Category Archives: Neighbors

5 Friday Faves – Advent Readings, Beyond the Guitar, Preventing Type 2 Diabetes, Family Hospitality, and Christmas Outings

It’s Friday, and the first day of Advent this year of our Lord 2017. My plan is to stretch and savor every single day of this December. I won’t write about every one of those days, but hope to be present in each. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually. No sad memories, regrets, wishing something to be that probably won’t be will sully this bright beautiful series of days. So there’s my hope. Care to share yours?

Following are my 5 favorite finds of this week, culled from so many. Hope you enjoy and please share yours in Comments…for our delight.

1) Advent Readings – I love the daily moments of reflection on Advent (“coming” of Christ) and wrote about it here. If I can be so bold, it’s worth a read today. Resource choices abound for reading and listening on these 25 (oops….24) days to Christmas.

Advent – Welcoming the Savior at Christmastime – Holding a Place for His Coming – Deb Mills Writer

John Piper has taken his Advent readingsGood News of Great Joy – and put them on podcasts. I’m starting those today.Photo Credit: iDisciple

As well as other readings (see that previous blog) in these days I’m determined to seize and savor.

Not celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you.Ann Weems

2) Beyond the Guitar – Nathan’s latest arrangement – a lovely piece from the videogame Final Fantasy X – feels like Christmas. Enjoy To Zanarkand! Looking forward to more Christmasy arrangements from this guy this month.

YouTube Video – Final Fantasy X: To Zanarkand – Classical Guitar Cover – Beyond the Guitar

3) Preventing Type 2 Diabetes – If there is a way to prevent Type 2 diabetes, I want to try. I’ve watched this disease chip away at the health of too many. Sugar is the culprit, I believe. We all love its intoxicant qualities…the anticipation of eating a sugar-laden food and the memory of the experience which cycles back to anticipation of the next experience (I’m that way with my morning cup of coffee as well). Dealing with our sugar dependence isn’t easy nor simple.Photo Credit: Flickr

However, it is doable…if we want to prevent pre-diabetes…and we want to live longer than diabetes will allow us.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A fascinating podcast with nutrition science journalist Gary Taubes will encourage and empower you – he’s not just another trend-setting diet guru either:

Is Sugar Slowly Killing Us? My conversation with Gary Taubes

Is Sugar Slowly Killing Us – My Conversation with Gary Taubes – Podcast – Shane Parrish of Farnam Street

Don’t Wait Until You Have Diabetes to Make Lifestyle Changes

4) Family Hospitality – Holiday seasons lend themselves to company of various configurations, coming and going, all space to land and food. I love gathering folks together. When our children were growing up and we were overseas, it wasn’t always their preference the enormous numbers of people who came and went from our home. Still they dealt with their parents with grace, most of the time, and we learned gradually to respect their own need for space, for quiet, and for our undivided attention. It was a family process and we all grew through it. I highly recommend exercising hospitality as a family…with everyone involved in some capacity and tempered by the stage and age of family members.

Photo Credit: MaxPixel

Lisa Chan has written a beautiful defense of hospitality in family. It’s entitled “Would You Let a Stranger Live with You? Laying Aside the Fear of Hospitality”. Not all of us would live as Lisa and Francis Chan live – but there is much to learn from them on loving outside our comfort zone.

5) Christmas Outings – Last night I had the pleasure of participating in an international potluck supper. My car was packed with a dear Sudanese family who I’ve grown to know and love in the process of helping the mom with her English in trying to find a job. We had so much fun eating foods from various cultures, meeting new friends, and watching the kids play games together. We drove by some of the Christmas light displays on the way back to their apartment. This is the kind of experience that truly starts the clock for Christmas. The images that follow depict some of the not-to-miss experiences for us in our part of Virginia: Lewis Ginter GardenFest, Maymont Victorian Holidays, VCU Holiday Gala, Henrico Christmas Mother, Busch Gardens Christmas Town, and the Tacky Light Tour – complete with family, neighbors, and friends (old and new).

That’s it for this week. Would love for you to subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already, and would love to have you share your favorite finds from this week (Comments below). In the meantime, as you take in all the brilliance and wonder of this season…be safe and gentle with yourself and each other.

Bonuses:

YouTube Video – Selling a 1996 Honda Ad – hilarious!

YouTube Video – CarMax Response to Above Video – brilliant!

7 Powerful Ways How to Give Yourself Permission to Be Happy – Lolly Daskal

Hardcore History Podcast – Hours long – fascinating – for your Christmas car rides

Estate Cleanouts – Checklist – Legacy Navigator

5 Friday Faves – Celebrity, Beyond the Guitar, Happily Ever After, Good News, and Mommies Matter

Friday is here. The Friday before Thanksgiving in America. Kids home from college. Vacation looming. Pantries full preparing for a foodie’s feast day. The anticipation of more time with family. For the moment, a sigh at the end of a long week…and five favorite finds:

1) Celebrity – In the wildly popular TV show This Is Us (season 2), we see deep content on a myriad of issues – including family conflict, racism, weight, alcoholism, loss, adoption and foster care. Even my husband watches this show with me. Actor Justin Hartley, is one of the three siblings, and actually plays an actor on the show. This week’s episode was all about him. No spoilers here. The thing about this character is that he has it in him to be wildly successful. The story though winds around how celebrity and the pursuit of celebrity can actually destroy a person and damage that person’s relationships. Not all of that being on him. We, the fans, the audience, the bedazzled also bring some of what’s toxic to this scenario.Photo Credit: Popsugar, TooFab

Whether it’s celebrity politicians, celebrity preachers, celebrity athletes, actors, or artists…we put them on a pedestal. They can do no wrong. We are determined to trust their character, their motives, their game (whatever it is)…even when they lose their way.

This episode of This Is Us was heart-wrenching as we see what celebrity does to a vulnerable young man surrounded by people who just want to adulate or admire him…not really know or care about him.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Be a Celebrity – Jeff Goins

[Sidebar: We actually were made for glory – but if we get caught up in our own self-importance, we lose sight of what it really means. A friend this week pointed me to The Gospel in Two Poems – written by Christian Burkhardt, pastor at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA. Tell me what you think (Comments, below).Photo Credit: NewSpring Fuse

2) Beyond the Guitar’s Latest Arrangement – You may be seeing more of these in my Friday Faves, because Nathan Mills‘ is pouring it on, creating an arrangement every week presently. His latest is Evil Morty’s Theme from the adult cartoon TV show Rick and Morty. I’ve never seen the show, but this piece is definitely worthy the listen (composed originally by the rock band Blonde Redhead, arranged for classical guitar by Beyond the Guitar).

3) Happily Ever After – My husband and I have been married over 30 years. Live long enough, single or married, and we all discover that relationships are challenging and do need tending. No matter how much love holds them together.

Some of the best counsel I’ve received about marriage was through the book Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than To Make Us Happy?  by Gary Thomas. “Happily ever after” was less a goal than a sweet dividend of a love that doesn’t quit on God or the other.

[I realize that some marriages are terribly hard and can be lost no matter how much we pour into them.  Sadly. That’s for another day…]

This week I read Richie Norton‘s piece 47 Best Ways to Accelerate Happiness in Marriage by 1000x, Backed by Experience. It was actually quite fascinating. Definitely something to discuss together on a date night…when that happens next.

Sacred Marriage Seminar – A Morning with God, My Husband,  and Gary Thomas – Deb Mills Writer

4) Good News – This week has been shrouded by bad news around here – news of a layoff, a death in our extended family and a friend’s father, as well as the worsening of cancer in a near neighbor. Bad news seems to find us too readily.

It makes good news so much more a thing to celebrate. I have a loved one who has been working hard to fend off the addition of some cardiac drugs to her life. As we get older, it can feel futile trying to make lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, sleep)…changes capable of turning around a diagnosis.

Well, it does happen…and it happened for her. Her doctor actually called her personally to tell her that she doesn’t need the medication the doctor felt warranted just a couple of months previously.

This may seem a small thing, but I’m dancing a jig for her today. Her resolve and hard work paid off. Very motivating for me, as well.

What good news have you received this week?

Photo Credit: SlideShare

5) Mommies Matter – Eric Metaxas posted a book review and commentary this week on the impact of moms at home with their little ones. He reviewed Erica Komisar‘s book Being There: Why Prioritizing Motherhood in the First Three Years Matters.

Photo Credit: The Stream

Komisar’s book and Metaxas’ commentary are bitter pills to swallow for the mom who works outside the home, either because of preference or circumstance. My first-born was cared for parttime by another because, at that time, I loved my career so much I wasn’t prepared to let it go completely. She turned out well…praise God.

But what if…

The research findings and recommendations in Komisar’s book are not what we would imagine. Sure, we all believe moms are important to their little ones. We work out the best possible situation we can, if we have the choice (the dad, a grandparent, a trusted friend). Still, it’s something to consider…how much mommies matter to a child.

Read Metaxas’ review below. I think you’ll want to buy the book after.

Why Mommies Matter: Being Present in the First Three Years –  Eric Metaxas

There’s another Friday Faves. What discoveries would you share with the rest of us? Please use the Comments below.

Be kind to yourself and each other. We never know how much it’s needed.

Bonuses: [They deserve their own Friday Faves.]

Favorite quote of the week: “It does me good to hear what I believe repeated in your voice.”C. S. Lewis

When Vision Betrays: Cataracts, Aging, and Creating Art – Sidney PerkowitzPhoto Credit: Emory Health Digest

Darren Hardy – The Brutal Truth – YouTube Video [on Excuses – really good]

Thanksgiving – in a few days. Grateful.

Magnetic Gratitude: JOIN People Skills Global Chat Nov. 19th | #PeopleSkills

5 Friday Faves – Concerning Hobbits, Flag at Half Staff, Relational Shock Absorbers, Leader Smarts, and Making Family Happen

Friday! Tonight, in the Richmond area,  we have our first hard freeze this Fall. That means Dave finishes picking our peppers from the garden. He hopes the greens will survive. It’s a beautiful day – sunny and breezy – with showers of brightly colored leaves covering the grass. Both stained glass windows and patchwork quilts come to mind in this feast for the eyes. Hope your Friday is as lovely. Here are my faves for the week. Enjoy.

1) Concerning Hobbits – The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was a very big deal in our growing-up family. When these films came out, we wanted our kids (then middle-school and high school aged) to read the books first. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels by J. R. R. Tolkien. Surprisingly, our kids did, along with their dad re-reading these classics. They were captivated by the stories and the courage and endurance of the characters. The Hobbits were especially endearing as they were tiny folk, carried along by a grand mission. Much beyond their physical abilities but not beyond their great hearts.

This past week, Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, arranged the film theme Concerning Hobbits. Composed by Howard Shore, this melody captures the sweetness and hominess of the Hobbits. There is a rise to crescendo in Mills’ arrangement that also speaks to the willingness of the wee Hobbits to rise to battle when necessary.

I’m reminded of the Hobbit Samwise Gamgee’s role in the novel and film. Two quotes follow – one about him by the author and one by him:

“One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle Earth of its festering malignancy. He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.”J. R. R. Tolkien

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”SamwisePhoto Credit: Pinterest

[Beyond the Guitar is presently posting a video/week. Concerning Hobbits came out last Friday, and today, he published DESTINY 2: Journey – Classical Guitar Cover – check it out!!]

2) Flag at Half Staff – It seems our country’s flag is at half staff too frequently these days. This month we remember our military on Veterans Day and many businesses and private homes will display the American flag in honor of these men and women who served our country.

When a flag is flown at half staff it usually relates to the death of someone significant to all Americans.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This week, again, our flag is at half staff. This time, in our state, it flies in mourning for those victims of the Sutherland Springs church shooting.

This tragedy has reminded us again of the brevity of life, the great value of life and community, and how important it is to reach out always to our neighbors. We grieve with our neighbors in Texas.

Yesterday our flags were at half staff for them:

Governor’s Flag Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Pursuant to President Trump’s Presidential Proclamation to lower the United States flag, I do hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia are to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds to honor the victims of the attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017.

I hereby order that the flags shall be lowered until sunset, November 9, 2017.  

Ordered on this, the 6th day of November, 2017. 

Sincerely,

Terence R. McAuliffe

3) Relational Shock Absorbers – I’d like us to consider for a moment the great gift of relational shock absorbers. Those people in our lives who are safe. Those people who sometimes take the brunt of our outbursts or brooding, without returning evil for evil and without inserting their own drama into what we’ve created. I am NOT talking about people who “just take” our bad behavior out of fear or insecurity or their own struggle. That’s codependence and doesn’t help heal either party.

What I am talking about is those in our lives who are rock-solid in their care for us, who recognize that we are not our best selves at that moment, and who refuse to think ill of us. They don’t make whatever issue is going on…about them. Relational shock absorbers are those in our lives who give space and grace, who hug instead of withhold, who listen for the truth behind the tantrum, and who love us forever. No trade-ins. Ever. Our mom was one of those in our lives…I have a long list of others. Give a shout-out to some of yours in the Comments. Photo Credit: Vimeo

Family Systems, Emotions, and Behaviors – Teach Through Love – Lori Petro

4) Leader Smarts – It is so easy for us to become better at our work if we want it badly enough. Pursuing higher education in leadership or business administration is definitely one way. Or searching out leadership mentors online is another way accessible to all of us. Marcel Schwantes is one of my go-to guys, especially related to servant leadership. In a recent piece for Inc., he makes a case for why employees quit, and what leaders can do to keep them.
Photo Credit: USDA
Schwantes makes a bold claim that the “smoking gun” of why too often employees leave their jobs – Employees are simply not valued as human beings.
He lists out 5 ways leaders (and all the rest of us) can demonstrate that we value employees (fellow volunteers, family members, fill-in-the-blank):
  • Invest in employees’ growth and development.
  • Create an environment of psychological safety.
  • Display the leadership strength of humility.
  • Share information.
  • Give them decision-making discretion.

Read more of Schwante’s insightful commentary here.

Want Your Boss to Be a Better Leader? Persuade Them to Try Any of These Top 5 Habits of Smart Leaders – Marcel Schwantes

5) Making Family Happen – Everybody’s busy. I get that. So how do we make family happen without it being an undue burden on our loved ones, either our children or theirs?
I’m trying to figure this out and would love any wisdom from you willing to share (please comment below). Just this past week, we experienced a generous dose of “making family happen”.
Dave and I traveled to Georgia for a family visit, and it was a sweet touch-point with many we loved there. Like our trips to visit our Delaware family, this one brought all sorts of beauty and kindnesses which will sooth our hearts for many months to come.
 In all our married life, we have never lived close to family – sometimes states away, and sometimes countries apart. I have always missed that drop-in nearness with loved ones. Now with both parents gone, my hope is that we next generations will carry on relationships that matter. The traditions may change some, but as long as there are sweet memories…that’s a big part of making family happen. I’m very thankful for a brother and sister-in-law who made family happen for us this past week…and all the younguns who could.
As the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly come, I hope for all of us that we can lean in – to God and each other. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Irish People Try American Thanksgiving Food – Dustin Nelson [Despite brief politicalization, this video was so fun.]

Bonuses

The Instant Pot – Haven’t bought one yet but now I am – thanks to this blogger – family. life. organized.

Favorite quote of the week:  Focus is finding a big “Yes” and saying “No” a thousand times.John R. Bell

Practices From the Inside Out: Taking Off Our Masks – Greg Richardson

Free T-shirt in the mail today – Emory Cares International Service Day

5 Friday Faves – Stranger Things, Fierce Friends, Sarah Harmening, Mother Daughter Bucket List, and Same Kind of Different As Me

The week has wound down to Friday again. I love Fridays not because the week is “finally” over but because it’s a day that gives the week an exclamation point. Or a period, as the case may be. This Friday is an exclamation point around here. Closure to a long and full week; closure with joy. Hope your Friday punctuates such a week as well. Savor the finds of your week…and mine.

1) Stranger Things – Buzz abounds right now as the Netflix sci-fi TV series Stranger Things debuts its Season 2 this weekend. I haven’t seen even the first series because of its spookiness; the latest trailer creeps me out. However, this series is crazy popular with younger folks. The brilliant music sets the tone of the suspenseful nature of the story…set in the 1980s, with the disappearance of a boy and his friends and parents trying to search out what happened.

Beyond the Guitar‘s Nathan Mills has just posted his arrangements of some of the lovely haunting melodies from the series. Watch here.

2) Fierce Friends – How grateful I am for friends who don’t give up on me. You have friends like these, too – those who love us enough to tell us the truth without ripping our hearts out. Friends who will keep loving us no matter the distance or ideologies that could separate us but don’t. These are fierce friends…friends who “stick closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). Just this week, I looked around a room full of women who deeply love each other but have some very different stances on issues that matter to all of us. The tension was palpable but the love more so. Our culture today seems peopled with friends when convenient, fair weather friends, and friends with benefits. Friends who politic together, work together, play sports together, or drink together. Take away the activity, and the friendship fades. What a wonder are these fierce friends who stay with us through the worst…those we know have our backs and we have theirs.Photo Credit: Quotesta

Real Spiritual friendship is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.”
Timothy Keller

When connections are real, they simply never die. They can be buried, or ignored or walked away from, but never broken. If you’ve deeply resonated with another person or place, the connection remains despite any distance, time, situation, lack of presence, or circumstance… Real connections live on forever.” Victoria Erickson

True friends aren’t the ones who make your problems disappear. They are the ones who won’t disappear when you’re facing problems.” Author Unknown

“If you fishin’ for a friend you just gon’ catch and release, then I ain’t got no desire to be your friend…but if you is lookin’ for a real friend, then I’ll be one. Forever.” ― Ron Hall, Same Kind of Different as Me

Who are some of your fierce friends? Please share in Comments if you want to give a salute to some of them.

3) Sarah Harmening – This past June, a lovely 17-year-old girl from Alabama on her way to love on children in Botswana…died. It was a bus accident in Georgia and we all heard/read about it in the US. Her name is Sarah Harmening. It’s been four months and the wound of her loss is still fresh and painful for those who knew and loved her.

Photo Credit: Fox 5 Atlanta

So young yet she reflects a walk with God that radiates His goodness and glory…she seemed one glad for the opportunities to serve Him but more glad for the day to see Him.  I look forward to meeting her in Heaven some day. In memorial to her, I’d like to re-post her last journal entry, written while on that fateful bus trip:

“I was just sitting here on the bus feeling a little sad. I guess because I’m going to be gone so long and I was a little uncomfortable. Then I decided to read my Bible. I prayed and opened up to 1 Peter 5 and 2 Peter 1. Pretty much everything I read applied to me now. It talked about watching over the flock entrusted to you which would be my little buddies in Botswana.’”

“I am also called to humble myself which I will need to do and that also means being a little uncomfortable. It talked about the devil prowling about like a lion seeking whom he may devour which he will especially be doing on this mission trip. And now it is our mission trip. And how we will need to be alert and of sober mind. And lastly, how we will get to participate in His Divine Nature! I mean how awesome is that?

So mostly, I was just reminded of why I am here and that God has called me here and His has done this for a reason. So, I know He’s going to do incredible things.”

In a text she sent just before the crash, she quoted 1 Peter 5:23-25 and her thoughts about the text:

 Since you have been born again—not of perishable seed but of imperishable—through the living and enduring word of God. For

All flesh is like grass,
and all its glory like a flower of the grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord endures forever. – 1 Peter 5:23-25

“‘This is such a great reminder. We are like a wisp of smoke. We are only here for a moment and this not about us, life is not about us, it’s about God who is eternal. So, I want to dedicate the one moment I am here, completely and entirely to Him’”.

Mother of Teen in Church Bus Accident Shares Her Final Journey Entry – Fox 5 Atlanta

Two Still Hospitalized After Fatal Atlanta Church Bus Crash – Fox 5 Atlanta

4) Mother Daughter Bucket List – I’m not much on bucket lists because really all of life is such an amazing ride, I haven’t thought to add anything that isn’t already happening. Then writer Susan Merrill posted a mother daughter bucket list and linked to various other sweet possibilities (for other combinations of family members). It got me thinking so I asked my daughter what she might like to do together:

Thanksgiving, farmers market, flea market, beach day, apple picking, college campus if we were ever near there, baby pics, movie set, farm, cooking family recipes together, rainy day movies, read your favorite books from childhood, picnic…

Got me thinking and making plans to execute some of the above. Merrill’s lists include other family members, so I’ll be asking.

Photo Credit: Hall of Fame Moms, Pinterest

5) Same Kind of Different As Me – A true story captured by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent, Same Kind of Different As Me is now a film. I loved the book and am looking forward to the movie.

 “I used to spend a lotta time worryin’ that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks. Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn’t ever gon’ have no kind a’ future. But I found out everybody’s different – the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us. The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place. So in a way, we is all homeless – just workin our way toward home.”
Denver Moore, Same Kind of Different as Me
After the book made Denver Moore famous, he was invited to speak in many settings, including the White House. How he wanted to be introduced:

“Tell ’em I’m a nobody that is tryin’ to tell everybody about somebody that can save anybody,” Moore told Hall.

Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together – Ron Hall & Denver Moore

That’s the wrap on this week’s Friday Faves. Would love for you to share in Comments what has made this week all the more special. I am so grateful you read my blog. Please subscribe if you don’t mind. Blessings until next time, and be kind to yourself and each other. If you read this far, you are among those fiercest of friends, I’m sure.

Bonus

Fall in TennesseePhoto Credit: Lois Martin

Niagara FallsPhoto Credit: Allison Lovejoy

Advent will be here before we turn around. Free this week on Kindle: Give Me the Word: Advent and Other Poems 2000-2015 by Laura M. Fabrycky

What the Most Resilient People Have in Common – Lolly Daskal

8 Things We Need to Stop Doing with Our Phones – Scott Bender

Worship Wednesday – Loving Broadly Is God’s Path to Holiness – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Photo Credit: Desiring God

As a small child, I loved my mama with all my heart. She was the source of all the goodness in our lives. She was my hero.

Through the many deep and painful hardships in Mom’s life, she had lost her way spiritually and we were unchurched in the early years of our childhood. When kind and persevering neighbors finally won Mom’s trust, we accepted their invitation to church. It was in that small congregation with hearts full of love that we found God.

It was no time before I was ready to receive, as my own, this beautiful, persistently loving, perfectly holy Savior. I was ready because of my own failed attempts to be good for my mama – to take some of the burden off her shoulders through my own small efforts. The knowledge from Scripture that we could never do enough on our own, that we needed a sinless Savior, was the best news I’d ever heard!

In recent weeks, we have been studying 1 Thessalonians (the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church) through our church’s sermon series and in our home groups. The two short versions below were like a shock of glorious truth for me:

May the Lord cause you to increase and overflow with love for one another and for everyone else, just as our love for you overflows, so that He may establish your hearts in blamelessness and holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

Anything good in our lives comes through the hands of God. In fact, as Pastor Cliff said Sunday, “No matter how far away we feel right now (from being blamelessly holy), what God Almighty has declared so He will make so.

Pursuing holiness is a theme much talked about in Christian circles – almost to the point of it being an idol. God orders the pursuit of holiness secondarily to increasing in love. What if we went after loving first? Not in lieu of holiness, God forbid, but…on the path to it.

We know from the passage in 1 Thessalonians, and many passages in Scripture, that God means for us to be all about knowing and loving Him and, out of that, loving others. Not just others we like or those we want to like us…but ALL others. The “so that” in verse 13 gives us the context.

As we strive to love others, in obedience to the Lord, He empowers us in that love. Then as our hearts are filled with deeper and broader love, then we have less room, inclination, or desire for or toward sinful habits.

Until the day we go to be with God when He completes His work in us and we are then blamelessly holy because of what Christ’s holiness accomplished in us.

The stuff of cold chills and face to the ground in awe of Him.

Rev. David Scott describes this whole work of God so well:

“If holiness is a matter of being increasingly conformed to God’s law, and if as Paul says in Romans 13, love is the fulfillment of the law, then it makes sense that as we grow in love, we come more in line with God’s law, and thus become more holy. This dynamic also makes sense to us experientially, as we face our sin. For example, if you grow in love for your neighbor, you are less likely to covet your neighbor’s possessions. The more you grow in depth of love for your spouse, the less attractive becomes the prospect of adultery. The more you love your fellow man, the harder it is to harbor any malice towards them. If we perfectly loved everyone, there would be no sin! Chrysostom, the great 4th century preacher, put it this way, “Love to our neighbor does not suffer any entrance of transgression; there is not any sin, which the power of love cannot consume.” Love is the soil in which holiness grows toward perfection. Love is the means by which a person’s heart gets established blameless in holiness.”David Scott

[Much of how this kind of love can be cultivated is in marriage and relationships with family. My favorite book on this subject is Gary Thomas Sacred Marriage: What if God Designed Marriage to Make us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy? The happiness comes as both of us love God in ways that leads to sweet overflow in each other’s life.]

My husband Dave often talks about the ways God shows up in our lives and the role we have in those divine appointments (Psalm 127:1, as an example). “Our part is necessary but not sufficient”.

We can’t love well enough on our own…but as we give ourselves over to how God loves through us, we can know what it means to actually love unselfishly and unreservedly. That’s the kind of love I wanted to lavish on my mom as a child. She was so worthy of it…but I didn’t understand how. Until God’s truth penetrated my heart. Through the rest of Mom’s years of life and mine with her, I loved her imperfectly…but more perfectly than I could have without God at work in me.

The same for loving all others. It’s easy to build a wall around ourselves and only allow in those easy for us to love. No wonder our hearts bend so easily to sin and selfishness if that is our default. What a world God opens to us when we surrender ourselves to His redemptive purposes.

You might say, my mom fit in the category of “easy to love”. You are right. Still, as I grew in loving God, yielding to Him and His help in seeing others as He sees them, then loving comes easier. Even those as hard to love as I can be sometimes. Loving broadly is becoming a whole daily renewing and consuming adventure. Out of that, I know from His Word, He lavishes our hearts with His holiness.

The more we love, the more God shapes our hearts toward holiness. Wow!

We usually have a song together on Worship Wednesday’s. I’ve put a couple in the links. Today seems more for glorying in God’s provision and praying to be available to Him to love generously and flesh out blameless holiness to a world that needs to see Jesus in us.

Love and Holiness – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 – David Scott

What Does It Mean to Be Holy – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 – John Piper

YouTube Video – Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God Almighty (Agnus Dei) – Michael W. Smith

YouTube Video – All to Jesus I Surrender

Praise & Worship Show “Holiness Themes”

Worship Wednesday – O God Forgive Us – For King & Country

Photo Credit: Vimeo

“You should pray like this:

‘Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts [our sins],
as we also have forgiven our debtors [those who have sinned against us].
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.'” – Jesus (Matthew 6:9-13)

Some things we will never make sense of…this side of Heaven.

The news every day has its fallout in our lives. It injects numbness into our hearts and minds. We just can’t comprehend what is going on around us sometimes.

We want to bring sense to bear on senselessness. To be able to blame someone. Or some natural force. Or we want to blame God.

Earlier this week, an unbelievable massacre took place in Las Vegas, Nevada. One gunman in his 60s rained down terror on an open field where thousands watched a concert. In a matter of 10 or so minutes, 50+ persons were killed and over 500 persons were injured.

Motives may be uncovered in future days. For now, all we know is the perpetrator fired at will on individuals he had no way of knowing. Random. Premeditated. Thoughtless. Evil.

We can’t make sense of such a thing.

For now, we pray for those families of the victims. We pray for those still in critical condition and for those recovering from their wounds. We thank God for first responders and for all those concert-goers who reached out to help others get to safety or to medical care. We also pray for our country to heal after another hard thing.

Besides praying, we also give blood and give other resources to help those in need.

What we cannot do…what we must refuse to do is to grow more numb to the brokenness of our world.

Jesus’ followers were in close proximity to him. They watched him do life. They saw him pull away alone to pray – to fortify himself for what he faced each day…and for what he would face before it was all over.

They asked him about this prayer thing he did so often and so deeply. I can’t even imagine what life must have been like for Jesus spending those years here on earth. How God was able to be both God and man at once can’t even be answered for us; our minds can’t hold such understanding. Yet, Jesus stole away often to linger with the Father; to counsel with Him; to be nourished by Him.

When he taught us how to pray, he gave a model which included the directive: forgive us our debts [our sins], as we also have forgiven our debtors [those who have sinned against us].

Our world is rocked with evil…people choosing self over others, even to the point of neglect, betrayal, and violence.

Still…there is hope. God is not finished us yet. He has not forsaken us.

Nor are we meant to forsake each other.

The gunman above is dead. We can only speculate what happened to that man to plan out and execute such incomprehensible acts.

What we know is our own hearts…well, even our own hearts we can’t fully know (Jeremiah 17:9). Still we do know we are desperate to make sense of life and to pursue true community, real love and peace.

The band For King & Country (with the help of hip-hop artist KB) put out a single “O God Forgive Us“.Photo Credit: Flickr; Rapzilla

In the video interpretation of the song, we see the three principal singers with “younger versions of themselves”. Scenes are projected in front of the little ones – scenes of wrongs done in this world. A tear trickled down the cheek of one little boy. The message is that we all perpetrate wrongs against one another…and against God. We all need God’s forgiveness and to forgive ourselves and each other.

It may take us awhile to forgive this man who killed and injured so many. We may fall to fear and wonder is anywhere safe. However, what will probably happen is that we will forget. The screen of our memory will refresh to the news of the next day and the next. Numbness settles in, deeper and deeper.

In times like these, we are tempted to circle up and seek for safety and security within our own self-prescribed perimeter of comfort.

However…

We do not want to fall victim ourselves, as the songwriters warn, to doubt, uncertainty, unbelief…

No. Let us have the courage as Christ-followers to reach out, crossing whatever boundaries that separate us; to love each other as Jesus commanded us. It starts with the forgiveness God gives us which empowers us to forgive others.

Worship with me [music in link].

We’ve prayed the prayer with no reply
Words float off into the night
Couldn’t cut our doubt with the sharpest knife
O, O God forgive us
Silence isn’t comfortable
We want drive-through peace and instant hope
Our shallow faith it has left us broke
O, O God forgive us
O, O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

Young and old, black and white
Rich and poor, there’s no divide
Hear the mighty, hear the powerless, singing
O God forgive us
O God forgive us

A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us

[Spoken word – KB]Photo Credit: Rapzilla

Forgive us
Yes we have ignored you
So busy doing your work
That we forgot that this was
For
You

Arms wide to our homeless Savior
But arms crossed to our homeless neighbor
On bended knee
Unite us all
Set us free

With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide
With our white flag sailing in the night
Eyes pointed to the sky
Hands up and open wide, open wide

O, O God forgive us
A slave to our uncertainty
Help us with our unbelief
O, O God forgive us.

Run wild. To risk everything. To hold nothing back.
To lay it all on the line: your reputation, your success, your comfort.
It’s that moment when fear is overcome by faith. Live free.
It’s not the liberty to do whatever you want whenever and wherever you want,
But rather it’s living in accordance with the author of humanity
And finding freedom by connecting with the creator who conceived you.
Let the light flood into your eyes for the first time.
Feeling the blood course through your veins, finding the truest version of yourself
By knowing the one who knows you even better than you know yourself.
Love strong. Because you were first loved. Because without love we all perish.
Because the earth and the stars can and will pass away, but love, love will always remain*

*Lyrics & Quote – Behind the Song: for KING & COUNTRY Shares the Heart Behind Their Single “O God Forgive Us (feat. KB)

Forgiveness – The Lord’s Prayer – an Eight-part Series Exploring Its Meaning Line by Line – Bill Kolb

5 Friday Faves – Braveheart and Classical Guitar, Inheriting Our Parents’ Traits and Trauma, Destination Addiction, Confederate Monuments, and Lunch with Seniors

Friday! Yes…the weekend is upon us and the start of Fall. Hope you’ve had a week full of grace. What a season of hurricanes and earthquakes and wars and rumors of war! We hold onto God and each other, and perspective comes much more readily.

Here are five of my favorite discoveries this week, as well as a few bonuses at the end. Hope you’re encouraged and positively emboldened in the reading below.

1) Braveheart and Classical Guitar – The 1995 Mel Gibson film Braveheart moved the hearts of all who saw it. Braveheart was an epic telling of Scotland’s fight for freedom from England into the 13th century. Historical accuracy wasn’t a goal of the filmmakers, but grandeur of the clashing battlefronts was riveting.I couldn’t watch every frame because of the medieval war violence and the grisly execution of William Wallace (played by Gibson). Photo Credit: Fanpop

My family is Scottish with both Wallace and Bruce in our family tree. When son Nathan of Beyond the Guitar arranged a medley of the beautiful James Horner soundtrack, I told him he should wear a kilt for the video… No kilt, but gorgeous themes bringing back the intense emotion of the film. Made me want to see Braveheart all over again. Photo Credit: YouTube, Beyond the Guitar

Here’s the YouTube video of Beyond the Guitar’s Braveheart. Lovely.

2) Inheriting Our Parents’ Traits and Trauma – My whole life people have told me, “You look just like your mother.” That was fine by me because I loved her deeply and thought she was beautiful.

As I’ve grown older, it’s not just looks but actions that also are a part of my link with my mom. Even though she is no longer with us, I will do things or react in certain ways that remind me of Mom.

April Dembosky has written a piece on intergenerational transfer of trauma. It is entitled Just Like Mother: How We Inherit Our Parents’ Traits and Tragedies.

Just Like My Mother: How We Inherit Our Parents’ Traits and Tragedies

Dembosky writes about a Vietnamese family immigrating to the US after enduring war trauma. She described vividly how the struggles a parent endures can be transferred to the children in the ways they also react to adverse situations and their coping mechanisms.

Love Your Neighbors – The Resilience Movie and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) – Deb Mills Writer

Understanding the possibility of intergenerational transfer of trauma is not to make victims of a future generation. Understanding allows us to recognize if we have vulnerability and to set in place healthy barriers against the impact of our parents’ trauma.

My mom grew up with an alcoholic father who vented his frustrations about life on his wife and children. Mom stood against his abuse of her own mother and brothers. Her fighter responses were tempered as an adult when she became a believer (follower of Christ). Still that quickness to take offense and wariness of mean-spiritedness were reactions she had to fight. I see that also in myself.

Children of Alcoholics and Addicts Have PTSD – Leslie Glass

3) Destination Addiction – No it’s not about our next vacation, but destination addiction is very much about whether or not we can find contentment in our day-to-day life. Robert Holden, a British psychologist, writes and speaks about the pursuit of happiness.

To be honest, I’m not taken with all Holden says about happiness or contentment, but destination addiction is something to avoid, for sure. When we long for that next thing…whether it is the vacation, or next job, or next house, or even next relationship…we cease to live in the present. This addiction, like all others, is never satisfied.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

If this is a struggle for you, and it sure has been for me at various seasons of my life, recognize it and deal with it. Sure, we can look forward to the “something new’s” in our life, but not to the exclusion of what is real and valuable and not-to-be-missed right now.

The links below are quick reads and excellent helps.

Destination Addiction – Edie Weinstein

Do You Have Destination Addiction? – Gabrielle Treanor

The Search for Happiness – a Brief Look at ‘Destination Addiction’ – Mark D. Griffiths

4) Confederate Monuments – Richmond, Virginia is a city steeped in American Civil War history…a history that has come sharply under fire recently. There has been a clarion call to take down the monuments to the Confederacy. Whether those monuments come down or not in the days ahead, the conversation spurred across cultural lines is crucial. The voices of those most marginalized by present-day racism must be heard. Five Richmond young people visited Monument Ave. recently, and their response might surprise you.Photo Credit: Richmond Cycling Corps, Facebook

Reporter Matthew Chaney‘s post revisted a Facebook post by Richmond Cycling Corps. Daquan, one of the five teenagers, wrote brilliantly their collective response on seeing the statues of Confederate generals displayed on Monument Ave.

“Everybody’s pointing blame at Monument Avenue and the statues that reside there, but those statues never did anything to me or people that I care about,” he wrote. “The only thing that ever harmed people in low-income areas is the violence that resides there.”

“Instead of using money to knock down statues that most people in low-income areas never even seen, how about using that money to improve schools, fix up the community that we see every day, or why not protest in our neighborhoods where we see violence and hate the most.”

Read the entire post as Daquan raises the more crucial issues of violence, hunger, poor schooling, and hopelessness they see every day in their Richmond community.

The monuments may still come down in the attempt to deal with the racism in this city. What is needed more is this 17y/o man’s counsel.

5) Lunch with Seniors – This is not about taking high school or college students to lunch. That would be much appreciated, I’m sure…but this is about going to lunch with those older ones in our lives. It’s what neighbor friends of ours did earlier this week, taking a 91 y/o widower out to lunch at his favorite restaurant.

Seminary professor Chuck Lawless gives 12 Reasons to Have Lunch With a Senior Citizen or a Bunch of Them. Some of the reasons include how much we can learn from those more experienced than us, how funny they can be, how they also need encouragement, and how they will sometimes pray for us.

It doesn’t take much sorting out to see the value in such an interruption to our day. Thankfully those older than us also understand the value of such times together…for them and for us. All we have to do is make that phone call…stepping out of the comfort zone of texting. So worth it.

That’s my five. How about you? Please share in the Comments something you’ve gleaned from this week. Have a weekend that replenishes your soul. Be kind to yourself and those around you.

5 Friday Faves – Destiny Meets Classical Guitar, Parenting Hacks, Storms, Waffle House Index, and Country Stores

Friday! For our part of the world, these days bring teasers that Fall is on its way. Cooler temperatures and the brush of color in the trees are lovely signs of change in the seasons.

Hurricane season also peaks this time of year and we’ve seen it in Harvey and Irma – such nice old-fashioned names for such catastrophic events. We are moved to pray for, serve, and give toward the needs of those most affected by these storms.

Today, these are my favorite finds of this week:

1) Destiny Meets Classical Guitar – For video gamers, Destiny 2 just came out. Nostalgia is high for those who grew up with the original Destiny game of battles and heroes. Among those is classical guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. Photo Credit: Screenshot, YouTube

No nostalgia for me, but Nathan’s arrangement of several of the themes from Destiny is lovely. Catch it here…featured also this week at Bungie.

2) Parenting Hacks – Don’t you love truly helpful parenting advice? The gentle sort that is genius without being judgmental. I found a YouTube channel with just this variety of help – Nurture. Check it out. The video on retrieving something a child put up her nose is “Of course! Why didn’t we think of that?”

Orange Pip | Children's Hospital

Would you know what to do in this situation?

Posted by Nurture on Tuesday, August 22, 2017

3) Storms – I have never endured the path or aftermath of a storm like Harvey or Irma, so I wouldn’t give counsel on how to deal spiritually with such a thing… However, other storms have blown against my heart and that of those much loved in my life. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Leslie Leyland Fields is a fisherwoman and an author. She deals with storms of a physical nature…as well as spiritual. Fields writes fascinating stories about her family’s Alaska fishing business. Especially riveting are the stories of the storms that come up. Read her blog on a recent storm they experienced (her son’s video could give you motion sickness, so be prepared).

We live too much in a too human world, most of us, surrounded by the work of our own hands, cossetted and comforted and cozy most hours of the day and night. We fashion our lives and our prayers around safety, success, We cannot escape ourselves or our own small desires. But enter a storm, climb a mountain, sail the sea, wander an old-growth forest—be afraid—and you will so suddenly and gloriously disappear. You will feel the wind blowing through your clothes and your soul. If you are lucky you’ll be terrified and you may cry like Peter, “Lord, I am a sinful woman, go away from me!” Your little household gods will die, and part of you will die with it.

And you’ll be glad.Leslie Leyland Fields

There is something in the experience of storms (or earthquakes, drought or flood) that forces us to deal with the frailty of both stuff and life itself. We reach out…to God, and to others. We reach out to what is most real.

Check out Fields’ latest book: Crossing the Waters: Following Jesus through the Storms, the Fish, the Doubt, and the Seas.

Baptist Global Response – Hurricane Irma Disaster Relief

4) Waffle House Index – I love the Waffle House. We have big family memories of breakfast with my parents and their grands and great-grands. Waffle House never closes…unless…Photo Credit: Flickr; FLickr

Unless a storm is so fierce, Waffle House employees are at risk. Because of this, there is actually a storm measure called the Waffle House Index. If this tiny all-service restaurant closes, then you need to get out of town!Photo Credit: Screenshot, CNBC

5) Country Stores – Another chain of restaurants that offers its own unique comforts is Cracker Barrel. Just last night, we ate there, and our friend accompanying us gave his reasons why he never tires of it. “Cracker Barrel always reminds me of home. As much as I travel, it guarantees a meal that tastes home-cooked.” For me, as great as the food is, it’s the country store of Cracker Barrel that enchants. Fall is fully displayed right now, and Thanksgiving and Christmas aren’t far behind. Love that. Always a reminder of the stuff of celebration. Like the porch light is still on, through the storm. I know…a bit sappy…but a sweet respite. 

Hope your weekend is out of harms’ way – far from the storms passing throuagh, but especially I hope you have a sure safe harbor. Until next time…

Bonus

How I Paid Off My $64,000 Mortgage in 15 Months

How I Paid off my $64,000 Mortgage in 15 Months

5 Friday Faves – Community Helpers, Leadership Scoreboard, Better Together Cultures, Networks, and Bread

September 1st and it feels like Fall. This time of year always stirs the possibility of new beginnings. It’s my favorite time of the year.

Here are this week’s faves:

1) Community Helpers: We are currently in the long aftermath of flooding in the US and other parts of the world. Photo Credit: JSC Features, NASA

What a wonder to see neighbors helping neighbors…even among the poorest of the poor.  Rachel Stern describes the impact of this beautiful phenomenon below:

Natalie Simpson, chair of the Department of Operations Management and Strategy in the School of Management, says there really is no good evacuation plan when it comes to major disasters in densely populated areas. Simpson, who studies on-the-ground first-response and disaster preparedness, says the reality is that when a disaster gets beyond a certain size, there will never be enough professional help. It will take everybody…

“We’ve already gotten remarkably stronger at channeling people’s individual efforts to support the larger response,” Simpson says. “This is very evident right now as we watch fleets of boats continue to save people in Houston.

“When it comes to disaster preparedness, we are experiencing a dawning of awareness. Everyone must solve large problems together. The key is motivating and empowering everybody to feel confident enough to start solving what little part of this big, messy thing they can on their own.”

Neighbor Helping Neighbor Is Best Practice in Large Disasters – Rachel Stern

YouTube Video – Fred Rogers – Look For the Helpers

2) Leadership Scorecard – If we’re honest, we can be pretty analytical and judgmental when it comes to our leaders’ character and performance. I’m no fan of scorecards, but Frank Sonnenberg has developed one that we would be wise to use. Not just on our leaders – absolutely not – but on ourselves as well.Photo Credit:  Frank Sonnenberg

The only leader I know who could ace this scorecard would be Jesus. However, it shows areas we might have blind spots in and in Sonnenberg’s article he goes into detail about the various components of being an effective emotionally intelligent leader. Worth a look, for sure. Any of these areas you struggle in? Please also share (in the Comments below) any examples of leaders you have experienced who demonstrate this sort of excellence.

Leadership Scorecard – Frank Sonnenberg – Linkedin

3) Better Together Cultures – When we lived in North Africa, I had the privilege of working with a great group of parents who founded a parent-teacher organization for our children’s school. It was a relatively new concept there. Well, in a positive sense. We determined to keep it from being an arena for airing complaints but rather a movement for good in our school. For families, staff, and the community around us. We named our organization Better Together.I think I learned at an early age, and beginning with my mom, that so much more can be accomplished in an environment of inclusion where people genuinely care for and trust each other. Serving goes deeper and celebrating comes naturally. Nurturing a culture of better together at work or in any organization is worth the effort and the risk.

[Search inside DebMillswriter for “Better Together” and you’ll see my fascination and concern/hopefulness in the topic.]

4) Networks – A lot of my faves this week seem wrapped around groups of people. Organizational psychologist, and all-round interesting guy, Adam Grant has posted an encouraging piece on networks – To Build a Great Network You Don’t Have to Be a Great Networker.

Photo Credit: Adam Grant

Here is Grant’s wisdom on the subject:

“…many people view networking as the path to accomplishment, forgetting that accomplishments make it easier to network.

When you create something exciting, you don’t have to rely on charisma or name-drop mutual acquaintances to get your foot in the door. The door opens to you. Sponsors, mentors, investors, and collaborators gravitate toward people who demonstrate potential, and a portfolio is a stronger signal than a promise.

It’s possible to develop a network by becoming the kind of person who never eats alone, who wins friends and influences people. But introverts rejoice: there’s another way. You can become the kind of person who invests time in doing excellent work and sharing your knowledge with others.Adam Grant

He has much more to say on networks along with fascinating stories. Read more here.

5) Bread – Can we just take a minute to sing the praises of bread? There may be some countries in the world where bread isn’t a staple, but I’m glad to have lived places where it is. In fact, everywhere I have ever been, it is a staple. From Southern biscuits (best eaten with gravy) and cornbread, Mexican corn tortillas, Egyptian baladi pocket bread, Ethiopian sour-dough injera, British seeded breads, French croissants and baguettes,  Tunisian flatbread, and Moroccan khboz and msemen…and I could go on. Don’t you just love the pull and chew in bread.

Ironically, bread isn’t a part of my diet currently…BUT it’s a part of every food memory I have associated with happy times with family and friends, here and overseas. So…a new grocery store with a European bakery opened here recently. Lidl‘s bread loveliness is with us. When bread comes back into my diet, it will come from there…or my daughter’s bread machine.

Those are my Friday Faves. How about yours? It’s raining out there in our “neck of the woods”. Be safe and be kind to each other…we never know what is really going on in each other’s lives.

Bonuses:

The Impact of Hurricane Harvey Compared to Your State – Twenty-Two Words

The Largest Religious Groups in Every County Across the U.S. – DidYouKnowFacts?

Worship Wednesday – Then Came the Morning and It is Well With My Soul – Because He Lives – Guy Penrod

Photo Credit: Air Force

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea,
    a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse,
    army and warrior.Isaiah 43: 1-3, 16-17

I have never lost my home to a flood or fire. Dear friends have had that experience, and I see something in them that I want. Rock-solid faith in a mighty and merciful God. Is trouble part of what gets us to unshakeable faith (tornado- and hurricane-proof faith)?

My life today is comfortable. Hurricane Harvey is far from us, but the ravages of that storm are felt across the US. I can’t imagine all the losses. Houses, businesses…and worse, family members and friends. Lost to a tropical storm system that poured torrential rains across Texas for days.

The pictures and video of flooded neighborhoods in Houston would be unbelievable except that they are real.

We in the US are so sheltered, cushioned from much of what rocks the rest of the world. When nature unleashes its most destructive forces, we usually watch that on world news…not on local.

This time, we are confronted with the transient nature of stuff…even life itself. We want to comfort and help, and there are ways to do that. My heart is thrilled by those on orders or inclined to go into the storm to help – the military and police and all the many volunteers.

For this natural disaster, the reality of all that’s happening hangs heavy in my mind. How would I deal with such a calamity in my own life?

My hope is that I would cling to the Lord. The God who promises that He is always with us. He has shown Himself faithful in other dark places in our lives – losing loved ones through the years, saying hard goodbyes to friends, miscarriages, cancer diagnoses. I know He is there…it has been my experience.

So how will the folks in Houston get through this difficult, difficult place? Either clinging to God or seeking help elsewhere. He is there…for any who would take His hand…to help them get through until the morning.

A couple of nights ago, I struggled to get to sleep. Like my mama before me, fears and stresses follow me to bed, and taunt me to sort them out on my own. Finally, exhausted and aching with loneliness, I pray.

Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
    you have loosed my sackcloth
    and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
    O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!Psalm 30:5b, 11-12

Yesterday was better…as is today…in His grace and in the light of His truth.

Today, I want to share three old Gospel songs that minister to my heart. Always. Even more when Guy Penrod sings them. A solo artist now, he has sung with the Gaither Vocal Band and is also a featured artist on the Gaither Homecoming TV specials.

Then Came the Morning is new to me (hearing it for the first time the morning after that fitful night). It relates to experiences of Jesus’ mother and disciples after his death, and then when they discovered him alive again, as he had promised.

Then came the morning
Shadows vanished before the sun
Death had lost and life had won
For morning had come.*

YouTube Video – Then Came the Morning – Guy Penrod – Written by: CHRIS CHRISTIAN, GLORIA GAITHER, WILLIAM GAITHER

*Lyrics – Then Came the Morning

It Is Well With My Soul is a song I’ve known since childhood. No matter what happens in life, it can be well with our souls. The story behind this song speaks to the relationship Horatio Spafford had with his God.

Having lost in a fire virtually everything they owned, the Spafford family made new plans, including a move from Chicago to France. Horatio Spafford planned the trip for his wife and four daughters to be as trouble-free as possible. To transport them from America to France, he booked passage on a huge ship, and made sure they had Christians with whom to fellowship in route. He planned to join them a few weeks later. In spite of much careful preparation, Mr. Spafford’s plans suddenly dissolved when the ship carrying his loved ones was rammed by another vessel and sank, carrying his four beloved daughters to the bottom. Anyone who has ever had their plans disrupted by the hand of God can understand Spafford’s plight. The next time you are in church,turn to the words of the great hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul”–words he penned as his ship passed over the watery grave of his four daughters! – Today in the Word, July, 1989, p. 27**

One of the verses of this tested and proven hymn of faith is:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.*

YouTube Video – It Is Well With My Soul – Guy Penrod, David Phelps

*Lyrics of It Is Well With My Soul – Horatio Spafford

Lastly, a hymn that Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote and has touched millions of lives: Because He Lives. Such a great song reminding us that because He lives we have no need to fear.

Worship with me:

YouTube Video – Because He Lives, Guy Penrod

Lyrics – Because He Lives – Bill & Gloria Gaither

You will have no test of faith that will not fit you to be a blessing if you are obedient to the Lord. I never had a trial but when I got out of the deep river I found some poor pilgrim on the bank that I was able to help by that very experience.” – A.B. Simpson

No matter how dark the night, when the morning comes, we can find it is well with our souls, because He lives.

Guy Penrod

Gaither Homecoming

Floods in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal Kill 1,200 and Leave Millions Homeless – Chloe Farand

**Trials – Sermon Illustrations