Hello, Goodbye, Hello – This Time It’s Stella

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The packed, weighed-to-the-pound bags stand like soldiers in the pre-dawn morning. We have been the travelers or have sent off travelers more times than I can count. This time it’s Stella.2015 July Stella Going-Away Party 010 (2)

Hello. We met Stella, a Chinese student at Virginia Commonwealth University, three Novembers ago at the International Student Thanksgiving Dinner on the VCU campus. We were table hosts, among many other Americans sponsoring students for dinner that evening. She, her Japanese friend Junko, and another student from the Congo, Gloria, were our guests (and soon-to-be-friends).Football with Junko, Stella, GLoria

After that, we shared many other local (American and international) customs and events. A high school football game. Food at all sorts of Richmond restaurants. Tacky Lights Tour. Christmas. Birthdays. Sleep-Overs. Graduations.

Having lived overseas ourselves, we are so thankful for the deep friendships we’ve known in those places. We hoped to be that kind of friend to these precious girls. As always, we received back much more than we gave.

Goodbye. The three years since meeting Stella flew by, as time does. She graduated this May from VCU with an accounting degree. This summer she plowed through the exams for a CPA. I am so proud of her. This beautiful, smart girl. How hard she worked. What joy we shared over her successes! She waits now for the results on the last sections…and she says her goodbyes…for now.

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When you leave one life and return to another, there are massive amounts of details to manage. This last day of her stay in the US was, of course, such a day. I was the driver, and she ticked stuff off her list, including all the last’s of closing down an apartment and distributing stuff to saying goodbye’s to friends. Including one who’s having a baby in the next few days. Those goodbyes are hard for all of us – the just-not-quite-long-enough stays for all the hellos we want to say.

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One of our favorite places to go (Stella, Junko, Gloria, and me) was Shyndigz – an unbelievably fun and yummy dessert restaurant in town. Shyndigz with Junko, Stella, & GLoria

Stella and I celebrated her finishing up closing down life here with a visit there. Stella’s favorite is the Nutella cake, but alas it wasn’t on the menu. We managed a close-second in the chocolate salted caramel cake (shown below – blogging on Shyndigz soon).

Shyndigz chocolated salted caramel cakeShyndigz Chocolate Salted Caramel Cake – Foodspotting.com

We grabbed that piece of cake at Shyndigz 2Go, to eat later, and made one last food memory at a restaurant where she’d never been before. Cracker Barrel.

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 We didn’t eat the whole time we spent time together these three years, but we tried! Food sure has its place in friendship. That’s what Stella is looking forward to most in returning to China – the food. I remember, myself, the amazing food-with-friends experiences we had living in North Africa. Such sweet and satisfying memories.

Hello. This morning, riding east toward the airport with Stella and her bags, was beautiful. The sky came alive with the sun’s rising in deep pinks and oranges. It’s going to be a good day…even as Stella leaves us for now, and says Hello again to her family, friends, and life in China.2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (314)2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (310)We will meet again, Dear Friend. The Hellos are worth the heartache in the Goodbyes. God be with you until we meet again – either here, or there…2015 July Phone Pics - Flowers, Blog, Stella, Shyndigz, Christie 001 (316)

Postscript: “I know that You are near” – the line of song that came on when I started my car, leaving Stella and feeling sad. God is kind.

 

 

 

Worship Wednesday – Rest – The Unmistakable Presence of the Holy Spirit of God – with Bryan & Katie Torwalt

He said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14

There is nothing like the deep rest, the divine peace, that comes in the presence of the Holy Spirit of God. It is unmistakable because it is wholly unlike anything else we ever experience.

God was very present with us at the passing of our Mom – the rock of our family. Watching our friends recently walk through the Home-going of their dear wife, mother, grandmother, and friend was another picture of the drawing near of a merciful God – our shelter in that storm of life.

I’ve written before of our experience of Nathan Mills‘ Senior Guitar Concert. In preparing his pieces for the concert, he added hours of practice to an already full playing schedule. Out of that, he developed a hand injury that required him to “rest” his hands for 2 weeks prior to his concert. He still “played” in his head, as guitarists do, but he came into the concert with rested hands when practiced hands would have been better. Or so he thought.

He played so well, it was as if the hand of God Himself was on Nathan. Even as the pain broke through, he was able to come to a beautiful finish.

Afterward, in viewing some of video of the concert, there was some sort of artifact (light bouncing off the face of his guitar, or something) which appeared as a shaft of light tracing vertically down through his playing hand. Like the enabling power of God. Not intending to over-spiritualize, it was a reflection of our experience of that concert. Knowing of his pre-concert uncertainty and then the pain returning, yet watching him play and hearing that glorious sound. It was a God moment for us.

God does show up in our lives more than we allow ourselves to even imagine. Often, it is in a time of wrestling or a dark night of the soul.

An excerpt follows from the book The Sacred Romance by Brent Curtis and John Eldridge. Brent describes a crisis phone call from a counseling client, and the deep experience of God’s presence:

“Once we begin thinking of all the deceptions the enemy is about with regard to our lives, we have a tendency to become obsessed with him, fearful of what he is going to do next.  Once we take him seriously, he switches from his tactic of “I’m not here” to one of having us worry about him day and night, which is almost a form of worship.  God graciously showed me this several years ago while I was in the midst of an intense, three-year spiritual battle on behalf of a client who had spent years in the control of a satanic cult.

One night, David (not his real name) called me on the phone at three in the morning, in the midst of painful spiritual torment.  We talked and prayed and I began to read from the Psalms.  Finally, I could hear by his deep breathing that he had fallen asleep.  As I lay on my dining room floor, pondering whether to leave the phone off the hook and build up a huge phone bill or hang up and risk having the beeping of the phone-off-the-hook signal wake David, something wonderful and strange took place.

In my heart, I heard a voice say, “Brent, forget about the battle.  You’re here with me now.  Rest.”  I looked up, actually expecting to see God in some way, or perhaps an angel.  What I did see was the light in the room change.  I find myself wanting to say it grew more distinct, almost more personal.  I only know I discovered that my hand was raised in the air in worship.  I didn’t decide to raise it.  I am not, by any means, an expressive person in the charismatic sense of the word.  It was simply as if there was no other appropriate response and my hand acted accordingly.  For several minutes I basked in what I can only describe now as God’s warmth and love toward me.  The epiphany ended with me reading the Twenty-third Psalm and others it seemed the Lord had chosen to assure me that I was not alone in the battle.”

We are not alone. God’s Spirit is with us and brings us into His rest.

Worship with me with Francesca Battistelli’s singing of Holy Spirit (written by Bryan & Katie Torwalt):

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

CHORUS
Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord

There’s nothing worth more
That could ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen
Of the sweetest of loves
Where my heart becomes free
And my shame is undone
Your presence, Lord

CHORUS

Let us become more aware of Your presence
Let us experience the glory of Your goodness

CHORUS

Lyrics to Holy Spirit at K-Love – Songwriters: Bryan & Katie Torwalt

YouTube Video – Bryan & Katie Torwalt – Holy Spirit (Live @ JCEncounter 2013)

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – Holy Spirit

YouTube Video – Francesca Battistelli – Holy Spirit 

The Sacred Romance (1997) by Brent Curtis & John Eldredge

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – 12 Occasions Where We Saw God Act Mightily (Part 2)

The Sacred Romance Quotes at Goodreads.com

Notes and Quotes from The Sacred Romance

More Notes and Quotes from The Sacred Romance

My Favorite Literature – The Sacred Romance

The Sacred Romance: Quotes

Suffering

Metamorphosis – a Sacred Moment in the Monarch Butterfly Nursery – Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

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As part of a “staycation”, some new-to-Richmond friends and I spent a morning last week at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. With three daughters-in-tow, we lingered at the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit. It’s an incredible indoor “habitat” for tropical butterflies. 2015 July Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with Christie and video 0492015 July Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with Christie and video 011

 If you have the patience to be still and butterfly-friendly, the butterflies may come close to you as you come close to them.

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I’ve been several times and never tire of the marvel of these creatures. My daughter once said how curious it is with butterflies that as big as they are we are drawn to them where we would be repelled by insects of another kind, that large.

On this particular day, we saw something I had only read about in the past, and hadn’t really considered deeply until that moment. The metamorphosis of the butterfly.2015 July Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Blog, Christie, Kim 079

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One of the girls and I stood enrapt watching a caterpillar fix itself upside-down on the edge of the “Monarch nursery” (photo above, creature on right). It was a caterpillar moving and being all caterpillar-like…and then it wasn’t. I’m not really much of a naturalist. Yet, it was impossible to draw away from this seemingly sacred movement.

The caterpillar made these shuddering movements and its skin literally popped open slowly from the back of its head up its body until all that was left was the chrysalis. The skin fell off, and after a bit more shudders, the chrysalis went still. It would hang still like that for 10-14 days until the Monarch butterfly emerges.

As we stood there watching that process, literally transfixed, I couldn’t help being reminded of the Apostle Paul’s description of what happens when people become believers in Christ. He spoke from transforming experience of going from a murderous persecutor of the church to an all-out follower of Christ.

Believers may look the same on the outside – but a spiritual process occurs in the inside where we come alive, with new hearts because of Him. The wretched “old” is gone; all things have become new.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.2 Corinthians 5:17-18

monarch-and-milkweed - lewisginter org (2)Photo Credit: This one from LewisGinter.org

This was that sacred moment that day for me…in front of the Monarch Nursery, standing beside my new young friend.

Post-script: We left the Butterflies LIVE! exhibit shortly after and entered into the Garden proper to enjoy the flowers. There on one of the flower displays was a butterfly! My first thought was that it had escaped the exhibit! Sigh….2015 July Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden with Christie and video 073

Butterflies LIVE! – Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

YouTube Video – Monarch Butterfly Metamorphosis time-lapse FYV 1080 HD

YouTube Video – Butterflies Live! at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Photo Credits: Mine except the one of the Monarch Butterfly

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Jon Acuff on the Role of Hustle in Taking Hold of Career Opportunities – Notes & Quotes – Part 5 of Do Over Series

Blog - Hustle - Jon AcuffTurning that last page of a great book is both satisfying and a bit sad. Satisfying in that I have gained so much insight and empowerment in reading Jon Acuff’s Do Over. Sad in that I will miss this super-practical literary journey with Acuff. Such a great read and such a fascinating journey. Looking forward to your next project, Jon.

[Jon Acuff’s words are in italics or bold font. Enjoy.]

Jon starts his section on hustle with a quote by Jack Gilbert: “Music is in the piano only when it is played.” Writing as a not-so-musical member of a musical family, I resonate with this.

In Do Over, hustle is defined as “shorthand for ‘work hard’. Hustle is not just something we add to our Career Savings Account. It is something that multiples everything else we have in it.”

Remember Jon’s formula in Do Over:

(Relationships + Skills + Character) x Hustle = Career Savings Account

To apply hustle, you need grit, flexibility and awareness. As I plowed through Jon Acuff’s writing on hustle, it became very clear that to go after our dreams we have to let go of fear and doubt, all the “what-if’s”, and take hold of what we have to do to get us where we hope to go. It’s work. It’s doable, but we can’t go into it half-way. It takes grit.

“Fear hates hustle. Nothing enrages fear like deciding to actually work hard…Grit is being stubborn in the face of fear. Grit is believing in can when can’t is loud.” – Jon Acuff

Stephen Pressfield says, “The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.” (p. 213)

Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: nathanmillsguitar.com

Flexibility enters in when you refuse to have a narrow view of perfection or success. Instead of believing fear’s lie of “I don’t have what it takes,” flexibility gives you the courage to say, “I have what it takes to try.”

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“Fear is not the same thing as regret. Regret is a small stream that cuts a canyon into your heart slowly over time. Will you face the fear of today or the regret of forever? Will you attack your fear of failure, maybe even fail and try again?” – Jon Acuff

Make Grit Decisions.

Here is what Jon says every grit decision needs:

  • Time – we think the world “hustle” has to mean fast, but it can also mean focus, intention, pace.
  • Counsel – Lean on your relationships. Some of the worst decisions are made alone. Who are your advocates? Have you given them time to reflect on it or are you rushing right by the wisdom they have to offer? Let them speak into it. A year from now, looking back on the decision, you’ll be glad you made it as a team.
  • Questions – Always ask awesome opportunities, awesome questions. We skimp on due diligence. “What am I not seeing right now?”
  • Kindness – Give yourself permission to make the wrong decision, because…you’re going to. Break the tension of feeling like you’re going to be perfect by giving yourself some kindness from the outset.
  • Honesty – When you look back on a decision, remember that you made that decision with the best information you had at the time.

Acuff encourages the reader to build a Grit List – those things you may not want to do but you know they are the things that will get you in position to take advantage of that career opportunity (stronger relationships, sharpened skills, deeper character). For Jon, one of those things was e-mail. He reconciled the hard work of writing and responding to e-mail in a wise and timely fashion. What would be on your Grit List?

Be aware. “The first half of hustle is addition [new relationships, new skills and new character], but you don’t get to add anything to your life unless you remove something else…You’ll need to find space in your life. “

Blog - Jon Acuff on HustlePhoto Credit: acuff.me

My husband says, “Whenever you say yes to something, you have to say no to something else.” What will you say no to, to say yes to this?

In review, at some point during your career you will:

  • Hit a Career Ceiling and get stuck, requiring sharp skills to free yourself.
  • Lose a job unexpectedly, or need one upon graduating, requiring strong relationships to survive.
  • Make a Career Jump, requiring solid character to navigate the chaos that jumps always generate.
  • And finally, in the case of hustle, you will get a surprise opportunity you didn’t see coming, requiring smart hustle to make the most of it. In moments like that, you’ll need awareness to recognize what to do, grit to actually do it and flexibility to respond to the surprises.

Jon tells story after story in his section on Hustle about ordinary people who overcame their fears and doubts and worked hard to have the careers they wanted. “Every Do Over avoided because of fear fails. Hustle, grit, and flexibility is ‘crawling through a window when the door is slammed shut.'”

“Let no one be deluded that a knowledge of the path can substitute for putting one foot in front of the other.” – Mary Caroline Richards

Why not me? Why not now? Why not here?

“You really think you can do this?” You’ve probably asked yourself that question. Fear loves that question. On a walk in the woods, on a calm spring day I answered it for myself. “Apparently, I can.”

Finally Jon Acuff looks us straight in the eye, kindly, and says, “I think that can be your answer too. Do you think you can have a Do Over?

Apparently, you can.

[Buy Jon’s book, subscribe to his blog, follow him on Facebook and Twitter, listen to his podcasts. I don’t say this casually. He has won an audience by doing all the hard things he encourages the reader to do and then sharing what he’s learned for pennies when you think how much your life is worth. I’m on my own Do Over. Going for it. Thanks again, Jon.]

Blog - Do Over with Jon AcuffPhoto Credit: SmartCreativeWomen.com

My Previous Blogs on Jon Acuff’s Do Over – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 – Today’s Blog is final piece in Series

YouTube Video – Jon Acuff’s Top Tips on Hustle (in 1 Minute)

Jon Acuff Hustle Archives

Jon Acuff Starts Over

Start: Jon Acuff on Rescuing Time, Hustle, and His Book Start – Podcast

What Hustling Means, with Jon Acuff – Podcast

A Walk in the Wild – Or a Walk in the Park Very Near the Main Road

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Ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you.  Who among all these does not now that the hand of the Lord has done this? In His hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.Job 12:7-10

Sometimes, we all just need to get away. To hear quiet again; to see green and rocks and wild creatures; to refresh our senses and regain perspective. My husband was, in years past, an avid outdoorsman – fishing, hunting, hiking, biking all reset his week as a younger man. I myself can do all that inside my house, with a book, a look outside, a cup of coffee, and maybe a phone call with a friend.

This week we took a couple of days and got out of town. Not deep into the mountains. No equipment needed. Just a couple of days out the door with our sneakers on. It’s been a week of sorting through life – and our minds were tired. We have had a lot of work stuff going on and just lost a dear friend to cancer this week…clearing our heads seemed a good idea…and it was.

We walked in the woods. Sometimes by a stream. Cool beneath the trees on a hot summer day. The sun’s light pushing through in places.

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There’s a sweet mystery in hiking…even with well-marked trails, you don’t know what you’ll find exactly, at the turn ahead, around the bend. In the quiet and the green, there’s room to think.2015 July - Blog, Garden, Flowers, Massanutten, Jeannie Elliff 389Of course, I didn’t just think about God and His amazing world He’s given us to steward. I thought of deer ticks, and bears, and snakes. Hard to keep an “indoorsy” gal’s mind from hopping over those possibilities. Especially when the trail marking also pointed to which direction went nearest the local hospital. We went that way…also because, in truth, it was marked “extreme difficulty” rather than “most difficult”.

No worries. We walked a long way without any of the crittery wildness of nature imposing itself on us. In fact, the biggest danger was my own propensity for falling down – which I’ve done in major cities around the world, and sometimes on hiking trails. This was a bitty bit of our walk in the wild that day – tripping on a rock and rolling into the bushes beside the path, uninjured, thankfully. I thought of the kids who would always say, “Mom, don’t run. Mom, be careful.” It made me smile as I picked myself up out of the briars, with Dave’s help. And on we went. Glad for a walking partner and no twisted ankles.

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It was a sweet day, and a much-needed time away…a healing time.

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 The next morning, we needed to get back early. There were budget meetings and other commitments. It was all we needed this one full day…and still the Lord, in His generosity gave us this sunrise to go.2015 July - Blog, Garden, Flowers, Massanutten, Jeannie Elliff 4252015 July - Blog, Garden, Flowers, Massanutten, Jeannie Elliff 4272015 July - Blog, Garden, Flowers, Massanutten, Jeannie Elliff 430

 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? – Psalm 8:3-4

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I hope you get a walk in the wild this summer…or even a walk in the park (or backyard) near the main road. God is there to meet us, as He is with our cup of coffee and book.  It seems we sometimes stop short of worshipping God in His creation. We soak in the gift without acknowledging the Giver. This time away, processing the great gift of our friend, and the great gift of nature, gave sweet clarity…to the other of life before us.

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…all to His glory and majesty.

YouTube Video – The Majesty and Glory, by MetroSingers, Hyattsville, MD – performed at close of the Memorial Service for Jeannie Elliff, by Sherwood Baptist Church Choir

Massanutten Resort, McGaheysville, Virginia – two-day get-away we won as a prize for helping in a school fund-raiser through Papa John’s – highly recommended

Worship Wednesday – Into Marvelous Light, I’m Running – Charlie Hall

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You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.1 Peter 2:9

When we were kids, in summer, we would play until almost dark.  My brothers, our neighborhood friends, and I would own our quiet street on those summer evenings.

We would run, chase, and  evade being caught until we could almost not see in the fading light. Our moms would tell us “home before dark”, and we scattered, just in time, each to his own home.

The porch light brought us running home every time. No matter how dark it was out, we could always find home….because of that “marvelous light”.

The dark can be a scary place. We ran home gladly to escape the dark. Charlie Hall captures that run home (to God) in his song Marvelous Light. My childhood memory is nothing in comparison to  how God delivers us out of the darkness of our sin.

I resonate so deeply with the words of this song (lyrics follow). To know real shame because of hurtful choices or terrible decisions. Then to experience the forgiveness of God. To know, from His Word, that He sees us pure and lovely. It takes my breath away.

What life God gives us! To have the weight of our sin lifted off our lives through the sheer grace of God in Christ Jesus. No wonder Charlie Hall includes “arms in the air, spinning around” imagery. In the love we have as His redeemed and restored cbildren, we lose that adult self-consciousness. All that matters is His speaking into the dark, calling us into His light, and we run to Him, as His children, full of joy.

Sun through the clouds

Worship with me:

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

I once was fatherless
A stranger with no hope
Your kindness wakened me
Awakened me, from my sleep

Your love it beckons deeply
A call to come and die
By grace now I will come
And take this life, take Your life

Sin has lost its power
Death has lost its sting
From the grave You’ve risen
Victoriously

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Yeah
No more shame

My dead heart now is beating
My deepest stains now clean
Your breath fills up my lungs
Now I’m free, now I’m free

My dead heart now is beating
My deepest stains now clean
Your breath fills up my lungs
Now I’m free, now I’m free

Sin has lost its power
Death has lost its sting
From the grave You’ve risen
Victoriously

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Yeah
No more shame
No more shame

Now we show the world – Christ in you

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

It’s Christ in you

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found
Oh the marvelous light
Marvelous light

Lift my hands and spin around
See the light that I have found

Oh the marvelous light, marvelous light

whoa-oh-yeah
whoa-oh-oh

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Into marvelous light I’m running
Out of darkness, out of shame
By the cross You are the truth
You are the life, You are the way

Blog - Running into His Marvelous LightRunning on the Beach, Oualidia, Morocco

Marvelous Light Written by Charlie Hall

YouTube Video – Marvelous Light – With Lyrics – Charlie Hall

YouTube Video – Marvelous Light sung by Charlie Hall Band at Passion Conference ’05

Charlie Hall Band

Jeannie Elliff – Home Now with the GOD She Loved So Well

Blog - Jeannie Elliff

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.1 Peter 1:3-7

Dear Jeannie. A life well-lived. Finally Home.

We woke this morning to the news that our dear friend, Jeannie Elliff, went to be with the Lord during the night. Such a mix of emotions over that news. So thankful that God kept her from suffering and kept her with her Tom, surrounded by family, until that moment she went Home.

We are also so grateful to God to have known Jeannie. Since January of 1999 when we first heard them speak at a conference. It’s as if we’ve know Jeannie and Tom our whole lives…the impact they had on us, that she had on me.

It’s always been Tom & Jeannie. Jeannie & Tom. Strange to think of her not here now. Yet, she is still in all we learned in the life she lived.

Jeannie was (is) full of joy. Any conversation with her felt like a ticker tape parade as she checked on the one in front of her or spoke of how God was working in the lives of people she loved. She deeply and fiercely cared for all God brought her way. She was just the wife that Tom needed. What a blessing over these nearly 49 years of marriage (since August 20, 1966) she was to him!Blog - Jeannie Elliff 6Photo Credit: bpnews.net

She delighted in Tom, and her children, and all the grandchildren. Blog - Jeannie Elliff family portrait

She and Tom had great capacity for love…so much room in their hearts for others…and we knew that love. So grateful for that.

I only got to sit under her teaching once. Her love for the Lord and wonder at the goodness and faithfulness of His Word lit up her face as she taught. Even in the last days of her life, she soaked up God’s Word with Tom. It was a habit of her life – early in the Word and in prayer, every day.Jeannie & Tom Elliff at Christmas

Her prayers were her greatest gift to all of us. She prayed with an earnestness borne out of a deep personal faith in God. She knew Him and knew what He could do in our lives. He called her to prayer and she met Him there…for all of us.

I will miss her laughter. Her stories. Her loving playful jabs at Tom. Her wonder…at the love and mercy of God. The amazing way she never drew attention to herself, but always pointed us to God and toward each other.

Our last visit was short but wonderful. Her face, so beautiful and so full of His peace…and her readiness always to encourage another was still with her, even days before she would leave this life for the glorious Next. Jeannie…we will miss this about you so much.Blog - Grace 13Blog - Jeannie 7

She fought a good fight, she finished her course, she kept the faith.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future 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 4:6-8

For us…there is still a race to run.  For God’s glory and for those He’s placed in our lives…as Jeannie so marvelously showed the way.

Please pray with us for Tom…and the family…for all the sweet memories of Jeannie to wash over them in these days ahead…for God to be so near to them, as we know He will be.

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YouTube Video – It Is Well – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

YouTube Video – Come to Jesus (Untitled Hymn) – Chris Rice

YouTube Video – Give Me Jesus – Jeremy Camp

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine – MercyMe

How to Become a Follower of Christ

Jeannie Elliff Honored by Ministers’ Wives

My Blog on Tom & Jeannie – Need You Now

My Blog on Tom’s Dad’s HomeGoing – and the Hope for Us of Finishing Strong

Tom Elliff

Photo Credits: Jeannie Elliff & Family, and mine from our last visit

Jon Acuff on Character at Work – 9 Quotes & a Challenge – Part 4 of the Do Over Series

Blog - Jon Acuff & wife JennyPhoto Credit: Nancy Ray Photography

Who would have thought reading a business book would become a deeply personal experience? Encouraging. Empowering. Do Over has launched itself in my life. Jon (the writer) and Jenny (the wife) Acuff have become like good friends, in a virtual book-driven way. He’s clearly a funny, risk-taking, keen observer of people in the workplace.  She, on the other hand, seems to both hold his feet to the ground and spur him on to what’s next. I’m pretty certain that Jon’s “do over” has Jenny written all over it. Thank you, Jenny.

When he talks about character (in the section of the book I’m covering today), he compares it to planting fruit trees. Character takes time to grow. Its fruit is worth the work and the wait.

As in previous blogs in this series, Jon will do most of the talking.

9 quotes follow. Also an exercise and a closing challenge. I hope you read the book. It is seriously, or not so much seriously, like grappling with a friend about a deep longing for career. Then receiving the best. advice. ever. Jon’s cool, and all…but his own fight for humility and honesty and his own fears and failures give him a platform. A platform to talk into my life and into the lives of those I love the most – my husband and my adult children. Thank you, Jon.

So here’s a bit of what he says about character and its impact on us in the workplace…especially in considering a Career Jump.Blog - Do Over

“Relationships get you the first gig. Skills get you the second. Character is the reason that people will still want to give you another chance if the first opportunity fails. Character is the mortar between all the other parts [relationships, skills, hustle] of the Career Savings Account. It’s what holds the other things together. “

“Character is also what you need the most when you make a positive, voluntary career transition, or what we’re calling a “Career Jump.” You need it the most then because it will be tested the most when you ‘just go for it’ or ‘chase a dream’.”

“When you make a [career] jump, you will be tempted to cut corners, to quit when the going gets tough and lose your patience when the results you expected don’t immediately happen. It is your character that will push you forward.”

Exercise: This time we don’t use note cards, but a notebook would be handy. Jon asks the question: What’s one character trait, related to your career, that you’d like to grow stronger? That’s where we start. You might still want a friend’s help in this. None of us are perfect, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. Just pick one to start.

As part of this exercise, consider those weeds in the workplace that could choke out that character trait you’re planting and nurturing. Jon lists four especially nasty (and all too common) ones:

  • Narcissism – our focus is all on ourselves. Weighing every decision and process in your workplace as it relates to you.
  • Dishonesty – Covering a mistake, embellishing our performance, gossiping, outright lying.
  • Pessimism – That negative cup-half-empty (or even broken) take on how things are going at work. It’s not just a weed in your own orchard but it can seed clouds over your coworkers’ view of work. Pessimism can rob you of the ability to brainstorm and to dream (“two activities that require the optimism of creativity”).
  • Apathy – you’ve gotten to the place you just don’t care anymore. What was once being passive now becomes deeply defiant. Partnered with pessimism, you convince yourself that you don’t have what it takes to do a Career Jump. A dry and dogged inertia can set in, crippling your ability to orchestrate a Career Jump.

Acuff focuses on 3 character traits in particular to grow in your Career Savings Account: Generosity, Empathy, & Being Present.

Generosity is a game-changer. During a Career Jump give generously as a way to beat back the weed of greed. Greed will end up costing you a lot more than you think. Make your definition of generosity bigger by being generous with your skills and time, not just your money.”

Empathy = Understanding someone else’s needs and acting on them. Generosity and empathy are closely intertwined; they go hand in hand. The stronger you get in one, the stronger you’ll get in the other.”

“The simplest thing you can do to be empathetic [is to] show up.”

“If you really want to reinvent your work and get ahead, there are three things you need to deal with – your phone, your computer and your meetings. Be present.”

[You hear this a lot these days – how distracting are our phones and other electronic devices, and how our shortened attention spans have impaired us related to deep thinking and creative, out-of-the-box dreaming and decision-making. The ones who deal with these will be the outliers – the leaders in the fields of our future. It’s laid out there – now for us to take our lives back.]

“You need character the most when you decide to chase a dream. “

“The moment you decide to make any sort of change in your career, you send other areas of your life into chaos. The bigger the change, the bigger the chaos. Wherever you jump, your character jumps with you.”

Challenge: “Is living with the chaos of a decision easy? Not really, but you do get used to it. I try to create [chaos] sometimes as a way to hide from something else I’m afraid of. I’ve discovered that’s a lightning-fast way to drain a Career Savings Account. When real chaos comes…don’t fight it. If anything, lean into it. ‘Easy’ and ‘adventure’ very rarely travel together.”

These Four Character Flaws Can Kill Your Career – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff – Character Archives

The Awesome Career Audit – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff Quotes by Goodreads (different from ones above)

Why I Hate Jon Acuff by Rob Shep

Do Over – Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck – by Jon Acuff – Notes (Part 1)

Courage – Putting Off Cynicism and Giving Up Control

Blog - Courage from bpnews.net photosPhoto Credit: bpnews.net

Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you! – Deuteronomy 31:6

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me? – Psalm 56:3-4

Couragethe strength of mind to carry on in spite of danger or difficulty; old French meaning: “from the heart

Courage comes with time or necessity. When I was a child, Chicken Little (from the children’s story Henny Penny) could have been my modus operandi in dealing with life. The world seemed a scary place. If there was any way I could control it, I would (people-pleasing, saying what I thought people wanted to hear instead of the truth sometimes, circling up with friends who preferred me). Me, me, I, I. Being afraid centers on self…it keeps truth out and generates a “reality” that keeps walls up. To break out of that, courage was a necessity. With time and growing up, the world become smaller (and God bigger), and courage was born.

In my twenties, I read a little book shared with a me by a brave friend who had herself broken out of her own self-imposed walls. The book was Hannah Hunnard’s Hinds’ Feet on High Places*. The heroine was called Much Afraid. It is an allegory of a Christ-followers who struggled with fear and yet desired to know God in the high mountains of joy. The book tells a story of how she lost her fear over her journey of faith and devotion.

Courage comes with focus, focusing up and out. It won’t come with focusing on self and being in control. It comes with turning our focus on God and others. Simple as that. If we want to control our situation, we can rein in our circumstances and relationships such that we are not threatened. Occasionally someone or something may break through our fortress, but with determination, we can quickly rebuild. Circling tightly around our own selves, and only those people and things that matter most to us. Trumping any reality we choose to ignore or avoid. Or so we think…Blog - Courage 2 from bpnews.net photosPhoto Credit: bpnews.net

Courage takes risks and lets go of control. As I got older, I realized that life is so much more precious than the bits that I try to control. A long time ago, a little saying, “Let go, and let God” settled into the hard drive of my mind. I don’t always surrender myself to fullness of life and depth of relationship that God has for us…but when I do…well, worth the risk. Worth giving up my paltry control. Worth it.

Courage keeps me from cynicism. Paul Coughlin said it best: “Cynicism drains our lives of hope, optimism and creativity—raw material that help build our foundation of courage. Men are especially seduced by cynicism’s ability to look like you are on the playing field of life, committing deeds that are useful and powerful. But in reality the cynic is comfortably anchored on the cushy sidelines of life, lifting no burdens, creating no light & being no salt. This ability to always see the worst in people and situations is often a hiding place for fear, timidity and indifference. It allows us to be invulnerable observers rather than participants at risk and of sacrifice. Worse, the cynic often justifies his lack of redemptive and courageous action. Ultimately, cynicism is the language of self-preservation, which drains us of courage and shrivels our souls.”**

Take courage, Dear Ones. Leave off cynicism. Give up control. See what God will do when you show up, ready (in Him) for whatever comes your way today.

Blog - Courage 4 from bpnews.netPhoto Credit: bpnews.net

What Does the Bible Say About Courage?

Bible Verses About Courage

*Hinds’ Feet on High Places Quotes

** What Drains Us of Courageous Faith?

YouTube Video – Courageous – final scene

Blog - Courage 6 - film CourageousPhoto Credit: CourageoustheMovie

 

Worship Wednesday – Breathing In Your Grace, Breathing Out Your Praise – Your Grace Finds Me by Matt Redman

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But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). – Ephesians 2:4-5

He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. – 2 Timothy 1:9

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.2 Corinthians 12:9

“Grace means undeserved kindness. It is the gift of God to man the moment he sees he is unworthy of God’s favor.”Dwight L. Moody*

The fact of God’s grace overwhelms me this morning. A friend is in the hospital in labor, a month early, preparing to give birth to her baby girl. Another dear one is daily receiving friends to lavish her with love in her battle with a raging recurrent cancer. Family members come to mind who have landed their dream job, while others endure difficult job situations, or no job at all right now. I watch friends celebrate long years of marriage and pray for others whose marriages are interrupted by a spouse dying or leaving.

There is grace for all of us. God’s grace. Undeserved…but full and free…His strength in our weakness.

blog - grace 5Blog - Grace 13 Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 023

I grew up in church singing hymns about grace. One we all know is Amazing Grace. Another one is Grace Greater Than Our Sin. What an incredible gift that God gives us – this grace that covers all the darkness (and illuminates all the good) in our lives and fills all the gaps between us and God. Rejoice in this last stanza of that old hymn:

“Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?” – Julia H. Johnston

Worship with me now, if you can, with the lyrics of a contemporary hymn of grace by Matt Redman:

It’s there in a newborn cry
There in the light of every sunrise
There in the shadows of this life
Your great grace

It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace
Oh, such grace

From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me
Yes, Your grace finds me

It’s there on the wedding day
There in the weeping by the gravesite
There in the very breath we breathe
Your great grace

It’s the same for the rich and poor
The same for the saint and for the sinner
Enough for this whole wide world
Your great grace
Oh, such grace

There in the darkest night of the soul
There in the sweetest songs of victory
Your grace finds me
Yes your grace finds me

Your great grace
Oh such grace
Your great grace
Oh such grace

So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
I’m breathing in Your grace
Forever I’ll be

Your grace finds me
Yes Your grace finds me

Lyrics – Writers: Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

YouTube Video – Your Grace Finds Me with lyrics by Matt Redman

YouTube Video – Your Grace Finds Me (Life from Lift – A Worship Leader Collective

Story Behind the Song Your Grace Finds Me

Photo Credit:  Matt Redman

Grace Quotes – Precious Grace

Top 12 Quotes on Grace

*8 Enlightening Quotes on God’s Grace

17 Awesome Christian Quotes About Grace

Clear Winter Nights – an Interview with Author Trevin Wax

A Dispenser of Grace by John Ortberg

Grace Greater Than Our Sin (Grace, Grace, God’s Grace) – great old hymn

Grace Greater Than Our Sin by Bart Millard on the album Hymned AgainBlog - Grace 3