Worship Wednesday – Rest, the Lord is Near – Reminder by Steve Green

Blog - Holy Week Wednesday 9Photo Credit: Baptist Press

[Today I am in surgery – this from the Archives]

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.Isaiah 26:3-4

It was an early morning on the streets of Casablanca, Morocco. I was surrounded by other drivers headed for work. They were not in my thoughts – except to stay clear in the crowded intersections where merging and turning happen skillfully or magically.

My thoughts were centered on the car in front of me where two friends were heading to a hospital. The wife was prepped to have surgery that morning to see if the problem in her abdomen was cancer. I was going with them for the occasion that day that she would need extra help and a woman to stand in for her husband. It was the custom for such things there.

She was a dear friend in those overseas days – the other mother to my sons. Friends with her son, they loved eating at her guy-friendly table or taking over her salon to play video games or watch a movie. This woman was a rock in her family’s lives…and ours. As I watched her, from behind, so small, beside her husband, jostled in the crazy traffic…I prayed.

Troubled with the possibilities and prospects of a life-changing diagnosis, my mind ping-ponged all around, even in prayer. Then, a song came up in my playlist…and every other voice in my head went silent. It was this old song by Steve Green entitled Rest, The Lord Is Near. You hear people tell stories of hearing God speak to them, almost audibly. This was one of those moments for me.

After that, I knew, whatever the outcome of her surgery, that she (we) would be alright. Nothing would change in the larger story of our lives. Most importantly, in that moment, I remembered that God was the same. Loving Father, Great Physician, Tender Comforter, All-Wise God.

The surgery went very well. She would be fine. My boys still love to feast at her table…and we are still friends…although living worlds apart now. What I was reminded that day, in my car alone in Casablanca traffic, was less about healing…or answered prayer…and more about God’s call to us to rest.

Blog - Rest - Sleep - Baptist PressPhoto Credit: Baptist Press

Sometimes that rest is like the sleep of a child, safe in the care of a loving, watchful parent. Even in Steve Green’s song, he delivers it as a lullaby really. How often we just need an all-out separation from the stresses of life…either in a respite in God’s Word, or a change of place (in our garden or by a sea, any sea, for me)…or sometimes just plain sleep. They are all rest in their turn.

Sometimes the rest is more active, like it was for me that morning. I was still maneuvering through a sea of cars, still watching my friends’ car so I wouldn’t lose them, and still praying. Yet, my state of mind moved from an anxious attention to being “at ease”. The image comes to mind of the military command. It’s defined as “a position of rest in which soldiers may relax but may not leave their places”. Blog - Rest - At EasePhoto Credit: military.com

Sometimes, we can’t leave our situation, our place in the battle. We must be present. We, as believers, are “under orders” from our King. Yet, even in those daily duties, He calls us to rest. I pray today that, whatever you’re facing, you will have moments when you are able to let go and lean into the arms of almighty God…and remember He is just that near.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Romans 8:28

Worship with me:

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy his love

Trust, His mighty power
Fills every hour
Of all your days

There is no need
For needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever

Doubt His perfect word
Still reassures
In any trial

Rest the Lord is there
Lift up your prayer
For He is strong

Trust, He’ll bring release
And perfect peace
Will calm your mind

There is no need
For needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever

Doubt His perfect word
Still reassures
In any trial

Call Him, if you grow frightened
Call Him, with loving care
He’ll lift the burden and you’ll

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love

Trust His mighty power
Fills every hour
Of all your days

Rest the Lord is near
Refuse to fear
Enjoy His love*

Blog - Resting in Praise & Worship - Baptist PressPhoto Credit: Baptist Press

*Lyrics to Rest sung by Steve Green (Lyrics and Music by Phill McHugh And Greg Nelson

YouTube Video – Rest – Steve Green (official music) from Joy to the World album

YouTube Video – Jesus, I am Resting, Resting – Steve Green

YouTube Video – Trust His Heart with lyrics – Babbie Mason

YouTube Video – Like a River Glorious (Stayed Upon Jehovah, Hearts are Fully Blessed) – by Frances Ridley Havergal –  one of my favorite hymns growing up2009 April May Trip to Georgia 161IMG_0023 (2)

One More Sleep Until Surgery – Staying On This Side of the Bridge

Blog - staying on this side of the bridge - harry w. nice memorial bridge - alpsroadsPhoto Credit: AlpsRoads

Tomorrow I have surgery…a biopsy. One more sleep, and then finally (hopefully) I will know what it is that we’ve been following for six months now. Your thoughts can go all sorts of places during a time of waiting. My dear friend, Kathy, who has now been in cancer nursing longer than I comforted me with this wisdom:

“For right now, you need to stay on this side of the bridge.”

She is so right. Bridges… As helpful and beautiful as they are, bridges stir up my fears of heights and deep water. There’s this one bridge we cross going to and from visits with our family in Delaware. Located  on Hwy. 301 in Maryland, it’s named the Governor Harry Nice Memorial Bridge. The bridge itself is not so nice if you struggle with bridges. It’s steep and narrow. As you ascend, you can’t see really where it’s going.

If your imagination runs wild, you could envision cars ahead of you (and you eventually) drop right off the top into the Potomac River… Of course, once at the pinnacle of the bridge, you see, with great relief, what seems an easy downward slope of the bridge and the other side of the river…and all will be (was always going to be) well.

It’s best to stay in the moment on the ascending side of the bridge, because the “unknown” other side of the bridge wreaks havoc in our thoughts. Experience helps, of course, because the presumed “unknown” is no longer, and you can rest, knowing, you’ve been here before, and it works out fine.

For several weeks now, I have had to discipline myself to stay on this side of the bridge. Knowing God as I do, and seeing Him at work in the lives of loved ones who’ve known their own bridges, this journey is not supposed to be scary. It’s meant to be from beautiful to beautiful. God even redeems suffering…and I know that…but my thoughts betray my struggle.

How gentle God is with His children! Just hours ago, I walked out to a sun-drenched morning, and stood with my coffee looking out the kitchen window. There’s this small dedicated space over the sink which reminds me, even doing dishes, of the grander more beautiful life experience that is ours. The shamrocks Mom Julia gave me are flourishing in the sun this morning. The Blessings plaque from friend Kay reminds me to count mine. The little pile of stones are my Ebenezer – ”I raise my Ebenezer” (from 1 Samuel 7:12) – my stones of remembrance that say to my heart, “thus far the Lord has helped us.” IMG_6106

Then in my quiet time, in the reading for today, the Prophet Samuel speaks to a sinful but repentant people of God. He reminds them of the great faithfulness of God and how he will not forsake His people (1 Samuel 12), nor will Samuel stop praying for them.Blog - Samuel's blessing - surgery

How grateful I am for a faithful, faithful God…and for all those followers of His, faithful to pray. No wonder Samuel tells the people not to be afraid.

Whatever comes tomorrow, I know, from God’s Word and experience, that He will be with me…and with all those dearest to me. Whatever the outcome, we have nothing to fear. Nothing.

As this day unfolds, one sleep from surgery, my fear is dissipating, and peace is restored. I’m not saying there won’t be bumps in that experience over the next hours…but the most rock-solid object of my faith remains immovable. God has our lives in His hands, and “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Full stop.

Like Kathy advises, clearing my thoughts regularly, I “stay on this side of the bridge.” Tomorrow, I will wake up after surgery and hopefully will find out that it is “either nothing or early”. Whatever the outcome, God’s grace will be there for me…for us.

Blog - staying on this side of the bridgePhoto Credit: ParentingThatHeals

For now, I will trust God, rest in His care and the love of family and friends, and…just breathe.

*This song comes up all the time on the radio right now…probably not just for me, but it feels sweetly personal.

My prayer for you and for me today is that whatever the situation, we stay in the place where He has us, and by His grace, and the love of those He’s placed in our way, we will get to the other side…it its time.IMG_6107Postscript – that early morning coffee came with banana bread and prayer from my friend Harriet. So many graces in life.

Monday Morning Moment – Screen Time – Give It a Rest

Blog - Screentime - smart3508Photo Credit: SafeSmartSocial

Walked away from the computer at 8:00 last night…best night of sleep I’ve had in a long while.

Alex Cavoulacos, productivity expert and founder of The Muse, wrote a Fast Company piece on establishing the habit of turning off screens at 11:00pm each night. A night owl, Cavoulacos discovered, in forming this habit that she: 1) could actually do it, 2) prioritized her work better, 3) finally found time to read, and 4) slept better. “Turns out that I inadvertently stumbled upon a trigger habit: I was reading more, sleeping more, and spending more quality time with my husband. All of this led to me feeling less stressed and better prepared to start each day. All in all, a huge positive change in my life, all thanks to a single new habit.” Check out her whole article and fascinating video here.

Tanya Lewis, a science journalist, went even farther than Cavoulacos in restricting her screen time. She writes, for Business Insider, that, for one week, she avoided screen time from the time she got off work until she went to bed. That means no TV or Netflix, no checking her phone for directions or searches of other kinds, or just out of boredom, and no tablet time for any of the above. What she discovered was how hard it was and how dependent to screen time she had become. She did start reading books again during that week. She also found that when she avoided screens, getting to sleep was easier. The most fascinating thing she noted was how much more social she became without the distraction of screens.

Night time connection

Anybody remember the old days, before wi-fi and smart phones? And the cable went out because of a storm? We would actually light candles and snuggle together on the couch, play games together, be silly, and talk. Special times worth re-creating with a screen fast.

How about our health? Is there any evidence that all this screen time, especially at night, affects our health, over our lifespan? For sure. Read Power Down for Better Sleep by Heather Hatfield on WebMD. She quotes fatigue specialist, Dr. Mark Rosekind, “One of the most simple but important reasons technology affects our sleep is cognitive stimulation.” What we are watching on screens late at night revs up our brains and stirs us up physically. This stress (positive or negative) can create a flight/flight response, resulting in our body’s release of cortisol – bringing on a state of vigilance rather than the restfulness needed for sleep. Add to our body’s “high alert” status the blue light of electronics. Hatfield reports how this light passes “through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities) and delays the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.” To my sleepless, techie friends and family: it makes sense, right? Put it (screen time) to rest.

[Damon Beres in a Huffington Post piece, writes how “reading on a screen before bed might actually be killing you”. He points out the health problems that can result partly from inadequate rest (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease). He also points to blue light filters that can help if we can’t imagine avoiding screen time at night.]

What about the impact of screen time on the brain over time? Debbie Hampton wrote a fascinating, sobering piece How Staring at a Screen Changes Your Brain (For the Worse). Hampton refers the reader to the findings of Dr. Michael Merzenich, author of Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life.

“Visual activities, like staring at a screen or even driving, continually narrow our field of view to a smaller box-like zone right in front of our eyes. Our brains learn to categorize everything outside of this box as a distraction not worthy of attention and get good at filtering out anything not right in front of us. By developing sustained attention in the central view, our peripheral vision suffers, and our view of the world slowly contracts. The field of view in humans decreases as we age. Over time, a person becomes immune to noticing life’s visual surprises, and their eyes move less often. As a result of these self-induced neurological changes, our brains and bodies get conditioned not to pay attention and not to react to the unexpected.”

What does that mean for us? You have probably already seen this in action. Our attention is drawn in, fairly fixed, on our screens. We miss what is happening around us. One day I’m going to write about situational awareness – as a personal safety issue as well as a sharpening discipline to appreciate life around us. This whole addiction to screens that is prevalent today will take the rest of the world out of our view, so to speak, if we’re not careful.

For our sake (at work and home) and for our family’s sake, consider: No screen time before bed.Blog - Screentime - mugmagPhoto Credit: MugMag

Speaking of the family…our children – I will just post these quick reads about little ones (and teens) and how so much screen time affects them physically, socially, and developmentally. We fall into these habits with our children, but we can also pull ourselves, and them, out of the same.

What’s your takeaway from this? I personally want to strategically narrow the screen use in my life. Writing makes screen time an occupational hazard but I love those screens way too much outside of blogging. Thanks to Chris Bailey’s A Life of Productivity and his book about his productivity project, I have already made some changes. No Facebook on my phone, as one change. Still have a long way to go.

Bottom line: I don’t want to miss the people I love, in the flesh, and I don’t want to miss the real world…and lastly, I don’t want to miss truly experiencing God…because of this surreal, burgeoning habit of screen time. So…I will leave you for now. Well-rested, hopefully. Sweet dreams.

5 Friday Faves – Shared Workspace, Refugee Resettlement, Passion, Doing the Next Thing, and Coming Sit-Coms

Blog - Friday Faves

Finally….a sky-blue, birds singing, sunny Friday morning. We, in Richmond, have had an inordinate amount of rain this Spring…but today it’s a happy break in the weather, heading into a rainy weekend. Hope you have time outside. Here are my favorite finds of the week.

1) Shared Workspace – This is my first experience of a shared workspace NOT at my job. How refreshing to be able to hang out with other professionals, drink the coffee, and work…with the doors flung open, street sounds and smells, and occasional breaks of laughter and conversation. Movement Church offers its building as a shared workspace for the community. Friday’s, 9:00am-3:00pm. [3015 Cutshaw Ave, Richmond, Va. 23221]. The coffee’s good…and free.Blog - Movement Church - Shared WorkspaceBlog - Friday Faves - Shared Workspace

2) Refugee Resettlement – Syrian refugees are often in the news, and most everyone has opinions about how they should be resettled. My friend, Beth, is working right now with refugees in Greece, and her stories and pictures have touched my heart deeply. Our city isn’t currently on the list for resettling Syrians – these who escaped their country in war with little else but each other and no homes but a tent now. Maybe yours is a resettlement city. Either way, finding out what is available in your city for displaced peoples is a good thing. We have several such organizations in Richmond (Church World Services, International Rescue Committee, Commonwealth Catholic Charities). A smaller non-profit in the city – Reestablish – offered a volunteer training recently and I went. Wonderful way to serve, in community, the needs of new neighbors.Blog - Refugee Resource Fair - ReEstablish

3) Passion – What are you passionate about? How does it show in your life? What does it communicate to your kids? I read a blog on passion this week and it really got me thinking about those exact questions. Jerrad Lopes blogs at DadTired.  “Parents, we can spend our entire lives teaching our kids the lessons we’ve gleaned over the years. And we should. But ultimately, they will remember what we were most passionate about. Our words will be forgotten, but our lives will be remembered. ” Parenting was never something that came easy for me. This observation by Jerrad on passion is something I am cautiously taking seriously…Do my words match my actions…my enthusiasm? I sure want that honesty/transparency…especially before my children, and grandchildren.

4) Do the next thing In my twenties, writer Elisabeth Elliot was a much needed spiritual guide. I was pretty adrift for awhile in those days and her very pragmatic, mind-clearing take on God and life was what I needed to hear. Her advice for anyone struggling to know what to do in a time of difficulty, loss, or confusion was simply: “Do the next thing.” It is in the doing of that normal next thing that can help us get our bearings – whether it’s shaving, dishes, showing up to a meeting.  Elisabeth Elliot’s counsel resonated when I read Jeremy Statton ‘s article this week: What to Do When You Don’t Know What To Do by Jeremy Statton. “Do the next reasonable thing.” It seems commonsensical – until you are frozen in time, not able to think what to do next…

Blog - Elisabeth ElliotBlog - Jeremy Statton - TwitterPhoto Credit: Elisabeth Elliot, YouTube; Jeremy Statton, Twitter

5) ABC Fall 2016 Sitcoms – I don’t watch a lot of network TV, but there are two shows coming on this Fall that look very promising. They are Speechless and American Housewife. Even if they go downhill after the season starts, the trailers alone are hilarious…and touch a chord with me…if you know me you will so understand. If not…they are still funny enough to take the time to watch (unless you’re my husband…but he watched briefly anyway…because he loves me). Maybe they are only funny to women/moms…would love to know if you’re a man reading and you appreciate the situations…and their comedic elements.

OK…so there are colorful parts…but the human dilemmas of being family and imperfect are so universal…I will be watching for these.

What are your favorite finds this week? Would love to hear and learn from you. Have a great weekend with your favorite folks…if you can. Thanks for spending these few minutes with me.

Worship Wednesday – In Tenderness He Sought Me – a Lost Lamb and a Good Shepherd

Blog - Shepherd and Lamb - Worship Wednesday - Nathan GreenePhoto Credit: Nathan Greene

He told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:3-7

Have you ever known the experience of being lost? I sure have. It can be at the least annoying and at the worst, terrifying. My dad was lost for hours on the eve of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. When we lived in Cairo, Egypt, I had to fight fear of losing one of our children in the press of crowds. As a child myself, there was a life-defining moment when I understood that I was lost from God – separated from a holy God by my sin and rebellion. This I came to understand even as a nine-year-old.

Years later, as an adult in my 20’s, and living large pursuing professional success and personal gratification, I had another lonely experience of lostness. One night, after partying with friends, I was laying on my bed, wide awake. Something was troubling me (don’t remember now what it was), and I thought how I could sure use God’s help on this one. As I began to pray, it was like my words went up toward Heaven and then crashed back down, shattering into pieces. Not because I was lost from Him forever…but because I had wandered so far from Him, I was reminded of that terrible sense of being alone in the world. Alone in my sin… God had not moved from me…I had walked away from Him.

Blog - Lost Sheep - searchofkings

Photo Credit: Nathan Greene

That night, the urge to seek God’s help woke me up to the reality that I didn’t just need His help. I needed Him. Desperately. The thing I took to God was forgotten in my urgent desire to get rid of all the filth that I had allowed in my life separating me from Him. That night, God, in His supreme mercy, reminded me of what it was to be lost from Him and what it also was to be restored to Him…borne up on His shoulders and brought back into the fold of God.Blog - Sheep & Shepherd - bpnews.netPhoto Credit: BPNews

W. Spencer Walton, a businessman turned evangelist, wrote the lyrics to the song In Tenderness He Sought Me (1894). You can find the traditional song in the links below. We sang an updated version of it at Movement Church on Sunday. I wish I had a video of our worship team leading us, but the band Citizens & Saints adapted the old hymn to bless a new generation…and the updated version is also linked below.

Praise God, He seeks us lost sheep. Although He has all the flock in the fold…save one…He will seek that one. There was a time that one was me. I pray you have been found by the Shepherd…He is near.

Worship with me:

In tenderness he sought me, weary and sick with sin
And on His shoulders brought me, back to His fold again
While angels in His presence sang, until the courts of heaven rang.

Chorus: Oh, the love that sought me!
Oh, the blood that bought me!
Oh, the grace that brought me to the fold of God
Grace that brought me to the fold of God.

He died for me while I was sinning, needy and poor and blind.            He whispered to assure me: “I’ve found thee; thou art Mine”
I’ve never heard a sweeter voice; it made my aching heart rejoice.

Upon His grace I’ll daily ponder, and sing anew His praise
With all adoring wonder, His blessings I retrace
It seems as if eternal days are far too short to sing His praise.

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

In Tenderness He Sought Me – Hymn Story by Enid & Austin Bhebe – included are the original lyrics by W. Spencer Walton (published in 1894), music composed by Adoniram Gordon

YouTube Video – Citizens – In Tenderness He Sought Me – Spanish Subtitles

Citizens & Saints [formerly Citizens] – Facebook page

A Note on One Lost Lamb – [the Role of the Shepherd] – The Search of Kings Blog

Sermons from Biblehub related to the Shepherd and His Lost Sheep

YouTube Video – In Tenderness He Sought Me – Gaither Homecoming

Owls in the Neighborhood – Fascinating Facts & Children’s Books to Match

Blog - Owls - Jeanne BarneyBlow - Owls - Jeanne BarneyPhoto Credit: Jeanne Barney – Barred Owl parent above; Owlet below

Only once have I seen an owl in flight. We were visiting with neighbors on their porch one summer evening and this big bird swept across the back yard. I don’t recall the wing-span, but it was sizable and the wings powerfully swung through in flight. Then the bird disappeared in a nearby tree, and an authoritative hooting followed. Unmistakably, an owl. It was a magical moment for me.

We have other neighbors who are the happy hosts of a couple of adult barred owls and (most recently) a single owlet. I can hear them chatter at night sometimes but have never seen them except through pictures. I envy our neighbors their guests.

Here are some fascinating facts about barred owls:

  • The barred owl is also known as a hoot owl because of its distinct call.
  • This owl’s preferred habitat is old forests near a water source. It is territorial and usually non-migratory. Unless pushed out by its own predator (the great horned owl) or altered habitat, the barred owl may stay its whole life in the same area.
  • It is a raptor (a bird that preys on smaller animals for food) and a night hunter. Its daytime counterpart is the red-shouldered hawk. They share the same preferred habitat and foods. The owl will not tolerate intrusion by the hawk; fortunately for both, they rarely encounter each other.Blog - Owls - barred owls and red-shouldered hawks - daily mailPhoto Credit: Daily Mail
  • Although barred owls probably mate for life, they are only together during mating and nesting. Once the owlets are out of the nest, the owls return to a more solitary life.
  • The barred owls may be responsible for a decline in the population of spotted owls. There has been a gradual, decades-long increase in the range of habitat for the barred owls. They are most commonly found in the Eastern United States, but now are present in the Great Plains states and the Northwest. Their population has thrived in these regions, threatening the smaller, less aggressive native spotted owls. A federally funded owl removal program was initiated to bring down the barred owl population, giving spotted owls opportunity to repopulate.

Owls are intriguing creatures. They are first predators snatching up all sorts of little forest animals at night, and at the same time, they have these intelligent human-like faces that draw our attention and affection. Dirya Srinivasan is an author and illustrator who brings a tiny character to life in her books about Little Owl. Little Owl’s Night and Little Owl’s Day give us a bird’s eye view of the world as this little one might see it. Blog - Owls - Children's book primary

The night is opened up and made friendly to the reader. The day is full of wonder for Little Owl who rarely sees this bright woodland world (which is fortunate, given what I’ve learned about the red-shouldered hawk’s appetite for small creatures). We have these board books for our granddaughter, but I can see her enjoying them as she grows into a reader herself.

So that’s my introduction to you of our neighbors, the barred owl family in the woods beside our neighbors. What cohabitants teach you about the beautiful varied life we enjoy together?

Owls in Virginia

Barred Owl – All About Birds – The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Laura’s Barred Owl

Shooting Owls to Save Other Owls – by Isabelle Groc – National Geographic

Monday Morning Moment – Make Your Bed Every Morning and Be Ready to Change the World

Blog - Make Your Bed - habit formation (2)

I make the bed every morning. It’s been a habit of mine most of my life. Somehow in the middle of the chaos and clutter of my life, that made bed stands in hopeful defiance.

Admiral William H. McRaven a highly decorated Navy Seal, retired in 2014 from a 37-year military career. He oversaw Operation Neptune Spear – the military operation that culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden. In the year of his retirement, he was commencement speaker at the graduation ceremony of University of Texas – Austin. Blog - Change the World - Make Your Bed - pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest

As he encouraged the young graduates, he told of 10 lessons in his SEAL basic training. Beginning with “Make Your Bed”, they follow in brief (you can watch the video of his speech or read more detailed highlights here).

10 Life Lessons to Change Your World

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.

2. If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.

3. If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers.

4. If you want to change the world get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.

5. If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses.

6. If you want to change the world sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle head first.

7. If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.

8. If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment.

9. If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.

10. If you want to change the world don’t ever, ever ring the bell.

Steve Nguyen, Workplace Psychology

Adm. McRaven closed the commencement speech with the following challenge:

“Start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often . . . but if you take some risks, step up when the times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up….if you do these things, the next generation, and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today, and what started here will indeed have changed the world for the better.”Navy Adm. William McRaven

Commencement speeches are meant to be inspiring, and this definitely hit the mark. What actually stayed with me the most was the formation of habits as key to changing the world – making your bed, building community, enduring with hope, never quitting.

Maybe making your bed isn’t the one small task completed that makes for the foundation of the many larger tasks of your day. Whatever your particular routines or habits, they are worth considering for the weight of importance they might have in your life…with the possibility, even, of changing a world.

What habit or routine gets you started well each day? How do Adm. McRaven’s 10 Lessons of Basic SEAL training resonate? Maybe “changing the world” is too big a goal for a Monday morning, but whatever the goal, where do we begin to take aim?

How to be a Success at Everything – How I Became a Morning Person, Read More Books, and Learned a Language in a Year by Belle Beth Cooper

Make Your Bed Each Morning to Kickstart Better Habits by Eric Ravenscraft

Why Making Your Bed Every Morning Matters, According to a Navy Seal by Dave Greenbaum

BLog - 3 R's of habit Formation - fastcompanyPhoto Credit: Fast Company

Another Birthday – Our Youngest – Grown and On His Own

Baby pics of Dan 2

I look over at their pictures,
Sittin’ in their frames.
I see them as babies:
I guess that’ll never change.
You pray all their lives,
That someday they will find happiness.

Then they do, and that’s how it is.
It’s just quiet in the mornin’,
Can’t believe how much you miss,
All they do and all they did.
You want all the dreams they dreamed of to come true:
Then they do.  – Trace Adkins, Then They Do

We weren’t there for Daniel’s birth. He was half a world away in the care of hospital personnel. His entry into this world was a bit rough and he’s certainly had bumpy bits ever since. Yet, his courage and resilience then and now are part of who he is…this boy, now man.

Today is Daniel’s 26th birthday, and, on this quiet spring morning, he’s out walking with our neighbors. Home for this special weekend, he’s looking forward to Lebanese food for lunch and time with siblings later…more birthday celebration will follow in the days ahead, but for today, he spends it quietly…recovering his heart from a stressful week.

Daniel came home to us 25 years ago from South Korea. With each birthday, I think of his very young Korean mama who carried him but couldn’t keep him. She must mark this day with us every year, so far away. Thank you, Mama, for letting him live…when abortion was an easy and acceptable solution for your situation at that time.

Daniel has had challenges through life, related to his traumatic birth (premature with its various complications). During our adoption process, his case worker (who had visited him in Korea) talked about what a survivor he was…his personality was so winsome and his determination so strong. All growing up, Daniel wrestled with the hard things of his life with that determination and courage…and the love of a powerful God, imperfect parents and siblings with their own challenges. He has known the impact of much answered prayer on the part of his parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends. We are so proud of him and how much he has accomplished.

[This blog might be a bit awkward to a man in his “late twenties”, but if Daniel reads this, hopefully he will give grace to a mom who’s trying to find her way as well through this adult relationship of ours.]

Daniel, happy birthday, Son. We are so grateful to God that He brought you home to us. Even as you face what’s before you in the days ahead, we pray for you to have the courage and hope befitting of your age and life experience. You have seen God work in your life to bless you and others through you. You have known success and love…and you always will.

[Sidebar: If you know our Dan, you know he surrounds himself with music. His taste has changed through the years, and I won’t even give a try at identifying his favorite genres right now. It is definitely not country music. Still, in this early morning of his 26th, my heart toward him is in such a tender state, country music is all that will suffice.]

So…I just want to put up pictures and close with Mark Harris’ song Find Your Wings. Happy Birthday, Daniel. Love you forever.

It’s only for a moment
You are mine to hold; The plans that heaven has for you
Will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I’ll pray
For all that you might do
But most of all I want to know
You’re walking in the truth

And if I never told you
I want you to know
That as I watch you grow

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

May passion be the wind
That leads you through your days
And may conviction keep you strong
Guide you on your way
May there be many moments
That make your life so sweet
Oh but more than memories

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings

It’s not living
If you don’t reach for the sky
I’ll have tears as you take off
But I’ll cheer as you fly

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I’m here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings – Mark Harris, Find Your Wings                       Dan & familyn7607486_31797847_6155[1]Little Dan swimmingDan in jelabaDan, Dad, NaeDan in the waterChristie and Dan cooking2006 -- Nov -- Heba & Daniel eating KosheryKids at oualadia 2Dan, Nae & sea urchinsKids on stairsNA -- Christie, Daniel, Nathan Mills2012 December family snapshot 014IMG_3193 - Copy2013 June Dan Birthday Welcome Home for Nae Bek a 034 (3)2013 June Dan Birthday Welcome Home for Nae Bek 037 (2)2014 Sep 26 Daniel's Graduation 058Blog - Daniel 2 (2)Blog - Christie, Nathan, DanielFind Your Wings
Lyrics to Trace Adkins’ Then They Do

Lyrics to Mark Harris’ Find Your Wings

YouTube Video – Find Your Wings by Mark Harris

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Rascal Flatts – My Wish for You – With Lyrics

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Photo Credits: Mine, except for pics from Daniel’s time in S. Korea (Children’s Home Society) – the woman in the picture with him was his foster mother who cared for him until he came home to us.

*Adapted from previous blog (here)

5 Friday Faves – Millennials in the Workplace (ebook), Garden in Between, Productivity Tips (Infographic), Chicken Fiesta, and Old Family Film Favorites

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday – Friday the 13th…and the sun finally came out. This weekend looks to be great fun – with the birthday of our youngest, the Lebanese Food Festival, a friend’s baptism in the James River, and whatever else comes along. Hope your weekend looms as quiet or as hopping as you need after this week’s work. Here are my favorites for this Friday. Any you want to share?

1) Millennials in the Workplace (ebook) – By 2025, millennials (those born between 1981-2000) are predicted to make up 75% of the workforce. This generation of young professionals has arrived and rather than being over-analyzed and criticized, we are short-sighted not to equip them to take over one day. We all know that first week of work experience – grueling mind-numbing orientation. Why do we keep doing it “like we always have” and not change it up to meet the needs of this generation? Bridge is helping companies begin to do that brilliantly: Bridge’s features are designed to empower simple, intuitive learning that’s delivered to your mobile, active employees, anywhere, anytime on any device. Bridge provides you with real data and real insights about your employees’ learning, which can lead to real progress. Start with their short and extremely insightful free ebook on millennials in the workplace. Your thinking on training and development will be changed and millennials will thank you.Business meeting at a modern company.Photo Credit: GetBridge

2) The Garden in Between – In Richmond, we’re in that period of the waning early Spring garden. I will miss the Irises especially. As flowers curl up and petals fall, the wise gardener (my husband) has prepared, seasons ago, for new blooms to appear in glorious freshness. Walking around the garden early this morning brought sweet discoveries – the first Gerber Daisy (a gift from a friend last year), the last bloom of our Irises, the first blooms on the Lamb’s Ear, green Hydrangea clusters, and, finally, my husband’s “happy flowers” coming back – hardy little Begonias blooming again this year.IMG_5928IMG_5929IMG_5931IMG_5932IMG_5933

3) Productivity Tips (Infographic) – Being truly productive is hugely important to me – not just staying busy or having lots of meetings, but being genuinely productive. I’ve written about productivity before here – focusing on Chris Bailey’s A Life of Productivity. I’m a visual learning so infographs are like candy. Wrike developed a helpful one entitled 50 Productivity Tips to Boost Your Brainpower. Really excellent. Any of these especially effective in your pursuit of productivity? [There’s a link at the bottom of the infographic that supposedly spells out each tip in detail, but I couldn’t make it work. So here’s a quick read by Tim Ferriss on his productivity tricks.]

Blog - Productivity infographic - awesomeinventionsPhoto Credit: Awesome Inventions

4) Chicken Fiesta – My husband has been meeting with friends and colleagues at Chicken Fiesta for quite some time. For me, it took awhile because I’m not usually into Mexican food – hard on my tummy. However, this cool little restaurant has made me a recent convert. Great grilled meats and the sides are fresh and not overly seasoned. They have extra sauces you can add to take the flavors of the foods different directions. Straight-up satisfying lunch place for me. What’s a favorite of yours where you are? (Comment below).Blog - Chicken FiestaPhoto Credit: RVA News

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5) Old Family Film Favorites – We all have favorite films from our children’s childhoods. I’m actually not really sure how favorite the two below are to them…but they were favorites of mine. Fly Away Home, (1996, Columbia Pictures) has packaged so much story in a small film – family drama (not a Disney film, but the mother still dies), spectacular scenery, majestic Canadian geese (from gosling to migration), and a perfect song. Below is a sweet sample of the movie with Mary Chapin Carpenter’s 10,000 Miles as soundtrack.

Then there’s my all-time-snuggle-up-with-the-kids favorite: Disney’s The Kid. Of course, they were big kids when it was released (2000), so it made snuggle-time all the more precious and rare. Disney’s The Kid is a magical story of a man clearly successful but missing the “most important’s” of life. Then just before his 40th birthday, an 8y/o version of himself (Rusty) and a much older Russ all somehow share life in a way that brings healing and resolution of some deep childhood wounds. [It’s a Disney film – sorry, but the mother dies.] Bruce Willis plays Russ, and Spencer Breslin is Rusty. Their dialogues are sometimes hilarious/sometimes touching – always endearing. The clip below isn’t great quality but it’s all I could find to show the scene late in the movie when the elder Russ finally reveals himself to the younger Russ/Rusty. The story all comes together joyfully. Buy this or rent it – for a weekend snuggle.

2016 May - BLog, Disney's The Kid (5)2016 May - BLog, Disney's The Kid (6)2016 May - BLog, Disney's The Kid (3)2016 May - BLog, Disney's The Kid (4)

Worship Wednesday – Finishing Strong with Amazing Grace

Blog - Finishing Strong 2 - Tim MilburnPhoto Credit: Tim Milburn

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2

Finishing strong is something we all want for our lives, right? To see it happen in the life of another spurs us on to that same possibility.

Yesterday, I attended a celebration of a man’s life – 40+ years of faithful service in the same organization. 40+ years. As we heard the many accolades of his work and character, he sat quietly, listening, too. In years we’ve known him, he never aspired to that center stage spotlight…and yet, for these moments, grateful friends and colleagues shined that light on him.

He was compared to a son of Issachar (understanding the times, discerning) with the wisdom of Solomon, the passion of Paul, and the meekness of Moses. As different ones spoke of his impact and influence on their lives, he was described as a strong leader, faithful servant, friend and mentor.

This is certainly my experience of him – even in a leader role much of his career, he sought to work in the background doing what he could to make others successful. When I read the Hebrews passage above, it usually makes me think of how each of us has our own race, our individual course…but maybe we’re meant to think of it as a relay sometimes.

With our friend, he has, many times over, handed off his baton to another. Planting that baton squarely into the next runner’s hand. Giving way to another’s time to run. Selflessly releasing his hold…for the sake of the finish…for the winner’s crown, in a relay, doesn’t go to one, but to all on the team who run. This is how our friend leads and lives his life.Blog - Finishing Strong - Tim MilburnPhoto Credit: Tim Milburn

What does it take to finish strong like this? It takes proven character infused by amazing grace.

I have seen the mighty hand of God at work in this friend’s life. An imperative key to our finishing strong is humbling ourselves before God and in relationship to those He places in our lives. This is certainly evident in this faithful, humble man.

Another example of this humility worked out in relationship is the friendship between John Newton and William Wilberforce. Newton, a British slave ship captain until his conversion to Christ, would become a spiritual mentor to Wilberforce, who strongly influenced the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Blog - Finishing strong - historicalmoviesPhoto Credit: Historical Movies

Jonathan Aitken, author of the biography John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace, writes about their relationship:

“Humanity will forever be in Newton’s debt for mentoring Wilberforce…their relationship was of pivotal importance for both historical and spiritual reasons.”

Like with our friend celebrated yesterday, and like Newton and Wilberforce, we all have the opportunity to finish strong through the amazing grace of God. I want, with all my heart, to reflect the magnificent glory of God by not only breaking the tape at the finish of my own race, but handing off the baton entrusted to me for others to finish what God started in their lives.

Worship with me to Chris Tomlin’s Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone):

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.

Blog - Finishing strong - Amazing Grace - johnnewtonPhoto Credit: JohnNewton.org

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

Amazing Grace film (2007)

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

Blog - Finishing Strong - John Newton - fministryPhoto Credit: Fministry