Bookmarked Summer – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

2014 July Blog pics 002

Summer…So many thoughts flood our mind at the mention of the word. Longer days. No more school (usually). Family vacation. Road trips. Reunions. Abundant fruits and vegetables. Cookouts. For our family, all the years our children were in school, wherever we were in the world, summer also meant a reading program. We always got a head-start on the books in their next reading level. That may sound like punishment, but it wasn’t. We all gained from each other’s reading. New characters, new places, mysteries and adventures, history unknown to us until we read about it in these books. Our summers were always marked by whatever we were reading – bookmarked.

The summer reading program is behind us all, but we still have an avid reader in our daughter. She continues to introduce our family to lovely stories, and such was the case with this strange-titled little book – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (an aunt and her niece), this little book is a historical fiction with some of the confounding twists of plot reminiscent of Jane Austen novels. This story is set in England, in 1946, shortly after the end of World War II. It focuses on the correspondence of a young writer, Juliet Ashton, and various people in her life, including her publisher, a childhood friend, a suitor, and a group of book club members on Guernsey Island.

During World War II, the tactical decision was made that the Channel Islands could not be protected from the Germans and therefore left on their own. They were occupied for most of the war by the German military. In fact, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society emerged in this isolated hardship situation.

“We clung to books and to our friends; they reminded us that we had another part to us.”

Through an odd turn of events, Juliet struck up a friendship with one of the island dwellers, and that friendship grew to include all of the remaining book club members as well as some of the other less literary islanders.

“It was so kind of you to write to me about your experiences during the Occupation. At the war’s end, I, too, promised myself that I had done with talking about it. I had talked and lived war for six years, and I was longing to pay attention to something – anything – else. But that is like wishing I were someone else. The war is now the story of our lives, and there’s no subtracting it.”

Through the letters between Juliet and her new-found friends, she was so moved by how they survived the German occupation, that she arranged a visit to Guernsey. The visit became a lengthy stay and her life was changed forever.

Blog - Guernsey Literary Society Annie BarrowsMary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows*

I loved this story. Historical fiction has never been my favorite because the details (intertwining the history of the period with the characters) usually wear me out in the reading. This story engaged my mind and heart so well that I could smell the salt air and feel the sea mist in my hair. Yet, the terror of war coupled with the consolation of friendship became as real as if I were there in that moment. It surprises me that Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows are not English (Mrs. Shaffer is from West Virginia) because they crafted the story as if it happened to them. It was deeply personal to them. Some of the beauty of the book could have come out of their love for each other, as Mrs. Shaffer’s failing health required Annie to finish the book for them both (published in 2008, after Mary Ann Shaffer died). What a legacy for them together…

The picture below is the first page of the book.


It alludes to the curious way Juliet Ashton, the leading character of the book, came into the lives of the Guernsey islanders. My daughter recommending this book to me in the long days of this summer gave me a similar experience. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has marked not only my summer, but my life.

There is still time…don’t miss this book this summer. If you’ve had the pleasure of reading it, you know what I’m talking about.

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive—all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” 

Guernsey Occupation

Fact File: Channel Islands Invaded

Telling the Truth about the Channel Islands Cost Me My Friends 

Short Video about the book featuring author Annie Barrows

Goodreads Quotes from the book

*Photo Credit –




Worship Wednesday – Blessings Disguised – Laura Story’s Discovery of the Mercies of God

 Blog - Worship Wednesday - Laura Story Blessings

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,  while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

The first time I was aware of Laura Story’s song Blessings was last week on a perplexing workday. I was on an errand, and this song came on the radio. The sweet love of God washed over me, bringing perspective to my work situation and lightening my heart.

Later, I read online that the song Blessings came out of Laura Story’s journey with her husband, Martin, through the diagnosis of his brain tumor.  After years in treatment, he is doing well today and they have a little daughter. He still has some issues related to his treatment, but they’re living in a new normal, with a deeper faith in God and joy in the life they have together and with Him.

Life brings all kinds of twists and turns. Sometimes a tough day at work but other times a painful, life-altering diagnosis. Sometimes a relationship betrayal; other times a devastating failure or disappointment. Things just don’t always go as we think they should. Yet, as we cling to God, we find His faithfulness.

We discover, as Laura and Martin did, that God’s mercies are revealed in these places of pain and confusion. He is there in that dark place with His children, and He will bring us into the light again.

Take a few minutes and worship our faithful God, meditating on His presence with us in these “mercies in disguise”.

Blessings by Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

‘Cause what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if the thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
And all the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe


When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home


What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Blessings – Lyrics from KLove

Story of Song

More of Back Story

Photo Credit – Blessings Album Cover

Indescribable also written by Laura Story and performed by Chris Tomlin

Monday Morning Moment – All of Life is Stewardship

Vancouver OlympicsDo you see a man who excels in his work?
He will stand before kings… – Proverbs 22:29

Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. – Daniel 6:3

The snooze-alarm doesn’t hold back the work-week, nor should it. Monday morning comes. Full of possibilities. We, as Kingdom citizens, are logistical agents for God. He will display His glory and draw people to Himself all over the world today – why not in your workplace?

A very wise friend of mine said once, “All of life is stewardship”. Many people have said that, but when I heard it from him, the message resonated with the vibrancy of his life. He currently leads a large Christian organization, his life full of responsibility and time pressures I will never know. Yet, he stops to speak to all along his path in his workday. Encouraging, affirming, inspiring. And outside this Christian company, in his travels, he is “on the job”, taking full advantage of brief encounters with strangers to share the love of Jesus (and His Gospel) with them. Even as I write this, I’m reminded of where that stewardship of his life originates – waking early, plunging into God’s Word, entrusting his prayers to the Lord…every single day. Out of this springs a life God can use to bring glory to Himself and to draw people to Himself.

Marketplace Business in Morocco

So you say, “Well, that’s fine if you work in a Christian company. I can’t really see that sort of stewardship making a difference where I work.” Be encouraged by the example of Daniel in the Bible. He lived for God in a pagan kingdom. We never know what God will do in our workplaces, if we bring our Sunday devotion to Him straight through to Monday. Let Him thrill you with the joy of infusing your work with His faithfulness.

See you there.

Whole-Life Stewardship: The Call to Greatness

Four Principles of Biblical Stewardship

Developing a Vision for Vocational Discipleship at Your Church

If I’m not a Preacher, Can God Use Me?

Leadership is Stewardship (3-part series)

David’s Mighty Men – Stewardship in Action

Photo Credit: Matt Jones

Your Work Matters to God: Staying on Course Through Life’s Seasons


Being a nurse was my ambition since childhood. I would wake up from dreams of helping at some accident scene or comforting a wounded soldier fresh from the battlefield.  Those dreams, though wildly romantic at the time, actually preceded real life situations as time passed. Nursing became a platform for a career full of purpose and meaning. I completed my formal nursing education with a Master’s in Medical-Surgical Nursing, with a concentration in Cancer Nursing. My grand idea of going out and changing the world was rapidly unfolding.

Fast-forward to a decade later. Married and pregnant with our second child, I had my feet firmly planted in two worlds. One was nursing, and the other was being a wife and mom. We were living in a mid-sized town, and I was the clinical nursing specialist for a highly regarded cancer center. It was some of the most rewarding work of my life – to be a part of a great group of nurses and serving patients and families in intense situations. It was a consummately gratifying work season for me.

In fact, just as I was nearing the time of delivery of my little one, the president of the medical center called me in asked if I would consider being the director of the cancer center. It was an offer of a lifetime.

My husband did not think so. While I was intoxicated with all the feelings of approval and appreciation from that job offer (some of that could have been my pregnancy hormones), he helped me come to my senses. From the beginning of our marriage, we had worked out the values we wanted as a family. We would be judicious in our finances and he would work toward my being able to stay home with our children. I wanted this as much as he did…in the beginning. When we had our first child however, I was still so in love with my career that I managed to cajole him into agreeing with my continuing to work outside the home 20 hours a week.

It wasn’t that I didn’t love our daughter completely; I did with all my heart. Mothering and keeping a home, however, were much harder for me than any challenge I faced at work. One component of that was the whole team aspect of my workplace. We sorted out things together. I loved that. At home, far from our families, I felt very much alone with figuring out things, facing my inadequacies and insecurities at raising a child. In reality, God was always there; once I corrected my focus, I experienced Him there.

When we conceived our second child, my husband and I had re-visited our commitments to family. We had again decided that this time around I would stay home with our two precious ones. This time, I wasn’t going to look back. Then this job offer came along. My husband’s reply that I remember to this day was, “Ask him if he had a mother.”

So…I said no to that job, and yes to homemaking and fulltime mothering for the too short season it turned out to be. Not every woman reading this has had that opportunity, and I understand. What I came away with was two careers, both of which, once I embraced that each has its season, have been sources of great joy. Someone else can direct the business of a cancer center. I had the opportunity to mother our kiddos fulltime, and I’m thankful God gave me that season at home with them.


A Study of Love

Dave by Byron Foltz

“Love is a laid down life.” – Elisabeth Elliott

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son… – John 3:16

Kindness may be giving up your seat for someone else.  Love is always choosing a different chair than his favorite for all of your lives, without thinking a second thought about it.

Courtesy may mean asking after someone’s health. Love is hanging onto every detail about her health, her day, her hopes, her dreams.

Patience is waiting for him to finish the story you’ve already heard. Love is listening to that story a hundred times over just for the joy he gets in telling it again.

Honesty is never lying to each other.  Love is being able to be completely yourself, knowing she will treat who you are and all that’s going on in your life with keen interest and gentleness and confidence that you will be the same with her.

Helpfulness is taking out the garbage.  Love is taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, ironing the shirts, cutting the grass, washing the car, cleaning the toilet, and a thousand other chores because they are part of your life together…and you each know what the other would rather not have to do.

Mercy is not asking for too hard a thing from the other.  Love is dealing gently with the weaknesses and lapses of the other, not holding him to task on what you know is very difficult for him.

Cooperation means you can work together toward a common goal.  Love is being willing to spend a lifetime together working on those dreams you share, not satisfied with just meeting your own personal goals.

Reasonableness is not having too high expectations.  Love is seeing in her all she is capable of and giving her confidence to reach for it.

Playfulness is making good times with whomever is around.  Love is making him laugh on a tough day or turning a disagreement into something lighter and less painful because he matters more than being right.

Hospitality is offering a beverage to your guest.  Love is bringing him coffee every morning of your lives together, knowing just how he likes it, and glad you’re the one bringing it.

Generosity is bringing lunch to your whole work team.  Love is packing a special lunch every single day.

Handiness is being useful in various challenging situations.  Love is picking up new skills for his sake so you can help him with the increasing number of chores that come with life.

Respect is giving honor to a person who earns it because of position or capabilities.  Love is giving honor no matter the cost.

Bravery is putting yourself at risk for someone else.  Love is protecting her by locking up the house at night and by putting her interests ahead of your own, whatever it takes.

Loyalty is being there for your friend.  Love is being there for always, whatever happens, no matter what.

We can all experience the best from others, in terms of character or behavior.  Love, however, is much more than a display of good character.  It’s more than a commitment.  It’s a choosing moment by moment to focus on the other, to see the good in the other, to hope for the best for him, to do what you can for her to relieve the burden, to stand together, to always pull from the same end of the rope.

Photo credit: Byron Foltz

Leaving It with God

Worship Wednesday – Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)

Blog - Music inspired by the film Amazing GraceAmazing Grace is probably the most well-known Christian hymn of all time. The lyrics are powerful, written by John Newton, an 18th century slave trader, who had a riveting experience with God that changed his life forever. Amazing Grace is a deeply personal confession which we who are followers of Christ also share with Newton. Chris Tomlin’s cover (on his 2006 album See the Morning) is an updated version of the hymn which honors the melody we all love. He also includes a last verse that Newton wrote that was omitted in previous versions. This version is also a part of the soundtrack of the film Amazing Grace.

This film (2006, Michael Apted, Director) is high on my all-time-favorite-film list. For those of you who missed it, for whatever reasons, consider watching it now. It is beautifully filmed with great performances and magnificent sound. Amazing Grace is a biopic on the life of William Wilberforce, a member of the 18th century British parliament, who fought for the abolition of the slave trade. With John Newton as his mentor and pastor, Wilberforce was personally tormented by the reality of slavery. He battled, fearlessly and tenaciously, for over 20 years in Parliament, and, before his death, saw the passage of law abolishing slavery in Great Britain.

This film shows the story of how one person can affect great change. One person. It’s very reflective of how One brought us out of slavery through His life, death, and resurrection.  Amazing Grace.

There’s the phenomenal true-life subplot in the film, as well – the friendship and shared faith and passion of William Wilberforce and John Newton.  Newton spurred Wilberforce on, encouraging him that he could do more through his political life than if he became a member of clergy. There’s a lesson here for all of us as well – that whatever our work or calling, we are meant to infuse it with the great grace and purpose God has given each one of us.

Worship with me today through this lovely hymn. Consider renting Amazing Grace to watch with your family or friends (who somehow missed it the first time around).

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace

The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, who called me here below
Will be forever mine
Will be forever mine.

What’s your favorite version of Amazing Grace? Youtube or other? Share it with us in the Comments.

YouTube video of Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace with clips from film

Brief & thrilling summary of the life of John Newton who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace

Film Clip from the Film Amazing Grace – 2006 drama of political & spiritual life of William Wilberforce and his battle against slavery

Music Inspired by the Film Amazing Grace

Film Amazing Grace

Chris Tomlin Website

Youtube Amazing Grace (Chris Tomlin) with Lyrics

Amazing Grace Lyrics


Stop…and Then Go – Connect with Internationals

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For many years, our family lived overseas. When work takes people out of their home countries into other cultures, we can embrace the experience or insulate ourselves from the experience. I loved living overseas. The people who invited us into their lives were some of the kindest, most generous people we’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Our family tried to live very intentionally, learning all we could about the ebb and flow of life of each new culture and what mattered to the people there.

Our friendships grew deep, even when we didn’t share the same religion or the same traditions, we lived life alongside each other. We learned from them and they learned from us. Now, working back in the U.S., I find that we’re on the flip-side of that experience. We have many, many internationals living in our city, and some are our friends. They are here for school or for work or for refuge from war or other disasters. Just as local people overseas reached out to us with help and hospitality, we want to reach out to these internationals who are now our neighbors here.

Rachel Pieh Jones, in her blog Djibouti Jones, lists out 20 things expats should stop doing if they are going to really thrive in their host countries (where they’re currently working or studying). I was intrigued by this list and saw how some of Rachel Jones’ observations would be helpful when applied here, by us in our home countries. Out of her list of 20 “stop’s” – things to stop doing in order to make a foreign place more your home – I adapted 10  (with her permission) to help us be less “foreign” to internationals/immigrants – those who are among us gradually making this country their home (even for a season). As we are willing to stretch out our lives to truly welcome internationals in, we can help make it possible for them to feel at home here (for a season…or a lifetime).

10 Things We Should Stop Doing if We Desire to Build Relationships with Internationals

  1. Stop complaining. We complain a lot, and often about first world problems. We also too often complain about peoples of other nationalities (both those in our home country and in their own). If we truly desire to demonstrate the love of Christ to them, we look for what is good (about our own country, and theirs).  Focus on what is good about both their country and our own. Look for the common denominators that build bridges.
  2. Stop putting off language learning. You may not have any ambition about learning another language, and for sure, most internationals living here for school or work are doing what they can to master English. Still it is a delight for any of us to hear even a few words in our own language. Rachel Jones talks about the great impact you can have by learning even a few words: “Make their day by putting in the time, effort, and laughter to honor their language.”
  3. Stop hanging out with only other Americans. Internationals, and especially immigrants, will find each other, and tend to also gather just among themselves. However, if you reach out to a neighbor or colleague or fellow student, you will, more often than not, be well-received. Strike up a conversation and gently ask questions about them and their country and their culture. You may be opening the door to a friendship beneficial to you both. Visit your new international neighbor (bearing in mind possible cultural constraints, but don’t let those keep you from extending hospitality). Are there immigrant vendors/proprietors in your neighborhood? Call them by name. “Celebrate holidays with gusto”, Jones says, (both yours and theirs).
  4. Stop your addiction to social media. There’s a lot to be said about what we gain from social media. Eventually, however, to really engage with international/immigrant neighbors or coworkers, you have to get up, go out, and meet them where they are. Just this week I celebrated the discovery of an authentic Japanese noodle restaurant with a young Japanese friend. She just graduated from her university here and, with no family in the US, we celebrated together as family.
  5. Stop taking yourself so seriously. To pursue cross-cultural relationships, you will make mistakes and sometimes misunderstand social cues from an international friend. You will make mistakes, sure, but your friend knows your heart. People who don’t make mistakes in international relationships simply don’t have least at any deep, constant level.
  6. Stop ignoring beggars.  This may seem a strange point in this list. Rachel Jones’ family has made their second home in a very impoverished African country. If you live in a US city, you have probably encountered beggars. They are most probably Americans, not internationals. Still beggars are found in most cultures. How to respond to beggars is a challenge for us all. It may be a case-by-case decision, but seek the Lord about a Biblical response to beggars. Beggars remind us all of how Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.” Your immigrant/international friends will take note of how you respond to beggars. In her blog, Jones said, “That doesn’t mean to start giving to them; decide your own convictions on that. But look at them and talk to them. Ask their names and listen to their stories.”
  7. Stop ignoring the international press and international events[observed locally].  To often we focus on the news reports that only affect us. As you develop friendships with internationals, seek out news items that affect them or their families back home. Participate in their cultural events or festivals when possible.
  8. Stop shopping only at the more high-end stores. Of course, there are internationals who are very wealthy and shop in those stores, too. This is just to keep in mind for the others in your lives. Find where your immigrant friends shop and how they manage to feed and clothe their families. You may learn how to better, or more creatively, do the same for your own family.
  9. Stop being afraid. Examine your heart about what makes you afraid of being in the lives of internationals. Is it the language difference? Their culture? Are you afraid you might offend? Or you afraid a friendship might be too time-consuming? Or will it become awkward if they need jobs or a visa? Or is it an issue of love – you are not even sure how you feel about them being here? With God’s help, deal with the fear and allow Him to work in your heart to build bridges, rather than walls.
  10. Stop thinking you can solve the(ir) country’s problems.  I heard a very strange news report this week that enemy nations were accusing each other of killing their own people and blaming the other side.  We live in strange times, and it’s difficult to know really who to believe about politics or the world’s problems. We all have opinions about how nations can improve the situation for their peoples, but very few of us are in a position to make that happen. Praying and loving, in Jesus’ name, are our best tools to help our friends as they look back “home” and long for things to be better there.

A Bonus: Rachel Pieh Jones ended her list of 20 Stops with:

20.  Stop forgetting to call your mom. Good advice for us all.

I hope you found this helpful. Jones’ blog for expats reminded me of how we’re all pilgrims on this journey. Whatever we can do to help and understand each other will make community for people who very much need community…and in demonstrating the love of Jesus to these immigrants/internationals, they gain much more than just our friendship.

20 Things Expats Need to Stop Doing




Life Skills – Stewardship of the Essential in the Workplace – 5 Helps

2014 July Blog pics 002

A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.                      Proverbs 16:9

“He who believes in Me [Jesus], the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” John 14:12

5 Helps to Keep Essentials in Focus

1) Pray – do business with God on the issue of stewardship of work.

2) Re-visit your job description/annual goals. Do they match up?

3) Determine when you’re sharpest or freshest & guard that time.

4) Practice intentionality with meeting invites & other distractions.

5) Do what only you can do whenever possible.

Books, blogs, and experts abound in the field of leadership and workplace productivity. A challenge for me at work is the constant press of the urgent, and the seeming necessity of meetings upon meetings. I actually don’t really mind meetings; processing in group is my method of choice for information-sharing and developing strategies. Yet, there are those colleagues of ours whom we depend on for deep thinking and creative planning and who need time in quiet to accomplish that.  Too often their work-day is packed with people (either across a meeting table or through electronic communications). They’re then less able to be proactive in their thinking and more prone to reactive decision-making.

Shane Parrish (@farnamstreet) wrote about this phenomenon several months ago. The title of his article was intriguing: “Most of what you are going to do or say today is not essential”.

I don’t want to spend my life doing things that don’t matter, especially in the huge investment of life at work.

In the above article, Parrish continued: “If you’re a modern knowledge worker, odds are you’re going to go to work, read some emails, reply to some emails, attend some meetings, grab a coffee, have lunch, attend another meeting or two, catch up on emails, and finally head home. You’ll be busy from the moment you get to work until the moment you go home. When you do find a nook of time, you’ll likely be bombarded with beeping, dings, calls, and other people who only need a sliver of our time. After all, they too have something urgent to do. They too have a deadline.

After a long day, you’ll come home mentally and physically drained. Eventually you’ll reach a tipping point and say enough is enough. The very next day you’ll head into the office vowing to change things. You’ll start to think about how to work more productively when, ding, a meeting invite pops up for an urgent meeting to decide the fate of a product.”

Later in the article, he said, “Sure we do more busy work, but we’re doing less real work. To get any real work done we come in early, stay late, or both. That’s the only way we can get some peace and quiet.”

We must take a step back from our hectic workday and refocus our thinking on why exactly do we have our jobs anyway. Why were we given the responsibilities we have or how are we to use the authority/influence we have? Are we being good stewards of what is absolutely imperative or are we just ticking off what is necessary? We have to recapture the essential elements of our work before they’re lost in a muddle of ineffective organizational structure.

There has been lots written on effective leadership, workplace productivity, and time management. For me, these 5 helps encourage me in resetting my priorities when I lose balance or energy or joy in the work:

1) Pray – really do business with God on the issue of your stewardship of your work. Are you being faithful in the essentials?

2) Re-visit your job description and annual goals. Do they match up or have your time and mental energy been outsourced to other activities eroding your creativity and productivity?

3) Determine when you are the sharpest or freshest and guard that time of the day for the most essential thinking and decision-making you need to do. “Silence” the distractions for that block of time.

4) Practice intentionality in dealing with meeting invites, drop-ins, phone calls, or email. Urgent matters will come up and may need only your attention for some part of them. Just beware that you don’t fall into a habit of doing what may come easy – for example, filling up your day with meetings generated by others leaving you with little time for  your own responsibilities.

5) Do what only you can do whenever possible. You’re in the position you’re in, hopefully, because you are just the right person for that job. What is it that you need to be focused on? You don’t just ignore the other needs of the office or organization that vie for your attention, but you help work out how best (either through a process or another person) those needs are met.

What has helped you in stewarding the essentials in your work life? What are your particular challenges?

Shane Parrish – What You Do Today Is Not Essential

Biblical Time Management

Michael Hyatt on Cutting Your To-Do List in Half

Time Management Matrix

5 Tips for Increasing Workplace Productivity

5 Real Tips to Get More Done at Work


Worship Wednesday – Listening for His Voice through the Noise

Blog - MercyMeHe who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. – 1 John 4:4

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:1

All kinds of voices bang around in our heads. Some of those voices belong to family and friends who say things which wound us, whether they meant to or not. There are voices belonging to society that call us “judgers” or “haters”, when we know it’s not true. There are voices from our workplace (sounding like our own voice sometimes) that say we aren’t doing enough or doing our jobs well enough. Then there’s the voice of the Evil One speaking in the first person, with my accent, saying, “I’m too fat. I’m not smart. I’ll never get it right. I’m going to fail…again.”

There are nights when I struggle to fall asleep wondering how to fix what seems wrong, at the time, in my life or relationships. Fear, anxiety, sadness crowd out rest…but worry finally collapses into prayer. It’s then that the Holy Spirit’s quiet voice breaks through the noise, and my head clears. Reminded of what’s true. Peace restored.

In worship, the voices in our heads are silenced by the Voice in our hearts, speaking His Word to us…reminding us of who He is, and who we are, in Him…that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”; we were chosen by Him; we are forgiven; His grace is sufficient for whatever comes; nothing can separate us from His love; and He will never leave us or forsake us…ever.

MercyMe’s song, Greater, from their Welcome to the New album (2014) describes this wrestling in the lives of believers. Until the day, we leave this place for Heaven, we will struggle against what the world says about God and about us, and we’ll cling to what God says…and what we know to be true in walking with Him.

God has used this song to lift my head, and, with joy and gratitude to Him and MercyMe, I invite you to worship with me, singing Greater.


Bring your tired; bring your shame; bring your guilt; bring your pain; Don’t you know that’s not your name. You will always be much more to me.

Everyday I wrestle with the voices that keep telling me I’m not right; But that’s alright.

‘Cause I hear a voice and He calls me redeemed; when others say I’ll never be enough. And greater is the One living inside of me than he who is living in the world. In the world. In the world.

And greater is the One living inside of me Than he who is living in the world.

Bring your doubts; bring your fears; bring your hurt; bring your tears There’ll be no condemnation here. You are holy, righteous and redeemed. Every time I fall, there’ll be those who will call me a mistake; well that’s ok.

(He’s greater, He’s greater)

There’ll be days I lose the battle; grace says that doesn’t matter ‘Cause the cross already won the war.

(He’s Greater, He’s Greater)

I am learning to run freely understanding just how He sees me and it makes me love Him more and more.

He’s Greater He’s Greater

My God is greater than he who is living in the world.

Mercy Me – Greater Lyrics | MetroLyrics

YouTube video of Greater with Lyrics

YouTube video of Bart Millard Telling Story Behind Song Greater

More of the Story

The Stupendous Reality of Being in Christ Jesus by John Piper

Remembered in Her Will – A Chance to Change the Future if Not the Past

2014 July Bits 004

[ Continuation of the story from The Father I Never Knew – On Father’s Day ]

An aunt I never knew remembered my brothers and me in her will. She was my father’s older sister. When my parents divorced, I was not yet 6. My mom divorced my dad, and our understanding as children was that his family wanted nothing more to do with us. It seemed true as decades have passed without contact with them. Whatever childhood memories I had of my relatives on my dad’s side are gone.

Then through a search on the part of a cousin of my aunt Pauline, my father’s sister, we were found. This cousin and Pauline were very close, and the cousin, Mrs. Betty Anne, is actually responsible for our being remembered in our aunt’s will. Aunt Pauline had planned to leave some money to the children of one brother, and this cousin, encouraged her to remember her other brother’s children as well…even though she never knew us.

It turns out, as we heard the story from this lovely lady, that our family on my father’s side did want to know us, but didn’t know how…I will never know the details of that longing. My father made few attempts to see us after the divorce, and, I suppose, lost track of us…even though we grew up close by. My mom lived in the same house a county away for nearly 40 years, an address my father knew. All my wonderings about this will never be satisfied. My paternal grandparents, my father, and his siblings are all gone now.

However, there is hope in these situations, I am finding, and it doesn’t just happen to other people.

Mrs. Betty Anne, this dear cousin of Aunt Pauline, tracked us down.  In our visit with her, we talked about the family we shared that she knew well and we didn’t at all. She said our father was a good man. He always dressed well, and was handsome and charming. He didn’t work much (which we knew from our mom’s account), but he was a good man, she would say often.

What was bittersweet, during this long-awaited “re-acquaintance”, was how she talked about our aunt and how she had wanted to know us. She was 97 when she died this Spring, and probably wasn’t internet-search-savvy. We would have been easy to find really…but it did not happen. I regret her loss, and our own…to not know each other.

Now, weeks after this first visit, I’m continuing to learn about my other family through Mrs. Betty Anne. She’s been a kind and generous historian, sharing pictures of family and telling us stories about them. People we don’t know and yet are as close a relative to us as she is to them. It’s been both a joyful and peculiar experience.

I have two first cousins in Athens, Georgia, and am planning to write them. Hopefully they won’t think that too strange after all these years. I wonder what they knew of us…yet, without interest.  Maybe they knew nothing of us, as we didn’t them. I’d like to at least change this now.

Finally, Mrs. Betty Anne set me thinking about redeeming the future since I can’t redeem the past. Sometimes when there are issues between family members, they continue through generations, even when the issue itself has long-since-died, along with some in that family. I have that situation with an uncle and aunt on my mom’s side. As much as I believe in the rightness of forgiveness and reconciliation, it’s not been a priority for me to reach out to them. Mrs. Betty Anne, fresh from this experience with our Aunt Pauline, implored us to reach out to this aunt and uncle, as much for their sake as for ours.

I’m writing them tomorrow…maybe this time, the future can be changed.