Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty

YVR0 20100225 VANCOUVER, BC, CANADA : Canada players huddle before their game against the USA in the gold medal women's hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter games in Vancouver, Canada at the Canada Hockey Place on Thursday, 25 February, 2010. Canada won the game 2-0.

Let’s face it – we all want to belong…somewhere among the best of the best. Even when we don’t say it out loud, some sort of identity appeals to us and drives our pursuits. Jeremy Writebol wrote a piece which I read this morning and want to point your way. He introduced this pursuit of belonging by referencing C. S. Lewis’ Inner Rings. Lewis talked about what we are willing to do to be identified as one inside those rings, or inner circles. There’s the danger – what we’re willing to do.

Writebol presents 4 inner rings of belonging:

1) The Inner Ring of Acceptance

2) The Inner Ring of Authority

3) The Inner Ring of Applause

4) The Inner Ring of Abundance

None of us are immune to one or more of these inner rings or social circles. Take the time to read his piece. He defines each circle and asks clarifying questions, in a very kind way, to help the reader deal with the deceit or justification we may have developed, without realizing it.

Great Monday morning read…Go!

4 Inner Rings You May Be Pursuing by Jeremy Writebol

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Photo Credits: BPNews.net – Hockey Team; Huddle; Men praying; Girls’ Bible Study; Women Worshipping

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Moms, Mothering, and More Than a Single Mother’s Day Can Celebrate

 Mom pictures for website 012“She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31: 27-30

 My Mom was a treasure – a lavishing of God’s grace on four undeserving children. She was my best friend, and I miss her every day. She taught me the most important lessons of life – the value of hard work, loving and serving others no matter what, and a life of following God. I have written, not well enough, about her (here, here, and here, etc.). She was my hero, and, though she is in Heaven now, she informs much of how I live life still.

Whether we are mothers or not, we all had mothers. I hope yours was/is lovely, and Godly, and inspiring. Whichever is your situation, we have an opportunity to honor those who mother well and we have still other opportunities to love and forgive those who didn’t. My children are grown and I don’t always get to “mother” them. Now that their childhood is over, I miss those years. Still, like my mom, I will encourage and pray and marvel at how God moves in their lives. Grand-parenting is coming soon. I pray that I will have a season of pouring into those little hearts – wonder, love, and grace.

Today, I share a bit out of Ruth Bell Graham’s lovely book Prayers from a Mother’s Heart. With the Lord now, Mrs. Graham compiled some of her own poetry, her daughter’s, and that of other Godly moms. She touches on all seasons of growing up and mothering. May yours, mothers and mothered, be touched by God’s dearest wisdom and deepest kindnesses.

Blog - Mother's Day

Lord, as I stand beside this crib, watching this little boy fall asleep…

his blond curls sticking to his small, damp forehead, his chubby fingers wrapped tightly around his blanket,

my heart is filled with emotion, wonder, and awe. I have so many dreams and ambitions for him.

Please help me to remember that he is first of all Yours, and that the most important thing of all is that he grow to love You and follow You. So, Lord, tonight I put aside any and all prayers that could have their roots in selfish motherly desires, and pray these words for him,

Beloved child, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:58)

Because, Lord, if this prayer is answered, then one day I will be able to say with John that my greatest joy is knowing that my children are walking in the truth. – Gigi Graham Tchividjian

Lord, remind me often that parents are intended to be a mooring post, a safe place to stay, a sure place to cast anchor come wind or weather. It is not the time for me to worry about the storms beyond the bay, for now we have the gift of a little time called childhood; tethered to love, the little boat bobs and weaves about the post – happy and secure! – Jill Briscoe

Father, You said that You would contend with those who contend with me and You will save our children (Isa. 49:25).

Television, magazines, the classroom, and now the Internet – all are filled with “contenders,”

But I am relying on Your promise. – Ruth Bell Graham

A Prayer for Hurting Mothers

Be tender, Lord, we pray with one whose child lies dead today.

Be tender, Lord, we plead for those with runaways for whom moms bleed.

But be tenderest of all with each whose child no longer cares…is out of reach. – Ruth Bell Graham

Turning Children’s Cares Over to God

Lord, I think it is harder to turn the worries and cares of my children over to You than my own. For, through the years, as I have grown in faith, I have learned that’You are merciful and kind.

Not one time have You failed me, Lord – why do I fear You will fail mine? – Ruth Bell Graham

Happy Mother’s Day, Dear Ones. May today not just be about flowers, cards, or dinners out. May this be a day that’s full of encouragement for moms “to go deep into their gifts, to focus on their Maker or to see how we’re made and who we’re made to be. …to live out faith in daring, dangerous ways…to know God better.” (Caryn Rivadeneira)

Love You Forever.

Prayers from a Mother’s Heart compiled by Ruth Bell Graham

Mother’s Day Sermons…Ugh

Surprised by Motherhood – Lisa-Jo Baker’s Must-Read for All Women and the Bravest of Men

Mother’s Day 2015 – Top Favorite Quotes, Bible Verses, and Holiday History

A Long Motherhood – A Poem for Mother’s Day by John Piper

My Mom – Mildred Byrd McAdams – Memorial

Celebrating the Faith and Work of Our Mothers

A Prayer for Young Moms of Little Ones – my archives

The Season of Small Ones – Mother, God, and Gandalf – archives

Mothering Through the Seasons – Eyes on God and His on Me – archives

Love You Forever

Blog - Mother's Day - Love You Forever“I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.”IMG_0022

 

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70’s Road Trips – Soaking Up America in a VW Bus

Blog - Road Trip - DebbieBlog - Road Trip - Wade

In those days, we weren’t afraid of anything. The war in Vietnam was finally winding down, and our futures loomed bright before us. I had finished graduate school and my youngest brother, Wade, had just graduated from high school. We thought it would be a great adventure to travel across the US together, celebrating both our graduations. My friend, Teresa, was planning a visit to her sister in California, so we invited her along.

BLog - Roadtrip - VW Van - 1968-Volkswagon-Bus-5-e1402496060871-1024x643My parents and siblings helped me “convert” my baby blue Volkswagen van into a camper. We extended the cargo space by pulling out the back seat. Mom made curtains for the windows, and Dad installed carpet throughout. I regret not having many pictures from those days (long before digital cameras) – just a handful of faded snapshots of Yosemite and the deserts of the Southwest. No pictures of us. So unlike now.

It’s amazing that my folks let us go on this trip, but they did. No cell phones, no GPS system, no internet (hard to imagine, I know). We did have a AAA Triptik to help us plan our travel days and when/where to stop for the night. This was a very good thing, because my head was full of the romance of the road, not the “what if’s” that could happen along the way.

[I recently found an old book (Explore America) at an estate sale. It reminded me of our trip planning back then. You can see on the map page that straight-line Interstate Highway 40 route East-West across the Southwest. So much fun.]Blog - Road Trip - Explore America BookBlog - Road Trip - AAA Road Trip Book

Traveling the interstates in the summer in those days was amazing in itself. We got lost the first time before we ever left our home county. Once we found I-40, it was clear sailing. We were surrounded by truckers and large RV’s. I had been living away from home for quite awhile, but traveling for days in that van felt more grown up than anything else I’d experienced. [This was years before any overseas travel.]

Wade and I talked recently about the trip. This is a short summary of our memories. We stayed in KOA campgrounds mostly, but every 3rd night, we “shook off the dust of the road” in economy hotels. While Teresa and I tried new food along the way, Wade ate hamburgers at least once every day. His favorite food remained unchanged. Staying at campgrounds was fascinating as the culture lent itself to conversations with strangers and making “new friends” (at least until summer’s end).

Driving through the desert was captivating. You would think it was a visually barren experience, but there is so much life and diversity in the desert. With long stretches of road, we wouldn’t always have words, just listened to the radio (rocking along to the tunes of the 70’s). Then we reached the Grand Canyon. If you’ve been, you know that words (or even pictures) can’t do justice to the beauty and expanse of that “river bed“.  We entered Las Vegas, Nevada, at night, and the bright skyline was beyond dazzling against the dark desert sky. We parked in the RV Lot of the Stardust Hotel, and between us, Wade and I lost about a dollar gambling that night. [We learned our lesson.]

To go from the heat of the Nevada desert to the snowy remains of winter in Yosemite, California was a crazy experience. Such a beautiful place. Then we pushed on to San Diego, leaving Interstate 40 for the great North-South I-5 Corridor. California is such a beautiful and funky state (then and now). So much to see and experience, and we did our best over those few days. The San Diego Zoo was so much fun. The downer of the whole road trip was also part of our time there. After our zoo visit, we returned to the van to find it vandalized. All our suitcases were gone. Sigh…

We called home. In those days, a phone booth gave privacy to the tears, and we got the counsel and confidence we needed to take the next steps. The police were kind though apologetically not helpful. We would not retrieve our belongings, as was the case for many other travelers that way. Before this trip, I may have used my Sears & Roebuck credit card once or twice. That day, after the shock of all the loss, it was like Christmas, with the refurbishing of our wardrobes with the best of California-stylized Sears duds.

On to Los Angeles, we did the Universal Studios Tour. During the tour, the friendly guide surveyed our group for where we called home. There in that sea of strangers was a couple who lived near us (in the Pleasant Hill Trailer Park, which is now a mall, a few miles from our home in Georgia). Those surprise encounters are a new anticipated part of travel.

San Francisco was a magical place. Cool weather with flower gardens and sea views at every turn. Wade doesn’t remember this but he pulled onto a one-way street the wrong way. It took a bit of maneuvering to get through that “hillbillies in the city” experience. I wasn’t very kind to him over that unfortunately (now I know that very experience myself…demands lots of grace from spectators).

We ate at Fisherman’s Wharf. A mixed seafood platter there became quite a different experience (my first taste of squid). Sitting along the Bay, we watched all the sailboats, white sails drawing the breeze, in that deep blue water. Lombard Street was a sweet find (for those of you who saw the classic car chase scene from the 1968 film Bullitt, you see a bit of this street at 2:20 of this YouTube video. The rest of the video is a gift – you can almost smell the burning rubber).Blog - Road Trip - Lombard St. San Francisco, Wikimedia.orgLombard Street, San Francisco – World’s Crookedest Street

Our friend, Teresa, left us soon after our San Francisco exploration. Then for Wade and me, the trip was on the downside. We were making a dash for home. This time, we traveled Interstate 80 into the Midwest, and then our memories blur on how exactly we got home. We did stop in to see the Mormon Tabernacle as we crossed Utah. In those days, we discovered, if you sign the visitors’ book and leave any kind of contact information, you could be assured of a visit from one of those young, missionary duos when you returned home.

The VW bus was a fine vehicle for that trip. We burned out quite a few fuses, but we became quite adept at changing out good fuses from equipment we needed less to replace bad fuses of that which we needed more. For instance, at night we needed that interior light. Unfortunately, as our fuses blew, we discovered on the trip back, we had miscalculated one fuse exchange. During the beginning of a huge rainstorm, on a rural stretch of highway, our windshield wipers went out. That and another coincidental mechanical issue sent us searching for a mechanic on a Sunday. Not a good situation.

There on that highway, in the middle of nowhere, a truckstop loomed ahead. We pulled in, and there was this tall, lanky young mechanic, all grease and grin. He had the fuses (for that little VW bus, of all things) and fixed our other problem, and back on the road we went. To this day, I’m thinking he could have been an angel from God – coming to our aid in that distant place.

My brother, Wade, and I were always close. We had our share of fighting on the road that trip, and finally learned to reach peaceful resolutions of our differences. Seeing him through others’ experiencing him opened my eyes to so many gifts he had that I had missed along the way. I also let up on the “big sister” bit, and he just seemed to grow up across that two-week time span…or maybe I did.

I wonder what a road trip would be like today. It would be so fascinating to do it again…if only. When our kids were teenagers and we’d be in the States on vacation, we would occasionally ask them to pull out their earbuds and listen all together to something on our car sound system. What a concept! Or weirder…to talk awhile together about something. I miss those road trips. So thankful that, at least for Wade and me, we had those days on the road before our futures swept us fully into our grownup lives.Blog - Road Trip - Wade & MomBlog - Road Trip - Debbie (2)

Journey – Interstate 40 Roadtrip

RoadTrip America

These maps show the optimal road trips across every state in the contiguous US

According To Science, This Is The Perfect And Best Road Trip You Can Possibly Take

Roadtrippers – Maps Built for Travelers

Soundtrack – Summer of the 70’s Road Trip List

TripAdvisor’s Hidden Gems: 19 Towns that are Diamonds in the Rough

Explore America [AAA – Tours of Discovery through Our Magnificent Country)

Daniel Norris – MLB’s Van Man

Classical Car Chase Scene Locations, in San Francisco, from film Bullitt

Photo Credits:    Map of US by www.roadtrippers.com and  VW Van by www.dustycars.com. Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA from www.wikimedia.org.   Graduation picture by Olan Mills Photography. Other photos are mine.

Blog - Road Trip - Debbie & Wade April 2015

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Southwest Airlines – the Airlines with Heart – One Heart I Know Well

2015 April phone pics, American Idol, Spring flowers, Dad visit 390

[Disclaimer: This may seem like an ad for Southwest Airlines. It is not. It is a story of how marketing can actually reflect what is true – at least in my experience of this airline.]

I fly Southwest. Two free bags. Enough said.

Still, let me tell you about customer service like I’ve never received from any other airline. On their website, you can actually engage a screen that tells you which days are cheaper to fly. So much easier than re-typing alternate flight days on the booking page. Even after 20 years of frequent flying, I still stall out at check-in kiosks. The Southwest staff just seem to know right when to intervene and do it with graciousness.

Two free bags.

Open-seating is really a nice option. The check-in process at the gate is consummately fair. Onboard, the pilots and flight attendants act like real people (not like rigid, uniformed Ken and Barbie dolls). [Side-note: These folks in all airlines have very hard jobs and deal with all sorts of unpleasant people and situations. Still.] The Southwest personnel give all the FAA-required emergency information, but they do it in such an upbeat, people-friendly way that I actually listen.  Sometimes, they are even funny. Just such a nice touch to relax weary travelers. On most flights, we are offered a choice of pretzels OR peanuts with our beverage. We get to decide.

Two free bags.

The best side of Southwest Airlines after the getting us safely from Airport A to Airport B is their personalized customer service. There are lots of stories of grateful customers in their onboard magazine and on various websites. I want to tell my story here.

Trips back and forth from Richmond to Atlanta are a regular part of my life because my dad lives outside Atlanta. He has Alzheimer’s. Our visits are still very sweet, and so far, he still knows me. Although he doesn’t remember now how often I come, when I was there last, or what we do, I make those trips as often as possible. As much for me as for him, perhaps.

A few months back, I was sitting in Concourse C of the Atlanta Airport, waiting for my flight back to Richmond. The next time I would come to Georgia, Dad would be in a Memory Care Unit. This was on my mind, as I ate supper out of a box from The Varsity. Then someone spoke to me. That someone was a beautiful young woman named Candice Hewitt. She was a Southwest customer service representative on hospitality duty at my gate.Southwest heart with skin on - Candice Hewitt

We talked a long time, as if I was the only customer there. We talked about my dad. She listened…and listened…and listened. I knew she had other responsibilities and people to visit, so finally I “released” her. She reflected about how all kinds of people go through airports with happy destinations and sad. It’s not always vacation or weddings or successful business. She expressed that she was glad for our talk and that she would try to see me again at a gate visit during my travels.

We exchanged phone numbers. Believe it or not, Candice has been in touch regularly. Mostly we text. She checks in, just to say hello. I give her updates about Dad. We haven’t managed another gate visit, but that doesn’t really matter. When Southwest calls itself “the airline with heart”, Candice is who comes to mind. She is the heart of Southwest Airlines to me – the heart with skin on it.

I’ve flown a lot of airlines and had mostly positive experiences with them. Southwest’s culture intrigues me. I want to close with their purpose and culture statements (see below – from their website). The “Two Free Bags” policy is what drew me away from my previously preferred airlines. Many times, I don’t need to check bags. It’s then that Southwest’s Customer Service holds my loyalty. The elements of that service is communicated below, and the essence of it is pictured here, in Candice.Candice Hewitt

Southwest Purpose: Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel.*

Live the Southwest Way**

Warrior Spirit

  • Work Hard
  • Desire to be the best
  • Be courageous
  • Display urgency
  • Persevere
  • Innovate

Servant’s Heart

  • Follow The Golden Rule
  • Adhere to the Principles
  • Treat others with respect
  • Put others first
  • Be egalitarian
  • Demonstrate proactive Customer Service
  • Embrace the SWA Family

Fun-LUVing Attitude

  • Have FUN
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Maintain perspective
  • Celebrate successes
  • Enjoy your work
  • Be a passionate Teamplayer

Work the Southwest Way

  • Safety and Reliability
  • Friendly Customer Service
  • Low Cost

Southwest at sunset

*Southwest Airlines Culture

**Southwest Airlines Values

Southwest Airlines’ Legendary Corporate Culture | An Interview with Dave Ridley – Center for Faith & Work at LeTourneau University

Customers of Size Policy – so gentle and respectful of all – just an example of the consideration of this airlines to what could be awkward for some of their valued fliers.

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Worship Wednesday – Open Up the Heavens – with Meredith Andrews

Blog - Open Up the HeavensThe LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” And He said, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion.” – Exodus 33:17-19

Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin…” – Exodus 34:6-7a

My prayers are too small for such a great God. Think of the life of Moses, and how God revealed so much of Himself to this stuttering, flawed, reluctant leader. God utterly transformed this man and He changed the world through this man. When Moses asked God to see His glory, it’s possible he had no idea what all he was asking. He wanted to know God…to see Him as He is.

God was gracious to Moses in answering his request. Whatever transpired that day, in that transaction, Moses was forever altered. He was still human and often frail, but he knew, for sure, how to pray after that, because he had a glimpse of the glory of God. A face-to-face encounter with the Lover of our souls.

Last night, I was part of a theater audience participating in a pre-release viewing of War Room, a Kendrick Brothers film. It tells the story of Liz (Priscilla Shirer) and Tony (T.C. Stallings) as a married couple whose marriage was in deep trouble. Enter Mrs. Clara (Karen Abercrombie) who doesn’t just believe in prayer, but does battle daily in prayer for those God brings her way, or to her awareness. Although a story written by Alex and Stephen Kendrick, it rang so true to my life experience of praying hard over something – “life or death” down on your knees, crying out to God sort of praying.Blog - Open Up the Heavens - War Room film

My heart was broken during that film over my own prayerlessness. Oh, I pray…and pray often through the day…but not like that. It’s not just to hope for what God will do through our praying. Prayer is meant to be our vehicle to know God as He is – to see Him in all His power and love and magnificence (or as much as our human frame can understand). To see Him as our Father who wants to show Himself to us in the heart-cries of our deepest longings – for our families, for the church, for the nations. More captivating than even answering our prayers. To see something of His glory, however He chooses to answer our prayers. That’s something I don’t want to miss anymore.

You may know this old saying: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” [attributed to Saint Augustine]. Our dilemma with even this challenge is that we pray (a few minutes maybe), and then we go out and try to make a difference in the world, try to serve somehow, in the name of Jesus. When, maybe a deeper call is to remember that prayer is the work. We don’t leave off serving others, absolutely not. Yet, some of us, if not all of us, have the call, gifting, opportunity to make prayer our work. The fruit of that? Knowing God in all His glory as He moves in those situations and in our own hearts.

Meredith Andrews’ song Open Up the Heavens has been on my favorite radio station for months (PER Radio, 90.5 FM). It must please God for us to pray boldly…to pray to see Him, as the song goes. For me, today, I’m praying differently for those young men in my life who need jobs; for those fighting cancer; for those moms with small ones; for our dear old ones with dementia; and…for the nations (including our own).

Can I join you in praying like this? Will you pray for me to battle in prayer like this? “O, God, show us Your glory.”

Worship with me:Blog - Open Up the Heavens 2Open Up the Heavens*

We’ve waited for this day
We’re gathered in Your name
Calling out to You
Your presence like a fire
Awakening desire
Will burn our hearts with truth

You’re the reason we’re here
You’re the reason we’re singing

CHORUS
Open up the heavens
We want to see You
Open up the floodgates
A mighty river
Flowing from Your heart
Filling every part of our praise

Your presence in this place
Your glory on our face
We’re looking to the sky
Descending like a cloud
You’re standing with us now
Lord, unveil our eyes

You’re the reason we’re here
You’re the reason we’re singing

CHORUS

Show us, show us Your glory
Show us, show us Your power
Show us, show us Your glory, Lord

CHORUS

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.  Ephesians 3:17-21

Lyrics for Open Up the Heavens –  Writers: Meredith Andrews, Jason Ingram, Stuart Garrard, Andi Rozier, James MacDonald 

YouTube Lyric Video for Open Up the Heavens

Story Behind the Song Open Up the Heavens

YouTube Video – Meredith Andrews with Vertical Church Band – “Open Up the Heavens

War Room Film

A View of God’s Glory – The Spurgeon Archive

Show Me Your Glory – sermon by Ray Pritchard

The Effects of Seeing the Glory of God – David Wilkerson

The Nearness of God – sermon by Melvin Newland

Website for Meredith Andrews

Photo Credit – YouTube.com and WarRoomTheMovie.com and cclitv.com

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From Recovery into the Real – A Letter on the Eve of Your Going Home

Blog - From Recovery to Real - Writing a Letter“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Hey Buddy,

We are so excited for you to be heading home. What an amazing transformation you have made through the work of Christ in your life and your faithfulness to Him! You have been such an encouragement to your whole family. In these two years you have been away, either in recovery or mentoring others recovering, we have seen such maturity in you. You’re still the old you – with all the fun, and your crazy sweet smile, and that infectious laugh of yours. Yet, you are altogether different as well.

You seem more at peace with yourself and others now and, definitely, more at peace with God. You seem content to be in the present with us, less restless, not needing to slip away to be with friends. You practice wise restraint and you show surprising grace to those around you. You understand more, now, the grace you have received. Maybe it’s out of that grace that you lavish love on others.

Seeing you with your mom and sister brings so much joy to our hearts. There’s a bond between you three that reminds me of that verse in the Bible: “If someone overpowers one person, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:12) Like many families you have been through a lot, but your love for each other is stronger than any hardship you’ve endured.

I’ve been trying to write you a letter for weeks, but, ironically, I don’t know what to say. The page stares blankly back at me because of too many words rather than too few. There’s just too much to say. However, I am not sure I have earned the right to speak into your life…so I haven’t actually said much, except to occasionally cheer you on from the sidelines. Writing this blog will be my rough draft toward the real thing – that letter just to you…in an envelope, with a stamp, and so much love.

Here I practice what I want to say to you:

We will never forget how we could have lost you in those dark days when we didn’t know where you were going or how you were. How thankful to God we will always be for sparing your life then. Now you walk with Him. Whatever happens in the future, we know we will never forever lose you. This may sound morbid but the reality of this once took our breath away and kept us awake praying at night. Now, we can rest somewhat easier because you belong to God now. We trust Him with you.

In these two years of recovering and mentoring, you have learned what is at stake in your choices. You have seen so much more, than I,  of what substance use and abuse can take away from people…and from those who love them. You have seen up close what one hit, one bottle, one time use of a substance can do to a person…. Too often, it doesn’t stay at one. Sometimes, “one” becomes “done” in the worst way imaginable. We will be praying you stay wise in this…and safe.

When you return home, you change addresses, but recovering your life will continue. You’re probably looking forward to getting back into the “real world”. For those who love you, that’s a little scary. Not just because of your past struggle. It’s a scary world period. Excesses and addictions abound. We are all surrounded by more temptation than most of us can handle well. Having God in our lives helps so much. Just bear with us if we get anxious about your new beginnings and old acquaintances. Forgive us if we hover or meddle or ask “too many questions”. We’re learning, too, how to live well in the “real”. We can all gain from encouraging each other along the way.

You are so much more equipped now to fully live life, to serve others, and to keep your focus on what matters. So much will crowd in on your priorities as you experience new freedom. This is where we who love you are tempted to hold you close and try to guide you more than is necessary. Be gentle with us; it’s out of hearts full of love for you. We will be praying as you look for a new job, a church, and possibly new friendships (maybe you won’t be looking for new ones, but we’ll be praying for new ones, as well as the old). We know you will continue to use what you’ve learned, not just on your own decisions and life choices, but also for the sake of others. You have so much to give to help others step back from choices that can hurt them or those they love.

Last, and best of all, can I just rejoice with you, all over again, in your relationship with God? We all see Jesus in you. What a joy it is to be redeemed by Him, and we see that joy in you in profound ways. Ways different than I’ve experienced…because only you know what all He saved you from…as with all of us. Don’t ever let this so-called “real” world appear successful in extinguishing that light in your eyes.  It cannot. You belong to Him. Always remember that.

Love you forever…..

 

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”Titus 2:11-14

Understanding and Overcoming Substance Abuse

Biblical Counseling, Addictions, and the Body of Christ

Addiction Recovery and the Burden of Self

Godly Intoxication: The Church Can Minister to Addicts – The Journal of Biblical Counseling

15 Bible Verses to Help with Addiction

A Biblical Approach to Addictions

10 Things to Stop Doing if You Have an Addictive Personality

No Longer Bound – “The Regeneration Program at No Longer Bound is a 12-month long, in-patient, regeneration process. This process differs greatly from a conventional rehabilitation program. By definition, the word rehabilitation means “to restore to a former state.” We believe that the former state of an addict before addiction is filled with wounds of rejection and pain. These wounds have lead to a life of addiction. We believe the process of regeneration, “to restore to a better state”, is the prescription for life long freedom from addiction.”

S.A.F.E. Ministries – Setting Addicts Free Eternally

Blog - Recovery to the Real - Setting Addicts Free EternallyPhoto Credit: BPNews.net

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No Small Kindness – Flowers from Her Yard – a Gift from a Stranger

Blog - Irises at Liz's house on Vanderbilt 2

For a year, we rented a small house in a tidy neighborhood. It was easy to walk the neighborhood and I knew the yards well. When April came, this one yard in particular became my favorite.  The owner had the most beautiful garden of bearded, purple-blue irises. They are my favorite flower, because they remind me of my Mom. She had so many in our yard from the time I was a child. Just seeing those irises made my heart glad – from the days of closed bud, through the glory of full bloom, and even past their splendor. I loved those days of walks past that house.

Then I met the owner. Her name is Liz. She turned into her driveway one day when my daughter and I had been walking but were presently lingering in front of her house. I must have taken a hundred pictures of those irises during that growing season. Liz told me the story of how her dad was a botanist and he planted the irises years before. He and my mom would have liked each other, I’m sure.

Liz and I would only meet that one day. I told her we were preparing to move. We had bought a house (our house now) and we would be moving within a couple of weeks. I thanked her for the pure pleasure her garden of irises had brought me during that April and early May.

Then she did a quite remarkable thing. She said, “I’m planning to thin the beds alongside my house, so if you want them, they’re yours.” Of course, I wanted them! We exchanged phone numbers, and when the irises were past their season, she would call me, and I could come get them.Blog - Irises at Liz's house on Vanderbilt

She didn’t forget me.

One Sunday, after we had moved, she called me and said they were ready for me. She had them dug up, separated from each other and gathered in garbage bags. I picked them up from the curb because she would be napping, she said on the phone.

My husband planted them in our yard, in a sunny spot. It’s been many years since we’ve had a garden, and we had little experience with irises. We weren’t sure what would happen come the next April…but we hoped they would thrive in our yard as they did in Liz’s.

As Spring lengthened this year, those irises woke from their winter sleep, in this very new place. The foliage was beautiful alone yet we weren’t sure blooms would develop. A few have, actually and I was waiting for the debut of those sentimental flowers. Yesterday evening, I was visiting a friend, and my phone signaled a text message.  Dave sent me this photo: Blog - Iris in my yard 3

The first of those irises bloomed in our yard! Almost a year had passed from the day I met Liz. Still, I called her to tell her the good news. She remembered me. I thanked her again for that generous gift she shared with me. Flowers from her yard. This stranger and friend. Today she was suffering from the allergies so common here in spring with the yellow pine pollen that settles everywhere. One day, we agreed, we will meet again.

What she did for me that day about a year ago was no small kindness. This stranger shared a bit of her life with me, and now that bit flourishes in my life…in my yard, and in my heart. The kindness of a stranger – so unexpected and so captivating. It’s one of the many kindnesses of strangers I’ve known in life across continents. It’s no small thing.

“If I look back at my life, the sweet small kindnesses of strangers are pivotal and really combine to help shape my world view – and they probably have no idea.” – Debra Smith

“There is no small act of kindness. Every compassionate act makes large the world.”  – Mary Anne Radmacher

Blog - Irises in Steph's yardSome of Mom’s irises transplanted in my niece Stephanie’s yard

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Worship Wednesday – I’m Not Strong Enough – with Matthew West

Blog - Strong Enough - The Story of Your LifeAnd He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13

Matthew West writes songs out of our stories. I wonder what he would write about a week like this one. We will not, for some time to come, put the deadly Nepal earthquake behind us. It will cast a long shadow before us all as the losses grow and recovery seems but a dream for now. Our own country is reeling from a mounting moral and social upheaval (with demonstrations and rioting in Baltimore, Maryland and a monumental U.S. Supreme Court hearing). I am so grateful for those who run into the danger and devastation for the sake of those most affected. I am also thankful for those willing to fight for what they believe is right. My fight these days is spent more on my knees.

In the midst of all this global and national chaos, we also recover from our own jolts and aftershocks. All of us face situations for which we haven’t the strength. Yet, Scripture tells us that “those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles; they will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary.” (Isaiah 40:31) I have witnessed this in the lives of dear ones just today as they demonstrated great strength in the face of life-shaking weakness. It is a wonder to see God raise up His children when they fall in a heap. It is a wonder to be that child myself sometimes.

Matthew West’s songs of stories allow us to look into the lives of people who didn’t think they could go on…but they did. With the help of a personal, loving, all-powerful God. This was one of those weeks that we were not strong enough and, thankfully, we did not have to be, Somehow God applies His strength to our weakness, and we are able to endure. He is strong enough for us…and this week, in our weakness, we needed to lean hard on Him.  We did, and by His mercy, we did not fall.

Worship with me:

You must, You must think I’m strong
To give me what I’m going through

Well forgive me
Forgive me if I’m wrong
But this looks like more than I can do
On my own

(Chorus)
I know I’m not strong enough to be
Everything that I’m supposed to be
I give up
I’m not strong enough
Hands of mercy won’t you cover me
Lord right now I’m asking you to be
Strong enough
Strong enough
For the both of us

Well, maybe, maybe that’s the point
To reach the point of giving up
Cause when I’m finally
Finally at rock bottom
Well, that’s when I start looking up
And reaching out

Chorus

Cause I’m broken
Down to nothing
But I’m still holding on to the one thing
You are God
and You are strong
When I am weak

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
And I don’t have to be
Strong enough
Strong enough

I can do all things
Through Christ who gives me strength
And I don’t have to be
Strong enough
Strong enough

Chorus*

*Lyrics to Strong Enough by Matthew West

YouTube Video – Strong Enough – Matthew West

 1) Story Behind the Song Strong Enough and 2) Story Behind the Song Strong Enough

Matthew West Website

Strong Enough on Matthew West album – The Story of Your Life

Photo Credit: www.matthewwest.com & www.amazon.com

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Nepal Earthquake – Disaster Response, Faith-based Organizations, & Love in Action

Blog - Nepal

Jesus teaching: “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;  naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” – Matthew 25:34-36

The news this weekend of Nepal’s devastating earthquake was heartbreaking. Thousands dead; tens of thousands losing family and friends, many injured, without shelter. Nearly a million children affected. Just hearing the news and seeing the images, in the aftermath, we are compelled to pray for the Nepali people and to give toward care of the survivors. Many will even travel internationally to add hands to the on-the-ground efforts.Blog - Nepal 3

In the face of tremendous need, I am thankful for the resilience of the Nepali people as they respond to the needs of their neighbors so woefully impacted by this natural disaster. It is also gratifying to see all the governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) cooperating together for the sake of these people reeling from their losses.  They are the ones that matter right now. These survivors.

This is why I was dumbfounded by the venomous attacks on faith-based organizations that started shortly after the earthquake. Twitter and other social media were peppered with angry charges against relief agencies whose motives were questioned by these individuals. I won’t mention the hash-tagged slur not wanting to fuel this fire any further. After such a catastrophic event, any who really care for the Nepali people would want help coming from any source possible.

We were living in Morocco  when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook the northern coast on February 24, 2004. It was my first close-up experience of such a disaster.  We didn’t live close but we had friends with families in that area. There were over 600 killed, over 1000 injured, 2500+ families were displaced when their homes were destroyed, and over 10,000 more homes in the area were damaged. Although not as severe in terms of the losses Nepal has experienced thus far, for a rural area of Morocco, this was overwhelming.

We watched the rapid responses of international agencies coupled with local government and charities. The school our children attended became very involved, as families and faculty traveled to the area to help in whatever way we could (assessing damage, delivering goods, translation). We were encouraged to see how others showed their care for these Moroccans, so unknown to the world at large until hit by this earthquake. When you are trying to get tents, blankets, food and water to families left with nothing, you don’t deem one helping agency more preferable than other. The need is too great for such concerns.

When I wade through the hash-tagged outcries against faith-based organizations helping the Nepali survivors, I marvel at such insensitivity. On many levels. First, we must, all of us who believe in a God who loves humanity, respond to such agonizing human need. We must respond. Second, to imagine a government or people accepting aid from one group over another in such a crisis is incomprehensible. Wisdom is to cooperate and mobilize resources as much as possible early on, because the recovery period will be a long one. Third, to encourage rejecting aid from faith-based organizations for fear of conversions is such a disservice to those hurting – 1) it takes away their voice in accepting what help they need for their own families, and 2) it presumes they would trade their beliefs for aid. Such madness – to think this way about people.

We do support both faith-based organizations and other humanitarian aid organizations. Our preferred disaster relief agency is Baptist Global Response  (because of their judicious use of funds, their cooperation with local agencies, and their faith foundation of wise compassion-driven aid and education) . BGR is not just there when disaster strikes. In fact, a BGR training for local agencies was held just weeks ago in Kathmandu, Nepal for just such a time as this. Hopefully the fruit of that training will mean a more collaborative response acutely and, in the long-term, a more stable recovery for the Nepali people.

Blog - Nepal 2I pray we can take the boxing gloves off and put the work gloves on – serving together to alleviate the suffering of these people whom God loves.  It is a mandate from Jesus Himself for those of us who are His followers.

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. ” – John 13:34

By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. – 1 John 3:16-18

Donate: Nepal Earthquake & Baptist Global Response

50 Amazing Facts About Nepal

Amid the Destruction of the Nepal Earthquake, Grace and Hope are Found

2004 Al Hoceima Earthquake in the Rif Mountains, Morocco

In Pictures – Morocco Quake Aftermath

Losses in the 2004 Earthquake, Al Hoceima, Morocco

Jesus Sayings About the Poor

Photo Credits: Baptist Global Response and IMB Resources

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Worship Wednesday – Live Like That – with Sidewalk Prophets

Blog - Live Like That - Sidewalk Prophets

Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35

We choose whether our brief lives are misspent or spent well. A few days ago, a dear neighbor, Mrs. Frances died unexpectedly at the young age of 92. I loved her stories of teaching English and serving people God placed in her life. She and her sister walked the neighborhood in the early morning. Just seeing her on those walks encouraged my heart. She had so much joy and was generous with it, lavishing it on all she met. By her own testimony of faith, and evidenced by a life of loving God and others, she is in Heaven. I can see her house from my kitchen window, and her life will continue to affect me for good. I want to live like that.Blog - Live Like That - Frances & JohnnieMrs. Frances (on left) & Mrs. Johnnie – Neighbors & Friends

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
C.T Studd (read whole beautiful poem here)

God has given me so many opportunities in life, for which I’m deeply grateful. Parents who loved God and loved us. A good education. Great friends through the years and across distances. Incredible work situations: teaching nursing at Emory University and then Yale University, working on cancer units in inner city settings and small towns, teaching English overseas, and now writing. I am a wife (blessed with an amazing “in-law” family), a mom to 3 great young adult children (two of whom have added sweet spouses to our family), and a grandmother-to-be. So much joy in all that.

Life has its deep losses as well. My closest life-long friend died this past year. We have lost other friends, family members, and dear colleagues over the years – some dying very young. My Mom, who was always my role model for godliness, died at 75, which today seems so young. My brother, Robert, and his son, Chad, are gone now as well, and even writing this, my heart is pierced again with the pain of missing them.Mom pictures for website 010My Mom, Mildred McAdams

IMG_0017My sweet nephew, Chad Stephens

2007 SepOct 046My older brother, Robert Stephens

So what of all of this? Did those people, through all these years and across all these miles, these whose lives brushed with mine, experience Jesus’ love through me? Today, is it the case?

There are moments of revelation – wake-up calls – that we are meant to hear for our own lives. Life is full of cross-roads, and we choose which way we go. No matter how successful, beautiful, influential, or (fill-in-the-blank), we are, each of us has only this one brief candle-flame of a life. How we live it matters. Will we be remembered more than a generation or two beyond our short stint on earth? Probably not. That doesn’t really matter as much as what we do with our lives – for God and for others. That’s what matters.

Do we live our lives for ourselves? Squeezing all the goodness out of our fortunes to indulge our own desires? Do we hold onto time as if it belongs to us? Do we waste a lifetime on our screens, instead of invested in real people? Uncomfortable questions, especially for me. I so struggle in this. As I write, even if this encourages some, I am aware of a world beyond the door I can see from my desk…where people are, in real skin, and real need. It brings all the more urgency to finish this writing…to get on out there.

“Oh God, I fail regularly. You are not bothered, I’m pretty sure, by our need for downtime sometimes. For recreation. You’ve created us to both work and rest, and You give us leisure to refresh us for the next round of life. Forgive us, when we use that leisure to spend on ourselves and only then want more – more time for ourselves, more toys, more self-directed adventures. Oh God, help us remember how You saved us from ourselves, through faith in Jesus. Help us to see the world with Your eyes. Help me, God, to get up out of this chair…and go out there… ‘recklessly abandoned, never holding back’ – like Jesus lived and shows us how. I want to live like that.”

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2

Worship with me, with this great call to faith and action by Sidewalk Prophets:

Sometimes I think
What will people say of me
When I’m only just a memory
When I’m home where my soul belongs

Was I love
When no one else would show up
Was I Jesus to the least of us
Was my worship more than just a song?

(Chorus)
I want to live like that
And give it all I have
So that everything I say and do
Points to You
If love is who I am
Then this is where I stand
Recklessly abandoned
Never holding back
I want to live like that
I want to live like that

Am I proof
That You are who you say You are
That grace can really change a heart
Do I live like Your love is true?

People pass
And even if they don’t know my name
Is there evidence that I’ve been changed
When they see me, do they see You?

Chorus

I want to live like that
I want to live like that

I want to show the world the love You gave for me
(I want to live like that)
I’m longing for the world to know the glory of the King

Chorus

I want to live like that
I want to live like that*

*Lyrics to Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets

YouTube Video – Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets

YouTube Video – Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets [images from films and news reports you might find familiar – brought tears to my eyes. One distracting typo: In the lyrics, corrected it’s “Was I love when no one else would show up?”

Live Like That – Sidewalk Prophets – Devotional Series

YouTube Video – Live Like That by Sidewalk Prophets (just another lyric video – another set of powerful images accompanying life-changing words)

Story Behind the Song Live Like That

Sidewalk Prophets Website

Photo Credit – Sidewalk Prophets Live Like That album cover Others are my own.

2015 April phone pics, American Idol, Spring flowers, Dad visit 205My Dad, living well, so far, with Alzheimer’s, and me

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