Courage – Putting Off Cynicism and Giving Up Control

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Be strong and courageous! Do not fear or tremble before them, for the LORD your God is the one who is going with you. He will not fail you or abandon you! – Deuteronomy 31:6

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not fear. What can man do to me? – Psalm 56:3-4

Couragethe strength of mind to carry on in spite of danger or difficulty; old French meaning: “from the heart

Courage comes with time or necessity. When I was a child, Chicken Little (from the children’s story Henny Penny) could have been my modus operandi in dealing with life. The world seemed a scary place. If there was any way I could control it, I would (people-pleasing, saying what I thought people wanted to hear instead of the truth sometimes, circling up with friends who preferred me). Me, me, I, I. Being afraid centers on self…it keeps truth out and generates a “reality” that keeps walls up. To break out of that, courage was a necessity. With time and growing up, the world become smaller (and God bigger), and courage was born.

In my twenties, I read a little book shared with a me by a brave friend who had herself broken out of her own self-imposed walls. The book was Hannah Hunnard’s Hinds’ Feet on High Places*. The heroine was called Much Afraid. It is an allegory of a Christ-followers who struggled with fear and yet desired to know God in the high mountains of joy. The book tells a story of how she lost her fear over her journey of faith and devotion.

Courage comes with focus, focusing up and out. It won’t come with focusing on self and being in control. It comes with turning our focus on God and others. Simple as that. If we want to control our situation, we can rein in our circumstances and relationships such that we are not threatened. Occasionally someone or something may break through our fortress, but with determination, we can quickly rebuild. Circling tightly around our own selves, and only those people and things that matter most to us. Trumping any reality we choose to ignore or avoid. Or so we think…Blog - Courage 2 from photosPhoto Credit:

Courage takes risks and lets go of control. As I got older, I realized that life is so much more precious than the bits that I try to control. A long time ago, a little saying, “Let go, and let God” settled into the hard drive of my mind. I don’t always surrender myself to fullness of life and depth of relationship that God has for us…but when I do…well, worth the risk. Worth giving up my paltry control. Worth it.

Courage keeps me from cynicism. Paul Coughlin said it best: “Cynicism drains our lives of hope, optimism and creativity—raw material that help build our foundation of courage. Men are especially seduced by cynicism’s ability to look like you are on the playing field of life, committing deeds that are useful and powerful. But in reality the cynic is comfortably anchored on the cushy sidelines of life, lifting no burdens, creating no light & being no salt. This ability to always see the worst in people and situations is often a hiding place for fear, timidity and indifference. It allows us to be invulnerable observers rather than participants at risk and of sacrifice. Worse, the cynic often justifies his lack of redemptive and courageous action. Ultimately, cynicism is the language of self-preservation, which drains us of courage and shrivels our souls.”**

Take courage, Dear Ones. Leave off cynicism. Give up control. See what God will do when you show up, ready (in Him) for whatever comes your way today.

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What Does the Bible Say About Courage?

Bible Verses About Courage

*Hinds’ Feet on High Places Quotes

** What Drains Us of Courageous Faith?

YouTube Video – Courageous – final scene

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Worship Wednesday – Breathing In Your Grace, Breathing Out Your Praise – Your Grace Finds Me by Matt Redman

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But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). – Ephesians 2:4-5

He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began. – 2 Timothy 1:9

And 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.2 Corinthians 12:9

“Grace means undeserved kindness. It is the gift of God to man the moment he sees he is unworthy of God’s favor.”Dwight L. Moody*

The fact of God’s grace overwhelms me this morning. A friend is in the hospital in labor, a month early, preparing to give birth to her baby girl. Another dear one is daily receiving friends to lavish her with love in her battle with a raging recurrent cancer. Family members come to mind who have landed their dream job, while others endure difficult job situations, or no job at all right now. I watch friends celebrate long years of marriage and pray for others whose marriages are interrupted by a spouse dying or leaving.

There is grace for all of us. God’s grace. Undeserved…but full and free…His strength in our weakness.

blog - grace 5Blog - Grace 13 Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 023

I grew up in church singing hymns about grace. One we all know is Amazing Grace. Another one is Grace Greater Than Our Sin. What an incredible gift that God gives us – this grace that covers all the darkness (and illuminates all the good) in our lives and fills all the gaps between us and God. Rejoice in this last stanza of that old hymn:

“Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
Freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see His face,
Will you this moment His grace receive?” – Julia H. Johnston

Worship with me now, if you can, with the lyrics of a contemporary hymn of grace by Matt Redman:

It’s there in a newborn cry
There in the light of every sunrise
There in the shadows of this life
Your great grace

It’s there on the mountain top
There in the everyday and the mundane
There in the sorrow and the dancing
Your great grace
Oh, such grace

From the creation to the cross
There from the cross into eternity
Your grace finds me
Yes, Your grace finds me

It’s there on the wedding day
There in the weeping by the gravesite
There in the very breath we breathe
Your great grace

It’s the same for the rich and poor
The same for the saint and for the sinner
Enough for this whole wide world
Your great grace
Oh, such grace

There in the darkest night of the soul
There in the sweetest songs of victory
Your grace finds me
Yes your grace finds me

Your great grace
Oh such grace
Your great grace
Oh such grace

So I’m breathing in Your grace
And breathing out Your praise
I’m breathing in Your grace
Forever I’ll be

Your grace finds me
Yes Your grace finds me

Lyrics – Writers: Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin

YouTube Video – Your Grace Finds Me with lyrics by Matt Redman

YouTube Video – Your Grace Finds Me (Life from Lift – A Worship Leader Collective

Story Behind the Song Your Grace Finds Me

Photo Credit:  Matt Redman

Grace Quotes – Precious Grace

Top 12 Quotes on Grace

*8 Enlightening Quotes on God’s Grace

17 Awesome Christian Quotes About Grace

Clear Winter Nights – an Interview with Author Trevin Wax

A Dispenser of Grace by John Ortberg

Grace Greater Than Our Sin (Grace, Grace, God’s Grace) – great old hymn

Grace Greater Than Our Sin by Bart Millard on the album Hymned AgainBlog - Grace 3

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A Family Lexicon – Words That Grow Up With Us

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A lexicon is defined as “the words used in a language or by a person or group of people.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

As a family grows up together, they develop their own language. Sure, it’s usually with words everyone knows but with a context that’s intimate, a context that says we belong. Family can have its prickly stages, but the language of family is deeply embedded. Even as the children grow up and have their own families, the collective memory of these words, just like with favorite songs, take us back to another time. A time that these words had love, place, and situation wrapped snugly around them.IMG_0040 (3)In the days our children were little (before our third came home to us), this lexicon began to develop. You can even tell the ages of our children by some of our acquired favorite sayings.

Below are some of our Mills Family Lexicon. I wrote them down over the last several weeks, as they popped into our times together. Some the children have outgrown, and we look forward to adding new ones with the next generation of kiddos.

“Breffix, Comptible, Pannicakes, Whatchoosay?” Words we still use even though we’re all grown up…sort of.

“Turn on the Pancake Music” – Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – Saturday morning pancakes were always accompanied by Vivaldi. I’m thinking the kids still all have a strong urge for pancakes when Vivaldi plays.

Bobwhite whistle – We lived in big cities when the kids were growing up (Cairo, Egypt, the biggest). Lots of airports. I wanted to be able to get their attention without words. This worked then….and did for years later. It might have lost its magic now (or with earbuds, who knows), but for years……they stopped whatever they were doing and looked up.

Do not feel sad. Many things cannot fly. Rocks. Trees. Sticks. Spike.” – from the film Land Before Time

“Hold on tight, Knuckles!” – a line off the Sonic videogame; first coined in our family, when cousin Jonathan and our guys were tubing on the river behind Uncle Mark’s boat.

“Charlie Brown” – enough said, about our melancholy guys

“You’re killing me, Smalls!” – from the film Sandlot

“Too hot! Too hot!” – from the film 101 Dalmations

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” – from Charlie Brown Christmas

“I. Am. O.K.” – [Thou Shalt Laugh; Taylor Mason]

“Every lit-tle thing’s gonna be alright.” – chorus of song by Delirious

“This is a sick world we’re living in! Sick people!” – from the film Jingle All the Way

“Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” – Dad, from the film Rush Hour

“You wubbin’ me the wong way.” – Elmer Fudd, Geico commercial

“Are you dead, Man?” – from the film Cool Runnings

“No, only mostly dead.” – from Princess Bride

“People are idiots!” – from Everybody Loves Raymond‘s dad Frank

“Let’s go shoot buffalo!” – said his buddy Zach Anders at Nathan’s 4th birthday partyBlog - Daniel & Nathan

“Meskeen” – Arabic word meaning “pitiful” or “to be pitied” – resorted to when one of us is throwing a pity party. Other language words also used without thinking. “Malesh” is also an Arabic word meaning “It’s O.K.” or “Never mind” or “No worries”, Daniel’s French interjections sometimes come out of nowhere- including “Quoi?” (“What?”) and “Mafoix” (although I don’t know what it means).

“Either deal with it or die to it.” – again Dad’s short admonition when we keep ruminating over a conflicted situation or relationship

“Do not grow weary in well-doing; you will reap a harvest, if you don’t give up.” – Galatians 6:9 – there are the many Bible verses that were there for counsel and encouragement; this is one.IMG_0003 (12)

“Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite. You either.” – sing-song back and forth at “lights out” while kids were growing up

I know…too stinkin’ adorable, that one – “the Walton’s”, not ours.

What are some of your family’s lexicon words/sayings? Please share them in the comments below.

What Is Your Family’s Lexicon?

WikiQuotes – Sonic the Hedgehog

90 Quotes That Will Change the Way You Think

YouTube Video – The Mom Song Sung to William Tell Overture With Lyrics

This is What It Would Sound Like if You Talked to Your Parents Like They Talk to You

YouTube Video – 10 Things All Moms Say

The “littles” with Memaw & PapaIMG_0020 (8)

…and a bit later with MomMom & PopPop2007 - Jul - Vacation in Delaware


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10 Quotes by Jon Acuff on Developing New Skills & Sharpening Old Ones – Part 3 of Do Over Series

Nathan at guitarPhoto Credit: Nathan Mills Guitar

There’s this guitarist I know. His music is a work in progress. Not his music itself, because he hones his craft daily. Still, his career in music is a study in skill development. No industry stands still. The ability to silence a room with the sound you bring out of a guitar does not a living make. Usually.

There are so many other skills called to bear in a successful career in music today. Composing, arranging, teaching, performing, collaborating, marketing, production, diversifying style or instrument. Whew!

Then there’s your day job (by necessity, or for other reasons). Wisdom is to bring the same disciplines and desire, of that skilled musician, to work every day. To be the best asset you can be for your employer or your company. Shirking entitlement and nurturing an attitude of graciousness and gratitude.

Who is this person?!

Jon Acuff talks about becoming such a person in his book Do Over. He tackles the subject of sharpening and developing skills as imperative to any career, and especially to break through a Career Ceiling.

Have you ever gotten stuck in a job? No, I’m not talking about being ungrateful or feeling entitled to a better situation. I’m talking stuck – as in getting to a place in your job where you can’t see being able to ever advance or be more creative or grow professionally?

Acuff invites us readers to take a good look at our skills to see what exactly we uniquely bring to your job. This would include skills we might have discounted or even forgotten we had.

Below are 10 bits of wisdom from Jon’s section on skills:

  • Relationships get you the first gig, skills get you the second.
  • When you hit a Career Ceiling, skills will be the hammer you use to break through.
  • Don’t let fear hide a skill you’ve always had or wanted to pursue. Just because you’re afraid of doing something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
  • Small skills have the tendency to add up to big careers.
  • Master the invisible skills – Go to work; add value; own your attitude.
  • When you have a bad attitude it flavors every part of your performance.
  • If you want to get better at something, it always costs time. If you don’t have any, steal some from…Facebook or any number of things that are requesting that resource without paying you anything in return.
  • I’m convinced that fear beats the “You don’t have enough time” drum because it never wants you to invest in your career. This is a lie.
  • Your willingness to discipline one part of your life creates freedom in another.
  • You will need skills most when you find yourself stuck. The ceilings are designed to filter out the lazy and uncommitted. Every skill can be a hammer. Start banging. Career Ceilings were meant to be broken.

Like with looking at our relationships, he calls for us to use note cards and list (one per card) all the skills we can think of – whether currently using them or only in the past; whether work-related or not so much. Once we’ve exhausted our ideas on skills then, he says to look for patterns.* It’s so easy to settle into a rut of doing the same thing every day. Going after new skills and sharpening old ones help us to be good at our jobs and, at the same time, love our work.

Whether you are a musician, a teacher, an I.T. guy or a caregiver, you have skills and you can build on those skills. Determining to be diligent to grow your skills and grateful for the opportunities to learn will take you farther than you know. Right through that career ceiling.

“You know who we should fire, that guy who keeps learning how to do his job even better,” said no one ever. – Jon AcuffBlog - Do Over - Jon Acuff

Photo Credit:

*A Simple Two-Step Exercise for Figuring Out What You’re Really Good At – Jon Acuff, Business Insider Start Your Do Over Today

Start Your Do Over Today! – Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff: Why Most People Don’t Reach Their Full Potential And How You Can

Nathan Mills on Vine

Crosstrain at Habitat for Humanity - Aug 30 2014Learning new skills on-site with Habitat for Humanity

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Tourist in My Own Town – First Visit to the State Capitol & the Church Beside – Richmond, Virginia

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I love history but am not a very serious student of it. Wanna be, but truth be told, not so much. Children’s picture books with real (not revisionist) history as text are about my speed. Seriously, I do appreciate context and seeing puzzle pieces of our stories fit together. What a gift to have someone else bring me along with their children on a history field trip, sort of. That was my yesterday.

A friend, new to Richmond, Virginia, invited me to join her for a trip to the State Capitol downtown. I agreed to drive since I knew my city so well. [Ha!] It was a hot humid day which made it perfect to be inside an air-conditioned government building.

We headed into Richmond via Monument Avenue.   A really gorgeous, tree-lined street with huge houses on each side. It’s called Monument Avenue because of all the monuments . Most are of Confederate generals atop their horses. I told my passengers that there’s some sort of code about the hewn statues – denoting, by the position of horse and rider, whether the generals survived the waror not. Well, it turns out that’s a myth.  Strike one for the city “insider”.

We missed our turn into the city on purpose to drive across the James River by way of the Belvidere (Robert E. Lee) Bridge. Richmond is a striking city with the James running through it. On the U-turn back toward the city, I pointed out the Virginia War Monument and then what I thought was the Capitol Building, right behind, on a grassy knoll that slopes right down to the River. Wrong! Strike two. [I still don’t know what that great white columned building  is. Anybody?]

Strike three for me was assuming there would be parking attached to the Capitol building. I circled and circled and circled. We finally called the Capitol information line and found that St. Paul’s Episcopal Church a couple of blocks away offers their parking lot for $5/hour. That’s a deal in downtown Richmond, if you can’t get a metered space.

The Virginia State Capitol was designed by Thomas Jefferson. It is magnificent. There are free guided tours or we could meander around on our own. The state legislators were not in session, but the halls themselves made us feel welcome.  As did the lovely lady at the information table in the rotunda.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 284

I am not going to do a guided tour – you, like me, have your own level of interest in history. I have just captioned a few of the pictures I took. You should visit your state capitol. I came away with a much greater appreciation of the cost of liberty and the processes of state government.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 250

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2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 247“Brothers” statue depicted the poignancy of reuniting after fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War.

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2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 279The stairwells and marble floors had the look of a grand hotel.

2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 260President George Washington – the only statue he posed for, they say; life-sized rendering. [Let me know if that’s a myth or not. The statue was definitely life-sized. That I could tell.]

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 After exiting the Capitol building, we made our way around the grounds to the Governor’s Mansion (which was open to the public).2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 307 2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 306

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The old meets the new in the Governor’s Mansion. Period antiques throughout the main floor and lacrosse sticks belonging to the Governor’s children at the front door.

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So many fascinating persons from our history displayed in portraits, statues, and busts. Many were of Confederate generals, US political figures, and foreign dignitaries. Then there were others of great and different import – civil rights champion Oliver W. Hill, Jr., and Pocahontas in pearls.

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We covered the Capitol Building, Governor’s Mansion, and grounds in 1 1/2 hours. That was fast. So if you’re visiting your state capitol, you might want to take more time. On our way back to the car, we stopped inside St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (on the advisement of our new friend in the Capitol rotunda.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Richmond, Va

Photo Credit: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

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The sanctuary of the church was massive with stunning stained glass windows. The sun was pouring in and it was like a gallery of art pieces depicting the life of Christ. While we walked the perimeter of the church, the organist was at the keyboard of the pipe organ housed in the balcony of the church. Maybe he was practicing. For us it was like a private concert.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 3152015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 323

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Our young newcomers who had stayed tuned in to our self-guided tour were done…as were their Mom and I. 2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 329

 Leaving downtown, we scooted around Virginia Commonwealth University to my favorite pizza joint there – Piccola Italy on Main.2015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 3312015 - Phone Pics - Richmond, Family, Flowers, Virginia Capitol 336

Now, you can take a morning to see Virginia’s State Capitol…or your own. I only visited the U.S. Capitol once, and never visited my home state’s Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia. Hopefully you can avoid getting lost and hit a homerun your first time out. It was a win for us, in the end, for sure.

Virginia Capitol Tourists’ Guide

A Self-Guided Tour of the Virginia State Capitol (pdf)

TripAdvisor – Virginia State Capitol Building

10 Buildings that Changed America

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia

Piccola Italy Pizza and Subs

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Worship Wednesday – You Are Everything – by Matthew West with an Amen from Priscilla Shirer

Blog - You Are Everything

His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. 2 Peter 1:3

For us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.1 Corinthians 8:6

Don’t you love those nights when you fall into bed, snuggle into sheets, and, close your eyes, satisfied with your day? Then as seems right, sleep comes immediately. That is usually my experience, with a bit of roll-call prayer to God.

Last night was my other nighttime experience. Eyes wide open. Mind on alert. Whether I needed sleep or not, it would not come until so many people, situations, concerns, and fears rolled through my consciousness. My Mom would tell me of many nights like this…she was a worrier. She also taught me how to pray for such times. So I did.

For that dear friend whose cancer is raging. For parents with health issues. For children with job issues. For Muslim friends in Ramadan. For leaders at work. For my country, and this strange culture. For myself. Oh, God, am I tracking with You or off doing my own silly thing?

Somewhere between sleeplessness and morning, God’s peace fell on me. On waking, the few hours of sleep seemed enough, and I woke with Him on my mind.

I heard a long time ago that “if you can’t sleep, pray. The devil would rather stop disturbing your thoughts than have you find God there.” Whatever happens in those nights when sleep doesn’t come, I have found something extraordinary can follow. The situations that keep me awake are still real in the morning, but God is even more real. His presence is the sweetest thing I have ever known.

He is everything to me. It doesn’t always seem so, as I busy myself with the activities of the day. It may not feel so as self-centered thoughts push to the forefront. Still…a moment of quiet. A Bible verse remembered. A friend’s speaking truth to my heart. God draws near.

Missing a little sleep is nothing compared with His presence in those moments. His love in the battle.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:37-39

Priscilla Shirer knows:

Worship with me through this song by Matthew West:

I am the one with two left feet
Standing on a lonely street
I can’t even walk a straight line
And every time you look at me
I’m spinning like an autumn leaf
Bound to hit bottom sometime

Where would I be without someone to save me
Someone who won’t let me fall

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can’t believe is happening
You’re standing right in front of me
With arms wide open
All I know is
Every day is filled with hope
‘Cause You are everything that I believe for
And I can’t help but breathe you in
Breathe again
Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart

I am the one with big mistakes
Big regrets and bigger breaks
Than I ever care to confess
Oh but, You’re the one who looks at me
And sees what I was meant to be
More than just a beautiful mess

Oh, where would I be without someone to save me
Someone who won’t let me fall

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can’t believe is happening
You’re standing right in front of me
With arms wide open
All I know is
Every day is filled with hope
‘Cause You are everything that I believe for
And I can’t help but breathe you in
Breathe again

Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart
You’re everything good in my life
Everything honest and true
And all of those stars hanging up in the sky
Could never shine brighter than

You are everything that I live for
Everything that I can’t believe is happening
You’re standing right in front of me
With arms wide open
All I know is
Every day is filled with hope
You are everything that I believe for
And I can’t help but breathe you in
Breathe again
Feeling all this life within
Every single beat of my heart
You are
Oh, You are
Jesus, You are
You are everything

Lyrics to You Are Everything – Writers: Linda Creed, Matthew West, Thom Bell, Sam Mizell

YouTube Video – Who’s Your Daddy? He Is. – Priscilla Shirer

YouTube Video – That’s My King – Dr. S. M. Lockridge [Official]

YouTube Video – You Are Everything – Matthew West (with Lyrics)

YouTube Video – Matthew West’s Testimony and Acoustic Rendition of You Are Everything

Matthew West

Priscilla Shirer

Photo Credit: Sparrow Records,

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For This, I Have Jesus – Connectedness – A Brush with the Life of John Hunter

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Life is so fascinating and how people find each other and connect can be such a God thing. This whole connectedness possibility is one of the reasons I struggle with decluttering (not an excuse, just a fact). My mom died several years ago and I still have boxes in my attic of her paper bits – her own writing and preserved writing of others that touched her heart. This week I am attempting to deal with some of my own piles of paper, and discovered, mixed in with mine, a folder of hers. What a delight for me to find an unknown connectedness in one of her papers to others in my life.

So before I quickly share those associations, here’s a definition of connectedness:

Social connectedness is the measure of how people come together and interact. At an individual level, social connectedness involves the quality and number of connections one has with other people in a social circle of family, friends, and

I took the StrengthsFinders test a few years ago and found that connectedness is one of my top 5 strengths. This is a whole other subject but it informs the joy I had in discovering these connections.Blog - Connectedness - strengthsquest.uark.eduPhoto Credit: StrengthsQuest, University of Arkansas

Inside the folder of Mom’s stuff was a copy of the poem Without Thee by John E. Hunter. I don’t know how Mom got it, but I recognized it as a handout from a conference.IMG_0002

John E. Hunter (1909-2005) was a Christian writer, Bible teacher, and counselor. I never read any of his books until my friend, Jan McMurray, introduced them to me. Her connection with John E. Hunter came late in his life, after a stroke halted his public speaking.John E. Hunter by www.ccel.usLiving the Christ-filled Life by www.ccel.usPhoto Credit:

“His ministry did not end at this point (after the stroke in 1994), as the Lord, in His miraculous way, brought a lady from Tennessee into his life. Jan McMurray had read one of John’s books, and wanted to buy more for her Bible Study group. When she found out that Zondervan was no longer republishing his books, she formed a publishing company called Fresh Springs, and republished four of his books – Finding What’s Missing; Let Us Go On to Maturity; Limiting God; and Knowing God’s Secrets.”*Blog - Balcony People - Jan McMurray

Because of Jan’s vision, John Hunter’s books were re-introduced to another generation. We had the pleasure of all four of Hunter’s re-published books and might not have except for knowing Jan. She and John became friends in his last years of life. What a delight Dr. Hunter and his wife must have been to her, and she to them, in that season!

Another connection in this for me was the song “For This, I Have Jesus” by Graham Kendrick. John Hunter was known for this proclamation on any situation that came his way…especially the difficult ones. When Kendrick heard a pastor refer to an old friend and this saying, it stayed with him. In 1995, he wrote the song.

In 1995 is when we moved to Cairo, Egypt. Attending an international church, we would often sing songs by the English worship writers of that time. Graham Kendrick was one of my favorites, as was this song “For This I Have Jesus”.

Reflecting on all this, I decided to call my friend, Jan. It has been awhile since we talked. What a gift to catch up, as if we’d never left off. I asked her what happened with her publishing company and the Hunter books. She is in a different season now, and she passed the remainder of her inventory over to Henry Blackaby, a speaker and writer on revival and renewal. This is my final connectedness on this topic.

Henry Blackaby was very influential in my walk with God during my 30’s. Today there are other pastor/teachers in my life. Somehow (and I don’t know how), he and one of those pastor/teachers, Michael Catt, connected. How I know is that I was at a retreat a year or so ago, and Michael Catt was speaking. He had a book table including those very books of John Hunter that Jan had re-published through Fresh Springs. When I told her about it, she said, “We went to college together, Mike and I.”

Such is the nature of connectedness. Small world, big God.

*Living the Christ-Filled Life: Serving God Wholeheartedly by John E. Hunter

For This I Have Jesus by Jan McMurray

Revival and Renewal by Michael Hodge

YouTube Video – Graham Kendrick – For This I Have Jesus

YouTube Video – Graham Kendrick – For This I Have Jesus (Coventry Cathedral 2007; live; sound of recording a bit uneven)

Six Degrees of Separation

Seven Degrees of Connectedness by Rodd Lucier

Connectedness – Clifton StrengthsFinder Theme

StrengthsFinder Descriptions – Azusa Pacific University

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Independence Day in the USA – Celebrating the 4th of July and Remembering that Freedom is Not Free

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“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” – Alexis de Tocqueville*

July 4th each year marks a huge celebration in the US – a federal holiday with all the trimmings of a perfect summer day. Cookouts, baseball games, flags flying, parades, friends and family, fireworks, backyard fun. If you are new to the USA, these are the elements of this holiday that you will enjoy hopefully through the glad welcome by American friends.Blog - 4th of July 5 (2)

There is much more to this holiday, but we’ll start with the familiar through these pictures from some of our 4th of July celebrations:

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 Like Memorial Day, our Independence Day, has a more somber side to it. The War of the American Revolution was fought, at great cost, from 1775 to 1783. 13 colonies stood up against Great Britain to win their independence. Our Declaration of Independence wasn’t actually signed on July 4th. It, in fact, was signed over the course of many days, as different representatives of those 13 colonies attended to its signing during that late summer in 1776. Then the revolution followed in full. Blog - 4th of July 10Blog - 4th of July 9Blog - 4th of July 13

I am so grateful to be a part of this country and to enjoy the freedoms we have as Americans. I never want to take them for granted. This is another July 4th to mark what happened to secure the freedoms we have. Happy 239th birthday, America. May we determine to use the blessings God has given us here to always be a blessing to the nations.Blog - Preamble of US Constitution - 4th of July

Photo Credit:

Postscript: Facebook status of an American friend of ours spending July 4th in England:

“Wondering how one celebrates July 4th in the land we got our independence from…” [and then later] “Nothing like fish ‘n’ chips in front of Wimbledon on a Friday night in Oxford with English friends on July 4th weekend ;))… people, ya gotta love life wherever you find yourself ’cause there are always sweet surprises there.”

*Quotes for Independence Day, 4th of July 

YouTube Video – Flag Scene from The Patriot (2000, Mel Gibson)

5 Facts About Independence Day by Joe Carter, Acton Institute

Top 10 Revolutionary War Movies

YouTube Video – John Adams – “While I live, let me have a country, a free country!” (2008, HBO miniseries)

YouTube Video – John Adams – The Passing of the Declaration of Independence (2008, HBO miniseries)

American Declaration of Independence of July 4th, 1776 by Robert Hole for History Today

Happy Birthday, (New) America

9 Things You May Not Know About the Declaration of Independence

The Story of the 4th of July

The History of the 4th of July

Declaration of Independence – pdf

YouTube Video – Tea, Taxes, and The American Revolution: Crash Course World History #28Blog - 4th of July 5

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The Story of Us – A Quick Bit about Marriage Through Its Difficult Seasons

2009 August 25th Wedding Anniversary in Paris 128

“Contempt is conceived with expectations. Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude. We can choose which one we will obsess over—expectations, or thanksgivings.”   – Gary 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 Thomas*

The Story of Us (1999), a film, starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer, details a marriage gone flat. I wanted to see the film at the time but the R rating (for language and brief sexuality) deterred me. Just yesterday, I caught the last half-hour of it, and loved that bit. Not recommending the whole film necessarily (it got terrible reviews) but Michelle Pfeiffer’s monolog at the end is amazing.Blog - Story_of_us - Wikipedia, Universal Pics, Warner Bros Pictures

To set the scene (if you didn’t see the movie either), Willis and Pfeiffer (actors I love) are Ben and Kate in a 15-year marriage. It has unwoven terribly over time. While their two children are away at summer camp, they decide to separate. Toward the end of the film, they are both rethinking their decision. As they pick up their children together, the emotional tension of that reunion is so touching. The monolog, in that last scene, is a great declaration of why not to destroy “the story of us”.

Before you watch (or read**) that scene, let me just say this about marriage and divorce…

My family history is riddled with divorce, and I was afraid of marriage because of all my biological family issues. Divorce happens, and honestly, there are situations when we can’t see any other way out, or through. Still, marriage, as we all at least say if not always believe, is worth the fight.

There are so many reasons to work through the dry and difficult seasons of marriage. Gary L. Thomas is a great teacher on this subject and I recommend all of his books on marriage. They are practical and empathetic and full of hope.

One thing I value is history in relationships. When we went through our hard seasons in marriage, I held on to three things: 1) wanting to honor God in my marriage; 2) never wanting the consequences of divorce (had experienced those as a child growing up in divorce); and 3) not wanting to lose our life together (“the story of us”).

We, my husband and I, are in a different place now, and I can say to any in fragile relationships right now, “Wait for it!” “Work for it!” Of course, it takes two. Pfeiffer’s monolog would have had a whole other feel if Willis didn’t respond, in the film, the way he did. In married life, it does take two, but God, in His mercy and love, adds great power and grace to the one willing. Hold on to that.

So here’s just a part of Pfeiffer’s monolog (women, especially, might enjoy reading this out loud, if you’re in a private place – so full of earnestness and vulnerability – just sayin’):

“We’re an “us”. There’s a history and histories don’t happen overnight. In Mesopotamia or Ancient Troy or somewhere back there, there were cities built on top of other cities, but I don’t want to build another city. I like this city…That’s a dance you perfect over time. And it’s hard, it’s much harder than I thought it would be, but there’s more good than bad. And you don’t just give up. And it’s not for the sake of the children, but they’re great kids aren’t they? And we made them – I mean think about that – there were no people there and then there were people – two of them. And they grew…  Let’s face it, anybody is going to have traits that get on your nerves, why shouldn’t it be your annoying traits? I’m no day at the beach, but I do have a good sense of direction so at least I can find the beach, but that’s not a criticism of you, it’s just a strength of mine. And you’re a good friend and good friends are hard to find… I mean I guess what I’m trying to say is – I love you.”**

[I know this is just a movie and maybe not a great one – it just reminded me – the bit I saw, and the monolog – of possibilities and hope. For you who have been terribly hurt in marriages you saw no way to save, God knows…and wants to heal that place in your heart.]

*Gary L. Thomas Quotes at Goodreads

YouTube Video – The Story of Us – Ending – Michelle Pfeiffer’s Amazing Monolog

**One of the Best Monologs Ever

The Story of Us film

How The Story of Us Should Have Ended – just for fun – a variation but with the same conclusion

A Lifelong Love: How to Have Lasting Intimacy, Friendship, and Purpose in Your Marriage by Gary Thomas

A Lifelong Love Quotes

Gary Thomas Answers Your Marriage Questions

YouTube Video – The Story of Us – Taylor Swift – Great song – Disclaimer – NOT about marriage

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