St. Patrick’s Day – Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Wearing green. Corned beef and cabbage…and my family background is Scottish…so a bit of a mix for us.
Still love celebrating this day for all the right reasons. Photo Credit: Flickr
I am also planning to watch the David Kidd documentary Patrick. A friend who heard David Kidd speak shared the following with me via email – notes from his talk on the real Patrick (legends removed):
He was born in 396 AD and died in 471 AD.
Patrick was a man brought up on a Romano British Christian home somewhere in southwest Britain (his father was a deacon and grandfather a priest).
He was kidnapped at 16 (he said he didn’t really know God at that time), trafficked, and taken to the West Coast of Ireland where he worked as a shepherd and learned Irish.
As a slave, Patrick came to see the hand of God in his troubles. God broke through his defenses, and Patrick faced his unbelief and pride. Later he described how he turned to God whom he realized had been watching over him all the time. He became aware of God’s protection, and he discovered that God loved him as a father loves his son.
Before this, he had ‘sinned’ – something that ‘lasted an hour’ and he believed that God punished him.
God spoke to him in a dream about a ship to take him home. At 22, he managed to escape slavery.
At home, he had another dream of the people in Ireland calling him back.
He was obedient to the Spirit and went back to West Ireland (the ends of the earth at that time).
He was beaten, harassed by thieves and robbers, admonished by his British superiors, but his work grew and he remained humble.
He protested against injustice, esteemed women highly, and identified himself as Irish.
His legacy was a vibrant Christianity which lasted hundreds of years while Britain and Europe fell into the Dark Ages.
What we can do to honor Patrick’s memory?
The Past: Remember a humble man who had been mistreated, heard from God, obeyed, loved his enemies, lived his life for Jesus, and made a significant difference – not just in Ireland, but much of Europe.
The Present: Use Patrick’s life to help people focus on what really matters…Christ Jesus.
The Future: Be as faithful as Patrick and live for Jesus and His Kingdom – making a difference in this world with fruit that lasts.
Worship Wednesday – In Christ Alone – Townend & Getty
Both of these books are meant to take us through an examination of our lives and the Lord with us, right up to Easter. Below are just two (very different) excerpts from these two books:
“When we see how all our plans shipwreck on the characters of the people we have to deal with, we are ‘in one way’ seeing what it must be like for God…He sees (like you) how all the people in your home or your job are in various degrees awkward or difficult; but when He looks into that home or factory or office He sees one more person of the same king – the one you never do see, I mean, of course, yourself …You also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character.
All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs…God’s view [differs] – He loves the people in spite of their faults. he goes on loving. He does not let go. Don’t say, ‘It’s all very well for Him; He hasn’t got to live with them.’ He has. He is inside them as well as outside them. He is with them far more intimately and closely and incessantly that we can ever be. Every vile thought within their minds (and ours), every moment of spite, envy, arrogance, greed, and self-conceit comes right up against His patient and longing love, and grieves His spirit more than it grieves ours.” – C. S. Lewis
“Father, Do I hurt You with my fear? Do I cut You with my cries of desolation? Do You sigh and shake Your head when I cannot understand? Do You long to make it better? Do You seriously consider abandoning Your principles? Do You sleep? Do You lie awake and think of me? Does Your pain roll across creation like thunder? Is it really finished? Daddy, won’t it be good when it is? Amen.” – Adrian Plass
Do you have favorite books for the Easter season? Please share with us in Comments below.
2) Classical Guitar Wonderment – I don’t know how he does it, but every Friday, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posts a new video. His arrangements and performances amaze us all – not just family but friends, both here and around the world. You know I could go on…but I won’t. Here are his two latest arrangements:
3) Giving Place, Space, & Voice – I just want to salute you people out there who give place to others – at the planning and decision-making tables, who give space to others to come at solutions or strategy from a different worldview or frame of reference, and who give voice to those who might not find their voice otherwise.
You are true leaders and true servants. You are the kind of people we want to follow and make proud of us. You are those who create a family, a workplace, a community and a world where we can all realize our God-ordained purposes. Ambition, territoriality, mistrust, personal preference turn some away from such practices. To those of you who guard this discipline in your lives…this three-fold giving…thank you. Thank God for you.
4) Touches of Whimsy – What a joy it is to be going through your day and then, stop right in your tracks at a glimpse of something beautiful. Or an amusing turn of phrase in a conversation causes you to laugh out loud. The world, as hard as it can be, is also still full of whimsy. Just last night I was at a first birthday party for a wee one who was born three months early and weighed in at just over two pounds. He is every bit a miracle baby. We spent most of the evening just staring at him. Of course, there were doses of adult conversation and lots of shared laughter, but his little chuckles lifted all our hearts…at the wonder of his life.
This week also a friend took me to a belated birthday breakfast. We tried this new restaurant in our neighborhood. SB’s Lakeside Love Shack. It was breakfast all day in the most whimsical little place. Here are just a few pics of what made us keep smiling with delight:
[Sidebar: In case you are my neighbor and you give this restaurant a try on my recommendation, just be advised that it’s not a diner (with diner prices), and it’s small (so crowded depending when you go). The food was delicious and the whimsy was a definite highlight.]
5) Food for Thought – OK, to be honest, I couldn’t decide on #5, so I’m just putting all the “bonus” finds right here.
C. S. Lewis Daily Twitter – “It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge one away from the light and out into the nothing.” #CSLewis
I am still buoyed by the incredible beauty of ice skater Yuzuru Hanyu’s performances in this year’s Winter Olympics to Notte Stellata – this one as part of the skating gala exhibition of all the medal winners:
That’s it for this week. Love you all. Be safe out there and gentle with yourselves…and each other. Please share below your favorite finds of the week. Thanks for following my blog. You are much appreciated at this house.
His performance of this piece transports us to Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit house. Nathan could be playing for the warrior dwarves, all sitting dreamily in front of the fire, as they reminisce in song about what was once their home. Enjoy!
2) Black History Month – We’re over halfway through February which is Black History Month in the US. What impact has this observance had on your thinking? in 2019, we will mark 400 years since the first Africans arrived in English North America.
3) Firefighter’s Gender Reveal – Don’t we love our first responders? Don’t we also love babies? Put the two together and a gender reveal is born in a most creative way. Let the video show what happens:
What makes this even more special for me? They are our niece and nephew. Bring on the stuff of Baby Girls!
4) Olympic Gold – If you’re like us, you’re not getting much sleep this week as the Winter Olympics are in full-swing. My favorite sports to watch are figure and speed skating, the luge and bobsled competitions, and (as of this year) snowboarding. Photo Credit: Detroit News
Below are videos of just three of the gold medal performances so far. Mind-blowing!
What are your favorite sports? Please comment with a link to your favorite performances. It’s hard to take it all in with so many events going on. Thanks!
5) Brené Brown on Guns – This week we are stunned and grieved at the school shooting in Florida where 17 lost their lives. The news is full of talk of gun control and emotions are high. How I long for civil discourse that could extinguish political ambition for the sake of the people.
Writer and thought leader Brené Brown just last year wrote this piece on gun reform:
I am one of those who wants us to be able to protect our children but who also sees more and more gun legislation as a slippery slope. What would be the right gun laws? Those laws that most protect those who need protecting without putting guns only in the hands of the lawless.
Whatever your worldview, Brown’s article is thought-provoking. Today is not the day for more legislation, but today is the day we come alongside grieving families and friends…putting aside what may divide us and holding on to what unites us – truly caring for one another.
That’s it for this week…except for the bonuses below. I pray you have a safe weekend, spent with those you love. Let’s be gentle with each other…and ourselves. Life is precious…such a gift. Never to be taken for granted.
Quote: Don’t let what you can’t do interfere with what you can do. – John Wooden
Lazem – This is a pop song I knew years ago in Egypt – Lazem Ahebek (I Have to Love You). My dear friend Heba introduced it to me – and it reminds me of taxi rides through Cairo – windows down, a hot breeze blowing our hair – and times together at home, dancing to it.
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. – Psalm 36:5-7
I love Valentine’s Day. Maybe, more than anything, it is a bright red, shiny day that punctures the many gray ones of winter. Being married now for many years, the season of longing for love should be long forgotten. It is not. I remember.
The funny thing about the years of singleness – the many Valentine’s Days spent more with great girlfriends than with a guy – was the weathered joy in them. The loneliness and seeming “not belonging to someone” brought keen awareness of the contrasting actual truth that I was NOT alone. Indeed, I was loved more deeply than ever possible by another human as needy as me.
On this Worship Wednesday, on Valentine’s Day, I’m drawn back to an old hymn. One actually that only became familiar to me during our years in Egypt, worshiping with British expats. They brought their beloved hymns into our collective worship experience.
Englishman Samuel Trevor Francis penned, in King James English, a beautiful hymn extolling the love of Christ. The lyrics are so powerful and life-giving. You can just hear the great church organ of the past pounding out the beat and breadth of the melody…and the message of love we find in Jesus.
Please worship with me. The Christian band Selah has prepared an updated version for us, retaining the feel of the old hymn. The lyrics and music to accompany are found here.
1 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me. Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward
to my glorious rest above.
2 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
spread His praise from shore to shore! How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watcheth o’er His loved ones,
died to call them all His own;
how for them He intercedeth,
watcheth o’er them from the throne.
3 O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of ev’ry love the best;
’tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’tis heav’n of heav’ns to me;
and it lifts me up to glory,
for it lifts me up to Thee.*
The trappings of Valentine’s Day will leave you a little empty… unsatisfied, no matter your situation. Find the great love of God the refuge and shelter He means to be for each of us.
He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. – Psalm 91:4
I have never felt so white as in recent years. Even all the years we lived in North Africa weren’t like now. Being white, politically conservative and evangelical, some would say, in our current political and cultural climate, that folks like me come from a camp of perceived unsavories.
That reality is might be changeable as political parties come and go in power. What I would love is to have conversation with you…if you would engage with me in the Comments below…is about the realities of those whose skin and cultural experience is black.
No matter what my heart is toward people of color or my attempts to bridge the racial gaps of this city…is it too little, too late? No. I know it’s not too late, but what can I do definitively to help?
This is what I’m asking and searching out.
When the Rodney King arrest happened and became a cultural phenomenon, we were living in the hills of East Tennessee. Far from the struggles that poverty and racial tension bring to urban America.
With violence in the US on the rise, it is easy to see how edgy police officers could get. Police brutality is never the answer. It is, however, a part of the many problems we have in our country right now.
[I couldn’t imagine someone I loved being in law enforcement and am grateful for these men and women who try to do right and try to keep us ALL safe.]
What stirred me to write today (besides it being MLK Day) was an account by a friend of mine who was pulled over recently by local police. This friend is well-educated, conservatively dressed, articulate, and kind. He lives in a part of the city that is being revitalized, doing work in a non-profit organization and he has a family. He is also black.
When we talked, he told me this was actually the fourth time he had been stopped for confusing reasons that could have put him in harm’s way, when he wasn’t guilty.
When he was in high school, he was among a group of students gathered by a police officer. The purpose of the class was to teach them “how not to get shot” if ever approached by law enforcement.
My friend has applied those lessons on these multiple “pull overs”.
When he and his wife shared the details of some of these encounters with police, it caused me to be scared for them…and for all those who experience this kind of profiling (because of their color?).
That conversation reminded me of my only experience that was anywhere close to his. [And then, it’s not even close.] Once when we lived in North Africa, a police officer pulled me over, took my papers and refused to return them to me until I paid him “a fee”. I had done nothing wrong, and I couldn’t leave without my papers. Stuck. It was the only time in all the years we lived overseas that I essentially cooperated with a bribe.
As infuriating and exasperating as that North African experience was, I still felt the benefit of white privilege. I had the money to pay him. I, an unaccompanied woman, was driving a car. I knew if I appealed (to anyone in our hearing that day), he may have probably backed off.
A big difference between my friend’s situation and mine was that I knew there was a way out. Not sure of his confidence of that…
The phrase “white privilege” feels wrong, to be honest, and I chafe in every conversation where it comes up. I wanted to be a person who has tried to be “color blind”. The problem with that “color blindness” is our black neighbors, coworkers, friends don’t have that option. I’m beginning to see and acknowledge how privileged I am in so many ways. This is what I used to call “blessed” which had no color attached. Unfortunately, when my friend shares his experiences, I want to agree with him. There is privilege attached to my life. If there is privilege, then how do I use it for the sake of others?… This friend of mine has his own privilege through education and class, BUT the color of his skin trumps all of that.
On Sunday, at the start of our church service, I saw, sitting by our pastor, a person of color, wearing the “pastor’s mic”. I’d been praying for some time that when we added to our staff, we would seek a black man or woman. When Rayshawn Graves was introduced as our speaker, I forgot for a moment that his presence was aligned with our observance of MLK Day. Initially my heart thrilled at the possibility that he was preaching “in view of a call”. Oh well (I would find out later)…he is contentedly on staff at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond.
Rayshawn preached out of Ephesians 2:11-16 on the reconciling of Jewish and Gentile believers. He also preached on Galatians 2:11-16 on how racism can creep into even the most devout believers if we aren’t careful. His message was so encouraging to me as a white believer desiring to figure how to deal with racism in America (what could I do?). My takeaways from his assuring and equipping sermon follow:
Racism is a sin which will always be present. It separates and isolates us from God and each other.
Jesus died for that sin as for all other sins.
Through Him, we can have the guilt of that sin removed. We can all be free to live in unity with God and each other.
Our identity in Christ is above every other identity we may have.
We don’t have to live out guilt (as whites) or the hurt of racism (as blacks). We belong to Christ and we are called to live that out – loving God, loving others, making every effort to keep and preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).
We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) – within the church and with marginalized peoples especially. Unless we come close to each other, and have heart conversations, how will we know what those burdens are?
Because our identity is in Christ, and we love Him and want to be like Him, we make a habit of being proactive in pursuing reconciliation.
You can listen to Rayshawn’s sermon in entirety here. So helpful.
As we pause on Martin Luther King Day and reflect on the sobering issue of racism in our country, and world, we can be hopeful. The hope must be grounded in what has already been done for us to be unified…and what we can do, based on truth, towards racial reconciliation. Still thinking of my friend, somehow profiled by law enforcement, I am more resolved than ever before to reach out in as many directions as possible. May God open doors and bring unity.
Postscript: Below I have excerpted just a few of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s observations on what was happening in his day. He wrote these to a group of white pastors who had expressed concern about his actions. He wrote from the Birmingham jail where he was imprisoned for nonviolent demonstrations against segregation.
[Bold emphases are mine. Read his letter in its entirety here.]
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.
“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…
I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice? — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist? — “Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist? — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a mockery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? — “We hold these truths to be self – evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love?
Happy New Year! As this year winds down, we all look to the next with anticipation and hope. For many, tonight will be a partied out with friends. For us, it’s quiet…intentionally so. Pajamas, snack supper, fire in the fireplace, books, football, maybe a movie.
We’ve already reflected back over this past year…we’ve written out resolutions for the one coming…and now, we mark the few hours remaining until this year is finished and the next begins.
When the clock strikes midnight, a song will ring out, for sure in the English-speaking world. That song is Auld Lang Syne. We don’t even know all the lyrics or its exact origin, but it stirs our hearts to remember the gift of old friends. What a gift they are!
Old friends…including the one I’m spending this New Year’s Eve with…
Auld Lang Syne celebrates those relationships that get us through whatever a year brings. Old friends. Sometimes we find those friends in our families…and sometimes across oceans.
One thing I love about this song is how the melody also lends itself to different lyrics…especially when the lyrics call to remembrance the finest friend it is possible to have in one’s life.
Our lives can take a myriad of turns that take us far from the friends we love. Fortunately, wherever we are…no matter how peopled or solitary our seasons are…there is a friend who is near to us always.
Two Christian bands have put lyrics to this melody and those songs follow. Take heart in these words in a familiar tune. Celebrate with me – as this year closes and a new one begins, there is One unchangeable in His love for us. Constant. A friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.
1) Leaning Into Relationships – Dr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.
“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” — Robert Waldinger
2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay
This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.
Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry. His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”
That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.
3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.
4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:
“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”
Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”
You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?” – Oliver Burkeman
5) For Better or Worse –Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.
As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.
She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.
Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.
His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.
Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.
Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.
Quote: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis
Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)
On this predawn Christmas morning, my thoughts are heavy remembering a year ago when Dad died about this time. He died after a long goodbye with cancer and Alzheimer’s. He died under the tender care of my brother and sister-in-law who had already lost her own dad just days before.
Dad is in Heaven, and joy comes thinking of seeing him, Mom, and others there one day. The heaviness of my heart is just to be endured for now…I can’t seem to fix it. It’s been a year of not quite what it should be. Hard to even write those words because I am deeply grateful to God for even being here, in front of this keyboard, able to reflect on His goodness and provision.
Dad, in his sweet and generous heart, was one of those provisions. The only dad I ever knew, even though he wasn’t our biological father. He loved Christmas and brought to it a gleefulness that I can’t find this year.
Maybe some of you are struggling with Christmas this year. Away from family or with them in the shadows. Or there is something else going on…I don’t really want to string a series of possibles here. You know for yourself what is making Christmas hard.
If this is not your situation, just be glad in it. Most years, I have known that kind of Christmas and will again.
Sadness makes it hard to reach out to others (although I have a friend who today, pushing through her own sadness, will serve in a hospital hospitality house). I have struggled to reach out this year.
Still, we will hold to the comfort and joy that is ours through Christ Jesus. What he did for us…what he continues to do in the greatest love known to us.
If you are having a hard time reaching out, and getting the help you need, just please be gentle with yourself. There are resources for us in the depth of our despair (links below). God is near. He desires to comfort us and restore our joy. He will pierce the dark cloud of our sadness as we turn to Him. He will be with us right where we are.Photo Credit: Holley Gerth
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” – 2Corinthians 1:3–4
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13
Postscript: We have known a lot of airports in our long life of travel – and watching folks arrive to family and friends has always been a marvel to me. I think of Dad’s Homegoing and smile, in spite of this morning’s sadness, at the welcome he received in Heaven. Sweet.
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. it seems to me that love is everywhere. Ofte, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.” – from the film Love Actually
It’s Friday. Well…it was. As I write, it’s pre-dawn on a snowy Saturday morning. Our first snow of the season fell last night, and more is expected today. Our youngest son and I took in the VCU Holiday Gala last night, walking to and from the parking deck in falling white loveliness. It’s been a family tradition for us for a few years now, but with precious babies and a heavy work schedule for Dave, it was just Dan and me. Still, so much fun.
That’s pretty much how this week has been. Unexpected alterations of days and the emotional highs and lows that came with them. Still…Friday came (and went…oops!). Welcome to Saturday, and hopefully you will find something here to lighten your load, make you smile, or remind you that we are all in this together.
1) Star Wars Christmas –Beyond the Guitar continues to surprise and delight with his latest arrangement. A mashup of Star Wars themes and Christmas carols. So fitting in this season and as Star Wars: The Last Jedihits the big screen in a few days. Shout-out to the video directors – Tyler Scheerschmidt and John Shutika. If you love all things Christmas and Star Wars, you’re in for a treat:
2) Jimmy Stewart’s Prayer – What should come to mind is actor Jimmy Stewart’s classic portrayal of the consummate good guy, George, in the film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946). However, a short film entitled Mr. Krueger’s Christmas(1980) has a particular scene in it that is riveting. In the scene, Mr. Krueger finds himself present, along with the shepherds, at the birthplace of Jesus. It’s reported, Stewart did this scene in one take saying he only had one take in him. He talks to Jesus in this scene and at one point drops to his knees, overtaken by the moment, and stammers, “I love you…you are my closest, my finest friend.” Take 4 minutes and watch this sweet scene:
3) Hamburger Joint – We all have our favorites, right? What’s yours? I have a few favorites, but when we lived and had babies in Kingsport, Tennessee, it was Pal’s Sudden Service. Both of my biological children probably have Pal’s hot dogs and fries in their original DNA. Their business model (see links below) is very forward-thinking without settling for trendy. Not just about the quality of the food but also about service and employee training. Pal’s is a total carry-out restaurant. You order not over a speaker but face-to-face with someone. By the time you round the building, in your car, of course, the food is ready. It’s so good, I doubt many folks get back on the street without grabbing a one of their fries out of the bag, and definitely not without their first long sip of Pal’s sweet tea. So good. Have you ever experienced Pal’s? Or another favorite? Please comment below.Photo Credit: Pal’s Sudden Service
4) Liz Wiseman on Accidental Diminishers – Who hasn’t read Liz Wiseman‘s book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter? Well, maybe you don’t need to read it. If you work with two or more people, this gem of a book is an excellent assist in helping you be better able to work wiser with those two or more. Revised since the original publishing in 2010, Multipliers continues to be timely. in a recent Leaders Get Read podcast, Wiseman was interviewed again about the the two ends of the spectrum at work – the multiplier and the diminisher.Photo Credit: Slideshare
Give it a listen especially if you haven’t read the book – she gives a great synopsis of the concepts. At 18 minutes into the podcast, Wiseman talks about the accidental diminisher. Those times when all of us, even being well-intended, do or say things that diminishes another person. I do that sometimes in tweaking a plan or decision made by another colleague or friend. Tweak, tweak, tweak. It happens in my direction when someone, even one who I know cares about me and what I bring to the table/relationship, communicates that I’m not needed or my input isn’t desired. Tricky. On a good day, this actually frees me to focus on other things; on a bad day, it causes all kinds of anxiety, insecurity, and paranoia (it’s true…hard to believe, I know).
5) Pulling Up – Given my #4 fave, this has been a week where I have struggled with some low points. There were occasions where it’s possible I was an accidental diminisher (very sad face here) with people who should never be diminished. [Well, no one should ever be diminished. Full stop.] Then, also had a few experiences of being diminished myself. For me, in such situations, a downward spiral begins in my thoughts and emotions. Maybe you struggle with this as well. Often this shows up at bedtime and I find myself trying to sort out how to fix a situation. Finally sleep comes…and resolution begins when I “pull up”. Dave coined this phrase with me, and the family has taken it on as a reminder too. As with an out-of-control plane spiraling dangerously toward the ground, the pilot has got to figure out a way to “pull up”.
Bring every thought captive to what is truth. – “We tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5
Focus your thoughts on what is true, honorable, right, admirable… – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8
Pulling up may mean going to that person to sort things out. It can also mean just correcting course in our own thinking.
Photo Credit: Micah Eckerd – Actually friend Joshua Griffin took the shot, but this is ALL Micah. Just makes me smile. A friend & a tree.
Harvesting Olives by Machine – If you’ve ever seen olive trees harvested by hand, such a machine would be amazing to have. We had an olive tree in our yard in North Africa, and just the work of pulling olives off that one tree gave us pause – thinking of all the olive groves near us and the hundreds of trees loaded with fruit.
In our attic, there’s a space is filled with bins of Christmas loveliness. Tree decorations, wall and room decor, linens, and nativities from around the world (including a few of the made in China sort).
This year I decided to clear out some of the stuff, albeit still lovely but nothing my kids would cherish, should they be the ones clearing it out one day.
The bag of someone else’s treasures in my car headed to Hope Thrift yesterday was my front-seat passenger. While Christmas music played, I occasionally looked over at that bag, and my thoughts filled with memories of Mom.
In the bag were several sets of vinyl Christmas placemats and cloth napkins. During our childhood, Mom used to decorate our small rancher with so much beauty at Christmas. Most of it either homemade or bought at the local discount store. Still…when the family gathered around all the tables scattered through the house, it was magical. Color and light. Wonder at how she brought the fragrance of loveliness out of so little.
Even though I don’t use those red and green placemats, I had a hesitation in the thrift store parking lot. Could I let go of them? In that moment it was like peeling away a part of my memory of Mom and my heart ached.
In this song, his granddaughter Audrey sings (when did Michael W. Smith get old enough to have a granddaughter?!). The song was actually originally featured in the film Home Alone. Themusical score was composed by John Williams.
Candles in the window
Shadows painting the ceiling
Gazing at the fire glow
Feeling that gingerbread feeling
Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see
Somewhere in my memory
Christmas joys all around me
Living in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me
Precious moments, special people
Happy faces, I can see
Somewhere in my memory
All of the music, all of the magic
All of the family, home here with me*
What a gift music is (right, Nathan?). It was one of those “Christmas comes” moments. I sat and listened to that song, remembering a mom who could stretch her income better than anyone I knew. Probably because it was always about bringing joy to others. I didn’t have to have those placemats to remember what a gift Mom was to all of us.
[Now the cloth napkins she made…and the crocheted Christmas ornaments…still with me.]
So Happy Saturday, kind readers. If you can’t afford the gifts you’d like to give your family, take heart. Christmas still comes for us. Most probably what your loved ones want most for Christmas…is you.
If finances aren’t an issue for you this Christmas, then still we have good advice in this image of a holiday bucket list:
I am so enamored this year with the graces God gives us in this season – small remembrances of what matters more than trying to find that perfect Christmas gift…or having every minute of your December weekends filled with parties or other invitations. One such grace for me that also happened yesterday was waiting for my order at Chick-Fil-A. I was standing at the end of the farm table in their dining room and saw the plaque below for the first time. Surprised by the joy of this.
Anyway….there you have my Saturday morning rambling on this second day of Advent 2017. I do celebrate you amazing and persevering shoppers for just the right presents for your loved ones. It is such a joy for us on the receiving end of that.
One day a Christmas book for my children (like the one below I found in an estate sale) is going to be my gift to them. Until then, gifts of some sort, probably severely lacking imagination, will make it under the tree…and the best part?
“All of the music, all of the magic All of the family, home here with me”.