Category Archives: God

5 Friday Faves – So Taken by the Beauty Around Us – in Music, Nature, Technology, Words, and Community

Friday evening is closing in fast. Here are my five faves of this week – all focusing on the beauty in our lives…or just a bit of it, for sure.

1) Music – So much of our human experience is elevated by music. No matter how lovely life already is, there is something beyond words really that happens to us when music slips in. Photo Credit: Quote Fancy

For example, when Nathan, our favorite guitarist, first performed in concerts, I was astonished at the emotion that he could stir in performing on a single guitar. He is less in the concert hall now and more on social media channels, but the emotion is stronger than ever. The quiet yet penetrating sound of a classical guitar has surprised me with its remarkable beauty. Definitely has the imprint of the composer and the luthier (the maker of the instrument). Then there’s the artist.  That one who brings the music and the instrument to life. The one whose heart touches our own in the joy of the moment. For those of you who follow Nathan with me, you know

the experience. I never want to take it for granted. His music.

For those of you who subscribe to his YouTube channel, you’re in very good company (50,000+ company). For you who follow him on social media, all your likes, comments, follows, and shares go a long way. It all makes a difference. Lastly for those who are his patrons, we are in that growing, strongly committed bunch of people who look forward to his creating and performing music today…and in future.

The music industry is complicated, and I’m thankful that Nathan continues to do what it takes to carve out a career in music.

[He’s probably not going to love all this…being I’m his mum and all…but focusing on beauty in this Friday Fave…it is what it is.]

Below are three of his simpler melodies…and some of my favorites.

YouTube Video – Downton Abbey Theme – “The Suite” – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Tale as Old as Time – Beauty and the Beast – Beyond the Guitar

YouTube Video – Bioshock Infinite: Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Beyond the Guitar

2) Nature – Having lived in Cairo, Egypt, for many years, my perception of beauty has deepened and become sharper. Some see that city as one hot dusty mess of snarled traffic and teeming crowds of people. For me, Cairo was magical. The people so beautiful, and natural world of that city persistent and hardy. Having the Nile River coursing through that urban desert brought life to a dry place.

Anyway, it’s been too long since our life in Cairo, but just as we were surrounded with beauty there, we are here as well. The astounding beauty of even our broken world moves some to pantheism (a worldview so enamored with the excellence of the natural world that a personal god is not even considered). I personally can’t imagine this world without it having been created by God – a God who loves beauty and order and lavishes both on those created.

What do you think as you soak up this world – turning to Spring for us in the Northern Hemisphere? Or we could just put the thinking aside and rejoice in the sheer beauty of it all.

3) Technology – OK…here I’m going way out of my comfort zone because tech is so not my language. Still… earlier this week, I spent an obscene amount of my life going through pre-digital-age pictures. Photography has been a life-long hobby of mine, leading me to have not just albums upon albums but boxes of pictures and even slides.

Memories…attached to people and places that were moments captured and continents spanned. In photography alone, technology has taken us away from the box cameras of my childhood to digital beauties that pretty much leave us without an excuse on getting that “Kodak moment” (or photo-worthy image for folks who no longer know what Kodak was).

I got a new camera for Christmas. Thanks to that husband of mine.

…he still has to help me with much of my technology…but I’m thankful beyond words for what can be accomplished with it.

4) Words – It’s pretty obvious that I love words. Not the cynical, cutting, mean-spirited ones…but those that are life-giving and hold us up when our knees start to buckle. I have had the opportunity to go to a couple of Global Leadership Summits where a diverse group of world-class leaders come together and speak to thousands, in person and via satellite. This year, one of those speakers is actor Denzel Washington. I can’t tell you all his films I’ve seen, but what he says off-screen is even more delightful than his powerful on-screen presence.Photo Credit: Flickr

Check out his commencement speech on putting God first. As well as another on Falling Forward.

Words mean things. We will not get away with killing with words…we will be found out. On the reverse, when we speak life, using words to lift  and marvel, we are known by these as well. The difference is our being known matter…life given through words is what matters. We all are transformed by the beauty of such words.

Quotes About Words

5) Community – Oh the wonder of real community! Of people coming together for something larger than ourselves. To give aid or to just enjoy one another. I have been graced with grand community.

This week, the beauty of people who serve well really resonated. Also, along with that, the intentional care or stewardship of such folks. I came across this stellar article by non-profit leader Joanne Fritz. She posted on Things Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy: Are You Appealing to Today’s Volunteers?

Now few of us serve as volunteers for what we “get out of it”. Still volunteering has its cost. Especially costly is the service given by those who already have tough work lives. To give out of a dry well still needs to happen sometimes. We must remember that could be the case with any one of us…and honor those who serve so sacrificially.

Fritz quotes from a study on volunteers reported by Join In UK. [Click the link for a brilliant graphic going into the detail of the research – on what sustains volunteers.] Below is the summary (using the acronym GIVERS):

G. Personal growth and well-being

I. Increased sense of purpose, such as knowing just how they make a difference.

V. Voice or how volunteers are asked to give their time.

E. Easy to sign up, to get there, to get the job done.

R. Recognition. Being thanked, appreciated, and celebrated.

S. Social opportunities like making new friends and working on a team.

Making Time – Getting to Givers – Join In UK

Then Fritz prompts 10 observations that can guide us in how to show true care for a community of volunteers:

Volunteers:

  • Want you to be prepared for them.
  • Want to feel welcomed.
  • Want good training.
  • Want to do interesting work.
  • Want to know up front how much time the job will take.
  • Want to be appreciated.
  • Want you to communicate with them well and often.
  • Want to know that they are helping to make the world a better place.
  • Want to be socially connected.
  • Want to learn something new.     Joanne Fritz

Things Your Volunteers Need to Be Happy: Are You Appealing to Today’s Volunteers?Joanne Fritz

Her commentary on each point is very helpful as well.

When we treat volunteers as leaders in training – mentors-in-the-making, we move our attention off the task and onto the person, the community. These beautiful serving ones can take us into the future of our organization and beyond. We can make it both about those we serve and those serving…that’s one of the beauties of life, as we remember to see it that way.

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That’s my look at the beautiful of this week. What beauty has sparked wonder in you this week? Please share in Comments below. Have a safe weekend, and take each moment as the gift it is…with those loves in your life, those people gifts to treasure.

Bonuses:

Like a Child: the Virtue of Children’s Books – Samuel Loncar

Top 5 Ways to Raise a Generous Child at Any Age – Rachael Boyer

The iPad Is a Far Bigger Threat To Our Children Than Anyone Realizes

Do You Choose Convenience Over Principles? – Frank Sonnenberg

6 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire for Indispensable – Karin Hurt

Don’t you wonder where the recycling goes? One day I’m doing a field trip, but for today, these were helpful:

Photo Credit: Brené Brown

Quote: Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.Thoreau

Photo Credit: Facebook page Humor Is Contagious

Photo Credit: Writing About Writing, Facebook page

Worship Wednesday – All My Hope Is In Jesus – with David Crowder and Tauren Wells

Photo Credit: Twitter; The Promise FM

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:3-6

My family didn’t start our lives going to church. I was probably 6 years old before God even came into much of our conversation or routines at home. By then, my mom had long felt the weight of caring for four kids by herself. My father (not the sweet step-dad I write about but my biological father)…my father just couldn’t seem to get out of his own way. Unemployed and uncaring. By the time I started school, we had moved several times, and Mom finally divorced my dad (for my Mom at that point, weary and without hope, it was just “one less mouth to feed”).

When neighbors persisted in inviting us to church, we finally accepted their invitation. It was then that we discovered something bigger than what we’d known before. A God who loved us…even more than our Mom did…and her love was fierce. A God who truly cared for us and who had been there all along for us…and we just didn’t see it.

The church* through which we discovered God was a little congregation, situated between two small Southern towns. Those folks extended love to a wildish little family that had no upbringing in the whole God thing. We soaked it up – all the Bible stories, all the hymns about God’s character, and all the love.

When David Crowder sings, along with Tauren Wells, I am reminded of those early days in that church. My older brother and I got saved the first summer we were there. We were also baptized together in a sawmill pond. I remember singing songs on Sunday nights or during protracted revival services…songs that seemed to go on forever, or at least until the Spirit got hold of our hearts.

Crowder’s song All My Hope Is In Jesus reminds me of the songs of that day. The lyrics are full of sin and redemption…of where we once were, far from God, and need be no more…of lives changed when surrendered to the Savior. There’s a load of hope in those songs.Photo Credit: YouTube

Earlier this week, just driving back home from doing errands, some memories flashed back into my consciousness…memories of a rougher time in my life. A time when I had allowed myself to stray from the nearness of God and the hope He’d given me.

Those memories of a wayward time wrapped tightly around me, in that moment, like the bondage of sin I knew in those days. It was so real…and terrifying. The shame of it…and the deceit. For a season, I had believed lies and chose the world over the One who had chosen me.

Praise God…those memories, like the sins He forgave, are not today’s reality. Today, “all my sins are forgiven; I’ve been washed by the blood”.

If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:7

If you will, worship with me the God who holds us, who forgives us, and forgets what separated us from Him. That yesterday is gone! Today we can be “born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”…for us. [1 Peter 1:3-4]

I’ve been held by the Savior
I’ve felt fire from above
I’ve been down to that river
And I ain’t the same, a prodigal returned

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
I’ve been washed by the blood

I’m no stranger to the prison
I’ve worn shackles and chains
I’ve been freed and forgiven (yes, I have)
I’m not going back, I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone
All my sins are forgiven
Oh, I’ve been washed by the blood

There’s a kind of thing that just breaks a man
Break him down to his knees
God, I’ve been broken more than a time or two
Yes, Lord, but He picked me up and showed me
What it means to be a man

So I sing
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God my yesterday’s gone (it’s gone, yes)
All my sins are forgiven
Oh, I’ve been washed by the blood

Oh I’ve been washed by the blood

Thank You, Jesus**

*Mt. Tabor Baptist Church, Duluth, Georgia

**Lyrics to All My Hope – written by David Crowder & Ed Cash

YouTube Video – Crowder – Story Behind the Song All My Hope

Love Atlanta – Rising Together to Serve Our City

5 Friday Faves – Easter Reading, Classical Guitar Wonderment, Giving Place/Space/Voice, Touches of Whimsy, and Food for Thought

Happy Friday! Let’s jump right in – here are my favorite finds of this week…

1) Easter Reading – Every year during Lent, I pull out a small pile of books. One, in particular has been a companion of mine for 20 years: British author Adrian Plass‘ book The Unlocking: God’s Escape Plan for Frightened People. Another book found a place in my pile just this past year, yet the author has many years’ influence in my life as well. This one is Preparing for Easter by another British author, C. S. Lewis.

Both of these books are meant to take us through an examination of our lives and the Lord with us, right up to Easter. Below are just two (very different) excerpts from these two books:

“When we see how all our plans shipwreck on the characters of the people we have to deal with, we are ‘in one way’ seeing what it must be like for God…He sees (like you) how all the people in your home or your job are in various degrees awkward or difficult; but when He looks into that home or factory or office He sees one more person of the same king – the one you never do see, I mean, of course, yourself …You also are just that sort of person. You also have a fatal flaw in your character.

All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs…God’s view [differs] – He loves the people in spite of their faults. he goes on loving. He does not let go. Don’t say, ‘It’s all very well for Him; He hasn’t got to live with them.’ He has. He is inside them as well as outside them. He is with them far more intimately and closely and incessantly that we can ever be. Every vile thought within their minds (and ours), every moment of spite, envy, arrogance, greed, and self-conceit comes right up against His patient and longing love, and grieves His spirit more than it grieves ours.”C. S. Lewis

“Father, Do I hurt You with my fear? Do I cut You with my cries of desolation? Do You sigh and shake Your head when I cannot understand? Do You long to make it better? Do You seriously consider abandoning Your principles? Do You sleep? Do You lie awake and think of me? Does Your pain roll across creation like thunder? Is it really finished? Daddy, won’t it be good when it is? Amen.”Adrian Plass

Do you have favorite books for the Easter season? Please share with us in Comments below.

2) Classical Guitar Wonderment – I don’t know how he does it, but every Friday, Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar posts a new video. His arrangements and performances amaze us all – not just family but friends, both here and around the world. You know I could go on…but I won’t. Here are his two latest arrangements:

YouTube Video – Full Metal Alchemist: Brothers (Kyoudai)

YouTube Video – Civilization VI: Sogno di Volare

3) Giving Place, Space, & Voice – I just want to salute you people out there who give place to others – at the planning and decision-making tables, who give space to others to come at solutions or strategy from a different worldview or frame of reference, and who give voice to those who might not find their voice otherwise.

You are true leaders and true servants. You are the kind of people we want to follow and make proud of us. You are those who create a family, a workplace, a community and a world where we can all realize our God-ordained purposes. Ambition, territoriality, mistrust, personal preference turn some away from such practices. To those of you who guard this discipline in your lives…this three-fold giving…thank you. Thank God for you.

Monday Morning Moment – A Space and a Place on the Team – Deb Mills Writer

How to Help Emerging Leaders Find Their Voice – Ron Carucci

4) Touches of Whimsy – What a joy it is to be going through your day and then, stop right in your tracks at a glimpse of something beautiful. Or an amusing turn of phrase in a conversation causes you to laugh out loud. The world, as hard as it can be, is also still full of whimsy. Just last night I was at a first birthday party for a wee one who was born three months early and weighed in at just over two pounds.  He is every bit a miracle baby. We spent most of the evening just staring at him. Of course, there were doses of adult conversation and lots of shared laughter, but his little chuckles lifted all our hearts…at the wonder of his life.

This week also a friend took me to a belated birthday breakfast. We tried this new restaurant in our neighborhood. SB’s Lakeside Love Shack. It was breakfast all day in the most whimsical little place. Here are just a few pics of what made us keep smiling with delight:

[Sidebar: In case you are my neighbor and you give this restaurant a try on my recommendation, just be advised that it’s not a diner (with diner prices), and it’s small (so crowded depending when you go). The food was delicious and the whimsy was a definite highlight.]

5) Food for Thought – OK, to be honest, I couldn’t decide on #5, so I’m just putting all the “bonus” finds right here.

C. S. Lewis Daily Twitter – “It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge one away from the light and out into the nothing.”

5 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire for Indispensable – Karin Hurt

Don’t Get Seduced into Skipping Stones – Dan Lovgalia

7 Things Black People Want Their Well-Meaning White Friends to Know – Erin Canty

Photo Credit: Brene Brown Twitter

Screen Time Syndrome: Brain Images Explain Why Kids Are Moody, Impulsive & Can’t Pay Attention – Jacqueline

A Kick-starter Campaign by Composer Christopher Tin – the video itself is so beautiful.

This Restaurant Way Out in the North Carolina Countryside has the Best Doggone Food You’ve Tried in Ages – Shatley Springs Inn and Restaurant – Robin Jarvis

I am still buoyed by the incredible beauty of ice skater Yuzuru Hanyu’s performances in this year’s Winter Olympics to Notte Stellatathis one as part of the skating gala exhibition of all the medal winners:

The one below for us writers:

What’s So Bad About the Passive Voice?

That’s it for this week. Love you all. Be safe out there and gentle with yourselves…and each other. Please share below your favorite finds of the week. Thanks for following my blog. You are much appreciated at this house.

Saturday Short – Can I Get a Witness? – Luke 22 – the Trial of Jesus

Photo Credit: Destiny Christian Center

Just this past week I had the privilege of being in a gathering where pastors Brion Hamlett and Cliff Jordan called us to pray. The focus was racial reconciliation and bringing together our city in a unity only God could accomplish. Once, while Brion was speaking, he said to us, “Can I get a witness?!”

Can I get a witness…

That came to mind again this morning while reading from the Gospel of Luke (the 22nd chapter).

For those of us who have closely searched out and studied the life of Christ, this is the account of his last meal with his disciples and what followed. Jesus was trying to prepare these beloved friends and followers of what was ahead. Peter, one of his closest disciples said he would follow him to prison, or even to death.

Then Jesus said to Peter, in a prophetic word, that he would actually deny even knowing him three times before the rooster crowed the next morning.

The many details that play out after this can be found in Luke 22. For now, if you don’t already know, later that night, Jesus was taken into custody by the religious leaders. He was put through a sham of a trial, and was cruelly beaten and mocked. During all that, Peter stayed close but without any words…except those he would use to deny knowing Jesus…the One he called Lord but a few hours before.

Where would Jesus’ witness come from if not from those closest to him?

They [the chief priests] led him [Jesus] away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.”Luke 22:66c-71

Jesus took the words of the unbelieving religious leaders and turned them into a witness to Himself…to His being the Son of God…in fact, the “I AM”…the one true God.

Within this last week of his earthly life, Jesus would experience great adulation by the crowds in Jerusalem and great isolation with only those who hated him in attendance. Earlier in that week, with these same men possibly, Jesus had this conversation:

As He approached the descent from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of disciples began to praise God joyfully in a loud voice for all the miracles they had seen: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” But some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” “I tell you,” He answered, “if they remain silent, the very stones will cry out.” – Luke 19:37-40

The day the rooster crowed, Jesus’ friend Peter would be silent. No witness. Jesus would die. Not for lack of a true witness or because of a false one. He would die because He came to do so. To close the chasm between sinful humanity and the one holy and true God.

His life, death, and resurrection are the foundation of our faith as Christians. We are witnesses…to the historical Jesus and to the redemptive work He has done and continues to do in our lives.

Peter would repent with deep sorrow his denial of Christ. He would then become the Spirit-filled rock upon which the church would be built. I dare say, he was never silent again.

Where do we go from here? As I read Luke 22 this morning, my own heart was deeply convicted of the silence in my own testimony of who Jesus is and what He has done for me and for all humanity.

God, help me to be faithful to the truth of who You are…before rocks are stirred to cry out in my place.

I would leave the house this morning…turning over and over in my mind both this Scripture passage and the phrase “Can I get a witness?”

As happens with God and me, this too timid, well-loved daughter of His, there was a glorious postscript to the morning’s revelation. A song on the radio: Jordan Feliz‘s Witness.

Slain!

Can I get a witness?

5 Friday Faves – Perspective, Academy Awards, Malcolm Gladwell & Success, Relationships, and Changes in the Weather

31 years ago yesterday, I woke well before dawn and knew right away why. It wasn’t the wild wind of Spring, bringing in the month of March “like a lion”. What woke me was the beginning of labor that would last all day. As we drove to the hospital, the wind gusts pushed against our little pickup truck and added to the deep memories of that morning. Many hours later, our firstborn arrived.

This morning was very much like that morning long ago. I was, however, wakened this time by those March winds, blowing hard outside. No going back to sleep, I settled in front of the fireplace with coffee and reading…reflecting on all the good of this week.

Here are my five favorite finds:

1) Perspective – Two authors this week caused me to think deeply about how we make decisions and choose directions. Writer pastor Scott Sauls (author of a favorite book Befriend) wrote a series of “What ifs” in his blog this week. Here are a few:

What if, in the spirit of Paul intelligently and winsomely engaging Greek academics with the truth of the gospel, Christians became known for engaging in thoughtful, enriching, challenging, and honoring discourse about God, humanity, and life (Acts 17:22-34; Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15)?

What if, in the spirit of how care was given to vulnerable children and women in the early church, women experiencing the trauma and fear of an unplanned pregnancy began to think first of local churches, not local clinics, as a comprehensively life-giving place of comfort, counsel, and care (James 1:27)?

What if, in the spirit of Scripture’s vision for the integration of faith and work, Christians became known as the bosses everyone wants to work for, the colleagues everyone wants to work alongside, and the employees everyone wants to hire (Ephesians 6:5-9)?

[Read the rest here.]

Photo Credit: Flickr

Also innovator Steven King wrote of making a decision NOT to become a professor in North Korea. Unlike professor Tony Kim and others who now languish imprisoned there without benefit of a trial or any contact with family or other representative. Remember the #USA3.

Photo Credit: Facebook

Could I Have Been the Professor Being Held in North Korea? – Steven King

2) The Academy Awards – The 2018 Oscars ceremony is coming up this weekend. Among the nominees is The Greatest Showman‘s “This Is Me”, the original song by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The song celebrates the beautiful humanity in all of us, no matter our differences or peculiarities.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

If you have not heard this song yet, I have links below. They are in a particular order, and you definitely should take your lunch or coffee break to watch all of them.

  1. The Greatest Showman – This Is Me [Official Lyric Video]

2. The Greatest Showman – “This Is Me” with Keala Settle (The Making Of)

3. Beyond the Guitar’s arrangement of a Greatest Showman medley (including This Is Me)

4. This Is Me (from The Greatest Showman Soundtrack) – Official Fan Video – Nathan of Beyond the Guitar is included at minute 1:26 and 2:05

[Sidebar – There are 4 other original songs in the Best Song category of this year’s Academy Awards. One of them is Remember Me from the film Coco. Here is the Beyond the Guitar‘s arrangement of this lovely lullaby.]

3) Malcolm Gladwell & Success – Author Malcolm Gladwell is a tireless student of human nature and culture. My husband brought my attention to him through his books The Tipping Point and Outliers.

Gladwell is scheduled this year to teach writing in the online Master Class. In the promo (below), he tells a story about the Goliath’s in our lives.Photo Credit: Guillaime Courtois, Wikimedia Commons

“Why do giants lose? Because they can’t see….they’re so big and strong and powerful they lose the ability to kind of properly appreciate the world around them. It’s not just a story about David’s courage and greatness…it’s a story about Goliath’s blindness.”

In a video montage (archived on YouTube), Gladwell gives clarity to how we can be successful in life (even with Goliath’s):

Gladwell’s 10 Rules for Success

  1. Have the courage to pursue your idea.
  2. Try a new approach.
  3. #Believe in meaningful work.
  4. Constantly revise your conclusions.
  5. Distinguish yourself from others.
  6. Practice.
  7. Explore.
  8. Be patient.
  9. Understand the rules of business.
  10. Outwork others.

YouTube Video – TED Talk – The Unheard Story of David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell

4) Relationships – They are the heart of life. Relationships. Friendships. As we get older, too often we allow friendships and family relationships to go untended, unnurtured. To our own peril.Photo Credit: Flickr

Writer Anna Goldfarb gives wise counsel in her piece How to Maintain Friendships. In brief here’s what she advises:

  • Communicate expectations.
  • Nix “I’m too busy”.
  • …Then examine your busyness.
  • Personal, small gestures are the way to go.
  • Cultivate routines.
  • Come through when it counts.
  • Acknowledge efforts made.

Read her whole article for detail and context. Wisdom.

How to Maintain FriendshipsAnna Goldfarb

This week, I also discovered this young and dynamic pastor, Michael Todd. His sermon series on relationships is like having coffee with a trusted friend who knows stuff and is funny to boot. The first sermon is Before the Person: Relationship Goals. [You can start 20 minutes in.]

He presents how God provided for Adam in the Garden with Eve, but not before He set other things in place first.

Before the Person:

(Genesis 2:15-18)

  1. Place
  2. Purpose
  3. Provision
  4. Identity
  5. Parameters

Good teaching, for sure.

5) Changes in the Weather – I love this changeable weather. This week was such a mix – short sleeves one day, cap and jacket the next. As I say earlier, this morning was so windy, it woke me up before 4:00am. It’s still blowing hard hours later. Our wind chimes are ringing like church bells on a wedding day. Crazy wonderful weather.

[My garden flag flew away and I grabbed my jacket and I walked, still in pjs and slippers, until I found it.]

The beauty of this time of year in Virginia also changes with each passing day…more and more blooms heralding the coming of Spring.

So there you have it. What were some of your favorite finds this week? Please comment below. Also, take care out there in this weather. Enjoy the sun when it comes, and take the rain as a gift to wind down a bit from your week. With much love.

Bonuses:

Rising Tide Startups – Podcast with Glenn Hirchfield, Entrepreneur & Angel Investor

Did you catch the ice skating gala performance on NBC the night before the 2018 Winter Olympics closed? The finale was amazing, as all the medalists performed to the Oscar nominee song “This Is Me” (yes…again). I thought it would be easy to find the professional videotape of this event but all I could find were fan videos. Still, they are fun to watch…especially capturing the joy of Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu. Enjoy:

The rehearsal:

The final performance:

Quote:

Photo Credit: Facebook, Dementia Awareness Every Day

Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day Forever Marred by School Shooting – One Mom Reaches Out to Comfort

Photo Credit: John Ragai, Flickr

Guest Blogger: Carrie McKean

[The image described in the post below appears to have been taken down by the Associated Press. This Facebook posting below was so beautiful, I reached out to the writer and she gave permission to post it here. McKean begins by talking about this lovely visibly distraught mother comforting another mother. My hope is that she did not lose a child yesterday. She is wearing a silver heart (for Valentine’s Day) around her neck and the ashen cross on her forehead from a visit to her parish church that Ash Wednesday morning. The rest of the post is easily understood given the school shooting yesterday in Florida, leaving 17 dead and a dozen or more injured. News outlets and social media today are slammed with public outcry and political jockeying. McKean, the writer of the post below, eloquently speaks her response to this devastating loss.]

I can’t get her face out of my mind. Sobs wracking her body as she stands outside her child’s school, clutching a friend as though they have discovered the only truth there is to know: The only way through this war zone is if we carry one another. Her head is smeared with ashes. From dust you came, to dust you return.

I saw the picture when the ashes were still fresh on my own skin. And I thought about the moment my pastor drew his thumb across my head – reminding me of my mortality and my security in the no-matter-whatness of God. Despite the somber words I certainly didn’t consider, as little specks of ash fluttered down and brushed my eyelashes, that I might leave the church and end up in the ER or in an accident or getting a phone call that takes me to my knees. And this mama, with her pretty white-flowered shirt and silver heart necklace, certainly didn’t consider that she might leave the church and end up on the front lawn of her child’s school with her heart broken apart, begging God for one more day with her baby… for more life out of this dust.

We need a savior, and as we start the long march of Lent that leads us to the cross, we know Jesus is coming to break the shackles and the bonds and restore all that’s broken. But you don’t need a savior if nothing is shackled, bound or broken. So Lent starts in repentance. Did the shooter know the day he chose? Did he choose Valentine’s Day for a reason? Was his heart so broken that he felt like the only way through the war zone was to take others out? Oh God, we need to repent… for not recognizing our own part in this tragedy.

Talking heads are already starting to argue. Is it mental health or gun control? Hurry, pick your side. We retreat into corners and start pointing fingers. Thoughts and prayers sound hollow when these shootings have become so commonplace that they are just another blip on a relentless cycle of terrible news. We wring our hands and sigh and then we forget. It doesn’t even come up at dinner. Ashes. It’s all ashes. We’re going down in flames. Screaming louder and louder at one another as if we think the only way through this war zone is to pull someone else down so we can climb on top. Oh God, we need to repent… for being so afraid that we won’t be heard that we can’t even listen.

As bullets ricocheted off classroom doors and lockers in Florida yesterday, I walked down the locker-lined halls of my daughter’s school. A first grade Valentine’s Party is pure sweetness and light and sugar. We had the kids do an activity where they each drew the name of a classmate and listed out some of their favorite things about that child. As they exchanged cards, I saw eyes light up and broad smiles spread across frosting-smeared faces. One little girl said reading the card she was given made her feel happy and bubbly inside. I looked around the room and wanted to freeze time. To keep these little kids little – tender and eager and open-hearted and bubbly. In 10 years, which one will be the loner? The misfit? The outcast? The popular one who uses his or her platform to push someone else down? Oh God, we need to repent… for letting kids fall through the cracks.

I returned from the party to our church which is positioned across the street from one of our city’s high schools. The day before, the same high school was on lockdown because someone brought a gun to school. A trigger away from a tragedy. Each day after school, hundreds of students – maybe even the one who brought a weapon to school – traipse through our building to the free soda fountains. A ministry of carbonated beverages. I sat down at a table and played UNO with some kids whose stories brim with sadness and mistakes and bad choices and loss, covered in a veneer of bravado and toughness. How close have I been to a kid who is screaming to be seen and known and loved and valued and is a hair-trigger away from exploding their grief outwards and propelling us to the national headlines? For all their toughness, I can’t help but wonder if anyone gave them a card when they were seven that listed out all the best things about them? Oh God, we need to repent… for being too busy to engage the hurting and the lonely.

We may be mere dust, but we are each dust formed into the image of a living, breathing God. We may be returning to dust, but we each know this life is precious and deserves protection. God forgive us for forgetting our own worth. Forgive us for forgetting the worth of those around us. Forgive us for failing to see your reflection in the eyes of the stiff-shouldered, clouded-eye high school kid whose hoodie is pulled up, guarding him from the world but not containing the pain metastasizing-into-anger that is seeping out of his soul. Forgive us for giving into polarization and assuming that since “they” aren’t doing anything to solve the problem, we can’t do anything either.

Father, forgive us.

And help us remember: The only way through this war zone is to carry one another.

Carrie McKean

These Are the Victims of the Florida High School Shooting – Alexandra Ma

At Least 17 Dead After Troubled Former Student Allegedly Opens Fire on Florida High School – Nina Golgowski, Sebastian Murdock, and Carla Herreria

Worship Wednesday – O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – a Valentine’s Day Reflection

Photo Credit: Gauton Photography, Daily Mail

Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mountains of God;
    your judgments are like the great deep;
    man and beast you save, O Lord.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
    The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.Psalm 36:5-7

I love Valentine’s Day. Maybe, more than anything, it is a bright red, shiny day that punctures the many gray ones of winter. Being married now for many years, the season of longing for love should be long forgotten. It is not. I remember.

The funny thing about the years of singleness – the many Valentine’s Days spent more with great girlfriends than with a guy – was the weathered joy in them. The loneliness and seeming “not belonging to someone” brought keen awareness of the contrasting actual truth that I was NOT alone. Indeed, I was loved more deeply than ever possible by another human as needy as me.

On this Worship Wednesday, on Valentine’s Day, I’m drawn back to an old hymn. One actually that only became familiar to me during our years in Egypt, worshiping with British expats. They brought their beloved hymns into our collective worship experience.

Englishman Samuel Trevor Francis penned,  in King James English, a beautiful hymn extolling the love of Christ. The lyrics are so powerful and life-giving. You can just hear the great church organ of the past pounding out the beat and breadth of the melody…and the message of love we find in Jesus.

Please worship with me. The Christian band Selah has prepared an updated version for us, retaining the feel of the old hymn. The lyrics and music to accompany are found here.

1 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
vast, unmeasured, boundless, free,
rolling as a mighty ocean
in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me,
is the current of Thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward
to my glorious rest above.

2 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
changeth never, nevermore!
How He watcheth o’er His loved ones,
died to call them all His own;
how for them He intercedeth,
watcheth o’er them from the throne.

3 O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
love of ev’ry love the best;
’tis an ocean vast of blessing,
’tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus,
’tis heav’n of heav’ns to me;
and it lifts me up to glory,
for it lifts me up to Thee.*

The trappings of Valentine’s Day will leave you a little empty… unsatisfied, no matter your situation. Find the great love of God the refuge and shelter He means to be for each of us.

He will cover you with His feathers; you will take refuge under His wings. His faithfulness will be a protective shield. – Psalm 91:4

Photo Credit: Kensington Gardens

*Lyrics to O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus – S. Trevor Francis

Postscript: Another favorite hymn of mine is How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – below find Selah’s version of this one as well.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Selah – YouTube Lyric Video

Worship Wednesday – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases – Remember?

Photo Credit: BeliefChangers, Pinterest

“…He commanded our fathers to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God,
    but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
    whose spirit was not faithful to God.”Psalm 78:5-8

“…they flattered Him with their mouths;
    they lied to Him with their tongues.
 Their heart was not steadfast toward Him;
    they were not faithful to His covenant.
Yet He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity
    and did not destroy them;
He restrained his anger often
    and did not stir up all His wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh…”Psalm 78:36-39

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.Lamentations 3:22-23

When we are anything but steadfast, God remains so.

I read the verses above as part of my guided devotional reading (trying to get through the Bible in a year). God would act as judge, at times, with His people (those too-human children of Israel). More than not, however, He restrained Himself and continued to show mercy. This mercy borne out of a steadfast love.

I can’t read Lamentations 3:22-23 without an old praise chorus coming to mind. The lyrics of the song are the verses of Scripture themselves.

A memory of this song rises up, from years and years ago, when I was still in my 20s and single. I was sitting at the piano, at night, singing this song, over and over, in tears. Whatever  was the reason for the tears is gone from my memory, but the deep sense of God’s love and mine, in return, for Him is still very much with me.

Worship with me, if you will…to this little chorus, repeating the great truth of God’s character.

In Psalm 78, God’s people are charged with remembering how He led the children of Israel out of captivity into the wilderness which would mean freedom for them. A land of their own possession. No longer slaves.

The psalmist also charges us to teach the next generation of God’s many acts of wonder on behalf of His children. We are also to warn them of how prone we are to settle for less than God…to settle for complacency and comfort. To seek for gods of our own making rather than the one true God.

God help us.

How thankful I am for the rock-solid steadfast nature of God’s love toward His people. How amazing is our God to show Himself, day by day, moment by moment…faithful, patient, steadfast. Perfectly loving a perfectly unlovely people. Praise His holy name!Photo Credit: Pinterest, Bible Verse Art

On Sunday, Pastor Cliff preached on thin places – those places and situations when the space between Heaven and earth is thin and God seems especially near. Moments when we experience that wonder and delight of God’s love in a powerful and physical way.

Do you remember a time? A time when you were held tightly, securely, by God? In the steadfastness of His love? Please share in the Comments below.

YouTube Video – The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases (Lyric Video)

New Mercies Every Morning – Dave Zuleger

The Incredible, Unfathomable, Steadfast Love of God – Stephen Altrogge

Mark 1:14-15 – Thin Places – Sermon/Podcast – Cliff Jordan – Movement Church

Top 7 Bible Verses About God’s Steadfastness – Jack Wellman

Worship Wednesday – Anxiety, Holding On, & Reclaiming Perspective

Photo Credit: The Blue Diamond Gallery

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame!
In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me, and save me! Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. – Psalm 71:1-3

Throughout my career in nursing, I have cared for people in pain and crisis. That care was guided by an undergirding definition of pain as “whatever the experiencing person says it is, existing whenever and wherever the person say it does” [Margo McCaffery]

The same can be said about anxiety…except that anxiety can spiral wildly out of control away from what may be true at the moment to the worst possible expression of that thought or reality. This makes the pain of anxiety both poignant and problematic for the one experiencing it and for those who care for that person.

[I’ve written about anxiety previously here.]

For any of us, anxiety can present as a dull dread or a fearful fret that robs us of sleep and solace. When unchecked (and even when we try to rein it in), anxiety can expand to full-on panic. We struggle to think clearly, bereft of our normal control. We can’t get our breath back…or our mind.

Then with the comfort of a friend drawing near, speaking truth into our jumbled thoughts, or just being there with us, praying…light punctures the darkness and the fog lifts. If not altogether, some better. At times, especially in the night, God himself wraps His own arms around us and helps us recall what is true in the noise of what is not.Anxiety, Fear, PanicPhoto Credit: Azzah B. A., Sketchport

Sometimes anxiety requires clinical intervention for a season (either counseling or medication). I know what helps me, but I wouldn’t presume that what I can advise is what you need right this minute.

Dave Radford‘s piece What Would God Say to Your Anxiety? did strike a chord for me this morning. He reminds of the importance of perspective. That said, I know how hard reclaiming perspective in the midst of panic requires incredible resolve and clarity. Hard in panic. Still, if you can, reading his counsel might prove helpful.

[One caution: He seemed to be preaching to himself when he used the expression “navel-gazing”. I have not seen much navel-gazing in loved ones in the grip of anxiety or panic. Fixation on trying to get your breath or warring against destroying thoughts is NOT navel-gazing. So except for that…wise counsel:]

  • Look Behind You

When it comes to hope in the midst of struggle, God calls us to be a remembering people. If you spend even fifteen seconds gazing into your own past, it will begin to sparkle with ten thousand mercies reflecting off the waves of those memories (Lamentations 3:22). The sea of past grace dwells here, and welcomes us to come and drink, and remember as often as we need to.Photo Credit: Kate Nasser, Twitter

  • Look Before You

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). Though we can only see it “in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12), our future is, to put it very mildly, mind-blowing. We may not have every detail, but we have more than enough here from which to draw joy and confidence for today.

  • Look Back Down to Your Life Now

Look back to your life now. See your current set of troubles through past and future lenses, and add these other promises to the mix. This is what Scripture says is true of you now. Inside of you is “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in your being (Ephesians 1:19–20). You have the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). You cannot lose your standing with God. You are an adopted son or daughter of the King (Galatians 4:5–6). God’s lavish grace has been measured out for you according to God’s infinite wisdom, in just the right proportion and scheduled perfectly to meet your exact needs, whatever they may be (Matthew 6:33–34). God is weaving all things together for your greatest good, and equipping you with all that you need to accomplish his will (Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:19).*

*Dave RadfordWhat Would God Say to Your Anxiety?

Anciety, Perspective, Sacha ChuaPhoto Credit: Sacha Chua, Flickr

Worship with me, if you can, to a song written by Dave Radford.

If I took all that I got
And spread it out on this table
It might not seem like a lot
A once glimmering joy
Slowly fading from view
All the change in my pockets, not enough
And this picture of you
Still I’ve heard all that I have
In the moment is hardly a sign
Of everything coming my way
I believe when I need it, it will be mine

So let’s take this slowly
All I need is coming
But it’s just beyond what I can see
So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm
Just turn my head back to see
To see how we got this far
And I’ll be alright

I’m not asking for mountains of riches
No silver or gold
Don’t need fame or fancier things
I can’t take when I go
I’m just asking for grace
Grace to carry on
Grace to take joy at my place at the table
And the rock that it’s standing on
Still I’ve heard all that I have
In a moment is hardly a sign
Of everything coming my way
I believe when I need it, it will be mine

So let’s take this slowly
All I need is coming
But it’s just beyond what I can see
So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm
Just turn my head back to see
To see how we got this far
And I’ll be alright

And even when I’m broke down
Even when what I’ve got now
Is falling faster down beneath the cracks
And I don’t know when it’s coming back around
Even then I’ll be calling out louder
Loud enough to wake ’em up
Believing I believe I will see it done
I believe what I will hold
What I hold will be enough
Will be enough

So let’s take this slowly
All I need is coming
But it’s just beyond what I can see
So if my eyes press forward in fierce alarm
Just turn my head back to see
To see how we got, got this far
And I’ll be alright
It’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright
It’s gonna be alright**

Praying peace and joy for those struggling with anxiety today…knowing it’s not a simple thing.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

[Postscript: If any of you care to comment below on what your experiences are and what helps/doesn’t help, we who read them will learn and be grateful.]

Worship Wednesday – On Anxiety – My Anchor – Christy Nockels

**Lyrics to Take This Slowly – The Gray Havens

YouTube Video – Take This Slowly w/ Lyrics

The Gray Havens

 

 

 

Worship Wednesday – In Disappointment, Peace…and Finally, Joy – a Playlist

Photo Credit: Pixabay

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  Psalm 69:13

Yesterday morning, the doorbell rang. I saw the delivery truck in the driveway and moved quickly to retrieve what I thought was a package from a rain-drenched stoop.

It was an express letter to my mom’s estate. This was either very good news…or very bad. I have been the executor of Mom’s estate all these…16 years. Part of my responsibilities was the sale of land she owned in North Georgia. All of the properties have been sold except one. This property is a beautiful wooded piece of land in a county that is rapidly growing. This property has languished for sale all these years as the economy did the same. It would be well-suited for a 55+ community for which is currently zoned. Under contract three times, and under contract again…until yesterday.

When Mom asked me to be the executor of her estate, she held my hand and her eyes were full of pain because she knew it would be a mammoth job. Knowing me and my strengths and weaknesses better than anyone else did, she knew it would be hard for me to deal with all the intricacies of managing such a complicated affair – needing cooperation of extended family (that’s for another day).

Yesterday, the most recent buyers (a very successful development company) notified me, as executor, that they are terminating the contract. Why? They have determined “the property” does not comply with their investment criteria. These buyers had studied the land and knew all the particulars well (thanks to our wise realtor who didn’t want us to have to go through another almost-sale). Their reasoning for terminating the sale is unclear, but the condition of their hearts was. For whatever reasons, they walked away. Without apology.

[I’m still working on forgiving them. It will come.]

Sorry for all the details. The anger and disappointment about this needs to be qualified. This wasn’t a cancer diagnosis, a job loss or terrible (fill-in-the-blank) news about someone we loved.

It was about property not selling this time around. Our realtor tells us that he has already had two inquiries, while the land was under contract, and he will pursue those interested now.

For us…we deal with this disappointment in ways that will heal. We had prayed for that sale. Everything that we could see about the buyers gave us confidence that they were the ones…the ones God had sent in answer to our prayers. It would not be so.

As I read Psalm 69 this morning, verse 13 leapt off the page:

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.  Psalm 69:13

Our circumstances have changed…really, rather have not changed – we still have land that I must sell according to Mom’s will. Our circumstances have not changed after praying for years for them to change. Most importantly, God has not changed.

After being tossed a bit by anger and disappointment, I have hope again and peace…that God will show Himself mighty in this as He does in all things:

  • at an acceptable time.
  • In the abundance of His steadfast love.
  • In His saving faithfulness.

Photo Credit: Faith Spilling Over, Betsy de Cruz

On Worship Wednesdays, I usually invite you to sing with me…or worship with me, as you choose. Today I put together a playlist, sort of, on trusting (gleaned from some of the songs highlighted on past blogs). These songs have brought me joy as I hope they will you.

[If you have “trusting God” songs that calm your heart and restore joy on hard days, would you place them in the Comments below?]

Trusting Playlist

Unfinished – Mandisa

Even If – MercyMe

We Won’t Be Shaken – Building 429

In the Eye of the Storm – Ryan Stevenson

My Anchor – Christy Nockels

Shoulders – For King & Country

It is Well With My Soul – Guy Penrod

Through It All – It is Well With My Soul – Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music

Thanks for letting me process a bit…and give vent to how faithful God is in His comfort and joy. Also, if you want to pray the property sells, that would be awesome. It is the last big part of my responsibility toward Mom’s estate, and I want to steward it well to the end…because of her.

When God Closes a Door – Betsy de Cruz