Category Archives: Redeeming & Restoring

Monday Morning Moment – a Comforting Reminder When Family Gathered – “Do the Next Thing”

Photo Credit: Francis J. Gavin, Kristian Dela Cour

This morning I woke weighed down with so much undone that needing doing. A week of travel, as delightful as it was, lends itself to a deep sleep on Sunday night and an early fretful waking on a Monday morning.

Do you have those awakenings? When your mind clears from sleep and you begin looking at the week ahead and think “How am I going to get it all done?” Or “How do I even do it?” Anxiety builds, and depression follows.

That’s how this morning started…and then the heaviness lifted with the simplest thought. A reminder I received just this weekend…a reminder that stirred sweet memories of a woman with huge influence on my younger years…writer Elisabeth Elliot.

On our trip to see family this past week, we had an evening with girl talk. Four generations of women around the dinner table, laughing, sharing, and remembering. [I know men do this, too – how else do they keep all those football, baseball, and fishing trip stories so fresh in their memories?]

In the course of the warm glow of that conversation, my dear sister-in-law, Stacie, reminded her girls of how she counseled with them through their high school angsty moments. She told us she used to  quote Elisabeth Elliot‘s own advice to her daughter, Valerie, when she was overwhelmed by life: “Do the next thing.”

[Stacie sounded just like Elisabeth Elliot as well…took me back to when I was her girls’ ages and first began reading Elliot’s books, including her husband Jim’s journals.]

Elisabeth Elliot died in 2015, but through her life she wrote many books that had huge impact on my life. From my teen years. Books that remain treasures today…http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Blog-Elisabeth-Elliot-Love-is-a-Laid-Down-Life.jpg

For years after, as a struggling mom with young children, I would tune into her daily radio shows – Gateway to Joy – listening to her “square-your-shoulders” walk-with-God counsel. Her manner was both tough and tender as she covered the real stuff of life and how we maneuver through it in the presence of God.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

This morning, in the cloud of confusion over where to even begin this week, God brought our dinner table conversation to mind. Hearing Stacie quoting Eliot in that no-nonsense voice of hers made me laugh then, and smile today.

Four little words that brought clarity.

“Today is mine. Tomorrow is none of my business. If I peer anxiously into the fog of the future, I will strain my spiritual eyes so that I will not see clearly what is required of me now…Do the next thing.Elisabeth Elliot

When You Don’t Know What to Do – (a tribute to Elisabeth Elliot) – Rhonda Quaney

On the Passing of Elisabeth Elliot – Love Is a Laid Down Life – Deb Mills

Love Is a Laid-Down Life  – a Slowing Down for a Season – Deb Mills

Photo Credit: Pinterest, AllysTruth

YouTube Video: Elisabeth Elliot: Suffering Is Never For Nothing

Monday Morning Moment – Wrong-doing – Concealing, Confessing, and Covering

Photo Credit: Godly Daddy Blog, Dan Ericson

Do any of us really believe we can conceal a wrong forever? Do we truly think we can get away with something…especially something with impact on another? Or maybe we could if a wrong only affects me? Right? No one has to know…right?

Concealing

We are in a time in history and civilization where, like never before,  “Your sins will find you out”. It is ironic because being that we’re in a post-Christian era, sins are not taken as seriously by many as they were just a generation or two before. However, called another name… wrong-doing… or abuse…will be exposed. Eventually that sin will be brought out of the darkness.

“He who covers his sins will not prosper.”

Photo Credit: My Bible, Debra Aiken

The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy. Proverbs 28:13

Darkness cannot withstand light, nor can wrongdoing forever be concealed…it will be exposed. That should be a comfort to those who have been the victim of the wrongful actions of another.

Precept Austin Commentary on Proverbs 28:13 (great resource)

Are You Covering or Confessing Your Sins? – Debra Aiken

Are You Covering Up Your Crimes? – Lifeway, Facts & Trends

10 Common Ways We Try to Hide Our Guilt and Shame – Andy Barlow

There is a dark place in our hearts where we delight in others being “found out”…their wrongdoing exposed. Humility, true humility, sorrows, knowing too well, that it could happen to any of us, for we have all wronged others. All of us.

Confessing

When we face our part in wronging another, when we “come clean”, healing can begin in both parties. For those who have long concealed, this is very difficult to do. To bear the responsibility of a wrong. Time doesn’t heal wrong; it seems to just grow and grow… with time. However, when we shine a light on that dark place and own our wrongdoing, we can hopefully begin to turn things right. Make restitution if possible. Ask forgiveness. Humble ourselves.

But if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  – 1 John 1:7-9

Confessing Our Sins Together – Ryan Griffith

What keeps us from confessing is the whisper of a hope that we are not to blame, that we had our reasons, that it wasn’t that bad, or that it wasn’t us. Or, we know we did wrong, and the prospect of consequences that could follow confessing is just too terrifying.

Covering

When we fall on the mercy of God, we can free ourselves of covering up and actually know the joy of being covered. Forgiven. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us, we are justified…“just-as-if I’d never sinned”. Now we may still have to reckon with righting a wrong against another person, as much as is possible, even paying society for a wrong. From God’s side, when “we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ” (1 John 1:9)

How joyful is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered!Psalm 32:1

Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered.Romans 4:7

In our culture today, we are bombarded by blaming and blame-shifting, fingers pointing at wrong-doers or even those it’s not clear are wrong-doers…they are just a race or gender or political party we determine to be wrong-doers.

Thank God, we have a Judge who sees our hearts perfectly and weighs our actions and intents with both justice and mercy. In that courtroom, grace abounds.

The Covering of Sin – writer pastor Wayne Jackson

Postscript: My Mom used to quote a Bible verse in circumstances when one of us, fortunate enough to be loved by her, had done wrong.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8

Now, she would guide us to right living, and she would be tough with us in doing right to those we wronged. In her love, in her quiet handling of our sins as youngsters and young adults, we learned about the love of God…both just and full of mercy.

Mom didn’t feel the need to expose our sin or wrong-doing to others, giving God room to move in our hearts and alter the course of our lives. God’s love covers our sins, through the sinless life of Jesus, and His sacrifice poured out on our sinful selves.

Cover the Sins of Others – Tim Porter

5 Friday Faves – Emotional Pixar Themes, Relationships, Care for the Most Vulnerable, the Question, and Reason

TV is on in the background. Watching our government come apart at the seams. Or so it seems. Here are my lightning-speed Friday Faves;

1) Emotional Pixar ThemesBeyond the Guitar posted his arrangement this week of some of the heartbreaking Pixar movie themes. Masterful music – you just don’t expect to feel sad in a children’s animated film. Still the sweetest memories of these nights at the movies. Did you see them all?

2) Relationships – I discovered a few unique articles this week on the precious, life-giving quality of relationships. One of those articles even deals with relationship-shattering divorce (I have dear friends and family who have experienced the hard of divorce. This article is for those who have had divorce thrust on them or they are considering divorce as their only recourse…at least worth the read…).

Photo Credit: AFMC

So here they are:

You Won’t Make it Alone: Five Reasons You Need Good Friends – Drew Hunter

What is a Kind Husband?  Five Characteristics of True Kindness – Douglas Wilson

To a Spouse Considering Divorce – John Piper

If you have a resource you have found affirming regarding relationships, please share in Comments.

3) Caring for the Most Vulnerable – What does it take to care for our most vulnerable neighbors? There are so many books out there with warnings about charitable giving, or help that hurts. Giving is a good thing but it’s not a complete thing. Raleigh Sadler wrote a paper that speaks to this so well: Jesus’ Invitation to Care for Our Most Vulnerable Neighbors. He addresses five ideas regarding these we long to help but don’t know how. These ideas are: Identify, Empower, Protect, Include, and Collaborate. [His article is a quick read…let him answer your questions.] Along these very lines, Embrace Richmond does training on Assets-Based Community Development. Wendy McCaig, the trainer and executive director of Embrace Richmond, guides those in the audience in learning how to do community listening.Photo Credit: Wendy McCaig

Those we want to care for are the ones we need to get to know, look them in the eye, and give ear…then we might be able to come alongside them, and together we help make their lives better.

Look for this sort of effort in your own community.

4) The Question – Nope, it’s not “Will you marry me?”

This week marked TV’s Fall Season premiers. Lots of great story-lines and ensemble casts. My favorites are law, medical, and police shows. New Amsterdam is a new program that highlights the patient care in a huge medical center with all the drama of politics and corruption affecting the patients. A new medical director, Dr. Goodwin, comes on the scene, in the first episode, and turns the status quo upside down, for the sake of those most vulnerable. Over and over, he asked the question:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

He drew in discouraged physicians, harried nurses, and desperate patients and families with this question.

I love the question…it works magic in the workplace, in families, everywhere.

‘New Amsterdam’ Premiere Recap: How Can Dr. Goodwin Help? – Emily Longeretta

5) Reason –The Supreme Court of the United States has a vacancy. The US President nominates a candidate. The next step is for the Senate Judiciary Committee to do the heavy and serious work of examining the fitness of the candidate before releasing their name to the Senate for a vote. This is a weeks-long process.

Finally the candidate sits before the Committee to answer their questions. The Judiciary Committee is made up of 11 senators – men and women. Documents and witnesses are presented. It can be a grueling process for everyone.

Our current situation is the accusation of sexual assault by a woman who once knew the nominee. This week, she gave testimony, and the nominee gave his response. She said…he said.

Everyone in the US who cares knows the facts of this proceeding in great detail…our political bias impacts what we believe is true…whether we admit it or not. [Great article below.]

Blasey Ford-Kavanaugh Testimony Tells a tale of Two Internets – Emma Grey Ellis

Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, establishing and verifying facts, applying logic, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It is considered to be a distinguishing ability possessed by humans.

Using reason, or reasoning, can also be described more plainly as providing good, or the best, reasons. For example, when evaluating a moral decision, “morality is, at the very least, the effort to guide one’s conduct by reason—that is, doing what there are the best reasons for doing—while giving equal [and impartial] weight to the interests of all those affected by what one does.Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Watching the proceedings of this confirmation hearing was like nothing I have ever seen before. The vitriole. The partisan divide. The reckless treatment of people. The lying (there must be lying somewhere).

Whoever watched these proceedings would take one side or the other. There is no room for fence-sitting on these issues. How do we reason out what is happening here? How do we reason together when it seems people refuse to hear and try to understand the other side?

Where I would see reason, another person might see something very different…and on the flip side, I also saw something else…so damaging to the individuals interviewed this week…and to our country. God help us.

Ten Reasons to Love Thinking – Dawn Field

All that said…It’s Not Over Yet.

________________________________________________________________________

That’s the five for this week. How about you? Please share. Have a relaxing weekend…spent with people you love. Blessings!

Bonuses:

Photo Credit: Karen Burnette Garner [my life-long friend Karen]

She Shaped Me: Ten Exemplars of Faith – Kelli B. Trujillo

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Worship Wednesday – We Are Blessed, to Bless a World in Pieces – Andy Flannagan

Photo Credit: Bible Verses 2 U

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” – God to Abraham –  Genesis 12:2

We are so blessed. Even those who don’t believe God is will use the expression of being blessed. I wonder, “by whom” and “why?”

We are blessed to be a blessing. From the beginning of time when God instructed His first man and woman. Especially to childless Abraham who would receive that promise in faith…blessed to be a blessing.

From a young British friend’s Facebook page sometime ago, I was introduced to songwriter Andy Flannagan and Reverend Kevin Lewis. They both love Jesus and sing and write about blessing…

They both cheer us on to shake off the weight of self-interest and reach out to a broken world…that those desperate for love will find it in the same Savior we know…and show by our love that He loves them, also.

“[We need to] come out of Moral Superiority Castle, cross over the stagnant moat of separation and meet the kingdom of God where justice and mercy meet, where the never-ending stream is full of justice and goodness; where people are messed up and broken and dirty like old cracked pots that leak and feel pretty useless and that, that is where we are and where we are a part of the repairing and restoring and transforming of the world. It is a place of tension. It is a place of unresolved hurt.

No-one said that where justice and mercy meet was a comfortable place.” – Kevin Lewis

Worship with me.

Bring heaven to earth, Lord
Bring peace where there’s fear
Bring life where there’s death, Lord
Bring joy in these tears
Bring love where there’s lust, Lord
Bring hope where there’s pain
Bring rest where there’s chaos
Bring faith where there’s fame

You invite us to partner with you
To see your kingdom come

We are blessed, to bless a world in pieces
We are loved, to love where love is not
We are changed, to be the change you promised
We are freed, to be your hands, O God

Bring home to the homeless
Bring keys to the chained
Bring worth to the purchased
And touch to the shamed
Bring flesh from your word, Lord
Bring truth where there’s spin
Bring risk where’s there safety
And grace where there’s sin

In the broken, we shall see restored
The image of our King

We are blessed…

Lord we cry out to you
Change the atmosphere
Breathe new life in all who gather here

We are blessed…

Bring justice to profit
Bring patience to growth
Bring wisdom to progress
Plant trees on this road
Bring freedom from debt, Lord
An end to excess
Bring closer your kingdom
By quiet success

May we grow in the knowledge of you
Through every heart and face

We are blessed…*

Postscript: Andy Flannagan, in a town meeting with London mayor Sadiq Khan, at a local church, talked (in this video clip) about what we as Christians do well. He closed with “The harder thing is to go back to the Jericho Road to work out how to stop anybody else getting mugged.” (Luke 10:35-37)

*Lyrics to We Are Blessed – Songwriter: Andy Flannagan

Andy Flannagan Website

Blessed to Be a Blessing – Mike Pettengill

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

Photo Credit: Shelly Duffer, Bobby Nicolescu

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

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Free Bible Images

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

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

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

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

…and Jesus gave him his sight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: FaithHub

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Friday Faves – Pursuing Truth, Giving Voice to the Voiceless, Connecting Skill, Biomedical Treatment for Autism, and an Antique Store Experience

Friday has come…and gone. Finishing up this Faves on an early Sunday morning. Summer has wound down. School starts here in a week. Family visits. New babies. Friends back in town. Lots going on. Still…wanted to close the week out with my faves…and you.

1) Pursuing Truth – Deception is a problem of the culture that can become very personal. When something is spoken through public media as if it’s true, or someone we know speaks with confidence and authority, we are tempted to believe it is true…without weighing its validity. This is not always the case…in fact, too often we must sift through motives and spin to get to the meat of the matter.

From the time our children were little, we have tried to teach them how to sort out what is true. In the culture today, celebrities opt out of critical thinking by saying such things as “your truth”.

There is truth. How can it be colored so many individual ways?

I’m very thankful for the opportunity for table talk even today with our adult children. Sitting over dinner discussing faith, politics, and society…along with music, film, babies, and the latest technology.

I’m also grateful for friends who can be worlds apart on some ideologies but are bound together by relationship. They teach me so much. In fact, I have sought out some friendships, in the beginning, for those very differences. These are people whose passion and determination in living their passions. They help me make sure I haven’t pigeon-holed a certain worldview without considering what is winsome about it.

Nothing has changed about my belief in a good God…that deepens as I get older.  He will answer for Himself one day, as He chooses. On what may have confused any of us, in our human frailty, about both His justice and mercy. I will also answer one day about my own grasp of that and how it influenced my dealings with others.

I do believe that God has given us a guide for life in the Scriptures. I don’t understand it all, but I would not be so bold as to throw out some parts while I cling to others. Absolutely sure He can protect His own story through the ages…from getting lost in translation.

Anyway, what do you think about pursuing truth? It doesn’t happen without intentionality. We are being blasted with “someone’s truth” most all the time. Growing weary of pursuing truth would not go well for us.

Pursuing the Truth Requires Modesty About OurselvesMona Charen

Monday Morning Moment – the Essence and Ethics of Spin in Our Work, Our Politics, and Our Community – Deb Mills

2) Giving Voice to the Voiceless – Two friends and I are doing a study together, along with many others online. It is  Arise: a Study on God’s Heart for Justice. Easy to do – very thought-provoking and convicting.Photo Credit: IF Gathering

It’s a six-week look at God’s heart for justice and came at just the right time for me. Some of us are deeply engaged with turning stories of injustice into hope and healing. I am not one of those but so want to be.Photo Credit: IF Gathering

3) Connecting Skill – Benjamin P. Hardy is a writer that I follow. He is an organizational psychologist and writes on motivation and productivity. This past week, his post had an intriguing title: The Most Important Skill for Interacting with People . Definitely worth a read, but I will also tell you what that skill is:

Compassion/Consideration

Photo Credit: Carl Richards, New York Times

“If you treat every person you meet like they are dealing with a serious challenge, you’ll be right more than half the time. If you entreat people with love, kindness, empathy, and discernment, they will appreciate you so much.

You could change someone’s life today. You could potentially save someone’s life today. You could also indirectly change countless other lives through the ripple effects of making just one person feel heard and seen.

Send the text to a friend.

Make that call to a loved one.

Apologize to a co-worker or employee.

Wrote William Shakespeare, ‘They do not love that do not show their love.'”Benjamin P. Hardy

The Most Important Skill for Interacting with People Benjamin P. Hardy

Ask Yourself: What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?Carl Richards

4) Biomedical Treatment for Autism – [This is fascinating to me, but I have some idea how hard this could be to read by parents trying to make decisions about what’s right for their child with autism and the rest of their family. So please bear this in mind, while you read.]

During a conversation this week with a young mom who has a child diagnosed with autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder), my concept of food as intervention was rocked. In her determination to rid her child of the ravages of autism, she is following the counsel of a renowned local pediatrician,  Dr. Mary Megson.  Her approach with autistic children includes intensive testing of biological factors and then applying biomedical measures as appropriate for each child’s findings.

I’m not going into the specifics, but my friend has changed up her child’s diet and has also added a long list of supplements each day. Who would even imagine that giving cod liver oil to a child would have impact on autism? I know her sweet child and the changes I’ve seen just in the last few months are remarkable. The video below captures what another mom did for her son and the difference it made. [Don’t be overwhelmed by all the interventions…every family must decide for themselves what they can believe and manage/afford in the care of their child with autism.]

From my friend’s experience and my wonder at this strange disorder, this type intervention is definitely something to consider…for a season, for the sake of a child. There are just so many diets out there, so I can’t imagine how parents make their decisions. Hopefully the benefits outweigh what can be very isolating and divisive between people who care about each other.

Changes in Attitudes, Changes in Latitudes – Ronald E. – one father’s story

5) An Antique Store Experience – This week I was home visiting my family in Georgia. My sister-in-law is an amazing crafts-person – taking dreary scuffed-up (albeit much loved by someone in the past) old furniture and bringing them to life again. She knows all the best antique shops where others do the same sorts of re-purposing and “up-cycling”.

[Someone took a tv cabinet and made it into a beautiful display piece. Do you see the doors of the cabinet were made into the shelving? And how about an artsy chandelier made from bed springs?!]

[Chenille takes me back to childhood before our comfy modern fabrics…when chenille was the softest bed cover to wrap up in.]

RVA Antiques – a Happy Place – Deb Mills

Saturday Short – Sweet Plans for a Day in River City – #RVA – to Celebrate That Lovely in Your Life – Deb Mills

That’s a wrap on this week’s favorite finds. Please favor us with some of yours in the Comments section below. Have a splendid end-of-summer weekend. Be gentle with yourself and with those you meet…you just never know what it will mean.

Bonuses:

Beyond the Guitar – “I’m in a Video Game” – Nathan Mills

YouTube Video – The Chosen – This Movie Changed the Way I Feel About Christmas – The Shepherd Pilot Episode – Don’t miss the ending.

Quote:

Unhinged. My choice word to describe how I’ve felt all week culminating in a Friday to which I awoke with my eyes being super swollen. I’m wearing an outfit I’m 99% sure I already wore this week (hey, I blame it on being European for a short season & go ahead and judge me as though you’ve never done the same). I’ve slept horribly all week because of worry and stress waking up around 4.

I decided I was going to redeem Friday, eat a croissant, have good coffee, and read a book. Please note the weird lighting and spilled coffee in the background. Because this is actually my life.

The book I’m reading is about a surgeon who during WW2 lived in China and served the Lord and the people there until his premature death. A friend asked me where and why I find books like this and suggested I read something lighter (sometimes I do). This morning it hit me that I know the answer why.

Gravity.

The gravity of a life lived before the Lord in a selfless, sacrificial way calls into reckoning my frivolity and selfishness. I need gravity because far too often I am unhinged and need to be reminded that who I am in Christ, swollen eyes/outfit/sleepless soul/etc., is enough because it doesn’t depend on me. God takes my unhinged-ness and allows me to cast my burdens on him.

And I’m working on it. Praise God. – Taryn Blocker, with permission

3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic CultureRon Carucci

The Dangers of Distracted ParentsErika Kristakis

Photo Credit: Housekeeping 101, Facebook

Photo Credit: Marianne Wink, Facebook

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

Photo Credit: New Release Today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship with me please.

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

Yeah

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can only imagine*

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

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

*Lyrics to I Can Only Imagine Written by Bart Millard

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

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

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trauma-Informed Teacher – Silent Front Line

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

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

Michael Jr. Comedy – another favorite of mine.

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

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

Arise: A Study on God’s Heart for Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – You Say – Lauren Daigle

Photo Credit: Living All In, Cheryl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please worship with me…this good God of ours.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lauren Daigle – Story Behind the Song ‘You Say’

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

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

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

Worship Wednesday – Undivided – First Call

Photo Credit: Every Day Is Special

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. – 1 Corinthians 1:10

Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:3-6

But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.” – Luke 11:17

“Always pull from the same end of the rope.” This was the marriage advice given to Nathan and Bekkah by a couple of strangers. An older man and woman came up to Bekkah after one of Nathan’s concerts and just engaged her in conversation. Over the course of their chat, they gave this young couple a jewel of wisdom…not just for marriage but for life…

“Always pull from the same end of the rope.”

We live in a divided world.

Even in the church, the unity God means for us to have with one another is constantly under fire. By our differences, our ambitions, and our passions. How do we link arms when offenses and attitudes and preferences loom large? Sometimes larger, if we are all honest, than our calling in Christ.Photo Credit: Paul Lee, Heartlight

God help us…and He will.

In my regular Bible reading this morning, in Nehemiah 3, God displayed a beautiful picture of unity. Nehemiah, a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes, heard of the distress of the Jews in the broken-down city of Jerusalem. He was personally moved to action on their behalf and asked leave to go help them. He would undertake supervising the great task of the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.

Throughout chapter 3 of Nehemiah, you read the phrases “after him” or “next to them”. Nehemiah recorded name after name of the men stationed one beside the other, doing the work of rebuilding the wall. In Nehemiah 4, when the local authorities felt threatened by the work, they did all they could to demoralize the workmen. Even to the point of inciting fear for their lives. Nehemiah, for the sake of the workers and the work, assigned half of them to shifts repairing the wall and half to stand ready with spears. In fact, even those laboring on the wall would have their weapons at hand. Ready to fight for each other whenever necessary…whenever the alarm is sounded.

“In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” – Nehemiah 4:20

This is unity.

The determination to be one together…as in a part of the whole…as we see in the unity of God in Three (John 17:22). The conviction that division, no matter the worthiness of the reason, robs us of our power and influence Robs God of His glory in His people. The humility and courage to root out division – with our work tools in one hand and our weapons in the other.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – JesusJohn 13:35

In an era sadly in the past, churches would, as needed, call themselves into a solemn assembly. This wasn’t just a share around a campfire, or a “confess fest”. A solemn assembly provides the setting for a deep dealing with sin in the church. Division, unholy and self-serving, can only be rooted out by corporate prayer and repentance.

Each of us can make a difference in the lives of our families, our churches, our cultures by refusing to be divided against each other. If we are willing to walk humbly and biblically with each other.  Working with one hand and holding God’s Word (toward love and against division) with the other. We are rarely given the option, in Scripture, to just walk away. To be repulsed by what we think is wrong; to pull ourselves out of the work and relationships; to just walk away.

[If an enemy threatens…we have God’s instructions as well…and His power fighting for us. However, to just abandon one another, especially to an enemy…and weaken the work and our witness? This is not the answer. Dealing with an enemy that divides us takes great wisdom, faith, and both courage and humility. Pointing our fingers at another is part of the problem, and we all know it if we would open our eyes to it. However, confronting the enemy in wise and Godly ways, may be required of any or all of us at some point in our lives. Remembering also that our enemy is spiritual more than physical.]

When we are having a hard time in this work of being in unity, Dave and I sometimes run through the names of people who give us hope. Those whom we know will always hold the rope for us if we are dangling off the edge of a cliff. Those also for whom we would do the same. It’s an exercise that helps us remember that God calls us to fight for each other…for those most worthy and even those, in our estimation, least worthy… In actuality, we are not the judge of this, God is. It is God who is worthy and He calls us, in His strength, to stand with each other. Alongside each other. Undivided.

Take a moment to savor the singing of this song Undivided by the vocal trio First Call. In this rendition, they are joined by Wayne Watson, Larnelle Harris, and Steve Green – all pioneers in contemporary Christian music.

[I get cold chills every time.]

Worship with me to Undivided by First Call:

We may worship different ways
We may praise Him
And yet spend all of our days
Living life divided

But when we seek Him with open hearts
He removes the walls we built
That keep us apart
We trust Him to unite us

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided

It doesn’t matter if we agree
All He asks is that we serve Him faithfully
And love as He first loved us
He made us in His image

And in His eyes, we are all the same
And though out methods they may be different
Jesus is the bond that will remain

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided

In our hearts, we’re undivided
Worshiping one Savior, one Lord
In our hearts, we’re undivided
Bound by His spirit forevermore
Undivided*

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Colossians 3:12-15

*Lyrics to Undivided written by Melodie Tunney, 1986

First Call Music

Don’t Give Up – Jon Bloom – Desiring God