Quotes from Between Worlds – Essays on Culture and Belonging – by Marilyn R. Gardner

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In this bookmarked summer of mine, Between Worlds brought a refreshing wash of memories for me of living cross-culturally. I miss the years we spent as a family in North Africa. Marilyn Gardner writes in colorful strokes of her third culture kid (TCK) experience of growing up in Pakistan. She also described vividly what it was like as an adult raising children (her own TCKs) back overseas. Read Between Worlds and you are transported to the places she lived as a child and again as an adult. She speaks of her family’s years in Cairo, Egypt, and I am also taken back to one of my favorite cities in the whole world. The smells, sights, and sounds are there…you will be enchanted.

Marilyn also shares with clarity and vulnerability that experience of living essentially between worlds. Of living among peoples not your own and yet you feel they are. Of returning to the US and appearing to be like all around you, and yet you are an “invisible alien”…not fully of this world either. Her stories are marked with lessons of deep living cross-culturally. We can all gain from these lessons – whether we’ve lived a third culture life or not.

Her stories I will leave for you to read in your own personal places…but some of her wisdom I share with you through these quotes from Between Worlds.

Home is where our story begins.” For a third culture kid who questions the definition of home, this is both reassuring and sad. If home is where our story begins, what happens when we cannot go back?” (p. 4)

“I read in Psalm 84: ‘Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage…They go from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion.’ In my journey, this Psalm makes ‘Home is where your suitcase is’ a spiritual reality.” (p. 8)

“I was raised on chai…It was not just the taste; it was the full experience of comfort that nourished body and soul.” (p. 21)

“There can be strength in remembering…Perhaps writing helps keep some of the bricks intact, because memories are precious and if used properly give strength to the present.” (p. 26)

“Turns out identity isn’t about a place you live at – but a Person you live in.” (p. 44)

“Those childhood wounds that brand us, that tell us lies about who we are and what we’ll become, are not strong when they come up against the Image of the God who made us.” (p. 55)

“Pieces of childhood are important foundations to building adults…in the pieces of childhood there is grace and a Father God who delights in putting together the pieces.” (p. 71)

“When I finally stopped grasping at success, at confidence, at belonging, I inexplicably found it.” (p. 87)

“If you don’t start kids on the road or plane when they are young then too soon they, and you, will move into a place and state of mind that sees all the obstacles instead of the benefits.” (p. 102)

“It is amazing how much waiting there is in a life of movement…Above all, we wait for God. We move forward in faith, only to be stopped in transit. So we wait. It’s not time. We sit tight. There are dozens of ways that God moves in and orchestrates our plans, our movements…For waiting is nothing new in the work of God.” (p. 109)

“Behind every third culture kid is a parent – a parent who wishes, hopes, and prays that they are doing the right thing.” (p. 120)

“God chooses ‘place’ to reveal himself to people, to show who He is, to remind them of his love, his care, his sovereignty, to call them to himself.” (p.138)

“Cultural humility gives up the role of expert, instead seeing ourselves as students of our host culture. I puts us on our knees, the best posture possible for learning.” (p. 193)

“May I forever hurt with the goodbyes that I say. May I forever remember the strength of the words ‘God Be With You.'” (p. 202)

Whether you’re a chai or coffee drinker – you will want a cup of one or the other, as you savor this book of life Between Worlds.

To Purchase Between Worlds

Follow Marilyn Gardner on Twitter

Author Blog – Communicating Across Boundaries

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Worship Wednesday – With Every Act of Love by Jason Gray & Jason Ingram

Blog - Worship Wednesday - With Every Act of Love

[Image from www.richmond.com/www.homewardva.org]

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”        – Matthew 6:10

In downtown Richmond, Virginia, you will see people standing on corners with cardboard signs. The signs tell stories of veterans needing jobs, homeless begging food, the down-and-out asking for spare change. Signs made out of pieces of cardboard held out to the drivers stopped at intersections. Those of us in the safe insulation of our vehicles size up these requests and wonder if they speak to real life. Do these sign-holders look needy enough? Is it real destitution born out of hardship thrust on them or is it out of circumstances they brought on themselves? We try not to look into their eyes as the seconds tick by before the light changes to green, and then we accelerate past them and our discomfort fades as they do in our rear-view mirrors. God forgive us.

There have been times I’ve responded with some money, or staples from a grocery store trip, or some food from the order I just placed at the drive-through window a block away. Still, a little money or food or conversation or prayer only scratches the surface of what must be going on in the lives of people willing to stand exposed, with a cardboard sign, on a city street. Responding in any way that “leans in” is at least moving in the direction of Kingdom living…Kingdom building…but we must not stop there.

Jason Gray explains how he came to write the lyrics of this song, “The Gospel is clearly a theology of deeper engagement and restoration and redemption ….Yes, the Kingdom will come, but the Kingdom is coming, day by day, moment by moment, and that we’re invited to play a part in that Kingdom coming, right now, right here, with every act of love we do…With every act of love, we get to be a part of God’s Kingdom coming. I love that.”

BLog - Jason Gray #2

Dear God, help us to know and practice authentic love for You and for “the least of these” whoever they are. Also we pray that we  infuse every moment of our lives with the love You’ve given us. Given not just for our pleasure but meant to bless the nations – our own children, and these whom You know and love on the streets of our cities…and in places far from us, but not far from You. Give us wisdom, God, and hearts like Yours.

Reaching out to the poor and displaced can be complicated, but we all were poor and displaced, and God reached out to us. My prayer is that we wrestle with this daily in a way that stirs our hearts to prayer and surrenders our hands and feet (and finances) to a good and generous God. If we build margin in our lives for the needy, God will grow capacity in us to serve them in ways that bring them the Kingdom.

Worship with me…

With Every Act of Love [Lyrics] – lyric video below

Sitting at the stoplight
He can’t be bothered by the heart cry
Written on the cardboard in her hand
But when she looks him in the eye
His heart is broken open wide
And he feels the hand of God reach out through him
As Heaven touches earth

(Chorus)
Oh – we bring the Kingdom come
Oh – with every act of love
Jesus help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come

There’s silence at the table
He wants to talk but he’s not able
For all the shame that’s locked him deep inside
But her words are the medicine
When she says they can begin again
And forgiveness will set him free tonight
As Heaven touches earth

God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you
I said, God put a million, million doors in the world
For his love to walk through
One of those doors is you

Oh – we bring the Kingdom come
Oh – with every act of love
Jesus help us carry You
Alive in us, Your light shines through
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come
With every act of love
We bring the Kingdom come

Publishing: © 2013 Centricity Music Publishing, Nothing Is Wasted Music (ASCAP) / Sony-ATV Timber Publishing, Open Hands Music (SESAC)

Writer(s): Jason Gray, Jason Ingram

With Every Act of Love – Official Lyric Video

Life Will Have the Final Word album by Jason Gray

Story Behind With Every Act of Love

Derry Prenkert’s Notes from 2014 Global Leadership Summit – Brian Loritts on God’s intent for the Church in doing good

Baptist Global Response to the Tragically Displaced

Jason Gray Music

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Back to School – Teachers on My Mind

 Blog - Back to School

Back to School! Must be September…with all that comes with it. I have always loved the smell of newly sharpened pencils and notebooks just opened. Put me in a room full of books and I can occupy myself for hours. “Back to school” can mean delight for some and dread for others. I actually never cared for school – growing up or sending my children off to school. I liked being home, as a child, and I loved having our children home. Yet, there comes a day that vacation is over, and the work of children begins again in earnest…at school.

2014 June Christie's 3rd grade class 024

The Tuesday after Labor Day marks the beginning of the public school year here in Virginia, and my mind is busy with images of kids of all ages in the latest coolest outfit with all the appropriate age-specific accessories (backpack, lunchbox, cell phone, etc.). More than even the kids, I think of the parents who entrust their loves to teachers and staff, some of whom they may not even know really…except for maybe the rushed Open House introductions.

More even than the parents, it’s those teachers, I want to focus on. How do they prepare for the onslaught of the first day of school? To receive 20-25 little strangers into their classroom. How do they begin to build order and community among these little strangers? These , coming from different home cultures, some not native English speakers. How do they sort out who needs what to help them learn best? It’s all a great mystery to me.

2011 November Christie's Class 022

Then there are those first day tears…or first day fears that are harder to recognize. These teachers just seem to know, and they work to settle these young ones and to stoke confidence in their hearts.

I have always admired the giftings of teachers – adults able to enter the world of their students and render opportunities to learn and inspire in just such a way these young ones can grasp. Not just to master content but to learn how to be good citizens in their particular community (be it 3rd grade or 10th). It’s a shame when teachers stay so long – or too long tired – in the classroom such that they lose their passion for teaching (or is it for learning?). They still have impact, and hopefully for good. Hopefully. I don’t know any teachers like that right now, and today could be a fresh start.

Right now, I am well-acquainted with some wonderful teachers who are greeting their new class of students today, and I want to say to them, “Thank you.” Thank you for thinking of these students through the summer, although they did not as yet have names or faces…yet you were already planning for a good year for them.

Thank you for preparing your classroom to be a bright and colorful place that will delight their imaginations. Thank you for filling their space with books, and floor pillows, and games, and art, and math manipulatives, and computer programming – to touch the hearts and minds of each of your students with their unique learning strengths and weaknesses.  Thanks for not taking yourself too seriously or them too lightly.  Thanks for your understanding of which students need to be drawn out and which other ones need to be settled down. Beginnings are important, and your students have so much to learn from you about starting well.

And then finishing strong. Thanks for determining to stick with them through the year. For not giving up on the ones who seem to have just too much going against them to be successful. We never know, do we? And for those students who just seem to have everything going for them, thank you for challenging them to serve others, to think critically, and to lead in ways that go deeper than popularity.

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Thank you for applying all your “super powers” for their benefit – be they  little ones or the almost grown ones – including seeing their parents (or grandparents or other guardians) as some of your best resources. It means more work for you, but it could make all the difference…not just for that student, but for their adults as well.

So thanks, teachers…it’s a new year. And you’re ready.

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3 Free Tools for a Productive September [September 1st is the New January 1st] – Ann Voskamp

Recipe for Pecan Pie Bars – to go with those Pumpkin Spice Lattes that Appear Magically in September Along with School

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A Labor of Love – Hanover Habitat for Humanity – Still Sore Two Days Later But a Good Sore

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Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.  – Jeremiah 29:5

The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish pulls it down with her hands. – Proverbs 14:1

Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain. – Psalm 127:1-2

The Bible is filled with references about building and building well – exact measurements and materials, strong foundations, counting the cost before building, and obeying God in building and being community together.

A team of us from Crosstrain Community Church in Richmond, Virginia volunteered a couple of days ago to help with building with Hanover Habitat for Humanity. We had been intrigued for some time on how to participate, as construction novices, in the good work of Habitat – providing affordable housing for people in need.

Their processes have changed through the years and are better than ever (in choosing candidates for homes, mobilizing and equipping building teams, and strengthening community relationships). It was amazing for us how they took a group of green volunteers, with very little experience, and guided us through a day’s work. We accomplished so much – considerably more than we could have imagined.

We had a team of 14, and the site foreman, George, divided us into three smaller teams. He asked for those who considered themselves to be “perfectionists” to do prep for vinyl siding for a house. All the guys on our team chose that work).

Crosstrain men at Habitat

Then George asked for 5 of us to paint trim all day. That might seem simple, but on-your-feet painting for 6 hours in the August sun was a job!

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Still fun though – good company, sweet music, and lots of laughter as they splashed paint on all those strips of wood.

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I was on the remaining team whose job it was to lay the plywood for the subfloor on the floor joists that were already in place. Never having done more with a hammer than hang pictures, I was more than uneasy as to what we would be doing. Fortunately, as is the case with all Habitat projects, we had “professional” volunteers leading us in the job. Our guys, Brian and Mike, knew well what they were doing and they were patient and encouraging with us.

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With these guys and a couple of others, we finished that subfloor.

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Between our three small teams, we worked on two houses that day. Both of the designated house owners were there helping as well. It was a pleasure to get to meet and work alongside the people who were most invested in building these houses that would be their homes.

Working together is always a great opportunity to build relationships and to serve others. We learn from others with differing strengths and see weaknesses in areas that we had no other opportunity to see except in unfamiliar territory. I am a hard worker and want to always do my part, but that was the absolute hardest physical work I’ve done in some time.

It was an incredible experience for me to be side-by-side with friends who shouldered up to you when the task got too hard, and your strength ebbed. A sunny day at the beach and a sunny day on a work site are two very different experiences. No wonder we see builders with huge coolers heading to their work! They must eat and drink massive amounts to stay hydrated and energized through the day. I’ve always had respect for these guys, and my experience with Habitat boosted that respect all the more.

When we left the site, at 3:30 that day, we had finished what they asked us to accomplish. All I wanted to do when I got home was eat, drink, and be horizontal…not thinking about anything. Completely exhausted. It has taken 2 days to get back to my “computer job” fit self (sigh). It’s the good sore of working hard, in community, for something that matters. Looking forward to our next day out with Habitat…hopefully in the cool of a Fall day.

2014 Phone pics July-December 084 - George & Dave (2)George (on left) – our site foreman with Habitat

Crosstrain at Habitat for Humanity - Aug 30 2014Our team (minus two) at the end of the day in front of the completed sub-floor. They are not going to love this picture but working with them that day makes me love them all the more.

 

Habitat for Humanity, Hanover County, Virginia

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On Leaving – Post by Rachel Pieh Jones – So Resonant of the Goodbyes & Hellos of Life on Two Continents

Blog - Rachel Pieh JonesRachel Pieh Jones and Family

Open road stretches out before me, cornfields and forests swirl into blurry greens and yellows. The windows are down and my hair tickles my nose, the sun warms my thighs and my elbow is getting sunburned but I don’t mind, I’ll peel and the dried skin will remind of me this day, this place, this slippery moment. The radio plays U2, Beautiful Day, and I’m singing loud.

What does leaving feel like?

It feels like that drive down the freeway. Like everything is right and the world is beautiful and maybe I’m wrong, maybe nothing is right because why does it hurt? I’m heading somewhere I want to go and leaving somewhere I want to stay and I want to be in both places and so I try to force the in between to linger. Tears stream down and blow off my cheeks, stolen by wind.

My toenails were hennaed black when we evacuated from Somalia and I remember watching the black grow out with my nail. When I clipped the last sliver of nail with black swath across the narrow tip. When my body released that last vestige, no longer stamped with a reminder of where I had been. I remember it feeling like, with that one snip, we were evacuating all over again, like something had been irrevocably removed.

Does anyone else see green grass and feel dizzy? The green blades like sea snakes swaying in the summer breezes. Does anyone else notice the way leaves filter sunlight and cast glittery shadows, orbs of golden light reflected off rivers in diamonds? Is there a way to hold it? To paint it on my toenails so I can carry it until I am ready to let go?

During leaving days every interaction is intensified, every color made more brilliant. Do you know I’m going back to Africa, to Djibouti, on Thursday?  [Note: Flights delayed and a lay-over so when you read this, they hopefully will have arrived.]

You’ll want to finish reading the rest of this post at this link.

 

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Tom & Jeannie Elliff – Faith, Family, Friends

Tom & Jeannie Elliff front of prayercard

Have you ever watched a video clip of someone’s family reunion on Facebook or some other social media, and you just wanted to tag yourself right in there? That was my experience yesterday, as a family gave us the chance to see them welcome home a beloved mom and grandmother. Well, they welcomed the dad/grandfather, too, of course, but the surprise was for the mom. To see the joy in Jeannie’s face, as she saw all those loves of her life (all her “favorites”), was precious to all of us who love her and Tom. 4 children (and their spouses) gathered from around the globe with almost all of the 25 grandchildren (two away at college). What a welcome home!

The day of great welcome and joy was a day of quiet reflection for me as their arrival back home was their leaving from here. Tom and Jeannie Elliff have been friends of ours for years, and 3 of those years we were in the same city…until yesterday.  In a way, we are an unlikely friendship because their lives are full of pastor friends (pastors of large churches), denominational leaders, seminary presidents and professors, and decades-long church relationships across the US. We are none of those. Yet, they invited us into their lives, as they do the countless strangers they meet and get to know in the minutes they would be together…waitresses, mowers, doctors, electricians, store clerks.

Tom and Jeannie Elliff are consummate encouragers*. They genuinely care about the people God has placed in their path. We know that because God has used them in a big way in our lives. They even pray for our children. How amazing is that? People who have seen God in all their life’s circumstances (no matter how hard) have a joy in them that goes right to the bone. Not only all the way in, but all the way out – refreshing those around them. I won’t recount here the stories of how Tom and Jeannie have seen God work in their lives. Hopefully you’ll hear those stories directly from them. They are always ready to give reasons for the hope that lies within them (1 Peter 3:15).

Today, I just want to thank GOD for them, as Paul did when he wrote his letter to the Philippian church: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,  for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,  being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:3-6a).

Our walk with God has been deepened in having had the opportunity of watching the lives of these dear ones. So many Scripture passages come to mind in thinking of them and their passion for God – for Him to be known and loved and glorified.

“Therefore, I the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3, NASB).

As they return to their home in Oklahoma, we pray for what they’ve asked us to pray. If you know them, too, you are probably already praying the same. If not…would you pray right now?

Tom & Jeannie Elliff back of prayer card

Love you, Tom and Jeannie. See you down the road.

*Greek meaning of word “encourage”

A Passion for Prayer by Tom Elliff

Unbreakable – The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family by Tom Elliff

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Worship Wednesday – Wholly Yours – David Crowder

Blog - A Collision Album by David Crowder Band

As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because as it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:15-16

 

How can we be holy like God? How is that possible? These verses, and others in the Bible, on holiness have filled me with wonder both at God’s complete holiness and our frail flesh.

The Apostle Paul even said, in his letter to the Roman church, that the things he wants to do, he doesn’t, and the things he doesn’t want to do, he does. His lament over this (in Romans 7) is followed immediately by a declaration of faith: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

 

David Crowder wrote a song that revels in the holiness of God and His manifested holiness in us. It is Wholly Yours from the David Crowder*Band A Collision album (2005). The word holy means set apart, special, different from the world*. Being holy is not just about conduct or morality; being holy relates to who we are as Christ-followers. Saved from our sin by His death on the cross, and living transformed lives through the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

 

Crowder’s mom actually gave him the inspiration for the lyric of Wholly Yours. She wrote him, in a letter, about her own wrestling with how to “be holy as [He is] holy”. Then she told David how a friend sorted it out: “Covered by grace we, being in Christ, are holy as He is Holy, and thus the only hope we have for holiness is to bring the whole of our lives under the coverings of Christ. To be wholly under Christ’s rule and reign is to be found holy, as Christ is Holy.”

 

The more surrendered we are to God, the more our lives are His, moment by moment, to radiate who He is – His love, His grace, His holiness. When we are wholly His, we can amazingly be “holy as He is holy.”

Worship with me:

I am full of earth
You are heaven’s worth
I am stained with dirt, prone to depravity
You are everything that is bright and clean
The antonym of me
You are divinity
But a certain sign of grace is this
From the broken earth flowers come up
Pushing through the dirt

You are holy, holy, holy
All heaven cries “Holy, holy God”
You are holy, holy, holy
I want to be holy like You are

You are everything that is bright and clean
And You’re covering me with Your majesty
And the truest sign of grace was this
From wounded hands redemption fell down
Liberating man
But the harder I try the more clearly can I feel
The depth of our fall and the weight of it all
And so this might could be the most impossible thing
Your grandness in me making me clean

Glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah
So here I am, all of me
Finally everything
Wholly, wholly, wholly
I am wholly, wholly
I am wholly, wholly, wholly
Yours

I am full of earth and dirt and You.

 

Written by David Crowder ©2005 worshiptogether.com Songs / sixsteps Music (ASCAP) Admin by EMI CMG Publishing

Lyrics & Back Story

Crowder Music

What Does God Mean When He Asks Us to Be Holy as He Is Holy?

Destined to Be Holy – Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest

J.C. Ryle on Holiness

*Definition of the Word Holy in Scripture

YouTube Video – Wholly Yours w/ Lyrics

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Sacred Marriage Seminar – A Morning with God, My Husband, & Gary Thomas

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I’ve been married 30 years to the same man. Well, not really. He and I have both changed considerably – not in our core values so much or our deepest heart desires, but in pretty much every other way. We grew up a lot, married to each other. I am especially thankful he hung in there with me during some of those tough early growing up years.

This past weekend, we had the joy of together attending a Sacred Marriage Seminar with Gary Thomas (sponsored by First Things First of Greater Richmond). Can’t remember the last marriage conference we participated in. One friend said, this weekend, on hearing we’d attended, “I won’t go to marriage conferences any more. until I start applying what I’ve learned at previous ones.” [Of course, we know their marriage pretty well…loving, honest, devoted to God and others…including each other.]

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Gary L. Thomas has made a deep study of marriage over many decades and his wisdom has been a great encouragement to us. Our absolute favorite book on marriage is his Sacred Marriage – What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than Happy?  Thomas is not precluding happiness as part of marriage. By no means. What he does is to encourage the reader to fix our focus on our walk with God as the true foundation for the great joys possible in marriage.

If you are single (or single-again) and hope God has marriage in your future, I would encourage you to read Thomas’ book The Sacred Search. Those single years for me could have been far less dramatic and traumatic  if I’d known then what I know now. This book is a good start in gaining wisdom for that season.

If you are married, happily for now or unhappily for a long time, you might consider reading Sacred Marriage. As in the too-frequent Sunday-to-Monday sacred-secular divide, there can be the same spiritual disconnect in our marriages. Persevere. Don’t give up. Not on each other, and especially not on God. I don’t say this lightly…dark days come to all marriages. I know. What I also know is that God loves His children, and our weakness can actually display His great strength (2 Corinthians 12:9).

[Hear my heart, if you are divorced or in a second/third marriage, there is no judgment here. Only hope for you, singly or together with your spouse, to know and love God and the glory of His love for you.]

I leave you with some of what Gary Thomas says through these books and the Sacred Marriage Seminar. Hopefully, you’ve heard from me that it’s not about Gary Thomas…but about a God who desires true intimacy for us – with Himself and with each other.

The spiritual challenge of marriage is that “We ALL stumble in many ways.” (James 3:2) — Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage Seminar

“If you want to be free to serve Jesus, there’s no question—stay single. Marriage takes a lot of time. But if you want to become more like Jesus, I can’t imagine any better thing to do than to get married. Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise.” — Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Marriage

“Women, ask yourself, what will you most desire in your man ten years from now, when you have kids and a house and are sharing a life together and the infatuation has faded? Find that. Look for that.” — Gary L. Thomas, Sacred Search

“None of us is so fascinating that we can keep someone enchanted for 50-60 years. But if we’re joined in seeking God’s Kingdom [Matthew 6:33], then there’s plenty of drama for a lifetime. Selfishness is boring. Being centered on His purposes is riveting and bonding.” — Gary L. Thomas, notes from Sacred Marriage Seminar

“If I get married for trivial reasons, then I’ll get divorced for trivial reasons. If I get married to “seek first the Kingdom of God” then that never changes and my marriage is on rock-solid ground.” — Gary L. Thomas, notes from Sacred Marriage Seminar

“Couples don’t fall out of love so much as they fall out of repentance.” – Gary L. Thomas

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.” — Gary L. Thomas

“Your spouse is a child of God, too, so meditate on God as Father-in-Law. He knows His children better than anyone knows them. We need to pay attention to God in how He cares for His children – like a daddy watching out for his little girl – and love our spouse as He loves them.” — Gary L. Thomas, notes from Sacred Marriage Seminar

First Things First of Greater Richmond

Gary Thomas Website, Blog, Resources

Singles and “The Sacred Search

Excerpts from Gary Thomas’ The Sacred Search

The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas {A Book Review}

10 Essentials for Your Marriage

Sacred Marriage Small Group Bible Study Videos

Gary L. Thomas Quotes from Goodreads.com

Another word on marriage – with engaging comment section including comments by Gary Thomas

 

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To My Younger Self

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 088 - Blog (3)I feel so tender toward that little girl and young woman that I used to be. There was a time, not so many years ago, that memories of my childhood through my twenties made me flush with confusion, anger and regret. I was hard on that younger self.  Growing older and deeper in love with God gives such glorious perspective.

If only I could go back and reassure myself then with what I know now….

To that school-age girlIMG_0008 (2)I would say, “God sees you. He is good. He will keep you safe. (Psalm 33)”

My parents divorced before this wee version of me was six. Lives turned topsy-turvy as Mommy sorted out how to care for four little children, and Daddy disappeared. She did take care of these little ones, and that was a glimpse for this mini-me of what I know now. God reached out to this little girl through strangers. Neighbors invited us to church, and there we learned of a good God who loved us and would never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5). I gradually trusted this Father God.

To that high-school girl – I would say, “Look at yourself through God’s eyes, Girl. See how gifted and beautiful you really are. You matter to God, and that is all that really matters.” That teen-aged version of me had the usual adolescent angst and then some. She worked so hard to please others and sought approval from her peers, approval that would never be satisfied. Those years started a pendulum swinging between the church which she loved and the world where she wanted to be loved. I want to wrap my arms around that bewildered teenaged me and plant into her heart the sweet truth of her identity in Christ. Somehow she [I] missed that message in those years…of  who we are in Christ – His child, a new creation, chosen, holy, blameless, loved, and complete in Him (John 12; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).

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To that young woman in her twenties – I would say, “You don’t have to make things happen. See how God has already worked…trust yourself into His hands. He’s working everything out” (Romans 8:28). That 20-something me had done well academically and was situated in a challenging and fascinating job. Life was still a bit dizzying because, not having had this talk yet (or the one I would give my teenaged self), she was still of a mind that she was messed up somehow. Maybe it was the still present father wound, or the disappointments of her teen years, but she struggled with enormous self-doubt and deep guilt. She believed one day she would be “exposed” and everyone would see that she didn’t know enough, wasn’t good enough, somehow had faked her way through life. I remember vividly the strain of these years on that younger me. I am thankful for Godly women, in those days, who loved that younger me – so driven, restless, and searching. It took some convincing, but thanks to their not giving up on her, and the Holy Spirit stirring her heart, she [I] took hold of the God who had never let go all those years.

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Those early years of pain, loss, and confusion seem long ago now. Looking back, though, I find God there with that younger me. ..so gentle and patient. I am not able to speak to that younger self, but there are younger ones in my life today that remind me of her. Listening, I speak to them.

Your Identity in Christ

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Worship Wednesday – You Are My Vision – Rend Collective

Blog - Rend Collective - You are My Vision

The strongest memories I have of the song Be Thou My Vision are connected with worship across North Africa. When our children were growing up, we “attended church” – expat families who gathered once or twice a week to worship in English.  We sang great hymns, old and more modern, with guitar accompaniment, and worship leaders with more British and Irish accents than American. I remember our little family, strung out along a pew of these little churches. Our stair-step children, with shoulders squared, singing from hymnals in the early years and then words projected on the stuccoed front walls.

We sang Be Thou My Vision, this old Irish hymn, across three countries in Heliopolis Community Church (Cairo), St. George’s (Tunis), and St. John’s (Casablanca). Before our children all launched back into life in the US, we “attended” church less and became a part of house churches. There we still sang Be Thou My Vision, still with guitar…less with a British or Irish accent.

Now to Rend Collective. I heard this group for the first time on my radio about a year ago. The song was Second Chance*. I jotted down the group’s name and song (while driving…sigh) and would later buy the album** based on that one song. Have you ever done that?

When I heard You are My Vision, my first thought was how could anyone mess with such a great hymn that so truly magnifies God? As I listened, the personal nature of this version drew me in. This old Irish hymn written in the 8th century has been, not-so-much-updated but, celebrated by an Irish group of young worshippers. Not celebrating the song so much as celebrating the Saviour of the song.

Worship with me through the lyrics and music of You are My Vision.

You are my vision, oh King of mine heart. Nothing else satisfies, only You, Lord. You are my best thought, by day or by night. Waking or sleeping, Your presence, my light.

You are my wisdom; You are my true word – I ever with You and You with me, Lord. You’re my great Father and I’m Your true Son. You dwell inside me, together we’re one.

You are my battle shield, sword for the fight. You are my dignity; You’re my delight. You’re my soul’s shelter, and You’re my high tower. Come raise me heavenward, oh, Power of my power.

I don’t want riches or a man’s empty praise. You’re my inheritance, now and always. You and You only, the first in my heart –  High king of heaven, my treasure You are.

High king of heaven, when victory’s won, may I reach heaven’s joy, oh, bright heaven’s Son. Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall, still be my vision, oh, Ruler of all.

Lyrics for You are My Vision

You are My Vision – Rend Collective – Official Live – acapella part at 2:23 will seriously give you cold chills 

YouTube video of You are My Vision with lyrics

**Rend Collective Albums with You are My VisionHomemade Worship by Handmade People and Campfire

Rend Collective Art of Celebration – Album & Tour

Be Thou My Vision – Wikipedia – English Methodist Lyrics, 1964

Back Story of Be Thou My Vision

*YouTube video of Second Chance from album Homemade Worship by Handmade People

YouTube video of  Build Your Kingdom Here from album Homemade Worship by Handmade People – another favorite for another day

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