ paid in full, on the cross, for all our sins.
At what cost? Oh…we can imagine the considerable cost Jesus paid because our own flesh cringes at the excruciating pain of the cross. Yet, we also must take in, as much as we can, the cost to the Father. Such great love He has…for His own son…and for us…each one of us. The whole world, in fact.
When Stuart Townend was writing this hymn, he was very aware of the emotions that can be elicited in praise music. Just as I have described, the personal joy, refreshment, and happy memories that can be so satisfying in the experience of individual and corporate worship. His hope was to write in such a way as to help the worshiper get beyond himself and to a greater awareness of God.
“The danger now is that we are so focused on the experience our worship can become self-seeking and self-serving. When all of our songs are about how we feel and what we need, we’re missing the point. There is a wonderful, omnipotent God who deserves our highest praise, and how we feel about it is in many ways irrelevant! I want to encourage the expression of joy, passion and adoration, but I want those things to be the by-product of focusing on God – I don’t want them to become the subject matter. I’m trying to write songs that refer to us as little as possible, and to Him as much as possible!” – Stuart Townend
Hymns like How Deep the Father’s Love For Us complement our prayer life and study of God’s Word. For those friends of ours who don’t yet believe…those who say, “That’s nice for you that you believe God. I just don’t believe like you do.”…we have a witness in worship.
It is not just that we “believe”… What Townend describes in this hymn, reflective of the truth of Scripture, isn’t just what we believe…it is what happened and was witnessed by others – the deep love of God displayed in the self-emptying life and death of His Son. Hallelujah!
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure,
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure.
How great the pain of searing loss –
The Father turns His face away,
As wounds which mar the Chosen One
Bring many sons to glory.
Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.
I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection. Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer; But this I know with all my heart – His wounds have paid my ransom.*
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. – 1 John 3:1
…the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20b
Out of nowhere, I’m reminded of the goodness of God.
Yesterday, after unloading the back of my car at my favorite thrift shop, I walked inside to shop a bit. My mind was pretty much at a peaceful neutral…then the song playing over the sound system drew me to attention. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. I sang along rifling through the rack of summer shirts.
This song never leaves me the same and I have written about it previously here and here. We sing it often at Movement Church and I’m grateful.
Grateful for a God who knows us perfectly and who lavishes His love on us. A God who is faithful to us when we are not faithful…when we wander from Him. Scripture calls us to count our blessings. When we do, we are reminded of what we receive from the hands of God. However, it doesn’t stop there – we are drawn to the beautiful face of God. No matter our struggle, no matter what disrupts our sleep or disturbs our joy, no matter what…when we turn our thoughts to Him, our hope and peace and confidence are marvelously restored.
Whatever the “what isn’t”, in the economy of God, there is the glory of “what is to come”. We have that assurance because of what has already come to pass…through a God who blesses without counting it out…just to the deserving. He is generous to all His children. So generous.
For most of my life, I was a “cup half full” kind of person…in fact, some would say it was more a cup spilling out annoyingly, splashing on some in my life who preferred a less idealistic, more “realistic” look at life. In getting older, my focus is drawn away to the negative side of life and the world’s experience. No wonder our faces fix in frowns and we fight grumpiness in our elder years. “Cup half empty” lives. I don’t want that for myself…or for those in my life.
So here goes Worship Wednesday – counting just a few of the amazing blessings of life today, at the hand of a God who has brought me – and all His children – “thus far” (1 Samuel 7:12).
Jesus – His life, teaching, death, resurrection; his continued presence in our lives through the Godhead; and his provision and promise of eternal life to all who believe,
1 year cancer-free (actually except for last year’s diagnosis, my whole life cancer-free, thus far),
Godly moms (my mom and my mom-in-law) who showed us the essence of unconditional love and faithfully pointed us to God,
Faithful fathers who provided financially and taught us so much about getting along in life,
A husband whose love for God informs and infuses his love for the kids and me, and others,
Our children – blessings I never thought I would enjoy, marrying later in life, and continue to be a source of great joy (including bringing the great gift of grandchildren along with them!),
Friends – oh my goodness, friends all over the world – who love no matter what. What a blessing!
A community of faith wherever we lived where the Word of God is treasured and serving Him through serving others the standard – Movement Church today,
Extended family who we have the privilege of loving across a lifetime…and who love back and never give up on us,
A world full of people to share Jesus with – in word and deed,
The beauty that surrounds and fuels us – nature, music, good company, the influencers and multipliers in our lives, food, clean water, and sleep (it’s a beautiful thing, right?),
Purpose – work that matters, hobbies that can leave a legacy (for me writing, photography, hospitality), and at every turn, the possibility and opportunity to glorify the God of the universe through our small lives made large by His Spirit.
I do not always count my blessings…there are days that I want more or different or less, even, of some things. We looks to others’ lives and want what they have rather than just being glad they live next door (or next somewhere). Facebook is not always our friend those days…but when my heart’s right, everything in real life and on social media can shimmer with the kindness, mercy, and sometimes the justice of God. He knows what He’s doing…and His love rains down good in all kinds of ways…we can count on it.
Come Thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise my Ebenezer
Hither by thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wondering from the fold of God
He, to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be! Let thy goodness like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to Thee Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.
Robinson wrote a fifth stanza that is often omitted. Here it is:
O that Day when freed from sinning,
I shall see thy lovely Face;
Clothed then in blood-washed Linnen [sic]
How I’ll sing thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransom’d Soul away;
Send thine Angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless Day.
How about you? Want to count some of your blessings in the Comments below? Would love to celebrate God with you.
Postscript: Don’t miss the video below with the Aeolians singing this great hymn accompanied by pipe organ. We don’t often get to hear this sort of musical feasting very often anymore. Glory! A glimpse of the worship of which we may be a part in Heaven…thanks to a faithful God who restores a repentant people.
When the day of Pentecost had arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech.
There were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. When this sound occurred, a crowd came together and was confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. And they were astounded and amazed, saying, “Look, aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? How is it that each of us can hear in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites; those who live in Mesopotamia, in Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking the magnificent acts of God in our own languages.” They were all astounded and perplexed…
But Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them…“God has resurrected this Jesus. We are all witnesses of this. …Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah!” – Acts 2:1-12a, 14a, 32, 36
We are in the season of Pentecost. Last night, the Jewish celebration of Shavuot began, and for the Christians, Pentecost Sunday is just ahead of us. For the Jews, it is a dual commemoration – one of the giving of the Torah (God’s Law) at Mt. Sinai, as well as the celebration of the wheat harvest (Festival of Weeks). For the Christians, Pentecost is the promised coming of the Holy Spirit, 50 days after the Resurrection of Christ.
Because of the Jewish celebration and pilgrimage of old, the apostles (in Acts 2) had an audience of many unfamiliar with the Hebrew and Greek languages. This was essentially the first time the Gospel was preached to the nations, and the Holy Spirit’s grand entrance into our lives made it happen.
Depending on our church tradition, we celebrate Pentecost in various ways. How we see the Holy Spirit at work in the world, and in the church, also differs.
Completing the triune Godhead, with the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit is a mighty force in this world. Incomprehensible in His power and movement in the world and yet as intimate as that still small voice, almost audible to those who attend to Him. Almost audible and completely understandable in His gentle ways with God’s children.
How is it that we allow ourselves to be mesmerized with the seen and discount the marvelous and miraculous all around us?
I usually pray to the Father as the model Jesus taught us, in His instruction to the disciples. It is in Jesus’ name, that come to the Father, because through Jesus’ righteousness and death for us, we have access to God. It is through the Holy Spirit, we pray rightly. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we find the words to pray. Sometimes, when we can’t find the words, the Spirit lifts the contents of our heart to the Father…better than we can ourselves. What an incredible mercy of God!
Where do we see the movement of the Holy Spirit in today’s world?
making truth and the path to righteousness joyfully clear to us
convicting of sin in a world grown comfortable with it
healing in an impossible situation – be it disease or addiction, broken relationship, or a life of sorrowful decisions
opening shut doors to the Gospel – that we might serve in word and deed
calming anxious hearts and fearful minds
giving courage on the battlefield and compassion toward an enemy
restoring joy in the darkness of depression and grief
ministering to those deprived of human comfort – those in prison or isolated by other life circumstances
setting peace within our hearts through the hearing or reading of God’s great promises
moving in ways unseen across our world and across the ages that we will only know fully in Heaven.
Today, around the world the celebration of Pentecost begins. In this season, let’s quiet our hearts before God and hear the counsel of the Holy Spirit. He points us to the fullness of who God is – One in unity, and us with Him, through Christ (John 17:21).
There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord
Your presence, Lord
There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord
I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord
Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness
What a week! How about for you? I’m on the other side of a medical emergency and thankful for timely and excellent care and for a rapid return to health. The weekend around here promises to be a sweet one with beautiful weather, outings with a son whose birthday we’re celebrating, a family gathering, and a long-awaited visit with an old friend. Oh…and rest, of course. Don’t want to overreach my recovery. Hope you have a weekend that fills you with anticipation as well…even if it’s just much-deserved rest and solitude.
Here are my favorite finds for this week.
1) Eurovision Song Contest – Since 1956, a European song contest has been held annually, much to the delight of all the countries participating. I never heard of it until a Portuguese friend of ours introduced us to it this season. [We know Tiago thanks to his friendship with Nathan on Krue.TV and Patreon].
In the Eurovision contest, each participant country puts forward an original song sung by person(s) from that country.
In the final TV extravaganza, the songs are performed and then judges vote on which should win the prized Eurovision title for that year. Along with the judges, citizens of all those countries can cast votes as well (only not for their own country; they vote for their favorite of any of the other countries). The process is fascinating and suspenseful as the votes are counted and the various songs rise or fall on the leaderboard as votes are announced.Photo Credit: SBS
Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won with the song Amar Pelos Dois, written by his sister. It is a lovely but sad love song reportedly reminiscent of Portugal’s folk tradition.
A YouTube video with the lyrics posted in Portuguese and English can be viewed here.
During the televised competition, our friend, Tiago, did a livestream of it on Krue.TV so we could enjoy watching. When Portugal won, his joy was uncontainable…reminded me of watching friends whose favorite team won the World Cup. So congratulations, Portugal, on the long-awaited first Eurovision win!
2) Expertise – I grew up at the end of the Vietnam War during the era of Hippie politics. Free speech was a really big deal, and we had opinions about everything…really not so dissimilar as today. A popular adage of those days was “Don’t trust anyone over 30”. Today, all of us of that era have been “over 30” for decades. We find ourselves faced with much the same thinking in a younger generation. [Maybe we modeled too well.] Let’s consider the concept and actuality of expertise.
Are there those in our lives who have, by deep study and long experience, become expert in their fields and worthy of a hearing and a following? Expertise is defined as “basis of credibility of a person who is perceived to be knowledgeable in an area or topic due to his or her study, training, or experience in the subject matter”.
With the wide use of internet searches and the palpable power of social media, we can all be self-proclaimed “experts”. Those with more knowledge and more experience are just “extra voices” in the conversation. In my younger years and too often since then, my own thinking has bent toward valuing my own generation’s thinking above those “over 30” (or 40, or 50, or 60). Of course, those younger sometimes get the same treatment (just search the enormous commentary on millennials on the web). That view of trusting my own generation has softened, over the years, as I’ve experienced the wise leadership of many. I regret thinking so highly of my own view and have tuned myself toward becoming a life-long learner (using my writing as a way to curate wisdom gained from others, as an example).
I haven’t read the book but DeYoung’s review opened the door to Nichols’ belief that our culture has a growing distaste for expertise (as derived from knowledge and experience).
DeYoung lists Nichols’ prescriptives in brief and they follow:
For experts: don’t drive outside your lane. Stick to what you know. By the same token, stop making predictions.
For the rest of us: Be ecumenical—don’t get all your information from the one source that magically you always agree with. Be less cynical—most people are not out to get you. Be more discriminating—consider whether the source you’re reading has editors, is tied to a reputable institution, is transparent about its sources, and present facts that are testable and checkable.
For everyone: Be humble. This goes for experts and laypeople. If you are an expert, use your knowledge as a servant not as a master. If you know stuff, use it to help others, not yourselves. At the same time, all of us have good reason to assume we don’t know as much as we think we know. Let’s be humble enough to learn from others.
3)– Food Festivals – Food festivals abound in the spring of the year. We’re headed to one this weekend – the Lebanese Food Festival. Like many national food specialties, Lebanese food is very time-intensive and ingredient-rich. I’m very thankful for the folks at Saint Anthony’s Maronite Church – for the food, the music, the conversations, and the occasional brush with our local dignitaries.
4) Anti-Aging – There is so much written these days on staying young and staving off aging – it’s enough to make you old trying to keep up with the latest on keeping from getting old. When you have a life-threatening event in your life, you realize all over again the gift of life. I wouldn’t mind growing old. However, I can’t deal with the myriads of tips on how to live young old.
Benjamin P. Hardy, one of my latest favorite writer/researchers, posted a fascinating piece this week entitled How to Reverse Aging and Become Whoever You Want To Be. He gives research findings (in very engaging, almost story-telling, ways) that are riveting in their support of his prescriptions. One study he shared was about a group of men in their 70s who were to share a living space for five days. It was designed and outfitted as a dwelling set in 1959. They were only to talk about their lives, careers, interests, as they would have in 1959. The impact on their thinking, and even their physical agility and capacity, was amazing. My sense from this and my own experience is we think ourselves old, and too often believe ourselves old by the behavior of those younger than we are. No harm, no foul. Just how we probably trip ourselves up.
Hardy’s prescriptions have to do with making goals for our present lives:
1. Determine your goal.
2. Commit to your goal by leaping into situations that require you to live up to your goal.
3. Determine the roles you will need to play in the various situations you create.
4. Act the part until you become the part.
5. Develop relationships with people who have your back and can help you achieve your goals.
6. Repeat — but at higher levels, with more strenuous leaps.
What Is Your Goal?
“This is a fundamental irony of most people’s lives. They don’t quite know what they want to do with their lives. Yet they are very active.” — Ryan Holiday
Most people are wandering through life like they wander on the internet, reactively scrolling their news feed and landing on the random pages that appear. They haven’t determined what they want, and thus they haven’t consciously designed their environments. Rather, they adapt to and become the product of whatever environments they wander into.
However, when you decide what you want, the universe conspires to make it happen.
[I love this young Benjamin P. Hardy. He has given me such rich fuel for living, of late. Read his blogs and follow him on Twitter.]
5) Blue Bloods – As much as I like to watch TV, I don’t watch that often…usually using it as a nap-generator. However, this week, I saw one of my favorite shows – Blue Bloods in its season finale (Season 7, Episode 22, The Thin Blue Line). It was so so good.
Blue Bloods is about a family that makes its living in public service – either in law enforcement, the court system, or nursing. Their Sunday family dinner gathering scenes are so appealing to me.Photo Credit: Huffington Post
On this season finale episode, son Danny, a NYPD detective, confronts a Mexican drug cartel and acts against it in a bold and risky (and unsupported) way. He was successful but the cost was huge. The cartel ordered his home to be bombed. Danny, arriving as his house is blazing, he searches for his family, and, relieved, finds them shocked…but OK.
He blames himself for their loss, and when the family gathers on that Sunday (his family now staying with his father and grandfather), he didn’t want to come down for dinner. He was persuaded and asked to pray over the meal. That scene (not on YouTube yet) was just beautiful. Here is a bit of it:
Wife Linda: It’s just a house, Danny.
Danny: It’s our home.
Linda: We made it a home. Without us, it’s just a house.
Danny’s youngest son: And we’re still that us.
Danny’s Father: When we have everyone we love, we have everything. For that we should be grateful. No matter the hardship or the loss, this family does not stand down…ever.
Danny then prayed…with his family.
Loved it so much. This family does not stand down…ever.
In a few days, it will be a year since this non-smoker received a lung cancer diagnosis (Stage One, fortunately). Over these last several months, breath and breathing have become something very precious to me. You can tell when you search my blog archives for either topic. We take breathing so for granted, even when we acknowledge that every breath’s a gift. That rhythmic rise and fall in our chest that strengthens and refreshes us. Breathing just happens.
Until it doesn’t.
There have only been two times as an adult that I couldn’t get my breath. The first was eight months ago (you can read about it here.) The second time was less than 48 hours ago.
For the second time in my life, I was surprised, just before bedtime, by a rapid and terrifying development of shortness of breath and quickly got to the place that Dave had to call 911. He was still talking to the dispatcher when we heard the sirens.
So thankful for our local fire department and rescue squad.
We live in a quiet neighborhood, and most of the residents are older. The rescue squad shows up often here, and, of course, no one wants to be the one on the receiving end of their excellent care. Every time it happens, a neighbor or two stand sentinel in the road watching and hoping for a good report. While the rescue squad was getting me stabilized and Dave was waiting in his car to follow to the hospital, he would tell me later of a neighbor standing in the shadows. Not wanting to intrude but standing watch. It’s a comforting thing.
From the first hours in the emergency room through the next two days in the top floor ICU, I received excellent and thoughtful care at St. Mary’s Hospital. The crisis was averted, and the testing began again to determine the cause. The same testing that was done eight months ago. The findings were not so much different as they were the first time it happened. Maybe they were taken more seriously with it happening twice. Anyway, I am now in the care of a cardiologist with some meds on board that will hopefully help me NOT to go through this experience again.
To go from thinking you’re going to die to feeling pretty much as well as ever, within hours, is a strange and wondrous experience. We will all die one day, so it doesn’t always end as it did for me these two times of not being able to get my breath. For this, today, I am so grateful to God for breath…and I am reminded it is His to give.
Tonight, still fresh from the frightening experience of two nights ago, I give God His breath back in praise. So thankful for a husband who acted quickly for me when I couldn’t, for trained professionals and volunteers, for watchful neighbors, for kids who show up (physically and in prayer), for praying friends and family, for all the many employees at St. Mary’s (including my own youngest son) who were kind in their care …for all of this I’m grateful.
Most of all I am so very thankful for the God who gives us breath.
I love the LORD because he hears my voice and my prayer for mercy. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath! Death wrapped its ropes around me; the terrors of the grave overtook me. I saw only trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: “Please, LORD, save me!” How kind the LORD is! How good he is! So merciful, this God of ours! The LORD protects those of childlike faith; I was facing death, and he saved me. Let my soul be at rest again, for the LORD has been good to me.– Psalm 116:1-7, NLT
Would you worship with me, as I am home once more, praising God for His healing and for His helpers?
You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s Your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to You only
You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are You, Lord
All the earth will shout Your praise
Our hearts will cry, these bones will sing
Great are You, Lord*
“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31: 27-30
My Mom was a treasure – a lavishing of God’s grace on four undeserving children. She was my best friend, and I miss her every day. She taught me the most important lessons of life – the value of hard work, loving and serving others no matter what, and a life of following God. I have written, not well enough, about her (here, here, and here, etc.). She was my hero, and, though she is in Heaven now, she informs much of how I live life still.
Whether we are mothers or not, we all have/had mothers. I hope yours was/is lovely, and Godly, and inspiring. Whichever is your situation, we have an opportunity to honor those who mother well and we have still other opportunities to love and forgive those who didn’t. My children are grown and I am not supposed to “mother” them now – a heart habit hard to break. Now that their childhood is over, I miss those years. Still, like my mom, I will encourage and pray and marvel at how God moves in their lives. Grand-parenting is a sweet dividend to mothering – a season of pouring into those little hearts – wonder, love, and grace.
Today, I share a bit out of Ruth Bell Graham’s lovely book Prayers from a Mother’s Heart. Wife of Billy Graham, with the Lord now, Mrs. Graham compiled some of her own poetry, her daughter’s, and that of other Godly moms. She touches on all seasons of growing up and mothering. May your seasons, mothers and mothered, be touched by God’s deepest wisdom and dearest kindnesses.
Prayers for Our Little Ones
“Lord, as I stand beside this crib, watching this little boy fall asleep…
his blond curls sticking to his small, damp forehead, his chubby fingers wrapped tightly around his blanket,
my heart is filled with emotion, wonder, and awe. I have so many dreams and ambitions for him.
Please help me to remember that he is first of all Yours, and that the most important thing of all is that he grow to love You and follow You. So, Lord, tonight I put aside any and all prayers that could have their roots in selfish motherly desires, and pray these words for him,
Beloved child, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:58)
Because, Lord, if this prayer is answered, then one day I will be able to say with John that my greatest joy is knowing that my children are walking in the truth.” – Gigi Graham
“Lord, remind me often that parents are intended to be a mooring post, a safe place to stay, a sure place to cast anchor come wind or weather. It is not the time for me to worry about the storms beyond the bay, for now we have the gift of a little time called childhood; tethered to love, the little boat bobs and weaves about the post – happy and secure!” – Jill Briscoe
A Prayer for Hurting Mothers“Be tender, Lord, we pray with one whose child lies dead today.
Be tender, Lord, we plead for those with runaways for whom moms bleed.
But be tenderest of all with each whose child no longer cares…is out of reach.” – Ruth Bell Graham
Turning Children’s Cares Over to God
“Lord, I think it is harder to turn the worries and cares of my children over to You than my own. For, through the years, as I have grown in faith, I have learned that You are merciful and kind.
Not one time have You failed me, Lord – why do I fear You will fail mine?” – Ruth Bell Graham
Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Ones. May this day not just be about flowers, cards, or dinners out. May this be a day that’s full of encouragement for moms “to go deep into their gifts, to focus on their Maker or to see how we’re made and who we’re made to be. …to live out faith in daring, dangerous ways…to know God better.” (Caryn Rivadeneira)
Love You Forever.
Dedicated to my mom-in-love, Julia – who loves us with bold devotion and fierce determination – giving us an example to do the same.
We’re rolling into the weekend with gorgeous Spring weather to draw us outside. The fact that the grass must be cut before the neighbors organize an intervention also motivates. Beauty surrounds us here as April moves to May and the flowers bust out.
For your Friday refreshment, here are my five favorite finds for this week:
1) The Office – What a funny TV show! The Office (not to be confused with the British version) ran from 2005-2013 and still has a huge cult following. It is a parody of the American workplace. This mockumentary gives us an opportunity off-the-job to chuckle at the quizzical nature of some of our workplaces and relationships within them. Nathan Mills has done a brilliant guitar arrangement of both the show’s theme as well as musical interludes in several of the episodes.
Watch, enjoy, and remember this show that has humor and an innocence very different from many of today’s TV sitcoms.
2) Accents – I love languages. Over the course of life, I’ve tackled Spanish, Arabic, and a bit of French. Living in North Africa for many years allowed me to be immersed in languages different from my own mother tongue. Language learning is such a useful discipline for all of us and I’m thrilled when I see parents helping their children become multi-lingual. The younger we are when learning languages the better able we are to naturalize our accents in those languages – substantiated here and here. Don’t let the fear of a Southern (or other) drawl keep you from learning and speaking in a newly acquired language. Dialect coach Sammi Grant gives some interesting advice in her YouTube video How to Do 12 Different Accents.
When I talk about resilience, I’m talking about the ability to stay engaged with a person, project, or circumstance — to stay in the game — through its inevitable ups and downs…we’re talking about our ability to handle life, in all its unpredictable and maddening difficulty, without falling off, going crazy, or hurting ourselves in the process.
Harbinger goes on to talk (podcast and blog) about the journey of becoming resilient, or gritty. We all have life occurrences that input into whether we grow resilience or take on a victim’s worldview. We can’t change the situations maybe but we can change how we respond to them. Having strong, nurturing relationships and choosing to learn as much as we can from adverse experiences are two processes of becoming resilient.
I want to be resilient in the hard places and help those I love to be the same. Hard things happen, but we don’t have to be devastated by them. Learn from these guys, and others, about the resilient life.
4) Community – There are no words really that express well enough the great value of community. Deep caring friendships reflecting love of a nature only God can infuse. We experience in this small group of folks in our local church. Community is also a part of our work, neighborhood, and family. I hope you know true community as well. Tell us about in Comments below.
5) Long Goodbyes – Saying and experiencing long goodbyes – It’s part of what we walked with Dad and what we learned about God, each other, and our own hearts in the process. Saying goodbye (for awhile) to a dear friend. The final closing of an office. They can both wear you out and leave you totally satisfied…you did all you could do to honor that passing. Bonuses
Rainy morning quiet. When I got back from walking with my neighbors, the backyard feeder was swaying from the perching of a wide array of birds. My favorites, the cardinals, were there, along with many others, including goldfinches. Those little yellow birds flew before I could get a picture of them, but Michael Seeley captured a similar scene (below).Photo Credit: Michael Seeley, Flickr
Mornings like these, with a rained-out event clearing my schedule, I sit in quiet. In times like these, with nature all around magnificently displaying the glory of its Creator, the Psalms come to mind.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! – Psalm 8:3-4, 9
No matter what we are facing in the moment – great joy or great sorrow – this world of ours, the beauty of it, reminds us of the Author of it all. Who are we that the God of this universe should visit us with such wonder? I think it is to lift us out of our present circumstance and to demonstrate His own beauty, His glorious nature, and His tender care.
…for the tiniest of creatures and for His beloved children…even made in His own image (Genesis 1:27). We lift our eyes to Him in worship…on a rainy morning, in a moonlit evening, and at our work stations wherever we are.
O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Worship with me. If you’re at work, you made need to plug in earbuds – this gets louder and more glorious as it goes – like the praise of children.
When I gaze into the night skies and see the work of your fingers; The moon and stars suspended in space.
Oh, what is man that you are mindful of him? You have given man a crown of glory and honor, And have made him a little lower than the angels. You have put him in charge of all creation: beasts of the field, The birds of the air, The fish of the sea.
Oh, what is man? Oh, what is man that you are mindful of him? O Lord, our God the majesty and glory of your name Transcends the earth and fills the heavens.
O Lord, our God; little children praise You perfectly, And so would we. And so would we.
Alleluia! Alleluia! The majesty and glory of Your name. Alleluia! Alleluia! The majesty and glory of Your name. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! (Alleluia!)