Category Archives: God

Palm Sunday – Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem on the Way to the Cross – Day 1 of Holy Week

Blog - Palm Sunday & Cross

For anyone who considers herself a critical thinker, this week in the life of Jesus of Nazareth is one worthy of analysis. No matter your religion or non-religion, this Jesus, in these days, warrants examination, related to anything you may think of God. You will better understand the core beliefs of a Christ-follower, not just a person known to you as Christian. For in the study of Jesus’ life and his followers, in just this one week, you will see a deep distinction between “the religious” and “the redeemed”.

{Sidebar: I taught a World Religions course some time ago in a Moroccan high school. In that course, we studied all the major religions. The students were challenged to think critically of each religion. I encouraged them to study each one, 1) trying to put themselves in the perspective of one who believes (i.e., a true follower, using eye witness/historical accounts and Scriptures when available), and then 2) to break down each belief/tenet of faith critically. You will benefit thinking through Holy Week this way; you will not come away the same by examining the life of Jesus.]

Palm Sunday is celebrated as the “triumphal entry” of Jesus into Jerusalem, just days before he would endure a mock trial and then be crucified. He and his closest followers (disciples) came to Jerusalem for the celebration of Passover. Passover was an annual remembrance of God’s protection and deliverance of Israel during a time of slavery (Exodus 12:26-28). Jesus would celebrate Passover on Thursday of that coming week, but he did not come to Jerusalem for that reason alone.

He knew from his Father God why he came to Jerusalem, and he tried to prepare his disciples for what was coming.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.Matthew 16:21

And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved. – Matthew 17:22-23

As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death,  and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”Matthew 20:17-19

I can’t even imagine what those disciples must have felt as Jesus predicted his own death. They loved him and all pledged their lives to him, even to death. They believed him to be the conquering king, sent by God, to deliver the Jews from Roman rule and to restore the nation of Israel. Although they had soaked up three years of his teaching, this “end of the story” was more than they could bear. Just a week later, they would gloriously understand that it would not be the end of the story of Jesus’ life.

On this Sunday, before the Passover, Jesus would enter the great city of Jerusalem, teeming with crowds there to celebrate. He entered, riding a donkey*, as was foretold by the Jewish prophet Zechariah:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Imagine the scene as Jesus entered Jerusalem. Some in the crowds did recognize him, and then the word spread of the arrival of this great teacher, this healer, this man whose teaching was like none before him. Palm branches were pulled to wave in tribute to him, as others flung their cloaks on the dust before him welcoming him:

Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna** to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”Matthew 21:8-10

“Who is this?” For those who did not know him, the wild welcome for him must have been confusing and captivating. For the religious authorities in Jerusalem, who knew him and were unwilling to welcome this “king of the Jews”, his popularity was infuriating.

The clock began ticking as they plotted against this man Jesus.

Over that bright hopeful day of palms hung the shadow of the Cross – the Cross that would bring even greater hope to all people. The “Hosanna” of Palm Sunday

*Matthew 21:1-11 & Commentary

**”Hosanna” means “God saves”.  YouTube lyric video of Hosanna – Hillsong

Holy Week Timeline

The Significance of Palm Sunday in Relation to Passover

Kings Riding on Donkeys? What?

Photo Gallery: Egypt’s Coptic Christians Celebrate Palm Sunday – When our children were young, we lived in Cairo, and bought palm fronds to make some of these crafts, as well as buying them ready-made.

Photo Credit – inexplores.com

Malta – a Tiny Mediterranean Country with a Huge Holy Week Celebration

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 While living in Tunisia, and as part of the process of establishing residence, we needed to do an exit/re-entry trip. The closest, cheapest option was a quick trip to Malta. It was a surprising cultural experience, a very different one after our first months as foreigners living in North Africa.

Right when we entered the exit hall of the Malta airport, we saw an enormous sign with the word, “Jesus Saves”. Having grown up in the USA’s Bible Belt, we would see that sign all along the highways, but it was a breath-taking sight in an international airport.

During our few days in the tiny island nation of Malta, we stayed in a the lovely fishing village of Marsaxlokk (thanks to the recommendation of friends). The Maltese people were a blend of all the cultures who, over centuries, populated this strategic island in the Mediterranean Sea. The language is fascinating – a Semitic language (similar to Arabic and Hebrew), phonetically written in Latin script. We actually understood a lot of what was said as it was a mix of Arabic and Italian (we knew some of the Arabic, Italian not so much). English was the second language which made it really easy for us to find our way around.IMG_0004The kids loved it as much as we did. The bed-and-breakfast where we stayed had a hearty breakfast (ham and eggs, thick slices of homemade bread, and cornflakes as well). We spent all the days outside, exploring, visiting the street markets, and eating local food. The “food truck” hot dogs we devoured as we walked along the seawall were the best I remember. They may also remember that it was in Malta where we started their Playmobil collection – buying several little characters in one of the street markets. So much fun.IMG_0007

Malta is so small that we could visit any town easily via the public bus system. We spent a couple of days in the capital city of Valletta. I probably don’t remember this correctly, but it seemed all the streets flowed down to the sea. There were Catholic churches everywhere. We even found The Collegiate Parish Church of St Paul’s Shipwreck which was built sometime in the 1570s. It honors Jesus’ apostle Paul as Malta’s spiritual father. Paul first arrived there quite violently through a storm and shipwreck, as a prisoner of Rome. The story of this shipwreck is recounted in great detail in the Bible, including a description of the kindness of the Maltese people toward Paul and every single ship passenger miraculously saved.IMG_0008

The most intriguing events we encountered in our visit to Malta were the Good Friday processionals. There were parades, passion plays, and countless other displays memorializing the crucifixion of Christ. Church bells rang constantly across the island through that whole day. Every single church, it appeared, participated in some sort of ceremony marking the Via Dolorosa (Jesus’ “way of suffering”). We were watching a parade, and, quite remarkably by accident, found ourselves at the front of a huge cathedral where a processional had just begun. IMG_0013

Life-size statues depicting the fourteen stations of the Cross were being carried one by one, out of the cathedral, by several men dressed in white. These pall-bearers must have been members of the church and, by their faces and posture, took their role in this ceremony very seriously. Not being Catholic ourselves, we were still keenly aware of the spiritual import this had to those around us. We felt very privileged to have happened on such a large display of their reverence…especially to Jesus.Blog - Holy Week - Malta

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It was a Good Friday that I will never forget. We had long talks as a family over supper that day as the children had seen things they’d never seen before. What things we as Protestants and Catholics disagree on paled in comparison to what we agreed on, regarding that day. Holy God, the one God of the universe, made a way, on that day centuries before, for all of humanity, estranged in our sin, to be restored in relationship to Him. It was indeed a Good Friday.

Holy or Black Saturday (as it’s called depending on one’s tradition) was a quieter day for us. It’s the day between Good Friday and Easter (or Resurrection Sunday) – separating the sorrow of the death of Christ and the joy of the Christ risen from the dead. In Malta that weekend, my memory of the day was that it was more subdued. Our time away from Tunisia was winding down also.

On Easter Sunday, the church bells rang again. This time was different from the Good Friday bells, chiming darkly as a funeral dirge dark. This day, the bells rang out, all through the towns and villages, with a joyful noise, somehow full of expectancy. Right before we returned home to Tunis, we worshipped that Easter Sunday, in a very small Baptist church. After all the pageantry of the Catholic celebrations, our worship in this little Protestant church may have seemed meager in comparison. It was just right for our little family – on an Easter Sunday, far from our home church in the US and our new life in Tunisia. Worshipping together, in a language somewhat familiar, we celebrated God’s victory over death and the life He offers to us, through the risen Savior. Hallelujah!

Easter in Malta – A Quick Guide to Holy Week

Good Friday in Malta – Fourteen Stations of the Cross

The Fishing Village of Marsaxlokk, Malta

Live Cam from Marsaxlokk, Malta

The Maltese Islands – At a Glance

The Culture of Malta Explained

3 Important Influences in Maltese Culture

Language of Malta – Malti – a Semitic Language with Latin Script

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Worship Wednesday – Playlists of Songs to God

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“Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.” – 1 Chronicles 16:23

My husband has dozens of playlists on his computer and phone. Jazz favorites. Classical guitar (Nathan Mills, obviously one of his faves). Rock classics. Contemporary Christian. Gospel. Exercise playlist when he’s on his bike (warmup/fast tempo/cooldown).

I, on the other hand, listen to the radio.

What started me thinking about playlists was finding the ERLC Summit 2015 playlist through my Twitter feed yesterday.

ERLC @ERLC  ·  Mar 24 Listen to the songs we’ll sing at the with this Spotify playlist:

Last year, I watched this conference online streaming live and plan to do so again tomorrow. Tune in, if you can, for the two days of the summit on ethics and religious liberties.

It intrigued me that the conference planners published their playlist for the conference, and I am glad they did. The songs are beautiful.

Back in the day, I have had friends share playlists with me on cassette tape (I know…a long time ago) – favorite songs we shared together, often their special gifts as we said goodbye. I still have those cassettes from our Egyptian friends, Heba and Mohamed. Individual songs strung together on a playlist that immediately signal memories of them and our happy times together.

One other very special playlist I discovered recently was assembled by Chris Kennedy to encourage himself as he adjusted to life after sweet Kelsey went to be with the Lord (see below).

We all have favorite songs of many genres – songs from different albums that fit together for our various purposes. I haven’t ever made a playlist myself, but I am thankful for others who have. Below you will find some of those links.

What a delight to just worship, along with these artists, a GOD who sets our hearts to praise Him and our voices to sing those praises.

What inspired you to make a playlist? Have you published any? I would love to hear about some of your favorite playlists.

ERLC Summit 2015 Playlist

Spotify for Life – Worship – Spotify Christian Playlists

YouTube Playlist – Encouraging Songs by Chris Kennedy (The Kennedy CrewPraying for Kelsey

Christian Workout Music: 100 Uplifting Songs

My Christmas Song Playlist – by Jeff Walker – a blog on each song

YouTube Playlist – Christian Classical Guitar Playlist

Song Of Solomon Playlist – Your Songs Of Marital Faithfulness And Family – by Daniel Montgomery

 

The F** Word, Fat-phobia, and an Obesity Task Force – 3 Small Stories

Blog - incourage.me - Fat PhobiaFor You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You… – Psalm 139:13-15

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18-20

The F** Word – After church one Sunday years ago, while living in Morocco, we gathered for lunch with other American friends. It’s funny how we talk about eating while we eat. I don’t remember the subject of that conversation, but we all remember a particular humorous miscommunication. For some reason forgotten now, I said, “We don’t allow the F** word to be said in our home.” Another parent of teenagers said rapid-fire, “Well, I should hope not!” – thinking I was referring to the four-letter F-word. Then one of our teens said, “She means the word ‘fat'”.

I have struggled with my weight all my life. Part of it probably goes back to our Scottish heritage – not all of whom are stocky, I’m sure, but definitely our family was, for generations back. Part of it also is a propensity for filling whatever sense of emptiness (or lacking) I had at the moment with food. That being said, I don’t mind the culture of celebrating with food, either. There’s just no getting away from food, really, and who wants to? Using food properly is a challenge, and one I have taken on, with varying degrees of success (keep reading).

Fat-Phobia – Having had issues with food and experiencing “fat-shaming” from an early age, I did not want that for my children. However, I did NOT want them to be fat-phobic either. I did not want them to define themselves or others as desirable or not, just based on size or body type. We didn’t use that language.

However, knowing my own struggle with food, I didn’t want to pass that struggle to them, as much as was possible. When they were young children, we could help with their food choices and portions. As they moved through puberty with all its body change freak-outs, we operated from the God-inspired premise that they were “fearfully and wonderfully made”. Can’t say how successful we were, but we tried. Now young adults, their choices are their own. I never know what to cook for them, because there is that fear of “fat” lurking about, even though they are all gorgeous healthy young people. [Photo insert would usually happen here, but better not.]

Obesity Task Force – Years before marriage and children, during a time of major career investment, I was invited to be part of an obesity task force. We were all affiliated with Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia – a huge inner city medical center. Blog - Fat Phobia - wabeThe task force consisted of internal medicine docs, endocrinology researchers, nurses, and dieticians. We met regularly for several weeks, after work for dinner, to tackle the problem of obesity in our urban poor patient population. We all gained weight. One of our members was Italian, in the US for an endocrinology fellowship. He made the most amazing fettuccine carbonara I have ever tasted (recipe below).

Back to the subject: what we discovered on that task force is that obesity is not easily defined, nor its causative agents as easily identified as we all previously thought. Finally, we also realized how inadequate and unrealistic our interventions had been and we weren’t sure what we could do better. It’s too easy to judge the obese person who has dangerously high blood pressure and continues to eat in ways that will shorten his/her life. However, it is much harder to help someone change habits, their history of coping, and social culture related to food. Much harder.

What are the morals to these stories?

1) Fat shouldn’t be a bad word. Eating disorders and disorderly eating are part of our Western culture (for sure, if not globally). We do not help by harming – whether it’s another person or ourselves. Poor nutrition, leading to morbid obesity or thinness, is definitely a struggle for us as a culture. However, the trend in the US of being so food-conscious and food-controlling is surely not healthy. Or as socially conscious as we think. Something to think about. For each of us…not just for health’s sake, but for the sake of our community and world. The world can’t afford to eat the way we do – either to excess or for health. How can we simplify our diet and still enjoy the great good that food brings?

2) Food is meant to be shared. That brief season on the task force was so fascinating; we learned as much from eating together as talking together. Our family table, with the children growing up, sharing food with each other and lots of company, was a time I will always cherish. Today, in these times, sharing food is a bit more challenging, with busy schedules, and food-related issues (allergies and preferences), but I am determined to stay in the game. I think we actually eat less when we eat together. The company fills those empty places as much as the food does.Blog - Fat Phobia - MakeLaughterYourChocolate (2)

3) Face the reality of obesity without shaming or judging – yourself or others. For those of us who struggle with our weight, I am learning that it is possible to have some victory in that area, without dieting (notice that word has “die” in it). That doesn’t mean that I am thin (“the tyranny of thinness” is a subject for another time). My blood pressure is good, and I am not on any medications right now, but being thin is not the goal. Living healthy is the goal. The wee bit my husband and I try to do to live healthy is this: work hard, do some regular exercise, rest/sleep enough, try to limit salt and “white” carbs (sugar and white flour/rice/pasta/potatoes), avoid nighttime eating, battle a sedentary lifestyle (that comes with all the “screens” in our lives), nurture your sense of humor, practice gratefulness and forgiveness, find ways to serve people, spend time in community, and spend time with God.

I’ll close with what Jesus said about food:

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” – John 4:34

From other passages in Scripture, Jesus enjoyed eating with others, but He lived also with that greater purpose. I want to be like Him.

Italian Grandmother’s Recipe for Fettuccine Carbonara

Chipsy – Egypt’s snack-food giant – A Time to Munch – interesting article about a food industry in Egypt that has over the last 30 years affected a culture – “the Chipsy Generation”

Photo Credits: www.incourage.me and www.aholyexperience.com and image of Grady Memorial Hospital

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

Blog - Kara TippettsPhoto Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:6-7

“When I wake up in the Land of Glory
And with the saints I will tell my story
There will be one Name that I proclaim
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, just that Name.”*

Kara Tippetts is one of the bravest and most generous women I’ve never met. I love her so much. She has been battling cancer for awhile, but she is Home. She fought hard because she would leave behind so much she loved – an amazing husband, four beautiful children, close friends and family, and a ministry with a wide reach.

Blog - Kara & Jason near the endPhoto Credit: Mundane Faithfulness

Still…there is a time for all of us that this life ends, and the next begins. Her time came yesterday. She lived so well…and she leaves a legacy for her family of what it is to live a full, faithful life, with a kind heart, and an open hand. She was a tight hug and sweet encouragement to me, every day she wrote in Mundane Faithfulness.**

I woke today thinking about her. While preparing to just refer readers to her memorial (obituary), the song The Only Name came on the radio. It is so fitting of Kara’s life.

“Yours will be the only Name that matters to me
The only One Whose favor I seek
The only Name that matters to me

Yours will be
The friendship and affection I need
To feel my Father smiling on me
The only Name that matters to me

Yours is the Name the Name that has saved me
Mercy and grace the power that forgave me
And Your love is all I’ve ever needed
When I wake up in the Land of Glory
And with the saints I will tell my story
There will be one Name that I proclaim
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, just that Name.”*
Kara fought her fight. She finished her race. She kept the faith. For us, there is still a race to be run. May we run ours with the great grace, kind heart, deep love, and focus on God that Kara ran hers. So thankful I got to know her on her Home stretch. Thank You, God, for Your glorious presence in Kara’s life.
Blog - Kara with hairPhoto Credit: Mundane Faithfulness
**Memorial – Mundane Faithfulness – read Kara’s blog – her story and her God will change your life.
My Blogs on Kara – Here, Here, & Here

Worship Wednesday – On Heaven – You Hold Me Now – Hillsong United

Morocco sunset by Ingrid Pullar

Jesus answered them, “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” – John 10:28-30

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

The older I get, the sweeter Heaven becomes. Part of that is all the people I love who are there now – my mom, my older brother, a dear nephew, a life-long friend… Part of that is the violence, struggle, and disorder of this world which too often gets blamed on God – cheap blame that avoids looking into the mirror of our own neglect and disregard of the needs of others. More even than those reasons, when I see glimpses of Heaven now, I am filled with hope of what lies ahead.

While living in Casablanca, Morocco, years ago, I was asked to teach a class on world religions. It was for one semester. The students were high schoolers from influential families – all Muslim except for one Hindu student. I knew all the students through their team sports and performing arts. It was a joy to teach them. At the end of the semester, one of their assignments was to choose a religion on which they would do a critical analysis and give an oral report.

As each student team give their reports, they talked about the religions’ beliefs about the afterlife. [It’s a fascinating study, if you’ve never considered it.] The beliefs ranged from reincarnation, to a hoped-for state of nirvana, to a state of nothingness or non-existence, or, finally, to either a Paradise or Hell. For Christianity, the students reporting said, cryptically, “When Christians die, they hope to be with God.”

That is it exactly. That is Heaven for me. That is Paradise.

Too great a thing to hope for? Too fantastic a thing to even believe? If I believe what Jesus says, then I believe what he says about Heaven: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” [John 14:2-4]

“Where I am, there you may be also…You know the way.”

Those great students of mine did their homework. Their understanding of what Heaven is for Christians was spot on. I do look forward to the day my faith becomes sight. The glimpses of Heaven we have here…and there are many…will one day be His followers’ full eternal experience. Not because we deserve Heaven, for we don’t. Not because we worked hard enough or well enough for Heaven, because that’s not possible…but because of what God has done for us and because of His word to us…as we witness and believe Him here…for There.

Heaven…with Him…Hallelujah!

Worship with me:

On the day when I see
All that You have for me
When I see You face to face
There surrounded by Your grace

All my fears swept away
In the light of Your embrace
Where Your love is all I need
and forever I am free

Where the streets are made of gold
In Your presence healed and whole
Let the songs of heaven rise to You alone

No weeping
No hurt or pain
No suffering
You hold me now, You hold me now
No darkness
No sick or lame
No hiding
You hold me now, You hold me now

In this life I would stand
through my joy and my pain
Knowing there’s a greater day
There’s a hope that never fades

Where Your name is lifted high
and forever praises rise
For the glory of Your name
I’m believing for the day

Where the wars and violence cease
All creation lives in peace
Let the songs of heaven rise to You alone

For eternity
All my heart will give
All the glory to Your Name [x4]*

*Lyrics to You Hold Me Now

YouTube Lyric Video – You Hold Me Now – Hillsong United

What Did Jesus Say About Heaven?

Matt Chandler’s Gospel Presentation – Like You have Never Seen It!

The Gospel in 6 Minutes – John Piper

Coming Home 2015 New Heaven & New Earth TCG National Conference

YouTube Video – I Can Only Imagine (with lyrics) – MercyMe

Randy Alcorn Interview – Looking Forward to a Heaven We Can Imagine

Randy Alcorn on a Biblical View of Heaven – Will We Play Sports? What Age Will We Be?

The Big Religion Comparison Chart (See Afterlife)

Photo Credit: Ingrid Pullar Photography

Routines, Rituals, & Rhythms of Life – 10 Disciplines that Can Help Us Reclaim Our Life for Good

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When our children were small, we set routines in place that carried us for long years of relative sanity. We set routines for two reasons – 1) to give them a sense of order and loving boundaries, and 2) to provide a consistent infrastructure in our own lives as their parents. We all knew what the rules were, and what we, the Mills, were about as a family.

If we don’t set up routines in our lives, then our time and energy can be taken captive by the whim of others. By our own brain-in-neutral “me-time”. Or, in my case, just an inescapable drive to do too much, such that if I’m not careful, I accomplish little well. It’s lifelong learning here for me…

In talking about routines, it’s not those of snacking late and falling asleep every night in front of the t.v. Those happen with little effort on our part. It is setting routines in place that reflect God-inspired values…the kinds of routines that will take us right through our elder years; routines that our children will remember and may want for themselves…because those routines mattered; they were good and life-affirming…they are still – no matter the times and culture in which we find ourselves.

The 10 disciplines listed below speak to routines in the rhythm of life. There are rituals that can be set in place to help us be more successful in turning disciplines into a lifestyle. This list is not meant to be prescriptive as much as it is to be descriptive of what we want for our lives. We fail at them regularly, but we aim at these goals daily.

1) Quiet Time in the morning – A friend of ours grew up with a dad who had the philosophy: “Bible before breakfast”. Setting a routine of prayer, Bible reading, and journaling in place can transform our personal lives and our families (even where there are small ones – this is the most challenging time to set this routine; if it’s before the babies come, it’s easier to maintain). It requires getting up early and going to bed early enough to get up early, but it is so worth it. So important for every other part of our daily life.

2) Live life in an orderly way. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a wisdom statement whose origin is ascribed to several including Benjamin Franklin. As a piler (if my projects are put away, it’s as if they don’t exist), this is a life-long battle, but I work at it everyday. Especially the common areas of our home, the dishes, and the laundry. This could also relate to our email folders, but I won’t even go there on this one.

3) Tithe and avoid debt. Being generous toward God and toward others makes for a truly satisfying life. Living within our means and being thrifty help us develop the margin wherein we can exercise generosity. We have never had big salaries or huge debt, so we don’t know the temptation or struggle, respectively, of either of those. We have seen this principle of giving at work in our lives and that of others more generous than us. It is life-infusing, for sure.

4) Worship God. You can see there is no order to this list of 10. Worshipping God as a lifestyle can permeate all the other routines of life. This is not just about attending church; it’s really worshipping God, corporately with the church, as well as completely alone. Keeping a Sabbath makes for a huge jumpstart in a lifestyle of worship – setting aside a day of rest, as He has instructed us, and then using that day to reflect on Him. Amazing grace comes out of that. Then as we make remembering God a rhythm of life, all that happens to us and to those around us is set in the reality of a good and loving God.

5) Honoring Communications: This can be a prickly subject as our current technology has really not helped with communication as much as we think. We almost communicate, at best. When our children were growing up, we visited more, talked around the dinner table, and had guests in often. It can be a stretch for our introvert family members, but genuine, wholly engaged communication yields great gains for everyone involved. So…given where we are today: Answer those texts. Make phone calls when a situation is time- or message-sensitive. Write cards especially for those older, harder hearing, and far away. Deal with business communication in a timely manner. Exercise courtesy. Treat others in good faith. ‘Nuff said. I fail here regularly, but it’s always on my radar.

6) Work with your hands…whether it’s in the garden, or working in the kitchen, playing an instrument, or making things. When our children were young, they would sometimes complain of being bored. We would always tell them, “Go do something.” That seemed a simple instruction, but it seemed to help them rally, sort of “snap out of it”. I don’t understand boredom, really; there is so much out there to learn and do. I admire friends and family of ours who tackle challenging skillsets, figure things out, and create something of beauty or usefulness. Working with our hands makes a big difference in our lives. I know this experientially whether the science supports it or not.

7) Take time to be kind. Slowing down is really a requirement to being kind – to hold a door for someone, or make a meal for a new mom, or show care for someone instead of going straight to the business at hand. Time is a limited resource. Guard it…don’t squander it. Or redeem it – slowing down may not always be an option, but we can definitely restructure how we use our time. Have regular bedtimes and morning wake-up times. Healthier lives give us the fuel for both using our time better and showing kindness to those around us.

8) Honor your parents. I have had the great blessing of generous and wise mom and mom-in-law. They loved both Dave and me with open hands, encouraging us to watch out for both sides of our families. We gain so much in those relationships. We have a friend who talked to his elderly father every single day. He read the Bible to him over the phone when his eyesight got too bad to read it himself. His father has gone on to be with the Lord, but what a blessing that was for him, for them. Are you setting up routines in your life that serve those who loved you most?

9) Pray instead of worry or fret. You know what I’m talking about here. At night, I have a discipline of going back over the day with the Lord, placing people and situations in His hands. Then I can sleep. I try to do the same on waking, training my thoughts to God rather than stressing about the day ahead.

10) Be good stewards of your mind, body, and relationships. This is where all the healthy living stuff might come in. So much more than that though is the intentionality of being a good steward of your over-all life. For instance, life-long learning must be part of our routine or we really go into “slow”. Still another friend of ours has a routine of 45 minutes of reading a day (beyond his quiet time and reading at work), just for the purpose of learning. Regarding relationships, we can intentionally build routines that connect us with people. Breakfast clubs. Community Bible studies. Weekly prayer groups. Volunteer teams. Regular dates with friends (including our spouses or roommates and family). Just like our bodies and minds, our relationships require tending, and we will reap a harvest in how we steward them.

A few years ago, Jen Hatmaker wrote a book entitled 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. It was a great help for me to examine the excesses in life that keep us from establishing life-giving routines. There are many helps for us out there, but her book came at a time when I was searching for more balance, more space, in life…it’s available to us as we determine to build in routines and rituals through the rhythms of life.

Blog - Routines - 7 by Jen Hatmaker

Routines will happen. Just be intentional on making the ones you truly want to happen. Do something. Do the next thing. Do the right thing. Serve somebody.

7: An experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker

How Changing This One Bad Habit Changed Our Home for Good – Complaining

Routines, Rituals, and Rhythms by an English Mum

Rhythms, Routines, & Rituals for Homeschooling Families

Family Routines and Rituals – A Context for Development in the Lives of Young Children

Finally, Spring

2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 027“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.”Hosea 6:3

Our first March in this house, and we are surrounded by the gray, brown, and dark green of winter. After the cold dreariness of winter, you wonder if Spring will ever come. Then, the miracle of life unseen, nurtured somehow under the topsoil, unfolds itself pushing through to the sun. With the melting of our last winter snow, came the first flowers…as if by magic. 2015 March Downton American Idol  Trip to Georgia  Papa 099 (2)

This time of year is such a mystery and a marvel to me. For months, the ground is gray-brown, seemingly barren. Dead. Dormant. Then the first signs of life, and each day more pop up, heralding another Spring. A picture in nature of the faithfulness of God – “as certain as the dawn”.2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 0012015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 0022015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 011Most of the green shoots appearing right now we didn’t plant. The last homeowner left us a beautiful garden that we now tend and make our own. Dave, the resident gardener who is my husband, has an idea of what all these plants are. For me, it’s enough that they are growing, inches a day, with the promise of flowers soon. It’s part of the wonder of Spring: what all must happen underground to yield all the green we see now, and the amazing colors we will soon see.

Dave did plant irises for us last June – they were a gift from our neighbor, Liz, who has a yard full of purple-blue, bearded irises. These remind me of my mom’s yard. She loved irises and I love them because of her. 2014 May Flowers 004These iris shoots are coming up, and whether they bloom this year or not…just seeing them has given me that springtime hopefulness.2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 028

When we lived all those years in Morocco, Spring came early. By March, the temperate winter weather and soaking rains had already produced fields of flowers. We had pots of flowers on our apartment balcony all year round. I miss Morocco…and the glory of those early Springs.2006 March -- Boys at full size

Here, we plant in our gray-brown garden beds in March, trusting that just like with crocuses, daffodils, irises, and daisies of Springs before, we will watch seeds and bulbs do what they are created to do…grow and grow and grow.2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 033

2015 March American Idol & Spring Blog 015

We moved into this house the end of May last year. After living for decades in city apartments and rented houses, this was our first summer to enjoy a yard of our own. It was so beautiful, and we look forward to the return of all those flowers from last year. We will not wish one day away from Spring, though. Finally, it has arrived.2014 May Flowers 0212014 May Flowers 0432014 May Flowers 0372014 June - Visits with Friends 013 (2)

Worship Wednesday – Thriving Through the Unknown Because of Who’s Known – Mark Hall of Casting Crowns

Blog - Mark Hall asking for prayer

But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. For I am the LORD your God.” – Isaiah 43:1-3

Don’t you love it when a familiar Bible verse takes on new importance for what you’re going through right now? Or the lyrics of a song that’s been out for months, all of a sudden, resonates with just what you’re currently going through? As if you were reading/hearing it for the very first time? Just a few days ago, I heard the song “Thrive” by Casting Crowns and I thought it was a new release. Out a year already, and the lyrics just registered on this hearing.

Later that same day, the news came out that Mark Hall, Casting Crowns’ singer/songwriter, had been diagnosed with a mass on his kidney. He would be undergoing surgery on March 11 to remove the mass and determine whether or not it was cancer. It seems after hearing that news, “Thrive” has played on the air and in my head repeatedly.

Mark Hall is presently dealing with this terrible unknown, yet what is known to him is a loving, merciful, Healer God. Whatever uncertainty he faces, he faces it certain of a God who loves Him and calls him, not just to survive what he’s facing, but to thrive within it… What I know of Mark, he will…because of Who he knows.

“Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable
Love unstoppable, anything is possible.”

Blog - Casting Crowns - Mark Hall family

Pray for Mark, his family, his band and his church today…

and worship with me:

Here in this worn and weary land
Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water
We never will run dry

So living water flowing through
God, we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls with one desire

Just to know You and to make You known
We lift Your name on high
Shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives
It’s time for us to more than just survive
We were made to thrive

Into Your word, we’re digging deep
To know our Father’s heart
Into the world, we’re reaching out
To show them who You are

Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable
Love unstoppable, anything is possible*

Blog - Casting Crowns - Mark Hall

*LyricsThrive – written by Mark Hall and Matthew West, Casting Crowns

Christian Post article on Mark Hall’s Situation

YouTube Official Lyric video of Thrive

YouTube video of Thrive – live performance by Casting Crowns

Story Behind the Song Thrive

Just Be Held & Mark Hall’s Testimony a Year Ago Reflecting Where God Has Him Today – Held.

#PrayingforMark

Mark Hall Twitter page

Mark Hall’s Full Testimony

Casting Crowns Website

Photo Credit – Mark Hall asking for prayer

Photo Credit – Mark Hall Family

Photo Credit – Casting Crowns band

 

 

Today is What We Have – Fight for a Soft Heart Today – Praying for Kara

Blog - Kara with hairNo posts from Kara & Company over the weekend, and I was holding my breath. Kara Tippetts is one of the loveliest women I’ve never met. She is a Christ-follower, pastor’s wife, mom of 4, writer, and amazing sister and friend. How I know her is through the cancer she battles, through her faith,  and through her writing…this is how I know her and how I love her.

Today, exhaling, a post came up on her Facebook page. She was writing about a friend, Jay Lyons, who was producing a documentary about her journey through cancer. She linked to the documentary as will I.

In the documentary, she talks about having to leave the party early.

[Sidebar: I write about sad things sometimes. Don’t leave the party early yourselves, dear readers. Her life is so rich, so real; I want you to know Kara. So hang in there with me. Her journey right now is so much more than sad; she has so much to teach us about life…don’t miss it.]

Kara says, “I know I’ve got cancer. I know I’m going to die of it, but I also know I have today, and so in this today, I get to live well.”

She talks about her husband, Jason. “Jason shows me the best of what life has to offer mostly in encouraging me to fight for a soft heart.”

Finally, she talks about the cancer and her Father, God: “I want to be able to share this story, that suffering isn’t a mistake and isn’t the absence of God’s goodness, because He’s present in pain.”

When Kara talks, those who doubt the goodness of God have no place to speak into her experience. She trusts God for today.

Pray for Kara and Jason today. Pray for a soft heart…for her, for them…for all of us.Blog - Kara & Jason near the end

Kara Tippetts – Facebook page

Kara Tippetts Blog – Mundane Faithfulness

Dying with Grace – By Faith Magazine Interview with Kara

Kara Tippetts Documentary Trailer

Kara’s book The Hardest Peace

Documentary Indiegogo Project Funding

Photo Credits – Kara & Jason Before Chemo and Kara & Jason After