Love Your Neighbor – Cancer Support – How It’s Done Well

Blog - hospice - hero - from Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups

What does it take to provide cancer treatment and support to patients and families living with the uncertainty of that diagnosis?

  1. The best most innovative diagnostic-medical-surgical interventions possible. I worked for many years for a hospital tucked in a small town in East Tennessee. When we moved to Kingsport for Dave’s job, I left a teaching position at Yale University. You would think it would have been a big transition, but it was not as much. The reason was the Cancer Center at Holston Valley Hospital delivered excellent medical and nursing care. Over more than 2 decades, Wellmont-Holston Valley Medical Center has grown to a 590-bed facility – it’s well-known for its Cardiovascular service, Lung Center, and Cancer Center. It is also a Level 1 Trauma Center. In a small town in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, such a medical center gives confidence to families that their loved ones are getting exactly the care they need.
  2. Patient- and Family-Centered Support Services. Not long after arriving at Holston Valley, I was tasked with developing such a program (the philosophy was already there, but it needed to be made more comprehensive). With the help of the medical, nursing, and allied help staff, and with the support of family members previously touched by cancer, we launched the I Can Cope support group. We quickly observed that words mean things, and that cancer is not an “I” experience. It is “we”. We changed the name to Take Time…to Help, to Heal. Blog - Hospice - Take Time Cancer Support GroupBlog _ Take Time - 1994 or 5 - Kathy & DebbieOur focus was supporting patients and families through the whole spectrum of their cancer experience – from diagnosis to health (whether long-term or as fulfilling and comfortable end-of-life experience as possible). When we left Kingsport to take an overseas job, Kathryn Visneski, my partner for many years in the Cancer Center, took the lead in continuing the support work. The name of the support groups was changed to Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups (reflecting a broader multiple group  approach with strong community affiliation ).  Kathy has kept true the mission of cancer support at HVMC over all these years. Jane Martin, an art therapist, and many others have come alongside Kathy to make this service truly outstanding. Cancer support services require people; equipping and mentoring patients and families to support each other extends the helping hands a Cancer Center has to offer.Blog - Take Time - Survive & Thrive - Kathy V and FriendBlog - Take Time - RainbowBlog - Take Time - Cancer Support - 25th AnniversaryBlog - Take Time - Cancer Support FolksBlog - Take Time - Cancer Support Love
  3. Community Engagement and Support – Cancer affects families and communities. To have community agencies pull together to stand with and empower patients/survivors and families does a truly remarkable thing – it pulls the cancer experience out of the dark and normalizes it in such a way that debilitating fear is diminished. That is huge in the fight against cancer. Hope thrives as it should.Blog - Take Time - SurvivorBlog - Take Time - Race for the CureBlog - Take Time - Walking for the Cure

It’s surprising to see the lack of such cancer support services in much larger medical communities. They are costly, but the cost-effectiveness of such programming is measured in so much more than dollars.

Do you have ongoing cancer support services available where you live should you or a loved one need them? Sometimes it just takes a handful of people to start them, either as part of a cancer center or other community agency. Then, with growing awareness and support,  they can take off. It’s been over 25 years that Survive and Thrive (aka Take Time…to Help to Heal) has touched lives in Kingsport, Tennessee. It can happen where you are…for the good of so many. If you have had such an experience, please tell us about it and what difference it made.

Blog - Take Time - 2012 25th anniversary - Barbara & TerryBarbara & Terry Kindle – Long-term Cancer Survivors & Supporters of Others Through Survive & Thrive

Blog - take Time - cure

Post-Script: Just an example of how community works together to support cancer patients/survivors and their families is exhibited in picture below. School children colored pictures for our support groups which were used on “Christmas Blessings” folders, filled with encouragement from the patients/families themselves. The support group programs through the years demonstrates the wide range of subjects and those facilitating learning, across specialties and beyond the medical community. What a journey it was for me to be a part and to still be in communication with Kathryn Visneski to see continuing cancer support in Kingsport and beyond.Blog - Take Time - Survive & Thrive

For 25 Years, Cancer Support Group at Holston Valley Has Provided A Valuable Resource For Survivors

Blog - Take Time - Cancer Support Family

Photo Credits: Survive and Thrive Cancer Support Groups, Holston Valley Medical Center, Kingsport, Tennessee (except for a few personal pics)

Worship Wednesday – That Was Then, This Is Now – Josh Wilson’s Song of Jubilation

Blog - Josh Wilson - That Was Then 2Photo Credit: 95.1 SHINE FM

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.2 Corinthians 5:17

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.Ezekiel 36:26

Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. – Isaiah 43:18

To be truly forgiven is like no other experience. To know you have wronged someone and that person doesn’t just minimize it, repress it, or sweep it under some proverbial rug…but truly forgives you. To be the recipient of such complete, grace-filled forgiveness transforms a person.

God transforms us through taking all our wrongs against Him and, through His Son and by the Holy Spirit, He makes us right. Transformed into children of the One True God. We are no longer the same persons, even, that we were then. Not now, and not anymore.Blog - Josh Wilson - That Was ThenPhoto Credit: Pinterest

Do we struggle with sin still? Yes. While we live, we struggle, but with a heart and mind changed by a loving, righteous, all-wise God. We don’t live in perfection (yet) but we live in the strength of the Lord.

Thank God we never have to go back to the way it used to be.

Josh Wilson wrote a song that describes this so well – the then and the now. Worship and celebrate with me, singing or meditating on his song. Hmmm…this is more a song of jubilation than contemplation…so sing it out, if you know that forgiveness. If not, it’s still available to you. God draws us to Himself…hear His voice.

We used to hide from the light
We made friends with the night
We were headed the wrong way on a one way track
Going nowhere fast

We got used to the dark
We thought this is who we are
And we figured that we were just too far gone
But we were wrong

‘Cause love came running like a river
And we got washed in the water
Then He said you’re forgiven
Your sins are gone

That was then, this is now
You’re bought by the blood, saved by the Son the saints all sing about
That was lost, this is found
And it’s time to say goodbye to the old you now

So go ahead, put the past in the past
Box it up like an old photograph
You don’t have to go back
‘Cause that was then and this is now

We’ve been remade by grace
We’ve all got new names
And nothing we do could ever change
What He did that day

When love came running like a river
We got washed in the water
Then He said you’re forgiven
And you belong

That was then, this is now
You’re bought by the blood, saved by the Son the saints all sing about
That was lost, this is found
And it’s time to say goodbye to the old you now

So go ahead, put the past in the past
Box it up like an old photograph
You don’t have to go back
‘Cause that was then

If we turn and confess every unrighteousness
He is faithful and just to forgive
Oh, so turn and confess every wrong and regret
And see what it means to live

That was then, this is now
You’re bought by the blood, saved by the Son the saints all sing about
That was lost, this is found
And it’s time to say goodbye to the old you now

So go ahead, put the past in the past
Box it up like an old photograph
You don’t have to go back
‘Cause that was then and this is now
‘Cause that was then and this is now*

*Lyrics to That Was Then, This Is Now by Josh Wilson

YouTube Video – Josh Wilson – That Was Then, This Is Now

YouTube Video – Story Behind That Was Then, This Is Now

Story Songs – New Release Today’s Review of album That Was Then, This Is Now

That Was Then, This Is Now – Audio CD – Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson Website

YouTube Video – This Is Now by Casting Crowns (Thrive CD) – following the story of the Apostle Peter

O Holy Night – a Christmas Memory Set in Casablanca, Morocco

Blog - O Holy Night - Christmas memories

As we tuck our Christmas 2015 memories away, one sweet distant memory was stirred this weekend. First, a little background of how it came to mind after many years…

We listen to Christmas music starting in October, so we delight in those radio stations that play it non-stop from Thanksgiving through December 25. My favorite radio station (Positive Hits PERS)  continues, this week, to intersperse their playlist with Christmas songs…maybe until the New Year, and I am grateful.

Because of all that playtime, it was in the car, on Sunday, that I heard Mariah Carey sing O Holy Night. Blog - O Holy Night - TwitterPhoto Credit: Maxwell on Twitter

Then the memory flooded in…with so much joy… of another singing of O Holy Night. It was during the month of Ramadan over 10 years ago, in Morocco. That year Ramadan fell during November/December. One of the delights of Ramadan for us expats  (who were foreigners to its observance) was an international merchandise fair held every night. Blog - Ramadan Fair - MoroccoPhoto Credit: The Daily Beast

That year we went to the Ramadan Fair for Christmas presents. The fair is held in a massive exhibition hall, and the aisles are filled with imported and specialty goods of all sorts – specialty foods and other edible treats, clothing, toys, and décor. My friend, Terri, and I drove to the center of Casablanca one evening when the fair opened, after the breaking of the Ramadan fast. Our three teenaged daughters were with us.

It was a festive, funky time. We spoke Arabic to those vendors who spoke Arabic, and English to the Chinese, Pakistani, and Indian vendors, and broken French to the Senegalese vendors. It was a great night of shopping as we carried bags of treasures back to our car in the packed parking lot.

On the ride home, we sang Christmas carols. These family friends are known for their incredible vocal abilities. Terri and her daughters, Stephanie and Vanessa, are masters at 3-part harmony. My daughter Christie and I could at least blend in well enough.

We drove through the city, on that mild winter evening, singing our hearts out for Christmas. Pulling in front of their house, we were just starting O Holy Night. I don’t think we give it a thought as to who might be listening and wondering at that car loaded with women filling the night with that glorious song.

When we finished the song, we didn’t speak at first, silenced by the magic of that moment. To be so far from our homes and traditions in the US, and yet to find that place of sweet community. In a dark car, on a Ramadan night, in Casablanca…for us, a tiny group of American friends – it truly was a holy night.

Blog - O Holy Night - Christmas MemorySteph, Nessa, and Terri holding Christie (with brother Jared’s help)

2006 June -- Plant fam #3 fullsizeThat Family – All I Want For Christmas Is YouChristie, Steph, NessaHigh School Buddies

Maroc Mama website – for a taste of Morocco

Monday Morning Moment – Last Monday of 2015 – Begin Again

Blog - Mondays with Garfield - Jim DavisPhoto Credit: Garfieldh8sMondays

Here we are on the last Monday of 2015. The last Monday of the year. For some of us, there’s a collective deep sigh! We made it through this year of tough Mondays. Celebrating…quietly.

Over coffee this morning, we talked about the huge build-up to Christmas, and how today, in comparison, is almost a let-down. I don’t feel that way at all. On the Monday after Christmas, I feel satisfied and hopeful. Christmas was wonderful…even with the heart hurt of not having all our children with us and my dad states away in assisted living. Hard things are always strewn across even the best of holidays.

We rejoice in what was good and hope for what can be in the year ahead.

That’s how I also feel about this last Monday of the year. We didn’t deal with a terrifying diagnosis but we have friends who did. We didn’t have to grieve the loss of a family member but we grieve still the great loss of dear friends this year. We went through extraordinary change (in work and community) but thankfully kept those relationships. We did not suffer joblessness and do not take for granted the great blessing of gratifying work.

Work this year was oddly harder than any year I can remember. Some situations in life we expect to be hard – like the adjustments we made living cross-culturally, and like the year my mom died. This year was an unexpected hard.

In a season of chronic financial leanness and a year of organizational change, including planned and necessary downsizing, we still have a job. Months of “just keep doing what you’ve been doing” may now be winding down to make way for new direction and engagement. We breathe deeply the air of new possibilities in the days ahead.

Although there is nothing innately powerful in a last Monday of the year or the coming first Monday of 2016, the idea of a fresh start energizes us with hope and anticipation. This ending and beginning do stir our hearts and minds to begin again…

In 1970, a film was released entitled Scrooge. It was a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The old curmudgeon Scrooge was very well-played by a 30-something Albert Finney. As I look to this Monday and the next, his song “Begin Again” came to mind. If you have never seen it, watch the YouTube clip:

In thinking of finishing out this year at work, and looking to 2016, I hope you also can celebrate whatever victories and mercies you experienced this year. In looking to 2016, I pray you have anticipation of what comes. If you’ve had a hard year, too, then you are even more equipped to take hold of whatever comes.

Scrooge, in his song above, thanked “the world” (1:42) that he was able to begin again. Odd line really. I thank God for another opportunity to begin again – this day and all the days given to us ahead.

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:18-19

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”Psalm 34:8

Scrooge (1970) with Albert Finney – available on

YouTube Video – Scrooge with Albert Finney (1970)

Monday Morning Quarterback – What a Sunday of Football!

Friday Faves – Christmas Town, Guitar Website, Girls Who Make Cookies, Christmas List for Christian Leaders, and Quiet

Blog - Friday Faves

[Friday Faves comes to you on Saturday this week, because Christmas came on Friday. It is its own favorite day of the year.]

Happy Weekend after Christmas. My sister-in-law has already taken her tree down. For me, I draw out Christmas as long as I can without being too weird. Like with birthdays, there’s enough to celebrate to span several days, weeks or even a month. This week’s Friday Faves are colored by this. Enjoy…and please comment on some of your own favorite finds or times from this week.

  1. Christmas Town at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, Virginia – thanks to very good friends, we visit Christmas Town as their guests every year. Such a delightful experience – with different light displays in each “country” of Busch Gardens, accompanying music that fits that country, and shows. The food is incredible as well. This year it was very cold but we bundled up our Little Miss and took in the feast of sights, sounds, tastes, and fragrances. If you are in the area, it is a lovely Christmas tradition. You may have your own “equivalent”. I hope so. If so, what is it?2015 December - Christmas Town, Christmas, Family, Sadie, Blog 001 (183)2015 December - Christmas Town, Christmas, Family, Sadie, Blog 001 (128)2015 December - Christmas Town, Christmas, Family, Sadie, Blog 001 (161)2015 December - Christmas Town, Christmas, Family, Sadie, Blog 001 (155)2015 Dec - Christmas parties, Christmas Town, Sadie 1212015 December - Christmas Town, Christmas, Family, Sadie, Blog 001 (35)

2) Guitar Website – I wrote earlier this week about the launch of a new website. Nathan Mills is a classical guitarist who loves to teach and appreciates the classical repertoire for guitar. BLog - Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

He also envisions how more popular music can be rendered on the classical guitar. On his website Beyond the Guitar, he will be showcasing different pieces of music that we enjoy today – with arrangements, lessons, and mentoring to bring some of our favorite songs into the beautiful realm of the classical guitar.

Forgive me if I come across as a proud mom of this guitarist. I don’t want to be annoying, but I sure don’t want to miss an opportunity to point blog buddies to a new and lovely thing. Here is his Christmas present to us all.

3) Girls Who Make Christmas Cookies – Many of us woke this morning out of a “carb coma” from all the good food off our Christmas Day tables. I don’t make Christmas cookies but I’m glad for those who do. So hats off to you, mostly women, I’m thinking (but I could be wrong) – Christmas cookie makers. May the platter continue to be replenished until New Year’s Day…when we have to reverse the excesses of our Christmas holidays. I have some of those cookies in the freezer for 2016…Blog - Christmas Cookies - Heather TeaterPhoto Credit: Rhonda Denton Teater

4) Christmas List for Christian Leaders  – There’s a lull right now in your schedule, I’m hoping – you pastor/teacher guys. The Advent sermon series is done and the candlelight Christmas Eve service is a sweet memory. Hopefully you have whatever your heart desires over this Christmas season. We never know how to gift you leaders who we depend on through the year. Chuck Lawless gives some great ideas. Here is his Christmas List for you.  2015 December - Charlie Brown Christmas, Retirement Celebration 031Photo Credit: Charlie Brown Christmas

5) Quiet7 Ways to a Quiet Christmas – I’ll miss the Hallmark Christmas movies…and all the Christmas worship…but there’s still family time, napping in front of the fireplace…shopping all behind us. This day of Christmas…this day after Christmas, for us, is a quiet benediction. My hope for you is that quiet…that time to gather in all the best memories and sweet meaning of Christmas and store them deeply in your heart. Shhh…hear the quiet? It’s there.Blog - Quiet ChristmasPhoto Credit:

King’s College Choir – Christmas Carols 24 dec 2011

1 Hour of Christmas Music | Instrumental Christmas Songs Playlist | Piano, Violin & Orchestra

8 HOURS ✰ CHRISTMAS MUSIC Instrumental ✰ Christmas Songs Playlist ✰ Peaceful Piano Medley Carols

Wookie CookiesPhoto Credit: Hanan & KIm Hussein, “Wookie Cookies”

What is Christmas? Immanuel…God with Us

immanuelPhoto Credit: New Destiny Denver

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us'”. – Matthew 1:23

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them.” – Revelation 21:3

Everything else pales…

“What is Christmas…without Christ?”

“This is Christmas…because of Christ!”

What is Christmas? It’s not December 25…or even January 7 (for our Orthodox/Coptic brothers and sisters). Christmas is God with us. It is His gift of Himself to us…to each one of us, if we will but receive Him…each one of us, from every nation, tribe, people, and tongue (Revelation 7:9).

God with us. The Messiah has come.2015 December - Christmas Town, Christmas, Family, Sadie, Blog 001 (155)

God with us.

We receive You, God. Come, Lord Jesus. We celebrate Your coming in that manger and we await Your coming again.

As Christmas Day dawns wherever you are, we worship God, across languages and cultures. How great is our God to come to us and to be with us always! Words fail…

The splendor of a king
Clothed in majesty
Let all the earth rejoice
All the earth rejoice

He wraps Himself in light,
And darkness tries to hide
And trembles at His voice
Trembles at His voice

How great is our God
Sing with me
How great is our God
And all will see
How great, how great is our God

Age to age He stands
And time is in His hands
Beginning and the end
Beginning and the end

The Godhead Three in One
Father, Spirit, Son
Lion and the Lamb
Lion and the Lamb

How great is our God
Sing with me
How great is our God
And all will see
How great, how great is our God

Name above all names
Worthy of all praise
My heart will sing
How great is our God

Name above all names
You are worthy of all praise
And my heart will sing
How great is our God

How great is our God
Sing with me
How great is our God
And all will see
How great, how great is our God*

*YouTube Video – How Great Is Our God – Lyric Video

Immanuel by John Lynch – Mundane Faithfulness Continue reading What is Christmas? Immanuel…God with Us

Transcendent Condescension – What Is That and Is It a Good Thing? Oh, Absolutely!

Blog - Condescension - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery - thegospelcoalition.orgPhoto Credit: The Gospel Coalition

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.Philippians 2:5-8

There are words, it seems, we can’t use any more in polite company – words that have changed as culture changes and have been altered, perverted, in the common language. I have happened on such words by using them and then being gently corrected by my 20-something-young friends. “That word doesn’t mean what you think anymore.”

Condescension seems to be one of those words. In today’s usage, it  has come to mean “an attitude of patronizing superiority; disdain”. Merriam-Webster has retained some of the fuller meaning of the word: voluntary descent from one’s rank or dignity in relations with an inferior.

Our most recent Advent service at Movement Church focused on the transcendent condescension of God. Pastor Cliff spoke on it and our worship team led us in singing Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery (lyrics follow below). As we were catching up with visiting friends and their young adult children, we had this lively conversation on whether referring to God as condescending was correct or not.

Oh yes…in the fullest sense of that word!

Hang in there with me as I take you through a quick study of the word…with the help of others much smarter than I am.

“God is condescending.

It’s true. However, the problem is not that God is condescending, but that most people have no idea what condescending really means, nor why it should be a good thing that God has such an attitude.

If you were paying attention during high school English class, you know that there are actually two definitions for every word. One is the denotation, which is what the word actually means. The other is the connotation, which is the way the word is usually used in popular conversation. Condescension has a pretty bad connotation; it’s usually used to refer to someone who thinks they’re better than you are, and talks down to you as if coming down to your level is a major chore for them.

The denotation, however, is quite different. The word itself merely means “to come down [descend] together.” The prefix “con-” means “together with.”

If you split the word up and look at its parts, “to descend with,” you actually get a pretty good idea of what God’s interaction with humanity is all about. While it might be offensive for me to act as if I was in any way superior to my fellow humans, it would be silly for God to pretend that he was not superior to us in every single way. Descending to our level is the only way he could possibly have a relationship with us at all. There is certainly no way that we humans, imperfect as we are, could otherwise ascend to his level. Unless God comes down to our level, we’re stuck with this gigantic gap between God’s holy perfection and our miserable imperfection.” – Jim Barringer

“Christ did not receive us because we were perfect, because he could see no fault in us, or because he hoped to gain somewhat at our hands. Ah, no! But, in loving condescension covering our faults, and seeking our good, he welcomed us to his heart; so, in the same way, and with the same purpose, let us receive one another.” – Charles Spurgeon

“There do meet in Jesus Christ, infinite highness, and infinite condescension.”Jonathan Edwards

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

Condescension, when applied to Redeemer God, is a word that must be reclaimed from the common vernacular of this culture. God, in sending His son, did not just descend. He condescended…He came down to be with us. He came as close as it was possible for a holy God to come to His people…bridging the great gap we could not bridge in our own helpless estate. He came down to be with us.

“To think that everyone was going about their own business, like today, and that in less than 24 hours, Jesus would have been born. In a place, not His family’s own. Among animals and strangers. To a young couple on a journey. No family around. That God broke through to say He loved us enough to CHOOSE to step out of His place of perfection into our deprived, poverty-stricken, self-absorbed places. As a Babe. On a mission. Born to die. So we might live. WOW… tomorrow. And the world didn’t have a clue.” – Stephanie Zimmerman Kuhn

Thank You, God, for your glorious transcendent condescension. We are forever changed.

Blog - Worship Wednesday - Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery 2

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Come behold the wondrous mystery in the dawning of the King,
He, the theme of heaven’s praises, robed in frail humanity.
In our longing, in our darkness, now the light of life has come;
Look to Christ, who condescended, took on flesh to ransom us.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: He the perfect Son of Man,
In His living, in His suffering, never trace nor stain of sin
See the true and better Adam come to save the hell-bound man,
Christ, the great and sure fulfillment of the law, in Him we stand.

Come behold the wondrous mystery: Christ the Lord upon the tree;
In the stead of ruined sinners hangs the Lamb in victory.
See the price of our redemption; see the Father’s plan unfold,
Bringing many sons to glory, grace unmeasured, love untold!

Come behold the wondrous mystery: slain by death, the God of life;
But no grave could e’er restrain Him, praise the Lord, He is alive!
What a foretaste of deliverance; how unwavering our hope:
Christ in power resurrected, as we will be when he comes.*

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery by Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, and Matt Papa

God Condescends – Charles Spurgeon

Jonathan Edwards: The Infinite Highness and Condescension of Christ

God Is Condescending by Jim Barringer

Messiah, the Condescension of God Transcendent

The Condescension of our Transcendent God by Lee Tankersley

The Condescending God?

Does Condescend-Condescension Always Have a Negative Connotation?

Lady Catherine’s Condescension

*Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery: Hymn Wednesday

“In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us”*

Worship Wednesday – Sometimes Christmas Makes Me Cry

Blog - Mom's funeral“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”Matthew 5:4

It’s been 13 Christmases since my mom died. With all the joy that’s wrapped up in the great gift of being her daughter, there is that mix of sadness, especially at Christmas. I miss her still. After 13 years.

This Christmas, we have a new granddaughter. What a gift again is this little one. I knew it would be so from all around me with grandchildren…and I knew it first because of the deep joy her grandchildren brought to Mom.

When we boarded a plane, 20 years ago, taking 3 of those grandchildren overseas, there were tears all around. We would miss so many Christmases together. Joy and sadness are a strange mixture but a deeply human, common experience. Common to us all.

As we celebrate the wonder of Christmas – the birth of the Messiah, the Savior – we know penetrating joy, infusing and informing all else in our lives. Entangled in that joy are the sorrows – the family we won’t have with us this year, the disappointments we never imagined, the loves in our life fighting to live to another Christmas.

So many stories we bring to the table with us. So many longings are unwrapped along with the gifts under the tree. There is an unspeakable silence in the Silent Night of Christmas… Both the joy of celebrating the coming of Christ and the ache of dealing with what is not yet.

As we prepare our hearts for Christmas, we must be gentle with ourselves and each other in the sorrow and the joy… We are all together in this very human in-between.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

“We try so hard to fight for our joy, don’t we? …But underneath, many of us still carry wounds ripped open by the reminders of relationships and situations that are no longer. And it hurts. And it’s hard. And we’re not sure what to do with it all. But while it can try its best to turn those beautiful gifts into bitter reminders of what’s missing, the sadness can’t compete when we remember that today is full. Full of pain, yes – sometimes. But also full of blessings and joy and things both big and small that God has given us to remind us of His love and faithfulness.” – Mary Carver

Blog - When Christmas is Hard - Holley Gerth - 90.5 PERPhoto Credit: Positive Hits PER

Singer/songwriters Mandisa and Matthew West collaborated on the song Christmas Makes Me Cry. It’s not a worship song but more a narrative on our lives. Still, it takes us to the God of all comfort.

Worship with me as we pause a moment in this celebration of Christmas and reflect on the side of it that brings tears, either on the inside…or out…tears of joy or tears of sorrow.

I think of loved ones who’ve passed away
And I pray they’re resting in a better place
I think of memories of years gone by
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of soldiers across the sea
Sometimes I wonder why it’s them instead of me
But for my freedom they give their lives
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of family, I think of home
And say a prayer for those who spend this time alone
‘Cause love can reach out into a silent night
And that’s why Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of Mary and the virgin birth
And I’m amazed by how much God thinks we are worth
That He would send His only Son to die
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness and tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas because I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me
Oh, sometimes Christmas makes me
Christmas makes me cry
Christmas makes me cry *

YouTube Video – Christmas Makes Me Cry – With Lyrics

*Lyrics to Christmas Makes Me Cry by Mandisa and Matthew West

When the Holidays Make You Sad

Jason & ChristmasMundane Faithfulness Podcast with Blythe Hunt as Jason talks about  community-building, grief, processing loss with children, and this first Christmas without Kara.

Just Drop the Blanket by Jason Soroski

Guitarist Nathan Mills & Star Wars – A Force Awakens

Nathan & Guitar - by Ian - December 2015Photo Credit: Ian Edwards

Nathan Mills is a classical guitarist…and beyond that, he crafts music. To hear and watch him play guitar is to experience music at both an intellectual and heart level. He feels the beauty of the music and somehow interprets it to the listener…as a painter does on a canvas.

Nathan got his first guitar for his 13th birthday. As he mastered acoustic and electric guitar, he and his best buddies in high school had a garage rock band. They didn’t “make it big” as a band in their dreamed of adult music world, but they are all still in music (a story for another day).

At 17, as a Senior in high school, Nathan began classical guitar lessons, with a guitar borrowed from a friend. He studied with Marcelo de la Puebla. We lived in Casablanca, Morocco, at that time, and Marcelo flew in from Spain to teach guitar. It was an amazing opportunity for Nathan and he took full advantage of it.

When Nathan returned to the US for university studies, he continued in classical guitar  with Professor John Patykula at Virginia Commonwealth University. With only one prior year of classical guitar study, Nathan felt somewhat intimidated by his late start, but he pushed through, worked hard, and honed his craft.

Since graduating from VCU, he finished his Master’s in guitar performance at East Carolina University. Nathan, with more passion than ever before, continues to play, teach, write and arrange music.

This past weekend, the latest installment of Star Wars opened to wild anticipation. Star Wars – the Force Awakens. With that premier also comes the premier of Nathan Mills’ newest website – His love for musical expression is evident in his work. His desire for others to stretch, explore and develop their own expression of music is motivating.

It’s never too late to begin, and it’s never too early to revisit crafting your music. For sure, a creative force is awakened in Nathan Mills, and he can help you master the music you love.

I know…I’m his mom – a person who NEVER appreciated classical or instrumental music until I heard someone play it as the composer must have meant it to be played…or maybe because that musician took the music into his own heart and played it right into the heart of the listener.  That someone?

Give a listen:

Beyond the Guitar – Nathan Mills

BLog - Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen

A Christmas Letter to the Weary by Blythe Hunt – the First Christmas Without Kara

Blog - Kara Tippetts & Blythe Hunt - Christmas SadPhoto Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

Kara left us in the Spring…and we miss her. I only know her, actually, through her writing, and through that of her friends and husband…but I miss her.

Kara’s dear friend Blythe writes about the sadder, harder side of Christmas… In the midst of loneliness and longing, there is still deep hope.

Please take the time to read her Christmas Letter to the Weary.

We are not alone in this in-between.

Thank you, Blythe, for the bittersweet reminder. Thank you, Kara, for giving us close glimpses of a sustaining God in the hard of your life.

We pray for Kara’s family and friends – for ourselves and each other as we go through this Christmas of missing…thankful God continues with us in “life’s hard“.

Blog - Hospice - Kara TippettsPhoto Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

Mundane Faithfulness – Kara’s Tippetts’ Blog archived and still fresh with love from her husband, friends, and family

Blythe Hunt’s Blog –

The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard by Kara Tippetts

Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking through Suffering Together by Kara Tippetts &  Jill Lynn Buteyn

Kara Tippetts Has Finished Her Race – with Grace and Kindness and Glory to God