Category Archives: Grace

Worship Wednesday – The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.Ephesians 2:8

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.John 3:16-17

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus–the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. – the Apostle Paul, Acts 20:24

Saved. What does that mean? Saved from what? For what?

I had been unchurched for most of my young life. When first exposed to the Bible, God drew me to Himself, and I was saved as a 9-year-old child. This holy and winsome God reached into the heart of a lost little girl and showed divine mercy. Saved was something my mom couldn’t do for me, nor could I do it for myself.

Even at 9, the wretchedness of sin was very real to me – both as a receiver of others’ sinful behavior and as a doer myself. People can be so hateful, uncaring, deliberately mean. Contrast that with a God who demonstrated such a love to us that in our most messed-up nature, He made a way for us to come back to Him…through the perfect, sinless Savior, Jesus Christ.

For the moment, I’m not going to deal with how it is one can be saved but you can find more here. Explore God is a great resource.

Since the day that I received God’s greatest gift, the life available only through Jesus, living for Him has always been my desire.

Seasons come, however, when my heart’s desire is dampened by fears, distractions, and cultural messages that disguise lies for truth. I have not always lived for the God who saved me…definitely I have not always been faithful to speak the glorious truth of Him and His gift to us in salvation.

Oh…the silence of wanting my own comfort over care of one who doesn’t yet know God’s love. My heart breaks at this.

During worship at Movement Church, on Sunday, we sang a song new to me. The Cause of Christ by Kari Jobe. In the setting of church gathered, the Holy Spirit moved my heart deeply with the purpose of this life. Then Cliff preached from 1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (podcast here). The focus of this scripture, teaching, and worship was to encourage us, as church, as saved peoples, to “persevere and refuse to be silent”.

Photo Credit: Twitter

We are never too old or too far gone down the world’s path to return to God and His great cause.

What joy in those occasions when we enter into the cause of Christ and share the truth of God, in word and deed. He takes our feeble attempts and, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the opportunity to point to love and life in Him.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

What is the cause of Christ? We, who know Jesus, have been saved from the sin embedded in us from the first sinners and we have been saved from living ourselves in unbridled sin for all our lives. We are saved for God’s purposes – to live to serve Him and others in truth; to proclaim that saving truth in word and deed to all those God places in our lives. We are saved for fellowship (community) with God now and forever.

How can we keep silent?

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Worship with me for the cause of Christ (music in the link):

The only thing I want in life
Is to be known for loving Christ
To build His church, to love His bride
And make His name known far and wide

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

He is all my soul will prize
Regardless of the joy or trial
When agonizing questions rise
In Jesus, all my hope abides

For this cause, I live
For this cause, I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

Jesus, my Jesus
For Your glory, for Your name
Jesus, my Jesus
I will only sing Your praise

For this cause I live
For this cause I’d die
I surrender all
For the cause of Christ
All I once held dear
I will leave behind
For my joy is this
Oh the cause of Christ

It is not fame that I desire
Nor stature in my brother’s eye
I pray it’s said about my life
That I lived more to build Your Name than mine*

Photo Credit: Ann Voskamp, Twitter

“…how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.  For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe. – the Apostle Paul, 1 Thessalonians 2:11-13

*Lyrics to The Cause of Christ – Writers: Kari Jobe, Benjamin Hastings, Bryan Fowler

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song The Cause of Christ – Kari Jobe – interview starts at 4:45 [also how to play the song]

What Is the Cause of Christ?

A Cause Worthy of Your Life – Andrew Corbett

What Does It Mean to Be Saved? – Steven J. Cole

For the Cause – Getty Music

The Only Name (Yours Will Be) by Big Daddy Weave (words & lyrics by Benji Cowart)

YouTube Video – When It’s All Been Said and Done – Robin Mark

Finishing Strong – Mildred McAdams – (our mom) – 1927-2002

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

Worship Wednesday – A Pilgrim’s Progress – Matt Papa

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.Hebrews 12:1

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:31

During a difficult period of life, Matt Papa wrote a song about our journey as pilgrims in this world. A worship leader, known for penning theologically rich modern hymns, Matt faced a time of emptiness when the Lord pressed him to “keep running”.

“The song arrived very late in the process of making the album (Look & Live). I was flying up to Nashville to record the rest of the vocals. This was January, and we just had our third child. Life felt as crazy as it had ever felt. The transition for us from 2 to 3 kids felt like a punch in the gut. I admit I have an artist’s temperament — my highs are high and my lows are low — so I’ve struggled over the years with depression. I was praying as I was flying up to Nashville and I kept hearing that phrase, ‘Keep running!’ I felt like the Lord was saying it, I felt like the cloud of witnesses was saying it, just put your head down and keep fighting. I had the overwhelming sense that I needed to finish the song and record it, and I worked hard over the next couple of weeks to finish it. I don’t know why, but my prayer for that song is this; I really want people who are contemplating suicide or battling depression to hear this song, and I pray that the Lord would use that in their lives to encourage them to keep going…to keep looking to Christ.”Matt Papa

Matt Papa – A Pilgrim’s Progress (Keep Runnin’) – Daily Play MPE

The Word of God is filled with encouragements for our heavy, dark times…when we just want to quit – to stop in our tracks, turn aside, and take an easier path.

During Jesus’ public ministry – a time of wonder and miracles – he lost followers because his way seemed too hard for them. Once (John 6) when he turned to his closest disciples, he asked them would they leave, too.  Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

We all have suffered different losses, struggles, difficulties in life, and compared ours as less or more doesn’t really compute. Whatever is hard for me (or you) is just that…hard. When life pins us down and we struggle to get out from under the weight, Peter’s words always come to mind for me. “To whom shall we go?”

For me, there is nowhere else to run but to Jesus. That’s not to say I do always. Disparaging of my situation, I may fall to complaining or searching for a way out, any way out…besides through Jesus’ grace and strength.

For the days we find ourselves slogging through, almost to a complete stop, God promises he is for us (Romans 8:31-38). He will never leave us, and we will reap the harvest he has prepared for us…if we don’t give up.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

Today, if I had a literal race to run, it would not go well. Yesterday, I reached down to a low shelf in the refrigerator to pull out leftovers for lunch. In an instant, something happened in my back, and the pain was excruciating. This was my very first encounter of back pain the kind I hear others experience. It is still with me today – as I have to do everything carefully, at times in slow-motion. Whatever falls to the floor will have to stay there…today.

Fortunately, no literal footrace awaits my toe on the line. A journey does continue for this pilgrim. A race of faith and endurance still draws us, whatever our situation. Thankfully, the Lord’s call to “keep running” is never ever without His presence or His provision.

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:2

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:7-8

Please worship with me (lyrics below)…and let’s keep running.

Lord I’m tired, so tired from travelin
This straight and narrow is so much harder than I thought
On this path, I’ve met both doubt and pain
I’ve heard their voices say
“Yeah, you’ve given all you’ve got”

But there’s a crowd of witnesses,
the ones who’ve run this race
and even louder than my fears they’re crying
“Boy, you lift your face. . .!”

“. . . .keep running, keep running
don’t lost heart, don’t you give up now
don’t turn around
you’ve got to find a way somehow
keep reachin’, keep fightin’
the pain cannot compare to the reward
that will be yours
that waits in store
for those who just keep runnin”

On this road, this fight for holiness
I’ve struggled and I’ve bled
through these dangers, toils, and snares.
And I have foes,
their siren voices call
saying “Boy, you’re about to fall,
with that heavy cross you bear”

I remember there was ONE who died to win this race
He took the cross, he crushed the grave
Oh I can hear my Saviour say . .

“Keep running, keep running
don’t lost heart, don’t give up now
don’t turn around
you’ve got to find a way somehow
keep reachin’, keep fightin’
the pain cannot compare to the reward
that will be yours
that waits in store
for those who just keep runnin”

Don’t turn aside
No compromise
Just lift your eyes
To the glory that’s comin’.
If you’re like me
you feel like you can’t go on,
you’ll never see the dawn,
and you’re just about to break . .
but don’t stop now
Know that every sacrifice
It’ll all be worth the price
when you finally see His face . . . . . . . .

Just keep runnin’
Don’t lose heart; don’t you give up now
Don’t turn around, you’ve got to find a way somehow
Dig deeper, run harder,
The pain cannot compare to the reward that will be yours; it waits in store for all who just keep…
So take my hand because we can’t do this alone
Until you hear “Well done”,
Until your race is complete
Find a way to just
Keep runnin’
Keep dreamin’
Keep darin’
Believin’
Keep workin’
Keep waitin’
Keep servin’
Keep prayin’
Keep movin’, keep tryin’, keep hopin’, keep fightin’, keep goin’,
He’s waiting
Arms open; He’s comin’
Keep runnin’*

Photo Credit: YouTube

None of this we do alone…we have God with us every step of the way. This is not a “do it in our own strength” thing. We are carried by His strength, and we run beside each other, encouraging and recalling the truth of His loving words to us…until we both reach the prize at the finish.

*Lyrics to A Pilgrim’s Progress (Keep Runnin’)

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

Worship Wednesday – Only God’s Shoulders Are Big Enough – Shoulders – for King & Country

Blog - Shoulders - 2Photo Credit: YouTube

[Adapted from the Archives]

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.”Psalm 121

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29

[After several days of grieving over a series of events meant to divide our country right now and a natural disaster and national catastrophe across the ocean, I needed the reminder that our shoulders are not strong enough to bear these burdens…only God’s shoulders can carry us through all our days.]

There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?

We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because our shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the deep wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, ‘underneath are the everlasting arms!’ You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*

Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. It’s no longer a new song, but it draws me back to the truth of what is most real in our lives. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.

Worship with me:

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

CHORUS
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**

Blog - Shoulders - for King & CountryPhoto Credit: www.forkingandcountry.com

A Kingdom Agenda Strategy for Community Transformation – Tony Evans

Baptist Global Response

*The Everlasting Arms by Charles Spurgeon

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Shoulders – for King & Country

YouTube Video – Shoulders – for King & Country – Official Video

YouTube Video – Shoulders Live on K-Love with For King & Country

See It First: Go Behind the Scenes of For King & Country’s Powerful Video, ‘Shoulders

**K-Love – Lyrics to Shoulders by songwriters Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover, Tedd Tjornhom

Story Behind the Song – Shoulders – NewReleaseTuesday.com Interview with Luke Smallbone

For Hope: Luke Smallbone Finds Grace in the Darkness

Worship Wednesday – On the Holiness of God – I See the Lord – Chris Falson

Photo Credit: Max Pixel

[The account of King David returning the Ark of God to Jerusalem]

They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house, which was on a hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were guiding the cart  that carried the Ark of God. Ahio walked in front of the Ark.  David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.

But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God.  Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God.2 Samuel 6:3-7

What a story! For the casual Bible reader, this story can spark one’s sense of “rightness”. Even David who loved God supremely was angry briefly with Him…but that anger quickly turned to fear (2 Samuel 6:8-9). It took David seconds to remember the holiness of God and can happen when we treat the presence of God casually.

Cliff Jordan preached on this passage at Movement Church recently, and I finally understood the significance of Uzzah’s seemingly well-intended action. [Sermon podcast here.]

Throughout the Old Testament accounts of history, we see the justice of God play out in ways we might consider harsh in our grace-filled experience of Him today. We need to remember, though, that God has NOT changed. His holiness is as real and remarkable as ever.

Pastor Cliff reminded us that Uzzah was of the priestly tribe of the  Levites, a Kohathite. These were the ones who cared for and carried the holy instruments of worship. The Art of the Covenant housed the very presence of God in those days. It was never to be touched by human hands. Never. God had given detailed instructions on this, and Uzzah knew them.

In a moment, Uzzah, thinking he was acting, I’m sure, in reverence to God, reached out to steady the ark, laying his hands on it. The consequence of that disobedience was death.

The consequence of our disobedience is death.

We forget that sometimes, because our own lives are so bathed in the grace of God through Christ Jesus.

What was so bad about what Uzzah did? We are tempted to raise our tiny fists to a holy God and question His actions. Our own daily acts of disobedience seem trivial to us as well…until we look at the cost of our disobedience. The cross.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

We must not forget this tension: “God is graciously relational and unrelentingly and unyieldingly holy.” – Cliff Jordan

Creator God sets the terms for our relating to Him. He prescribes and He provides. In ancient days, He made Himself available to a sinful people – once a year, in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle (and later in the Jerusalem temple), behind a thick curtain – to the high priest who would make atonement for the people (Hebrews 9:7). A holy and loving God protected the people from death in distancing Himself from them in this way.

When Jesus died for our sins, the curtain was torn apart, from top to bottom.

Just as in Old Testament history, God made Him home with us in the ark, Jesus made us home with us, in human form (John 1:14).

“The ark points to Jesus. Our point of contact to Holy God is through Jesus. He fulfilled every prescription, every obligation, every law. He passed the test, secured the A, and gave it to us – graciously. He made Him who knew no sin become sin for us.” – Cliff Jordan

When you’re studying the Word, you come on these hard passages like Uzzah’s death, remember the holiness of God. Remember also His incredible grace toward us through Christ.

I grew up singing Holy, Holy, Holy – my young life was transformed by a burgeoning understanding of the wretched nature of my sin and the glorious nature of God, holy and loving, just and merciful. As our culture has changed over the years, my sense of God’s holiness has grown reckless…dulled by the world’s pull for both self-serving and self-rule. What audacity to think we know better than God, to think we are good enough for God, to think we don’t need God!

Holy God, have mercy on us. Lord, continue to have mercy on us…because of what Christ did for us. In His name…

Worship with me, please, with Chris Falson‘s song “I See the Lord”.

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne exalted,
And the train of His robe
Fills the temple with glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
With His glory

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, and the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of lords

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
It fills it with glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory
With His glory

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of Lords

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

I sing
Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord

Holy (x4)
Holy is the Lord of Lords

I see the Lord
Seated on the throne
Exalted, the train of His robe fills the temple
With glory
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled
And the whole earth is filled with His glory.

Photo Credit: Slideshare

YouTube Video – I See the Lord – Chris Falson (with lyrics)

Lyrics – I See the Lord – Writer: Chris Falson

2 Samuel 6, Part 1 – Sermon Podcast – Cliff Jordan, Movement Church

YouTube Video – Holy, Holy, Holy – Jeremy Riddle

Holiness and Justice – R. C. Sproul

Why Did God Strike Uzzah Dead For Touching the Ark of the Covenant? – Got Questions?

5 Friday Faves – Reading Wars, Lord of the Rings on Guitar, Walking in America, Boomer Parents, and Susan Boyle

You know the story…how fast this week (this month, this year) is flying by. No time to waste. So let’s get right with it. Five of my favorite finds this week.

  1. Reading Wars – What does that even mean, right? It’s the title of Philip Yancey‘s captivating article on waging battle on the mental clutter that crowds out even the possibility of deep thinking. What is our weapon against the onslaught of shallow that we expose ourselves through social media, email, and texting communication? Reading. Reading for learning. So simple and yet how many minutes a week do we commit to it?

“A commitment to reading is an ongoing battle, somewhat like the battle against the seduction of internet pornography. We have to build a fortress with walls strong enough to withstand the temptations of that powerful dopamine rush [which also happens with distracted media scanning] while also providing shelter for an environment that allows deep reading to flourish.” (Philip Yancey)

Photo Credit: Envision Experience

Sure, we can learn from what we find on social media. My friend Ann Lovell pointed us to this article through her Facebook page. If I just scan the article then I continue to “not” learn from it…as happens with most of the content that shows up in my various newsfeeds. This time…I’m taking it to heart. Yancey points out several cultural powerhouses who commit to a mininum of 5 hours of reading a week. I am joining them. Thanks, Mr. Yancey. Thanks, Ann.

[Sidebar: Whole cultures in the world prefer oral vs. written information delivery. Deep, detail-rich, reproducible storying. I wonder how these cultures are changing because of the same short-cut habits of sharing information we have developed here in the West. What do you think?

2) Lord of the Rings on Guitar – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posted another of his arrangements this week. This one is from the legend Lord of the Rings Trilogy. You who love LOTR as much as I do will recognize The Riders of Rohan. It is another great orchestral piece translated by Nathan to classical guitar (like Beyond the Guitar‘s recent Game of Thrones arrangement). Just beautiful. Takes us back to the glorious battles of Lord of the Rings.

3) Walking in America – I feel so fortunate to have neighbors who walk. They make it so easy for me to join in even 6 days a week. It’s amazing how such a simple exercise wakes up the brain and loosens up the body. Whether we can afford a gym or whatever our health situation, walking is something we can do for ourselves. [Winter pic, I know, but it shows these neighbors of mine are out walking in all kinds of weather.]

After seeing the video below comparing “Walking in America & Walking in South Korea” I am glad for an easy neighborhood to walk in. However, it’s also clear how those in huge cities make do, with walking and staying healthier.

We should walk as much as they do in South Korea.

Posted by ATTN: Life on Friday, July 14, 2017

Here’s How Much the Average American Walks Every Day – Laura Donovan

Here’s How People in 8 Other Countries Stay Healthy – Slideshow – Anna Medaris Miller

What Steps Data Tells Us About Country Lifestyles – Angela Chieh

4) Boomer Parents & Their Stuff – What are we going to do with all this stuff? Our parents’ stuff and our own. The kids just aren’t interested in it. Samantha Bronkar’s article on the subject is thought-provoking. What do we do with all the collections? All the unique, hand-worked furniture? All the china and glassware? When we start down-sizing, we may have to think creatively what we do to dispose of these treasures of years past. Any thoughts?Photo Credit: Pinterest

I wonder, if our civilization is around for another 100 years, what will be in our natural and civil history museums? There could be a gap with all the “stuff” that will go eventually into today’s landfills. Would love to hear your thinking on this…as one of the many with unwanted treasures.

5) Susan Boyle – Just a few years ago, a middle-aged Scottish woman walked on the stage of Britain’s Got Talent and shocked the world with her singing. On that night and the days that followed, everyone in the English-speaking world had heard of Susan Boyle. Here’s the performance that brought her celebrity and a place in our hearts:

Just this week, I heard her sing Unchained Melody. Still magical. Her lovely simplicity in demeanor and her mesmerizing voice are a powerful combo. Do you know what happened to her? She’s still out there and is now a wealthy woman still living in her small family home in West Lothian, Scotland. She had a dream…and it came true. Her life inspires us all.

Happy Weekend. Be safe and be inspired…so much to enjoy in this life and to take joy in…even in the hard.

Worship Wednesday – I’m Just Unfinished – Mandisa

Photo Credit: CBN

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.Philippians 1:6

So Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to leave too?” Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:67-69

Why are we so hard on ourselves and each other? Intuitively, we know in our core, that we can be better…and that others should be. We mark behavior. We analyze successes and failures. We self-reference. Am I measuring up? Are you measuring up? To what?

All this judging should completely wear us out. Yet…we become unaware we are even doing it. In fact, our bent toward judging is probably one of the reasons we (Christians and those who don’t follow Christ) struggle with addictions…to turn off that part of our brain. Unfortunately, the safeguard of judging (that of critical and logical thinking) is also impacted here.

This whole lifestyle of having opinions and being sometimes critical spills over into our faith. We judge God.

We judge God. Listen to that. How strange for the Created to question the mind of the Creator! Yet, we struggle with what we don’t understand. We shake our heads and raise our “why” to Heaven. Or worse…some precious ones walk away from God…disappointed.

Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud – Philip Yancey

Christian artist Mandisa went through a very dark time spiritually and emotionally as she lost her best friend to cancer. Take the time to read her story, please. Her album Out of the Dark came out of her journey back to God after this terrible loss.

The song “Unfinished” (from that album) speaks so beautifully to our experience of not being where we want to be…hoped to be…and the truth of God’s work in us…and for us.

Worship with me.

Not scared to say it
I used to be the one
Preaching it to you
That you could overcome
I still believe it
But it ain’t easy

‘Cause that world I painted
Where things just all work out
It started changing
And I started having doubts
And it got me so down

But I picked myself back up
And I started telling me
No, my God’s not done
Making me a masterpiece
He’s still working on me

He started something good
And I’m gonna believe it
He started something good
And He’s gonna complete it
So I’ll celebrate the truth
His work in me ain’t through
I’m just unfinished

I know His history
And the kind of God He is
He might make it a mystery
But He’s proven I can trust in Him
And yeah, I believe it

Still working
Still, still working on me
He’s still working
Still, still working on me*

Mandisa’s Unfinished reminded me of an old praise chorus  sung by Steve Green.  Taken straight from Scripture, we are reminded that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it”.

With all our travels, we’ve been to some of the world’s great museums. In them, often there’s a painting by one of the Masters…unfinished. The artwork still shows off the fine hand of the painter…but it is incomplete…without detail. Stopped abruptly.

For us, God has promised we won’t forever be unfinished. He will complete what He’s started in our lives. For this reason alone, we are called to be gentle with ourselves and with each other. Reminding ourselves that we all are works in progress.

As for our judging God, in the crush of disappointment or confusion? I always go back to Peter’s words to Jesus (John 6:67-69) – “To whom would we go?” No one…nothing…is like Him.

We don’t yet know how it all comes out…but we know God. He will finish what He has begun.

*Lyrics to Unfinished – Songwriters: Ben Glover and Colby Wedgeworth

Why Are People So Judgmental? – Quora

Why Are Christians So Judgmental? – Jason Malec