Worship Wednesday – Come to the Table – Sidewalk Prophets

Photo Credit: Flickr

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” –  Revelation 19:9

That experience of being on the outside looking in can be excruciating. You know what it is…when someone draws a circle that shuts you out”. What Jesus does for us is as opposite as it’s possible for us to be – He invites us in. He “draws a circle and takes us in“.

Sunday, at the end of our church service on “Race and the Gospel“, the worship team led us in Chris Tomlin‘s song Even So ComeThe lyric line below really gripped my heart.Photo Credit: YouTube

“Like a bride waiting for her groom”. One day, Scripture states that Jesus will return for us. He is coming as a bridegroom for His bride. What will he look like? Well, he will definitely look familiar to us – a person of color that somehow we will all be able to relate to. And what will we look like – this bride he is coming for?

After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were robed in white with palm branches in their hands.Revelation 7:9

We will, as his bride, be a people of many colors, tribes, and languages. Dressed in white with bouquets of palm branches.

All invited to his banquet table. A place for each of us. A place for all of us who respond to his invitation…yes. No one is lesser. No one is greater. None of us more deserving, none less. All sinners made beautiful again because of what Jesus did for us.Photo Credit: Pinterest

Yesterday, in the car again, listening to the radio again, I heard a song for the first time…again. It’s Sidewalk ProphetsCome to the Table. The lyrics remind us that “we all start on the outside looking in”. Whatever you think of the Jesus as bridegroom and the church (each one of us) as his bride, there is nothing like having a place. Belonging. Being invited in. No longer an outsider.

That is what Christ has given us. He has restored us to Himself and has united us together in that bond of reconciliation as well.

Worship with me please. Come to the table He has prepared for us.

We all start on the outside
The outside looking in
This is where grace begins
We were hungry, we were thirsty
With nothing left to give
Oh the shape that we were in
Just when all hope seemed lost
Love opened the door for us

He said come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table

Come meet this motley crew of misfits
These liars and these thiefs
There’s no one unwelcome here
So that sin and shame that you brought with you
You can leave it at the door
Let mercy draw you near

Come to the table
Come join the sinners who have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come to the table

To the thief and to the doubter
To the hero and the coward
To the prisoner and the soldier
To the young and to the older
All who hunger, all who thirst
All the last and all the first
All the paupers and the princes
All who fail you’ve been forgiven
All who dream and all who suffer
All who loved and lost another
All the chained and all the free
All who follow, all who lead
Anyone who’s been let down
All the lost you have been found
All who have been labeled right or wrong
To everyone who hears this song

Ooh
Come to the table
Come join the sinners you have been redeemed
Take your place beside the Savior
Sit down and be set free
Oooh
Sit down and be set free
Come to the table
Come to the table
Just sit down and rest a while
Just sit down and rest a while
Come to the table*

Sometimes you get messages of “you don’t belong” from the world, and occasionally, sadly, from those in our family or the church. Remember what God says about you, and listen to truth (like what author Kristen Strong writes) –

Remaining still and receiving what the Lord wants to give us right now.

Remaining calm and refusing to feel anxious about our abilities or worth.

Remaining quiet in our own spirit as we lift up the spirits of others who need encouragement.

Because here’s the truth, dear ones:

You don’t have to try to move inside because you were never out.

You are in.

You are in.

You are in. – Kristen Strong

When we are secure in God’s invitation to “be in”, we can give grace to those around us figuring it all out as well. Even those, in the church, who don’t receive others not like them as “in”. If they are in Christ, they are in, too. Let the Lord sort it all out, and “come to the table.”

Lyrics to Come to the TableWriter: Dave Frey, Ben McDonald, Ben Glover

Sidewalk Prophets Website

Something Different Audio CD – Sidewalk Prophets

Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom, Past and Future – John Piper

On the Outside Looking In – Kristen Strong – (In)Courage

Photo Credit: Flickr

Monday Morning Moment – On Being White in a #BlackLivesMatter America – in Remembrance of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery, Alpha Stock Images

I have never felt so white as in recent years. Even all the years we lived in North Africa weren’t like now. Being white, politically conservative and evangelical, some would say, in our current political and cultural climate, that folks like me come from a camp of perceived unsavories.

That reality is might be changeable as political parties come and go in power. What I would love is to have conversation with you…if you would engage with me in the Comments below…is about the realities of those whose skin and cultural experience is black.

No matter what my heart is toward people of color or my attempts to bridge the racial gaps of this city…is it too little, too late? No. I know it’s not too late, but what can I do definitively to help?

This is what I’m asking and searching out.

When the Rodney King arrest happened and became a cultural phenomenon, we were living in the hills of East Tennessee. Far from the struggles that poverty and racial tension bring to urban America.

With violence in the US on the rise, it is easy to see how edgy police officers could get. Police brutality is never the answer. It is, however, a part of the many problems we have in our country right now.

Don’t Just Blame the Cops: Who Is responsible for America’s Killing Fields? – John W. Whitehead – Huffington Post

[I couldn’t imagine someone I loved being in law enforcement and am grateful for these men and women who try to do right and try to keep us ALL safe.]

What stirred me to write today (besides it being MLK Day) was an account by a friend of mine who was pulled over recently by local police. This friend is well-educated, conservatively dressed, articulate, and kind. He lives in a part of the city that is being revitalized, doing work in a non-profit organization and he has a family. He is also black.

When we talked, he told me this was actually the fourth time he had been stopped for confusing reasons that could have put him in harm’s way, when he wasn’t guilty.

When he was in high school, he was among a group of students gathered by a police officer. The purpose of the class was to teach them “how not to get shot” if ever approached by law enforcement.

My friend has applied those lessons on these multiple “pull overs”.

When he and his wife shared the details of some of these encounters with police, it caused me to be scared for them…and for all those who experience this kind of profiling (because of their color?).

That conversation reminded me of my only experience that was anywhere close to his. [And then, it’s not even close.] Once when we lived in North Africa, a police officer pulled me over, took my papers and refused to return them to me until I paid him “a fee”. I had done nothing wrong, and I couldn’t leave without my papers. Stuck. It was the only time in all the years we lived overseas that I essentially cooperated with a bribe.

As infuriating and exasperating as that North African experience was, I still felt the benefit of white privilege. I had the money to pay him. I, an unaccompanied woman, was driving a car. I knew if I appealed (to anyone in our hearing that day), he may have probably backed off.

A big difference between my friend’s situation and mine was that I knew there was a way out. Not sure of his confidence of that…

Photo Credit: Flickr

The phrase “white privilege” feels wrong, to be honest, and I chafe in every conversation where it comes up. I wanted to be a person who has tried to be “color  blind”. The problem with that “color blindness” is our black neighbors, coworkers, friends don’t have that option. I’m beginning to see and acknowledge how privileged I am in so many ways. This is what I used to call “blessed” which had no color attached. Unfortunately, when my friend shares his experiences, I want to agree with him. There is privilege attached to my life. If there is privilege, then how do I use it for the sake of others?… This friend of mine has his own privilege through education and class, BUT the color of his skin trumps all of that.

YouTube Video – If Someone Doesn’t Understand Privilege, Watch This

On Sunday, at the start of our church service, I saw, sitting by our pastor, a person of color, wearing the “pastor’s mic”.  I’d been praying for some time that when we added to our staff, we would seek a black man or woman. When Rayshawn Graves was introduced as our speaker, I forgot for a moment that his presence was aligned with our observance of MLK Day. Initially my heart thrilled at the possibility that he was preaching “in view of a call”. Oh well (I would find out later)…he is contentedly on staff at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond.

Rayshawn preached out of Ephesians 2:11-16 on the reconciling of Jewish and Gentile believers. He also preached on Galatians 2:11-16 on how racism can creep into even the most devout believers if we aren’t careful. His message was so encouraging to me as a white believer desiring to figure how to deal with racism in America (what could I do?). My takeaways from his assuring and equipping sermon follow:

  • Racism is a sin which will always be present. It separates and isolates us from God and each other.
  • Jesus died for that sin as for all other sins.
  • Through Him, we can have the guilt of that sin removed. We can all be free to live in unity with God and each other.
  • Our identity in Christ is above every other identity we may have.
  • We don’t have to live out guilt (as whites) or the hurt of racism (as blacks). We belong to Christ and we are called to live that out – loving God, loving others, making every effort to keep and preserve the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).
  • We are called to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2) – within the church and with marginalized peoples especially. Unless we come close to each other, and have heart conversations, how will we know what those burdens are?
  • Because our identity is in Christ, and we love Him and want to be like Him, we make a habit of being proactive in pursuing reconciliation.

You can listen to Rayshawn’s sermon in entirety here. So helpful.

#BlackLivesMatter: A Guide for Confused White People – Sarah Wotaszak

YouTube Video – A Biblical Response on Race – Sermon by Tony Evans

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

As we pause on Martin Luther King Day and reflect on the sobering issue of racism in our country, and world, we can be hopeful. The hope must be grounded in what has already been done for us to be unified…and what we can do, based on truth, towards racial reconciliation. Still thinking of my friend, somehow profiled by law enforcement, I am more resolved than ever before to reach out in as many directions as possible. May God open doors and bring unity.

Providence Is No Excuse: Exposing a Reformed White Supremacist – Daniel Kleven

Postscript: Below I have excerpted just a few of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s observations on what was happening in his day. He wrote these to a group of white pastors who had expressed concern about his actions.  He wrote from the Birmingham jail where he was imprisoned for nonviolent demonstrations against segregation.

[Bold emphases are mine. Read his letter in its entirety here.]

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.
History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.
“Justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate…the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…
I am coming to feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Photo Credit: Flickr
I gradually gained a bit of satisfaction from being considered an extremist. Was not Jesus an extremist in love? — “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice? — “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the gospel of Jesus Christ? — “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist? — “Here I stand; I can do no other so help me God.” Was not John Bunyan an extremist? — “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a mockery of my conscience.” Was not Abraham Lincoln an extremist? — “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.”  Was not Thomas Jefferson an extremist? — “We hold these truths to be self – evident, that all men are created equal.” So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love?

5 Friday Faves – 50 Rules, New Favorite Podcast, Not-So-Sweet Sugar Story, Interventions for Childhood Depression, and Tidy House Hacks

Snow days are past in Richmond, Virginia. For now. School is back in session. Today was even unseasonably warm. Hope you had an eventful and significant week. Please feel free to comment about it. I would love to hear and then share. Also any of your own favorite finds of the week…this can be your platform as well to share. Here are mine:

1) Fifty Rules – Those of us who are parents hope we raise our children with wisdom they can carry into adulthood. Then we want to leave this life having pointing them, as adults, to what matters so their children will also have a strong foundation.

Lawyer, writer, father Tim Hoch is doing that for his children, I’m pretty sure. His lists of 50 Rules, one for sons and the other for daughters, are a collection of wisdom statements worthy of our consideration.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

A few of my favorites from each list:

For Sons:

  • Be open to, and unashamed of, the possibility, however slight, that you might be wrong.
  • Don’t ever assume that someone else is looking out for your best interests. Some people are. Most people are not. If you find someone who is, guard and treasure that relationship above all others.
  • Do what you love but find a way to make money doing it or you won’t be able to do it very long.
  • Don’t assume that an obvious question has already been asked.

For Daughters:

  • Those who gossip to you gossip about you.
  • If you worship physical beauty, you will never be pretty enough.
  • Live the life that is right in front of you.
  • Even if it seems as though something goes without saying, if it is important to you, say it anyway.

What are some of your rules? Those sayings that became part of your family’s lexicon? We would all appreciate hearing them (in Comments below).

[Linked below you will also find writer Walker Lamond‘s Rules for his children – two books and an online list. Don’t miss them.]

Rules for My Unborn Son – Walker Lamond

Rules for My Newborn Daughter – Walker Lamond

1,001 Rules for My Unborn Son – Let’s Get Something Straight Before I Get Old and Uncool – Walker Lamond (Running list of his favorite wisdom sayings – not to 1,001 yet)

50 Rules For Sons

50 Rules For Daughters

50 Little Etiquette Rules You Should Always Practice – Reader’s Digest – Stuff some of which I was taught and passed on to my kids. Also some more current etiquette rules. Will be an interesting family conversation when we talk about what is our practice today.

2) Favorite New Podcast – Author and business coach Kevin Prewett just launched a new podcast entitled Rising Tide Startups. Once a week he will interview entrepreneurs just beginning to really get things moving in their new or side businesses. These rising stars are still on that sharp learning curve side of success. Prewett offers them an opportunity to tell their story. Then he invites his listeners to give feedback to these startup folks to help them over the hurdles they are facing. Photo Credit: Rising Tide Startups

I love this concept because we often hear (on podcasts) the work details of highly successful people. Fascinating stuff, for sure, but I’m intrigued with the stories coming out on Rising Tide. Young artists or business people taking the risks to go for it (whatever that passion is for them). Prewett closes his interview with questions of what the toughest part of their endeavor is currently, and we, the listeners, get to speak into their lives. Wow!

The premier podcast interview on Rising Tide was with guitarist Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. You can listen here or watch here. This is a brand new podcast. Get in from the beginning. Maybe you yourself are an entrepreneur, starting up a business, and would like to be interviewed and then receive feedback by the listeners. Go to the  website and click on Guest Request tab. Prewett ends his podcast with this: “All boats rise on a rising tide.” Good stuff!

Episode 2 – Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar

Rising Tide Startups Tshirt

Photo Credit: Brainy Quote

3) Not-So-Sweet Sugar Story – A friend of mine was lamenting recently about how hard it is to find products NOT containing wheat for his daughter who has celiac disease.  As he talked, and I sympathized, I couldn’t help but think the same about sugar. It seems to be everywhere. Not just in sweet products, obviously, but in savory products as well. Why? Is it possible that we have, as a society, been slowly seduced, over decades, into becoming sugar addicts by the food industry itself? If you wonder then you’re wise. Check out author Allison Hart‘s very readable and fascinating piece Has the Sugar Industry Been Hiding Research Linking Sugar to heart Disease for 50 Years?

‘Nuff said.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Recent list of best diets ranks keto last and DASH first

4) Interventions for Childhood Depression – Mom and author Becky Mansfield has written an incredibly empowering article on what we as parents can do to intervene in childhood depression. You won’t be surprised when she targets electronics, especially smart phones.Photo Credit: Your Modern Family

It isn’t adolescence that births sullen, distant, disconnected kids. This development begins much earlier, and that’s why she recommends our kids be evaluated by age 11 if we suspect depression.

The scary truth about what’s hurting our kids

Read her article for foundation (really helpful). Here I will list what she encourages us as parents to do:

  • Screen children for depression if you are concerned.
  • Get back to what we did before phones – spend time playing games with our kids [What else? Working in garden/yard, hiking, serving as a family in the community. What else? Comment below.]
  • Spend dinnertime talking.
  • If you can, drop everything that you are doing when when the kids get home from school to TALK to them (I think she intended this to mean to listen to them and help them process their day).
  • Make dinner without having the TV on, the phone close by, or the tablet turned on.
  • Use any ‘car time’ to talk to our kids (maybe even not allowing electronics in the car). [This reminds me of times when our kids were still home and we were in the car with all of them having their ear buds in, each listening to their own music. That was before smart phones.]
  • Have the kids do chores: responsibilities increase their self-worth.*
  • Be sure that kids are getting enough sleep.
  • Don’t keep a lot of junk food in the house.
  • Take away electronics and tell kids to “go play”.
  • Don’t rescue kids [let them deal with consequences].
  • Talk to our kids about why they need to come to us if something is wrong.
  • Limit our own online distractions when the children are home.

*Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Children Grow Up Before They Grow Old – Joseph and Claudia Allen

5) Tidy House Hacks – OK…maybe most of you have figured out how to keep your home neat and tidy. I’m always amazed when visiting with my brother and sister-in-law. She never seems to sit down. Very much engaged with the people and conversation around her, but always spiffying up. Some day I have to figure this out. I’m pretty positive no one would ever describe my house, today, as tidy. “Comfortable” “Lived-in” maybe…but not neat. So…here is what I learned from this “nester” as she calls herself: 5 Things People With Tidy Houses Don’t DoPhoto Credit: Pexels

  • Tidy People don’t act like a slob all day, and then get their house tidy in one fell swoop.
  • Tidy People Don’t Run out of Cleaning Supplies. Photo Credit: Pexels
  • Tidy People never let the sun go down on their filth.
  • Tidy People don’t store things on the floor. [Such a struggle for me.]
  • Tidy People don’t over decorate.

5 Things People With Tidy Houses Don’t Do – Nesting Place

That’s it for this week. Be careful out there this weekend. Be gentle with yourself and each other…I can’t tell you how much you bless me in reading this jumble of words. Thanks.

Bonuses

Want to Increase Your Happiness This Year? Science Says 1 Rare Habit Truly Stands Out – Marcel SchwantesPhoto Credit: Flickr

12 Books That Will Make You a Better Writer and Storyteller – Ann Handley

Worship Wednesday – I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin

Photo Credit: David Joyce, Flickr

Yesterday, driving to an appointment, an old Chris Tomlin song came on the radio. It touched my heart in an unusual way. Familiar words, I Lift My Hands stilled my thoughts for the moment. God drew me to Himself, and worship flowed. Not even thinking, one hand on the steering wheel, my other hand rose… I made a note on my phone of that old song and didn’t think about it again. Then early this morning, the Bible reading for today was in Psalm 63.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.Psalm 63:3-4

I wanted to write on joy today. Especially after reading Psalm 63-65. That unquenchable joy at all the good in our lives. New babies. Graduations. Weddings. Health. Milestones. Victories.

Then my newsfeed on Facebook brought the news that a friend’s sister died yesterday. Heidi Lodenstein – 47 years young. Adored by her husband. Two children at home. Glioblastoma. Devoted daughter of an all-loving God who chose not to heal the cancer here but received her Home, healed There. Sad? For that sweet family and friend group. Joy in grief?…abundantly so.

A Lament for Heidi – Cindy DeBoer

We lost a dear friend to glioblastoma a couple of years back as well. He left behind a much-loved wife and three darling little daughters. As we prayed through those months of his disease, while he fought for his life, we asked for miracles of healing. On this side of Heaven, it wasn’t meant to be.

At his funeral, Dave and I sat, tears on our faces, along with his family and friends. Sad with the loss of him. Yet, there was also something else. Something from so deep in us all, it had to push up and out. It was a strange and magnificent joy. How grateful we were to have known him. To have been a part of something bigger than all of us…with him. To be connected forever with each other by the God he trusted…and we trusted.

Joy. Even in that awful grief.

At that funeral, we lifted our hearts to the God who brought us all together…to be comforted together…and especially by Him. To breathe in the peace that we would see our friend again…whole and himself.

Whatever your situation is right now, my prayer for you is to know joy… May the object of your joy be the Lord Himself, who turns our weeping into dancing…our sorrow into joy [Psalm 30].

Worship with me.

Be still, there is a healer
His love is deeper than the sea
His mercy, it is unfailing
His arms are a fortress for the weak
Let faith arise
Let faith arise

[Chorus]
I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, you are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful, God, forever

Be still, there is a river
That flows from Calvary’s tree
A fountain for the thirsty
Pure grace that washes over me
So let faith arise
Let faith arise
Open my eyes
Open my eyes

[Chorus]*

Sometimes our thoughts take us place we weren’t aiming to go. Today I wanted to write about joy. It flowed out of sorrow…but it flowed full. 

Listen to the sound of my pleading when I cry to You for help,
when I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary…May the Lord be praised, for He has heard the sound of my pleading. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped.
Therefore my heart rejoices, and I praise Him with my song. The Lord is the strength of His people; He is a stronghold of salvation for His anointed. Save Your people, bless Your possession, shepherd them, and carry them forever. – Psalm 28:2, 6-9

[Postscript: Presently reading Rob Morgan‘s The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times. It came at a good time.]

YouTube Video – Chris Tomlin – I Lift My Hands – Official Lyric Video

*Lyrics to I Lift My Hands – Chris Tomlin, Louie Giglio, Matt Maher

Story Behind the Song I Lift My Hands – New Release Today – Kevin Davis

God Gives Us Joy in Grief – John Piper

YouTube Video – With Hope – Steven Curtis Chapman

The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times – Robert J. Morgan

Heath Has Finished His Race… – Deb Mills Writer

Monday Morning Moment – Going After Big Goals When Life Seems Small – with Benjamin P. Hardy

Photo Credit: Flickr

If you search within my website for author and productivity coach Benjamin P. Hardy, you’ll find he’s a favorite of mine. In fact, this blog will be my 15th highlighting his prescriptions on getting where we hope to go.

Today is his 30th birthday. Happy birthday, Buddy! It is just a tad annoying that this guy is so young and yet has done the hard work of getting to this peak place in his life. However, it’s a bravo and high five because, in truth, he practices what he preaches. I have learned from him and been encouraged by him to reach for what some days feels impossible. So thanks, Benjamin Hardy!

This morning, as much as I love Mondays, was one of those rare mental low, “life seems small” starts to the week. It didn’t last long thankfully. One reason is the ritual I have (which he also strongly emphasizes) – waking early, high-protein breakfast, quiet time (for me in Scripture & prayer), exercise, and goal-setting. Mind you, I am not always successful in this, and at times, the goal-setting part does me in. That’s why his birthday post today was providential.

This blog was a longer than usual read (17 minutes) but had a huge positive push for me and I will share highlights and takeaways. Maybe you can read it in full at lunch. Worth your time.

How to 1) Get Into Peak States, 2) Make Bold Decisions, 3) Invest in Yourself, and 4) Achieve Your Most Audacious Goals – Benjamin P. Hardy

Don’t be put off by what sounds a bit like an infomercial from some jazzy motivational speaker trying to see you his product. His astuteness related to productivity is matched by his generosity in sharing with whomever wants to benefit. Hardy does have a book coming out in March 2018 – Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success. I look forward to reading it.

Anyway, quickly, back to the epiphany ushered in by his blog. Here are the quotes to set foundation:

“You get in life what you tolerate, as Tony Robbins has said. And most people have developed tolerances for distraction and addiction. They’ve become okay with it. They’ve settled for that reality….the root cause of their problems is always themselves. Even if the actual problem is something (or someone) in your environment, it’s up to you to make that change.”

“To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.,A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.’”

“When you act, then you start to get clarity. In order to achieve your goals, you need to become the person who can have those goals.”

“Most people are very disconnected from themselves. They are living in an addictive and reactive state. In those few moments when people purposefully pull themselves from their mesmerized state of unconscious, peak experiences happen. They are predictable. You can create them. What if you made being in a peak state a priority? What if you literally needed to operate at peak levels on a daily basis in order to achieve your goals? What if that was your standard?”

“Being in a peak state means you’re operating at the level you want to be, so that you can achieve ambitions beyond anything you’ve done before.”

“…a ship without a sail. They go wherever life takes them. Theirs’ is a random and unconscious evolution. Their behaviors are reactive and without much consequence. It doesn’t matter if they blow several hours roaming around on the internet. However, if you want to set a new path in your life, you need to make a powerful and definitive decision.”

After my walk this morning, and an incidental conversation with a good friend (read answered prayer I didn’t even know I asked)…a peak mental state, as described by Hardy, emerged. I have more focus, resolve, and confidence.

Some of Hardy’s takeaways for me today are:

  • Shake off negative, small life thoughts, and put yourself into a peak state mentally…then make that decision/goal. (He gives how-to’s in his post.
  • Keep that decision ever before you (in whatever way is most effective). I’m visual – it’s written and posted as a frequent reminder.
  • Invest in that decision (brings skin into the game…yours). Commit in such a way that there’s no easy way out. Invest yourself in your own future. [For some, this probably makes perfect sense…it’s hard for me to do; that investing in my own development.]
  • Put yourself in proximity with the people who will most invest in you and your goals and who care enough about you to tell you the truth. Take the time to do the work of gathering that sort of team.
  • Be honest with yourself about what needs to happen to reach that goal, then do what you have to do to be prepared for that goal to happen. [I know, it sounds both hard and exciting, right?]
  • Be grateful; stay humble.  Be grateful; stay humble. Be grateful…
  • Fight for the goal you’ve made. You made it in a peak state, such that you know that you know that you know it’s your right direction (a word from God, a burning passion, a deep longing). You fight for it; no one else will care the same as you care about it.
  • Photo Credit: Twitter

Benjamin P. Hardy is living the life. He still contends with deadlines and sick kids and freezing cold days. He’s not my hero or anything… BUT as a complete stranger, he encourages me not to give up, and to take this day as the precious gift it is and not treat it like it’s small.

Reactive, distracted, addicted…doesn’t win today. Hope the same for you!

Saturday Short – This Blood – with Rachel Chapman

Photo Credit: Flickr

Probably the greatest offense of Christ to a disbelieving world is the cross. Why? Surely, the God of the universe could have orchestrated another way…a gentler, more palatable way to reconcile a wayward people back to Himself. How can we, mere mortals, prescribe to Creator God, a better way? God have mercy.

In our small understanding of the costly nature of sin and the priceless redemption available to us through Jesus, we are undone. A sinless savior. Paying our debt that we had no way to do it. To a holy God. God the Father, restoring us back to Himself, through the death of this precious One, Jesus.

Songwriter Rita Springer wrote a song entitled This Blood that exquisitely describes what Jesus did for us. There is something about this song that also brings together generations. Don’t miss how Springer describes the inspiration of this song and her personal experience of God in the process (here). She also talks about her heritage of parents and grandparents who loved God deeply and raised her up in the tradition of choirs singing of this great love.

Get ready for goosebumps. This song. This choir. This girl. This God:

There is a blood
That cost a life
That paid my way
Death its price
When it flowed
Down from the cross
My sins were gone
My sins forgot

There is a grave
That tried to hide
This precious blood
That gave me life
In Three Days
He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One

There is a Blood
That sights the blind
That Heals the sick
The lonely finds
It has the Power
To free the bound
As chains they fall
Upon the ground

So pour it out and
To cleanse my soul
And let’s liquid Glory flow
Because it lives
To make me whole
I owe my life
I owe my soul

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing, nothing, nothing,

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus (x2)

There is a grave
That tried to hide
This precious blood
That gave me life
In Three Days
He breathed again
And rose to stand in my defense

So I come to tell you He’s alive
To tell you that He dries every tear that falls
So I come to tell you that He saves
To shout and to proclaim that He’s coming back for you
This Life, This Price, This Blood, This One*

[Postscript: I LOVE choirs. Grew up with them, singing in them. In recent years, praise teams have also affected for me an avenue to worship God. The thing is: it’s easy to just be caught up with the singers, the sound and the solace…and stop short of worshiping the God who inspired such singing. May we never stop short. Hallelujah!]

*Lyrics to This Blood – Songwriter Rita Springer

YouTube Video – Rita Springer – This Blood Song Story – listen to Springer’s testimony of how God gave her this song and how it resonated for her with the generations before – the hymn-singing generations – her parents and grandparents who loved God so.

YouTube Video – This Blood – First Baptist Church, Minden, Louisiana (this video features Rachel Chapman (embedded above)

YouTube Video – This Blood – First Baptist Jacksonville – with Soloist Terette Mitchell

5 Friday Faves – Assassin’s Creed on Guitar, Carey Nieuwhof on Leadership Development, Snow Days, Internet Discoveries, and the Cost of Security

Snow day!!! On a Friday. Do I need to say more?

Hope you are well, warm, and safe.

Here are my Friday faves from this week.

1) Assassin’s Creed on GuitarGuitarist Nathan Mills has just posted his arrangement of the main theme from Assassin’s Creed IV.

If you’re like me, you might not know what that even means – Assassin’s Creed. It’s a popular videogame set in the Caribbean during the 18th century. Lots of swashbuckling, sword-wielding pirates, I suppose. The best part of this game for me (since I never played)? This guy playing this arrangement on this guitar:

Follow Beyond the Guitar here. Every week, more music, just for us.

2) Carey Nieuwhof on Leadership DevelopmentCarey Nieuwhof is a pastor, writer, podcaster, and leadership coach. His thinking on  leadership development goes beyond the church straight into the secular workplace. He has much to offer to anyone wanting to raise up qualified leaders. His own wisdom and experience as a leader and student of leadership make him a worthy mentor. Then there are also his choices of leader interviews for his podcast. I’d like to point you to two he interviewed and then posted among his Top 10 Podcasts of 2017.

They are Todd Adkins and Craig Groeschel.

Adkins on intentionality: Leadership development requires intentionality. If you think that leadership development is going to naturally happen over time, you’re wrong. Usually leaders are also ambitious doers, and striking a healthy balance between doing and developing is only something that happens with intentionality.

Adkins on building leaders from within the organization: Are you building people or buying them? If you look at your staff and realize that you bought most or all of them, then it’s time to reevaluate your leadership development culture. There is a time or a place to buy staff, but a healthy leadership culture also produces leaders from within.

Groeschel on feedback: Create a culture where feedback is craved rather than avoided. The higher you rise in any form of leadership, the harder it is for people to tell you the truth. As a leader, your posture sets the tone throughout the organization. If you don’t ask for feedback and receive it well, you’re limiting your own growth and the growth of everyone working around you. Not only will people refrain from telling you what they think, they will also fail to hear constructive criticism for themselves.

Groeschel on delegating: Delegating empowers other leaders in your church. Lead pastors try to hold on to too much because of issues with trust and control. But delegating empowers other leaders and breaks down the limitations that come with one person carrying the load. Overtime, pastors should give up more than they could ever think possible.

7 Ways to Grow Church Attendance by Increasing Engagement – Carey Nieuwhof – There is so much wisdom here, not just about church attendance but about how to get folks engaged. With the tension of disengagement and productivity in the workplace, Nieuwhof gives sound counsel on how we can demonstrate valuing and increase engagement.

 Photo Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

5 Things Every Church Leader Should Unlearn in 2018 (if You Want to Stay Relevant) – Carey Nieuwhof

3) Snow Days – Love snow days. The sparkle of sun-lit snow. The profound quiet. How all the other colors around us pop against the white background. The breaking up of routine. The pot of a favorite hot on the stove. Movies, books, fires in the fireplace. Mmmmmm.

Thankful also for all those folks out there who keep working – you medical and emergency staff, you power and water company employees, you whoever you are who still get out there in the deep cold. Thank you!

4) Internet Discoveries –The internet is replete with fascinating subject matter. The danger is being drawn off task by chasing rabbits that pop up during a “quick check” of Twitter, Facebook, etc. Here is one that happened to me this week and, as it happens, enriched my life (even momentarily). Photography is my hobby, so when the Master Class with Annie Leibovitz came up in my Facebook feed, I watched the teaser. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the video, she talked about photographing Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Penn Warren. He had cancer at the time and would later die from it. If you love poetry, maybe you know his work. Or that of his daughter, Rosanna Warren. I didn’t know them until now.

Studying some of Robert Penn Warren’s biography and reading father’s and daughter’s  poetry was a highlight of this week’s finds.

Poetry inspires me but I am not a student of poetry. This was a momentary, fascinating find. Have you had one of those finds this week – incidental, serendipitous? Please share with us (Comments below).

5) Cost of Security – Anyone who travels on airlines (especially since the 2001 9-11 bombings) knows something of the cost of security. There have been too many other public attacks since then, moving us to give up personal privacy and freedom for the sake of safety and security. We have all been in these conversations; some of us even in on the decision-making related to security protocol.

So what makes this a find of the week? This statement made around a table of friends earlier this week: “Convenience and habits are the enemies of security.” It got me to thinking about what we are willing to give up, in terms of convenience and routines, to fortify our security (and the security of others, actually). Things like passwords and keys are not easy to keep up with, but they are essential in today’s world. Photo Credit: Slideshare

Routines or habits that make us more vulnerable might need changing. Like going back and forth to work the same time/way every day. Or running alone. Or being the last one out of the building. When we have routines in our public life, we tend to become less situationally aware. If we all do the work of assessing our own security situation and become more in tune to potential hazards, then we may avoid losing more personal freedom and privacy to other agencies given the task of keeping us safe.

Something to think about…and I have this week. Tightening up some habits and tweaking some routines.

Why Convenience Is the Enemy of Security – PC World

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

Hope your weekend looms happily ahead of you…with time with those you love. Blessings and Happy New Year!

Oh…and please leave some of your own finds in the Comments below for us all to learn from you.

Bonuses

NegotiatingThe Art of Letting Other People Have Your Way: Negotiating Secrets From Chris Voss – Podcast – Farnam Street Blog

EmpathyGet the Gift of Empathy to Innovate and Digitally Transform Your Organization – Brian Solis

  • “True leaders don’t invest in followers; they empower others to become leaders.” – Brian Solis

Your Body After You Stop SmokingPhoto Credit: WebMD Facebook page

Shyndigz – a dessert restaurant (always a pleasure, not just for the sweets but the surroundings. A beautiful experience. Photo Credit: Screenshot from Shyndigz website

Gel Pens – Celebrating these wonderful little inventions. About the time our daughter moved from pencil to pen, we were living in Cairo, Egypt. In the Korba district of the city, we found a lovely little gift shop called EveryMan’s. This was the place and the season, mid-90s, that we discovered gel pens. I was reminded of the wonder they are this week during our mid-week small group meeting. We were all women in attendance with just Dave as our only guy (which was unusual). At some point, the conversation turned to gel pens (oh, we were writing New Year’s resolutions), and we all sang their praises. Dave commented, “I feel like we wouldn’t be having this discussion if there were more guys here.” Probably…their loss, his gain to be in our mix that night.Photo Credit: Pixabay

Adam Grant’s Book List for 2018

Photo Credit: Grant Snider, Karen Swallow Prior

Worship Wednesday – You’re Here – Nichole Nordeman

Photo Credit: YouTube

Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; You understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; You are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, You know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; You have placed Your hand on me. This extraordinary knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it. Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, You are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, even there Your hand will lead me; Your right hand will hold on to me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night”— even the darkness is not dark to You. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to You. – Psalm 139:1-12

A friend of ours has been much on my heart and in my prayers of late. In our last conversation, as we were catching up after a few months separated by busy lives, he shared openly about his current thinking on God. This is a young man who the whole time we’ve known him has been deeply convinced of God, the validity of His Word, and His divine work in our lives and the world. Now…not so much. How can such a change occur in one’s thinking in so few months? I’ve been praying for him ever since, saddened that I let so much come between our friendship. Regretting.

This brings me to a recent encounter with God such that I know He will not let this dear friend of ours get too far from Him. I know because of His promises…and I know because He didn’t let me get too far…

Sunday was a tender time in our gathered church experience. New Year’s Eve. Pastor Cliff preached on going deep with the Lord and he used New Year’s resolutions as a tool for guiding us in that direction. [I just wrote about that here.]

One of the songs we sang during worship was Citizens & SaintsI Surrender All. This song is deeply meaningful to me because it was a favorite hymn in my early years in the church. We would often sing it after the sermon during the “altar call”. Photo Credit: Voice of Revolution

Those in attendance would be challenged to wrestle with God over whatever had been preached. If you sing the whole hymn you would say the words “surrender” 30 times and “all” like 45 times! It was sobering, and, in the end, brought great release, freedom, and joy. The band Citizens & Saints add the meaningful bridge which describes the realization that comes in surrender: – “Oh the joy of full salvation, sin and death defeated, glory to His name”.

As we sang, I was reminded of a time in my 20s that I was far from God. Oh, still going to church, you know…but in my heart, and my choices through the week…far. I will never forget one night, in particular, during a time I was really playing with fire, bedazzled by the world. After getting to bed very late, something gave me pause and I tried to pray. In that dark night, it was as if my prayers hit the ceiling and fell back to me. I was terrified.

From somewhere deep inside, the verse from Isaiah (59:2) came into my thoughts: “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Now, that was written in context to a gravely disobedient people, and because of Christ we live in much grace today. Still…that was all I needed. That reminder. Had to have come from the Spirit of God Himself.

It helped me alter my course in life. There would be other times where I didn’t choose wisely, but God never let go of me. Never.

Back to the present: New Year’s Day morning and I was driving to a friend’s house. Tuned into my current favorite radio station, and three songs in a row took me to the very throne of God, as He spoke to my heart through those lyrics.

I know you’ve been in a place…at home or somewhere else (for me, this time, it was in the driver’s seat of my car, dealing with toll roads)…and God demonstrates He is there. It’s just amazing, right?

Nichole Nordeman‘s song “You’re Here” was new to me. Would you take a moment and listen to or sing this song with me? We can worship right where we are.

In my younger years
I found You beneath the steeple
In the faces of Your people
Could hear You in the hymns
In my younger years
Then later on
I met You on a road, once winding
Seeking but not always finding
With the building gone
You still loved me later on

[Pre-Chorus]
Anywhere You are is sanctuary
Everywhere You are is where I’m free

[Chorus]
You’re here, You’re here
The only invitation that You need
Is the very air I breathe
You’re here, You’re here
I will never be alone
You will be always be my home
‘Cause You’re here

In the same small room
Staring at the life I’ve chosen
Hoping that the door’s still open
To give my heart to You
In this same small room
What could separate
Me from all the ways You love me?
Nothing below or above me
Could get in the way
This is what You say

[Pre-Chorus]
Anywhere You are is sanctuary
Everywhere You are is where I’m free

[Chorus]
You’re here, You’re here
The only invitation that You need
Is the very air I breathe
You’re here, You’re here
I will never be alone
You will be always be my home…

[Bridge]
You were at the altar, preacher’s hand upon my head
You were in the water, when I came up clean instead
You’re still in my story, when my tears fall on the dirt
You’re there in the morning, wrapping grace around what hurts
You were in the questions, in the silence on the phone
You were paying cab fare, making sure I made it home
I believed in too far, I believed in my worst fear
But You were never moving closer, You were only always here!

You will always be my home
I don’t have to be alone
Don’t have to be alone
You will always be my home*

Seriously, it’s like Nichole Nordeman has known my walk with the Lord. Well, she definitely knows the Lord and her lyrics cross generations and touches our hearts with truth, no matter our situation.

I hope you’re encouraged. I don’t know what you’re going through, but God does (as trite as this could sound though true the same). He is with you, no matter what. He won’t let you go. This…I know.

*Lyrics to Nichole Nordeman’s You’re Here

YouTube Video – Nichole Nordeman – You’re Here (Song Story)

Monday Morning Moment – New Year’s Day – Resolved

Photo Credit: Reformed Outfitters

I take New Year’s resolutions very seriously. They have served me well through the years in shaking up troublesome habits as well as galvanizing better ones. New (or restored) habits that nurture the body AND the spirit.

Today we started another sugar detox to deal with those few extra pounds from all the great holiday eating. Also started a gentle-on-the-heart decluttering project. Will deal with exercise at some point.

What I’m most excited about are the resolutions that were actually spurred on by our pastor during his sermon Sunday [podcast of 12/31/2017 here]. Cliff challenged us to commit to some to the Lord…together.

In fact, before the end of the service, we were to think, pray, and write down our resolutions and place them in a self-addressed envelope. He will mail them back to us in three months to encourage us back to resolve if we have faltered at that point.

Cliff preached from 1 Corinthians 1 about the callings God has placed on our lives…and with the callings He empowers us, providing all we need to be successful. Our responsibility…privilege, really…is to resolve to enter into the life God intends for us, rather than play around with something much less. God calls us into deep relationships with him and with each other. We can miss that by paddling around in the shallows of life…choosing superficial over the supernatural.

Anyway, I was resolved, before that sermon, to go deeper with God this coming year and to surrender myself to Him in my relationships with others as well. Cliff’s encouragement came at just the right time. I especially appreciated a phrase he used about God being the “first voice” in our ears each morning. Not our phones, not email, not social media, not any other distractor. Just His voice…first.

Jonathan Edwards, the great 18th century preacher and theologian, definitely understood the importance of praying through and writing out resolutions that would inform his daily life. Over the course of several months, he composed seventy resolutions for life. You can read them here. The five resolutions I made during church on New Year’s Eve are weighty enough for me…can’t imagine 70! Edwards just gives an example to us of a man who, even as deeply devoted as he already was, did not want to miss God in a busy life of ministry. Nor did he want to miss the people God placed in his life as the focus of that ministry.

Resolutions help us to keep the main thing the main thing. Sure, we may struggle to keep our bodies and houses in order. Those are temporary situations. Where we hope most to be successful is in keeping our hearts tuned to what matters most. Going deep with God and others. I am resolved…

Resolved – The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

Monday Morning Moment: Understanding True Habit Change and Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions – Deb Mills Writer