5 Friday Faves – Words, Trauma Healing, Street Smart Kids, Thunderstorms, #GrowingUpInABlackChurch

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! Another whirlwind week. Ours is to savor the moments and those sweet finds of each day of  life. Below are a few of my favorites from this week. Would love to hear about yours [in Comments].

1) Words – You know when you mean to send that card or make that phone call? Or when you could speak to that downcast stranger or give a shout-out to someone worthy of celebrating…and you didn’t? This is a salute to all you folks out there who use your words for life – to encourage, celebrate, comfort, guide, and lovingly speak the truth. We are bombarded with words. Literally, blasted with words. Some sound so true, we are swayed by them…to find out later, they were not true…and the course of our lives, maybe even our country, was set in a direction we wouldn’t have chosen, if we understood what the words really meant.BLog - WordsPhoto Credit: Pinterest

I’ve been blessed by good friends and colleagues who use words in a life-giving manner. They inspire me to do the same.2016 Phone Pics 2449

2) Trauma Healing – The Trauma Healing Institute is a training and service arm of The American Bible Society. The goal here is to respond at a heart-level to the trauma in people’s lives. When you think of the numbers of people who have endured extreme trauma (1 out of 7 persons globally), it is a good thing to reach out to them with shelter and  supplies but also with listening ears and honoring comfort. This intervention is Bible-based so may not be the go-to training for everyone, but I’m hoping to take it in the Fall. Check here for stories and more info.
Blog - Trauma Healing - THIPhoto Credit: Trauma Healing Institute

3) Street Smart Kids – Earlier this week, I wrote about situational awareness. One of the resources I posted was the blog by Chonce Maddox on 50 Things You Can Do to Make Your Kids Street Smart I wrote this week about situational awareness here. Maddox talks about her reasoning for writing: “As a parent, my worst fear is that I won’t be able to protect my child when he needs it. My second worst fear is that he won’t be able to protect himself and make wise decisions depending on what situation he’s in.” Her list of 50 things are age-specific and are brilliant and easy-to-apply. Whether you have a newborn or a soon-to-be-launched teen, take the time to equip your children in this way.
Schoolchildren embracing happy. Multi cultural racial classroom.

Photo Credit: A Fine Parent

4) Thunderstorms and Heat Lightning  – I love rain and especially thunderstorms. It’s been really hot here in Richmond, Va., the last couple of weeks. Occasionally the lightning has only been heat-related. We had both heat lightning yesterday as well as an amazing thunderstorm last night. My pic below is of the late afternoon sky. The rains that came later were drenching and cooling. No electricity outages – just a glorious and wet light and sound show.Blog - ThunderstormBlog - Heat LightningPhoto Credit: Wunderground

5) #GrowingUpInABlackChurch – Growing up outside Atlanta , in the suburbs, was a pretty homogeneous experience for me, culture-wise. When I finished grad school, my first job was in an innercity hospital in downtown Atlanta. This was my first time experiencing the richness and otherness of predominately African American worship or “church”. In those days, working on an oncology unit, I went to a lot of funerals. Both in those times and regular Sunday services, I discovered a very different way of doing church and community. Sunday morning church is still too often a too-segregated experience, but I’m glad for the opportunities to be in a more racially and culturally diverse worship. What got me thinking about this was the trending hashtag this month which was fun to watch…although, not having the experience of #GrowingUpInABlackChurch, I celebrate it. ALso trending this week: #blackwomendidthat.

Blog - GrowingUpInABlackChurch - hbcuBlog - GrowingUpInABlackChurch - imgurPhoto Credit: HBCU, HBCU

Have a safe and sweet weekend out there. Use the Comments below to post your own favorites from this week. Thanks!

Situational Awareness – It Could Save Your Life…or Someone Else’s

BLog - Situational awareness - preppersillustratedPhoto Credit: Preppers Illustrated

We moved from East Tennessee when our children were still small. Taking a job abroad, we were excited at all the possibilities of living in a different culture. Still we wanted to be wise in living as expats – in a country where neither we nor our children understood the subtle signs of threat, unrest or possibly even danger. We wanted our children to be prepared for the unexpected but not afraid. Living quietly and confidently aware of our surroundings can have a strong positive influence on engaging a new culture, and even our home culture.

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Situational awareness is a discipline of being tuned into your surroundings in such a way that you can be alert to a threat or crisis before it actually happens. It is not complicated but does take practice and discipline. Brett and Kate McKay blog extensively  on this and define it as:

“a skill that can and should be developed for reasons outside of personal defense and safety. Situational awareness is really just another word for mindfulness, and developing mine has made me more cognizant of what’s going on around me and more present in my daily activities, which in turn has helped me make better decisions in all aspects of my life.”

It’s not to instill fear (especially in teaching our children) but rather it can actually create calm and confidence. Where we want to be, in assessing our surroundings, is in a “yellow zone”, and we want that for our children as well – alert and calm, as a normal life pattern.Blog - Situational Awareness - Cooper's Color Code - domestic preparednessPhoto Credit: Domestic Preparedness

The links below are extremely helpful in terms of learning situational awareness and applying it to child safety, personal protection, and, in general, responding to a threatening situation.Blog - Situational Awareness - slidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

In The Tao of Boyd – How to Master the OODA Loop, another blog by the McKay’s, they talk about military strategist John Boyd’s OODA Loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. This can be used in dealing with uncertainty in any situation – whether a personal threat or a business transaction. I just wanted to mention it here as a rapid process we go through in situational awareness when we train ourselves to respond proactively, rather than in a panic.

Blog - Situational Awareness - Observe, Orient, Decide, Act - gsbPhoto Credit: Stanford Business

In the first McKay blog on situational awareness, they encourage parents to teach it to children as a game. You don’t even have to raise the issues of safety or security. It just becomes a game of being “in the moment”, observing your surroundings (while taking a trip across town, or eating in a restaurant, or playing in a park). When you alert your kids that the game is on, they know that, as part of that experience, to be especially observant. Then you ask questions later: “Can you describe the people sitting next to us in the restaurant?” or “How would you describe the adults closest to us in the park?” or “What do you remember about the people around us in the subway?” “What did we do to safely cross that huge street?” It doesn’t have to be a scary thing for children to learn to be more observant…instead of being zoned out or into their electronics or playing with your phone.

The same is true, of course, for us adults. The discipline part of situational awareness is practicing it often enough that it becomes a part of your every day life. In the old days, before smart phones, I was a people watcher…just taking in the people around me (in a “fascinated by them”, not “stalking” sort of way as we think today).

Too often, people tend to guard their own privacy, by looking down or not making eye contact some other way. We don’t survey where we are and who surrounds us, like we might should. Not because there is evil everywhere…that would be weird to think like that…but as a discipline…for our sake and for those around us.

There may be a time we can actually avoid or possibly defuse a situation, if we are focused. After the 9/11 bombings, and until situational awareness became “a thing” in my life, I would tend to kind of stay in a bubble around strangers…like on a subway or bus, or walking on a crowded street. One of the practices in situational awareness is to train your peripheral vision. It’s amazing what you can note if you learn to widen your view. [Use the image below to give it a try.]Blog - Situational Awareness bubble - modernsurvivalblogPhoto Credit: Modern Survival Blog

Today, I just wanted to introduce situational awareness. In a world that seems to be more and more violent, with stranger-on-stranger attacks, we may be vulnerable without even knowing it. Rather than being victims, there are steps we can take to become more aware and savvy. This can work toward our own safety and that of our family, but it can also be a means to help others more vulnerable than we are.

[Sidebar: Please don’t hear me say we need to be super-vigilant, like there is a bad guy coming through every door. Situational awareness is a discipline that we can use in many positive ways – both socially and in the workplace. It’s a skill in our toolbox.]

I am reminded of times, both overseas and here in the States, when a local friend or stranger stepped in and moved us to a safer place, or intervened when I didn’t know what to do in a new situation. Soon, I want to write again about this and will post some of our stories. Nothing really dramatic, thankfully, but definitely remarkable for us in negotiating new cities and situations. It would be wonderful if you shared some of your stories where you were situationally aware…or where it might have been helpful. Please comment below.

Check out the links. Very practical. Be safe out there…and help make it safer for those around you.

How to Develop the Situational Awareness of Jason Bourne – Brett & Kate McKay – Excellent overview and practical helps – Must Read

The Tao of Boyd – How to Master the OODA Loop – Brett & Kate McKay – Indepth article on OODA – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

10 Ways to Improve Your Situational Awareness – Sergeant Survival

50 Things You Can Do To Make Your Kids Street Smart – Chonce Maddox

Situational Awareness: Staying Safe When Life Gets Dangerous – The Survival Mom

5 Drills for Situational Awareness – Ken Jorgustin

A Practical Guide to Situational Awareness – Scott Stewart

10 Basic Safety Tips for Women – Mom With a Prep

I Do This Every Single Day But After This Warning I’ll Definitely Be Thinking Twice – Video

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Worship Wednesday – Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard – Jason Gray

Blog - Perfect Love Casts Out Fear - best of picturePhoto Credit: BestOfPicture

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. – 1 John 4:18

For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Fear and love. Over the last two weeks, we’ve heard a lot about these two states of heart and mind. Well, if we’ve followed the conventions of the two major political parties in the US…. Whether we’ve watched on TV or not, the messages of both conventions have blasted our newsfeeds. What does one believe about any of it?

One convention (and political party and candidate) is purportedly all about fear. The other is all about love. One sees the solution to fear comes with building walls. The other sees the solution to our nation’s problems is love. Big fear = Big walls, guns, bluster. Big love = Big government, inclusion (unless maybe you look and think like me). Gone are the days, in both conventions, when God is mentioned in light of how we are meant to do government and treat our neighbors (both near and far).

Sidebar: Regarding fear, John Piper does talk about the importance of a certain type of temporary fear. “The painful fear, the guilty fear, the craven fear, the humiliating fear — all such fear will one day be taken way. But only in the way God intends. And in his time. We should not be done with it in the wrong way, or too soon.

Here is the way C. S. Lewis puts it:

Perfect love, we know, casteth out fear [1 John 4:18]. But so do several other things — ignorance, alcohol, passion, presumption, and stupidity.

It is very desirable that we should all advance to that perfection of love in which we shall fear no longer; but it is very undesirable, until we have reached that stage, that we should allow any inferior agent to cast out our fear. (“The World’s Last Night” in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, 51)” – John Piper

I wasn’t revved by the one convention’s soberness, nor was I wooed by the other convention’s frivolity. The jokes just weren’t funny, but everyone there was laughing.

Until the reality seemed to sink in for the supporters of a minority candidate, that it might be over…and the tears flowed.Blog - Fear and Love - PoliticsBlog - Fear and Love - Politics - tearsPhoto Credit: FoxNews, PressDemocrat

I actually felt some of their pain.

What is a follower of Christ to do?

Scripture makes it very clear that we are not to give into worldly fear. Scripture also convicts us that love is the solution – not the love of government, or a political party, or like for like. For us as Christ followers, we are called to love…even those who don’t agree with us, even our enemies. This kind of love is extremely costly – it’s the kind of love Jesus taught us through his life…and through his death.

We’re not meant to give into a fear that builds walls, nor are we to clamor for a love that costs us nothing…a love that comes out of government and not out of our own skin.

During a season in this country, when we’re being hammered with media messages that divide us, may we as the followers of Christ unite – not by political party or by our own offended or soothed sensibilities. May we unite in keeping our eyes on God when we fear, and apply our lives to truly loving – not just people like us but all peoples. Not just looking to an outside agency to “show the love”, but to extend ourselves to that loving…as we’ve experienced in the God of love.

Worship with me with this song from Jason Gray‘s album A Way to See in the Dark

Turn on the T.V. for the evening news
They got plenty to fear and nothing to do
Another somebody who’s gone too far
Makes you want to put up your guard
Fear is easy, love is hard
So we draw up another dividing line
We label each other and we choose a side
Peace could come at quite a cost
So we won’t build a bridge across
Fear is easy, but love is hard
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid, do not be afraid
I’m sorry baby is what he should’ve said
But she wouldn’t listen even if he did
They’ll die without forgiveness soon
But no one wants to make a move
When fear is easy and love is hard
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid, do not be afraid
It’s hard to bring your heart to a world that can break it
To offer love to those you’re afraid will forsake it
But a well-defended heart is always looking for a fight
In a lonely war against an endless night
But love can bring a light
Fear will leave you hiding in the dark
But love will bring a light into your heart
So do not be afraid
It comes down to a simple choice
Shouting devils or a still small voice
One is spreading fear and dread
Oh but love has always said
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid
Do not be afraid.*

Blog - Fear and Love - GrowinginHisGracePhoto Credit: Growing In His Grace

I love the truth in Paul’s writing to Timothy. God doesn’t mean for us to fear what surrounds us, what seems to loom ahead, or what has happened in the past. He means for us to gather ourselves, as His children, to act with the power He’s given us, to love with the example He’s shown us, and to think, (and reason together), with sound minds. Sound minds. We can think through and manage this election year if we keep our wits and guard our hearts, with faith unblemished in a God “whose arm is not too short to save!” (Isaiah 59:1)

*Lyrics to Fear Is Easy, Love Is Hard

Fear or Love? Responding to Terrorism Like Jesus – Nicole Simpson – Christ & Pop Culture

Responding to the Tragedy in This World – Growing In His Grace

YouTube – Chris Tomlin – Whom Shall I Fear? [God of Angel Armies] – Lyrics

BLog - Fear and Love - Nothing is too hard for God - facebook - Mariah KingPhoto Credit: Facebook

Monday Morning Moment – Ignoring in the Workplace and the Powerful Practice of Noticing

Blog - being Ignored at Work - dailymailPhoto Credit: Daily Mail

It just happens over time…the ignoring of people around us. Think about this morning, coming into work. Retrace your steps, and think of the people you passed within speaking range…but you didn’t…speak, that is. In another season of life, I might have slowed down to walk with someone a ways behind me, or even run a bit to catch up with someone ahead. Just to use that time to connect a bit. We race into our work stations, heads down, as if the most common courtesy of greeting and inquiring into another person’s life just take too much time away from the “important”. We sit down in meetings before they start and get lost in our thoughts, or our laptops, or our phones. We just ignore those around us…

Time itself seems to become more important than people. We circle up with our team, or go one-on-one with our boss or a consultant… when including a colleague, intern, or member of another team could have added greater value to that conversation. Are we more in a work culture today of tight circles when larger collaborative ones might prove more profitable? Do we just ignore those working around us who, by our actions, seem of little consequence to our workday? It’s not intentional maybe…but it becomes habit and then part of our character…communicating that people don’t matter.

Blog - People Matter - greatplacetowork

Photo Credit: Great Place to Work

Throughout my professional life, I have tried to be tuned into those around me, whether they currently are in my work group or not. My nature is to notice and my desire is to acknowledge. In various work situations, it’s been from a place of influence rather than from a position of authority. Any task or responsibility entrusted to me had to be accomplished through winning the confidence and cooperation of those around me. No authority to just delegate or task others with work. , gifted colleagues have always been willing to work on projects with me. People recognize when they are truly valued, and they engage more solidly when they are genuinely respected/regarded. We can build capacity for noticing people.

Ignoring those in our workplace over time has consequences. Just like that adage “Hurt people hurt people”, I think “Ignored people ignore people”. It’s a contagious work culture practice which has been widely researched. Productivity, employee engagement, longevity, and work relationships within teams and across the organization can all be negatively affected by just the casual neglect or lack of regard for colleagues.

Sidebar: As I was reading and thinking about this issue, the chorus of a strange little song kept coming into my head. The Broadway musical, “Chicago“, has a woeful character who laments about his smallness in life, as if people look right through him. The song is “Mr. Cellophane”.

O.K….back to workplace culture. What would happen if we determined to be noticers and acknowledgers at work? This is not a soft practice…it’s brilliant really. Taking little time, we can, each one of us, actually humanize and elevate the workplace experience for everyone we encounter through the course of the day. This is not an exercise of rewarding a job well-done but of noting the person behind the job…as valuable. Period. Full-stop.

Listen Closely words on a ripped newspaper headline and other news alerts like take notice, vital info, importance of being a good listener and pay attentionPhoto Credit: Chip Scholz

I’ve known some great champions in this through my professional life, and I aspire to be like them. Real servant leaders. We may not think of ourselves as leaders, but we can all lead out in serving, noticing, and acknowledging those around us. Skip Prichard writes about servant leadership and lists 9 qualities of these “noticers”.

9 Qualities of the Servant Leader

1: Values diverse opinions

2: Cultivates a culture of trust

3: Develops other leaders

4: Helps people with life issues

5: Encourages

6: Sells instead of tells

7: Thinks you, not me

8: Thinks long-term

9: Acts with humility

Consider this challenge as I make it for myself to genuinely and honestly take note of people, moving through our workday. This is not about being only polite, but being “in the moment” with those around us. It may start with a greeting, and then an inquiry, and before we know it, it’s possible true caring could follow. Translated into workplace language, that is employee engagement where ideas are exchanged toward better solutions for everyone.

I can’t close this topic without a shout-out to any one of you who’s having that experience of being ignored. You know, of course, that it doesn’t change anything of who you are…but it can harden your heart toward colleagues and dull your thinking in your job. I appreciate Jon Acuff’s piece on being ignored, a piece about Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Marcus Mariota:

“Throw the passes when no one is watching. Write the pages no one sees. Work through the business plans people don’t believe in yet. Hustle long before the spotlight finds you. You don’t need the whole world on your side to create something that changes the world.”

Postscript: I follow Vala Afshar on Twitter. He is the “Chief Digital Evangelist” for Salesforce and author of The Pursuit of Social Business Excellence. He posted the picture below, with the Tweet “This is how people ignored each other before smartphones”.Blog - Ignoring people without cell phones - Vala Afshar - twitter feedPhoto Credit: Twitter

It made me chuckle because we blame technology for so many of our relational woes when focus and attending to each other is an age-old issue. People matter. Our colleagues matter. Take notice.

The Noticer – Sometimes All A Person Needs Is A Little Perspective – Andy Andrews

Power, Authority, and Influence – Samer Ayyash – Slideshare

How to Practice the Art of Acknowledgement – Darcy Eikenberg

1 Surprising Lesson About Dream Chasing from a Heisman Trophy Winner – Jon Acuff

The Powerful Impact of Acknowledging Good Work – Laura Garnett

Being Ignored Is Worse Than being Bullied – Victoria Woollaston

Business Decision-making The Rule of WYSINATI – What You See Is Not All There Is – Chip Scholz

9 Qualities of the Servant Leader – Skip Prichard

The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See – Max Bazerman – Bazerman focuses on taking in information in order to make better decisions rather than the simple act of noticing people (which can also empower decision-making and business process, communicating that people matter).

5 Friday Faves – Pokemon Guitar Medley, Dr. Tony Evans on Race, Burgess Owens on Liberalism, Coconut Cake, and Back to School

Blog - Friday Faves

Friday again. It’s been a hot weather week here as we move to the end of July. How the summer flies by! I get my walks in early and try to get work done before the afternoon dulls my brain. For those of you who have long workdays with some out in this heat, the weekend is almost here. My Friday Faves this week are:

1) Pokémon Guitar Medley – For me, Pokémon stirs up old memories of my boys hunkered down playing it on the old Gameboy system. The melodies emitted from the game had no emotional attachment for me; just signaled their playing nearby.  Blog - Pokemon -GameboyPhoto Credit: YouTube

Fast-forward a couple of decades to a new phone app – Pokémon Go. Genius! Nostalgia reigns. This version of the game weds the old with the new – social gaming and a quasi-outdoor-adventure. Even in our quiet old neighborhood, there are now young folks walking around with their phones out like flashlights (reminds me of the old guys on the beach waving their metal detectors back and forth). Blog - Pokemon Go - timesfreepressPhoto Credit: Times Free Press

This phenomenon has definitely stirred up sweet memories for guitarist Nathan Mills at Beyond the Guitar. He’s arranged a melody of some of those old tinkly electronic tunes from childhood of playing Pokémon. Whether you ever played the game, you will enjoy the music (hard to believe the beauty those composers instilled into the gaming experience for the kids who played back then).

2) Dr. Tony Evans on Race – A Biblical Response on Race – You already know I love radio.  Well, Tony Evans has been a go-to for me for 30 years. His program, The Alternative, and his preaching, speaking, and writing are just as fresh and relevant today as ever.Blog - Tony EvansPhoto Credit: Tony Evans

This past Sunday he preached on Race, Culture, and the Biblical Response. His message is to the church, but anyone could benefit from what he has to say on these issues. So timely also as our nation is going through an intensified examination of our own thinking and actions in this. Evans used the text of Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, crossing culture and class, demonstrating the love of God.

“It’s real easy in here….we can all get along…in here. What happens when you go out and you have to face your own race? What happens when your biblical view is not the popular view? What happens when you’re rejected for not being black enough, white enough….?  When you have to take that stand responsibly, kindly, in love, but clearly. When you hear messages on love and unity….it’s good…inside the House. What God is looking for are some serious Christians on this issue who start biblically and spiritually and work it down racially, socially, and culturally. You do not start with your culture and work it up. You start with the Word and the authority of your faith and work it in. May God help us to do our part locally, personally, in our families, and through our influence, to bring people to a spiritual biblical approach to the issue of race, culture, and class so at least we can model, before the world, biblical solutions to a society in chaos.” – Tony Evans

3) Burgess Owens on Liberalism – We are in the political season of party conventions and a presidential election. So much rhetoric. So many promises. So much finger-pointing and blame-shifting. Over the course of my life, I’ve changed political parties as they have changed ideologies. This election is a tough one for some of us…

I love to discover unusual heroes who are rarely found in popular media. Star Parker is one of these – a politically conservative black woman who also changed her thinking over the course of her life. She was the impetus for me to search for other conservative thinkers who, because of their race or beliefs, have to have a deeper sort of courage to give voice to their ideas. This week, I discovered Superbowl Champion Burgess Owens.  You can see him speak about persistence in this YouTube video on “the 13th season”. He is the author of Liberalism or How to Turn Good Men into Whiners, Weenies and Wimps He writes about the first 100 year, post-slavery, history of entrepreneurial, faith- and family-centered American blacks. He also writes about the founding of the NAACP by mostly white, Marxist social engineers, and that influence on African-American thinking and culture. Blog - Book - Liberalism - Burgess OwensPhoto Credit: Simon & Schuster

I have not read the book yet, so this is not a recommendation of the book as much as of the author. After hearing him speak during an interview (as part of his book tour), I was struck by this “other side” of what we see in the news media. His thinking is compelling.  In my 20s, I worked in a huge inner-city hospital in Atlanta (wrote about it here). It was then that my thinking politically began to change. I loved our patients and families so much, and the poverty that encased them seemed impenetrable. It was then I began to see that throwing money at poverty doesn’t make it go away. Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away either. My nursing friends and I would have deep and anguished conversations about the tangled mess of poverty, welfare, class, race, and politics. I am thankful for how those years and relationships changed my thinking. Still have so much to learn.Debbie & Grady nurse buddy

I welcome your recommendation of other voices…these kinds of conversations could affect real and crucial change…beyond any political party or government power.

4) Three Day Coconut Cake – OK…something a little lighter. My mom-in-law is an amazing cook. She also knows I love coconut. We had a huge family gathering this past week to celebrate the newest addition to our family. She always makes strawberry pretzel salad which is top of the list of our family favorites. For me (and a handful of others who also like coconut), she made this refrigerator coconut cake. It’s practically a food group all by itself. Enjoy. Here’s the recipe.

Blog - Friday Faves - Coconut Cake - chindeepPhoto Credit: ChinDeep

5) Back to School – During the hottest days of summer, a Fall breeze blows through our favorite stores. Back to school supplies and cool kids’ clothes pop up everywhere. I have always loved the smell of pencils and paper. However, I never loved the long hours of school that boxed in our children to spend evenings separated from us and each other with hours and hours of homework. Sorry, wonderful teacher friends of mine. Anyway, seeing school supplies in the stores this week was fun…and also a reminder of the flight of time. Summer slow down.Blog - Back to School Supplies - friday Faves

I always love to hear about your favorite finds of the week. Please comment below. Have a safe and sweet weekend!

Worship Wednesday – In Christ Alone – Townend & Getty

Blog - In Christ Alone - crosscardsPhoto Credit: CrossCards

And in that day you will say, “Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.” – Isaiah 12:4

Last night, a friend shared a video with me about God. The focus of the film was how we as followers of Christ have the privilege of proclaiming His glory to all peoples. All peoples. All nations.

I was gripped by my own neglect…neglect in spreading His renown.

How much God has done to transform my life, and I say so little. The joy He has lavished on me, and others see it as just “happy”. The extraordinary blessings He has given to me as one of His children which many may see as just “privilege”. The love I’ve known through His Word and His provision for “life and Godliness” and others call it being nice, or gifted, or generous.

It’s not me that’s generous…forgive me, God. It is He who has shown me so much love that it splashed over into the lives of those I love.

His love is the marvel. His goodness, patience, mercy…and forgiveness. What an incredible experience it is to be forgiven. How strange when we don’t see our need for forgiveness…when we mark our wrongs as mistakes or count ourselves as “born OK, the first time”. Blog - Born OK the First time - Bumper sticker - zazzlePhoto Credit: Zazzle

My life has been so altered by the love of God. What change has transpired from my life before Christ and after! Not perfect, not even close…but changed forever by the magnificence of God and salvation through Christ. Do I still struggle with selfishness and complacency and laziness and greed? Yes…but not without hope in or help from a God who genuinely cares for His children….and for all peoples.

Years ago, when we lived in Cairo, Egypt, In Christ Alone became one of our family’s favorite modern hymns. We all can probably still sing it by heart. In 4 stanzas, Stuart Townend lays out the Gospel – what it is to know Christ, as Savior and Lord.

Blog - Heliopolis Community Church - facebookPhoto Credit: Heliopolis Community Church, Facebook

In Christ Alone speaks to exclusivity in that God’s provision for us as His people to be restored to Him is through Christ alone. This is offensive to many and possibly the biggest stumbling block for some to come to faith in Him. However, there is a glorious inclusiveness in God’s love for all peoples.

“Beloved, do not let this one thing escape your notice: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:8-9

How can I, day in and day out, keep this glorious God to myself? The good news of His great love and forgiveness just something I share among those who already believe?

Most all of us love the ocean – such beauty!Morocco sunset by Ingrid PullarPhoto Credit: Ingrid Pullar

How much more is the beauty of the One who created it? I am awakened again to the glory – the incredible beauty – of God.

Worship with me.

In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! – who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe.
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand:
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.*

*Lyrics to In Christ Alone Written by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song – In Christ Alone

YouTube Video – In Christ Alone – Passion 2013

YouTube Video – In Christ Alone – Keith & Kristyn Getty

The Earth Is The Lord’s – the Supremacy of Christ in Christian Learning – John Piper

“All Nations” Bible Verse List

Blog - In Christ Alone - YoutubePhoto Credit: YouTube

A Year Missing Our Friend Jeannie Elliff – Remembering

Blog - Jeannie Elliff

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Homegoing of our dear friend, Jeannie Elliff. She died on July 20, 2015, after a long battle with breast cancer – a young 69 years old. I wrote before about her here. Remember her with me and all who knew her…and loved her.Blog - Jeannie Elliff 6Photo Credit: Facebook

What I also want to point you to today is her husband, Tom, and what he wrote this week about her. In his blog he writes eloquently and lovingly of those last days before her Homegoing.

What a year it must have been for him. Marking special days and trips he would have spent with her and those closest to them. Experiencing the many graces of God that come in the painful loneliness of losing a spouse like Jeannie. Of course, he wouldn’t probably describe these days as losing her altogether. She just arrived Home ahead of him.

Besides his blog, I also wanted to give you a heads-up about his latest book coming out in September. You can pre-order through Amazon.com and others. In The Unwanted Gift, Tom reflects on the relentless cancer Jeannie experienced (and he, with her). Then, in the book, he expands it to any personal trial we might be having, and how God can penetrate and infuse that hard place with His great grace and strength.

Blog - The Unwanted Gift by Tom Elliff - clcpublicationsPhoto Credit: Amazon

We have read all of Tom’s books. He writes as a dear friend might, your own pastor maybe…coming alongside with encouragement and care…with humility and trust…as one who has been in a similar place…confident that God will meet us there, as He did with Tom and Jeannie.

Postscript: Like you maybe, we have a full week with little time for much extra reading or viewing. For this reason, I wanted to point you to two easy-to-use resources to help you know and reflect on the life of Jeannie Elliff. One is a video and the other is audio (with transcript) – listen in the car or working at home – you will be blessed:

Tribute to Jeannie Elliff   Jeannie’s husband, Tom, and all four of her children spoke at her memorial service. It was the most worshipful service and loveliest tribute I’ve ever seen honoring a woman who loved God and all of us so completely. The video of the service is still available on Vimeo – so beautiful. Revive Our Hearts Radio also posted a two-part tribute (October 1 & 2, 1015) entitled Faithful to the Finish: The Life of Jeannie Elliff. Nancy Leigh DeMoss moderated the tribute, using audioclips from the memorial service.

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.Blog - Tom & Jeannie Need You NowPhoto Credit: Facebook

Jeannie Elliff – Home Now with the God She Loved So Well – Debmillswriter

Monday Morning Moment – Relational Wisdom at Work and at Home

Blog - Monday Morning email

[Adapted from the Archives]

Monday morning emails can be treacherous… This morning when I woke,  my husband told me he’d just heard from a valued colleague that he had secured another job. Dave was expecting this because of previous communications they’ve had with each other. Through an organizational re-structuring, there are many whose jobs are changing. This email was good news because this person will be a tremendous addition to any team – good news and sad news. We will miss this man on our team but we celebrate a great job match.

Then another email came in. It was from the person who will be his new supervisor. It was full of respect and regard – a courtesy email that is not necessarily company culture these days but an email that shows understanding and empathy. When change comes, even good change, there is still that adjustment, that grieving of the good that was. Those two emails speak volume about emotional intelligence or relational wisdom…and that’s something we always need in the workplace…and at home.

The holidays and summer vacations have a particular call for wisdom to soften difficult expectations, disarm family conflicts, and personalize interactions to fit the needs of those nearest to us.

Blog - Monday Morning Moment - MarriagePhoto Credit: rw360.org

One very simple way we can tune into seasonal celebrations is to deal with our own stuff. Keeping our minds on the goodness of the these occasions helps.

Related to both our work and home relationships, Ken Sande, founder of Relational Wisdom 360, has given us a great gift. He has written 33 Ways to Enjoy Highly Relational Holidays. A fast-read blog a day on relational wisdom, written for Advent but which also fits nicely into a block of summer days.

I attended Dr. Sande’s Peacemaker course years ago during a challenging work season, and what I learned then continues to be a tremendous help to me today. If your work or family situation is somewhat intimidating, don’t despair. There are those in our lives (Ken Sande is one) who will come alongside and help/mentor us, if we’re willing to take care of our own hearts and minds.Monday Morning Moment - Post traumatic growthPhoto Credit: coldspringcenter.org

As summer hums along and return to school looms ahead, I hope you are savoring happily memorable times together with family. As far as work goes, just like with the emails above, we can do our part to make our workplace a kind and honoring experience – our part (not someone else’s) in making it the way it could be…the way it should be…Blog - Monday Morning Good Work BraceletPhoto Credit: GoodWorksBracelet.com

What helps you thrive in stressful situations at work? What has made a difference in bringing peace and joy to your summer vacations and holiday celebrations? Please comment and share with those searching for that wisdom.

5 Friday Faves – Nursing Care, Air Conditioning, Guitarist, #TymmRhymes, and Fresh-grown Produce

Blog - Friday Faves

Happy Friday! I haven’t been writing much in the last couple of weeks because of travel. Visiting my dad in assisted living in Georgia was a great delight, as always. Alzheimer’s takes its toll but he still finds joy and gives so much of it to us.Dad and Debbie - July 2016

I would like to write about the events of the last couple of weeks, but the words aren’t coming…at least not for here, for now. So my 5 faves follow instead.

1) Nursing Care -For any one of us who has experienced medical care recently, we understand the great gift of good nurses. Dr. Venu Julapalli wrote a thank you letter online to the caregivers who recently attended his very ill mother. It’s entitled The Sacred Ordinary in Healthcare.

“… when you lifted her out of bed so she could bear her weight on yours, when you respected our wishes for privacy, …when you gave us blankets so we could stay warm in that cold ICU room, when you let my brother sneak his two young boys into the ICU because he wasn’t sure if they would ever see their Nanamma alive again… Those were sacred acts…And when you tucked her in at night and wished her well — like she was fully present and listening, even in her coma…that was sacred.”

His letter was a beautiful testament to what nurses and other care providers do for us each day. Just this week, my chest has stopped hurting from the surgery I had weeks ago. What an amazing thing – the absence of pain. It reminded me of the gentleness and perseverance of the nurses who cared for me in those first days following surgery. With Dr. Julapalli, I want to thank you for your extraordinary acts on what most be ordinary days for you. For us, they were not.Blog - Nurses caring for patients - eclectablogPhoto Credit: Eclectablog

2) Air Conditioning – All week, we’ve been experiencing hot, humid days, with temperatures soaring into the high 90’s. We didn’t have air conditioning growing up – window fans were enough in those days. In fact, I remember the first air conditioning unit my parents bought for their bedroom window. Mom worked nights so this unit allowed her to be able to sleep during the hot summer days. Shortly after we kids had window units, and then central air followed sometime after. It is a very good thing.Blog - Air conditioning - goodhousekeepingPhoto Credit: Good Housekeeping

Blog - Air conditioning - riroxsPhoto Credit: Riroxs

3) Guitarist Nathan Mills, as you know, is my favorite classical guitarist. He teaches guitar locally and on-line, and arranges pieces for guitar from various films, TV shows, and video games. Blog - Guitarist - Nathan Mills - RichmondPhoto Credit: Duy Nguyen, Richmond Times-News Dispatch

You can see some of his work on his YouTube channel.

Something extraordinary happened this week. I don’t understand the phenomenon of “going viral”, but it happened for a bit for Nathan when someone posted the following video on Reddit.

That video has, to date, almost a half-million views. He actually trended on YouTube. His followers on kruetv went from 400 to 1300 within hours.Blog - KrueTVPhoto Credit: krueTV

It was surprising and fascinating to watch that phenomenon. The wave has passed, but I’m sure we will see more of this. After all, he’s got to make a living, and it’s thrilling to think he could on classical guitar. Stay tuned.Blog - Guitarist - Nathan Mills - beyondtheguitar - TwitterPhoto Credit: Twitter

4) #TymmRhymes –Tymm Hoffman is the digital production manager for Compassion International, in Colorado Springs. I discovered him on Facebook because a friend shared some of his Dr. Seuss-like poetry. Since them, he graciously allowed this stranger to “friend” him, and, ever since, I’ve been blessed by his postings, his heart, and his rhymes. He wrote a couple of pieces recently about the volatile situation in our country right now. Here’s one:

BAD vs. GOOD
there’s lots of bad cops, bad docs and bad teachers
bad bosses, bad pastors and even bad preachers;

there’s bad firefighters and bad store clerks,
bad pro athletes who act more like jerks;

bad friends, bad sisters and several bad brothers,
there’s even bad dads and lots of bad mothers;

there’s bad politicians and bad missionaries,
and there’s bad guys named Gary and Jerry and Larry;

there’s plenty bad husbands and plenty bad wives,
And plenty bad people living plenty bad lives;

And if all of life started and stopped with that there,
Then broad strokes would work and I wouldn’t care;

But there’s also good cops, good docs and great teachers,
Good bosses, good pastors and lots of good preachers;

There’s great firefighters and awesome store clerks,
And amazing pro athletes who negate all the jerks;

Good friends, good sisters and even good brothers,
And dads who DO care and lots of good mothers;

There’s a good politician and great missionaries,
There’s good Garys and Jerrys and even good Larrys;

And I know there’s good husbands and lots of good wives,
And a bunch of good people living really good lives;

So let’s not give the bad more than we probably should,
When the truth is – for the bad – there is just as much good.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

let’s address the jacked-up-edness in this world while we holster our fat brushes and paint with some thinner ones… – Tymm Hoffman

5) Home-grown Produce
We have a backyard garden. It’s therapeutic for Dave as he works and walks in it after work each day and on weekends. The flowers are just beautiful. For this summer season, we also enjoy the produce – greens, squash, peppers, and tomatoes. Thankful for such a space and a husband who loves to work the soil.imageimage

Hope you have a safe and restful weekend. Please share any favorites of yours in the Comments below. More and more, I recognize the blessing of every single day. Peace.

Worship Wednesday – Thy Will Be Done – Hillary Scott

Blog - Thy Will Be Done - Lord's Prayer - SlidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

We don’t try to explain God’s will at play when good things happen. It’s just celebration time. However, when bad things happen, we are caught off-guard. There must be some reason, something He’s teaching me, something wrong that He is righting, or some greater good. How do we as His children even imagine that we can explain or justify or normalize the activity of God?

Maybe because we are children. I think of my own children growing up and coping with a decision or direction change that caused them pain, disappointment, or confusion. After their questioning and attempts at convincing us of a better way, after the tears, came the surrender. We were always relieved when they let go of those exhausting emotions and would finally wrap their arms and legs around us, and lay their heads on our shoulders, to come close and be comforted. I remember those intimate times…grateful.

[It’s odd that my memories don’t go back to childhood and the same struggles with disappointments, seemingly caused by my own parents. Maybe you do remember times like that. Please share in comments. Maybe being grown, we have sorted it out enough times that the hurt has dissipated.  Or maybe the relationships, between child and parent, have proved to be trustworthy, and the disappointments just don’t matter in contrast.]

When Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them how to pray, he modeled a prayer for them. Within the text of the prayer, there is an appeal to God, echoing a surrender, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.” I have prayed that phrase over many countries, and over my own life, and that of our children.

Jesus was/is in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit…and the will of God. In that unity, unblemished by his years on earth, he embraced and lived within that will. Still, even for Jesus, there came a dark, awful night, when he wrestled with the sometimes costly nature of the will of God. The next day, sinless Jesus would take on the sins of all the world – dying willingly for us in order that we, in every generation, could be restored to a holy God…forever. It was the only way for us…His obedience, his surrender. In a moment of human struggle, Jesus raised the possibility to the Father of another way…but resolutely, he reaffirmed “Not my will, but Thine be done.” [Luke 22:42]Blog - Jesus prayed - Thy Will - redeeminggodPhoto Credit: Redeeming God

We wrestle with the will of God at times as well. Maybe we are less tempted to question him when we receive the scholarship, or the job offer, or the marriage proposal, or the healthy baby, or the clear medical report. It’s when things go terribly wrong that we struggle with the “why’s” of the will of God. I’m unwilling to try to explain God or answer for him. When I was younger, I tried, but it seems vain and inadequate for us, as children, to try to explain God or give rationale for something hard in our lives.

Terrible things do happen in this world…and I am sure they grieve the heart of God. How do we reconcile the fall-out of sin and brokenness in this life and how God works his will even in those situations? We can’t see with his eyes…nor can we know why. What we can know always is that God loves his children. If we suffer at the hands of others or because of some circumstance of a sin-sick world, we cling to a God who is good…always good.

We are not tossed and tattered by the will of some god who is distant or uncaring. When we face a difficult turn in our lives, we don’t face it alone. Just like our children crawled up in our laps for comfort when they didn’t understand, we do the same with our Father in Heaven. We may be confused by what we’re facing, but we can be sure that foremost in God’s will for us is to know that He loves us and will bring us through whatever situation we find ourselves. He will lovingly bring us through it.

Hillary Scott, singer-songwriter, of Lady Antebellum and The Scott Family, writes a song about this very process – this resting in the love and person of God, no matter the loss, or painful situation.

Worship with me.

I’m so confused
I know I heard You loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of Your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know You think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all Your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that You’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
I know You hear me
I know You see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord*

Blog - Thy Will - cocolaelle

Photo Credit: Cocolaelle

*Lyrics to Thy Will Performed by Hillary Scott and Scott Family

YouTube Video – Hillary Scott & The Scott Family – Thy Will

YouTube Video – Hillary Scott Shares the Story Behind the Song Thy Will