Tag Archives: Baptist Global Response

Worship Wednesday – Only God’s Shoulders Are Big Enough – Shoulders – for King & Country

Blog - Shoulders - 2Photo Credit: YouTube

[Adapted from the Archives]

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.”Psalm 121

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”Matthew 11:28-29

[After several days of grieving over a series of events meant to divide our country right now and a natural disaster and national catastrophe across the ocean, I needed the reminder that our shoulders are not strong enough to bear these burdens…only God’s shoulders can carry us through all our days.]

There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?

We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because our shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the deep wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, ‘underneath are the everlasting arms!’ You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*

Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. It’s no longer a new song, but it draws me back to the truth of what is most real in our lives. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.

Worship with me:

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

CHORUS
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**

Blog - Shoulders - for King & CountryPhoto Credit: www.forkingandcountry.com

A Kingdom Agenda Strategy for Community Transformation – Tony Evans

Baptist Global Response

*The Everlasting Arms by Charles Spurgeon

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Shoulders – for King & Country

YouTube Video – Shoulders – for King & Country – Official Video

YouTube Video – Shoulders Live on K-Love with For King & Country

See It First: Go Behind the Scenes of For King & Country’s Powerful Video, ‘Shoulders

**K-Love – Lyrics to Shoulders by songwriters Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover, Tedd Tjornhom

Story Behind the Song – Shoulders – NewReleaseTuesday.com Interview with Luke Smallbone

For Hope: Luke Smallbone Finds Grace in the Darkness

Friday Faves – Leadership, Storytelling, Crowd-sourcing, and Clarity

Straight forward into the weekend! Here are my four favorite finds of the week. I usually post five but this has been several days of computer glitchiness and slow internet…so we’ll stick with these four today. Thanks for taking the time to scan them, and please comment below on your finds for the week.

1) Leadership – Bookmark this week’s blog by Brian Dodd on Leadership. Dodd has been live blogging the various speakers at the Rethink Leadership Conference. His quotes from some of these talks are incredibly helpful…making it like we got to be in the audience. There were several great leadership speakers at Rethink. I’ve included Dodd’s notes on three and a link to a fourth.Photo Credit: MaxPixel

  • Carey Nieuwhof’s Opening Thoughts on Leadership: The reason vision falls flat is you don’t have a strategy. Clear strategy provokes deep fear. Ambiguity never provokes fear. Clarity does. Strategy is the execution of your mission and vision. Strategy becomes divisive because it is clear. The last 10% of the change is hardest. The clearer you are on your strategy, the simpler it is, the more it is written down, the easier it is. It’s easy to change something someone else built. It’s much more difficult to change something you built. The temptation to strategize once is very strong and the direct path to irrelevance.
  • Jeff Henderson on Keeping the Main Thing the Main ThingInsideritis – a malady afflicting the vision of an organization resulting in focusing on insiders over outsiders. The role of a leader is raising people to run the business and you be out in the community bringing in new customers. Vision leaks. And so does inspiration. What are we here for? This is a vision inventory question. 4 Rhythms – What do you meet about? What do you talk about? What do you see? What do you celebrate? Everybody likes getting their Instagram photo liked. It reinforces behavior. 999% of Instagram photos from churches are about what’s happening in the church. We need to be about what’s happening in the community. Celebration is something leaders can overlook. One of the best things you can do as a leader is write three Thank You notes a day.
  • Dan Reiland on Essential Elements to Lead Your Staff Well: 5 Categories Of Hiring – Culture. Selection. Development. Performance. Teamwork. Culture is who you are, what you value, and how do you get things done. Culture determines how you see staff. How you see staff determines how you treat staff. Lead with vision, not job descriptions. Trust is the foundation of empowerment. Micromanagement and control kills trust.  What you get people with is how you keep them. When you can’t recruit with vision you have to buy them. Never lower your standards. It’s better to go without than hire the wrong person. You’re not hiring an administrative assistant to make your life easier. You’re hiring an administrative assistant to make you more productive. Chemistry wins the day. Assume competence. Identify competence before the conversation gets serious. Embrace the 2X Factor. Pour twice as much in as you expect out. You do this because you care. You can’t develop people well if you don’t care. Not everybody cares. You can’t fake caring. The secret to being a great coach – Pay Attention. Champion progress, not performance. Don’t apologize for accountability. You have created or allowed your current circumstances. Trust is the core, the epicenter, the bedrock of teamwork.
  • Carey Nieuwhof’s  Closing Thoughts on Pastors and Cynicism: I was the guy who sent people to counseling.  I didn’t get counseling. Cynicism doesn’t happen because you don’t care.  It starts because you did. Cynicism starts because you know too much. Cynicism is a choice.  Life actually doesn’t make you cynical.  You make you cynical. The antidote to cynicism – Cynicism melts under the relentless hope of the Gospel. The best antidote to cynicism is curiosity.  The cynical is never curious.  The curious are never cynical. Curiosity is a discipline.  You can learn it.

37 Leadership Quotes from Les McKeown – Predictable Success – From the Rethink Conference – Brian Dodd on Leadership

2) Storytelling – Don’t you love a good story? Part of the magnificence of a story is its delivery. All Y’All is a podcast out of Louisiana. If any of you are from the South and have transplanted your lives elsewhere, this is a place, you can rest your ears on your mother tongue.  I discovered a sweet-with-Southern-drawl episode on referral of a friend. The guest storyteller was Amy Lynn Treme, a preschool teacher from Shreveport, Louisiana. Her story about a pet store job and supervising a field trip with exotic pets, including a large snake named Monty, is hilarious! Listen here.Photo Credit: All Y’All

5 Great Tips to Help You Tell Better Stories – Robin Camarote

Photo Credit: Vala Afshar

3) CrowdsourcingCrowdsourcing or crowdfunding is a growing process we use today to gather financial support, services or solutions, via the internet, from multiple individuals or groups.

Photo Credit: Startup Daily

We are familiar with GoFundMe and KickStarter, but there are many other platforms, depending on the situation or need. Wikipedia is a much-used and much-beloved crowdsourced venture. My favorite charity is Baptist Global Response; it receives some of its support via crowdsourcing. This avenue of support can benefit non-profits, individuals in crisis, entrepreneurs, start-ups, and artists.

In another era, the great patrons of music supported the composers of their day – musicians like Mozart, Beethoven, and Haydn among others. We still listen to their brilliant music today, and we have their patrons to thank also. Creative work takes time, but rarely is that work itself rewarded until the album is produced, for instance, and concerts are performed. What if we, the general public, had a voice in which artists we wanted to support, besides just buying albums or concert tickets? Patreon is a crowdsourcing vehicle for artists and the crowds who would support them if they knew there was a way.

I watched a TED Talk this week on crowdsourcing by singer Amanda Palmer. The talk was The Art of Asking. Amanda Palmer lives a very free life and uses language and attitude in her music that is pretty much in-your-face. That’s very appealing for many. For me, her TED Talk was real and winsome and a great testament to crowd-sourcing…that taking your idea, your vision, your gift to the people and letting them be part of growing it.

I do have an artist like that in my life…a gifted musician who is both building his craft and trying to make a living at the same time. Nathan Mills of Beyond the Guitar. He has “a crowd” who partner with him in various ways – video production, sound, tech support, social media and messaging, startup advice, and financial investment.

Crowdsourcing isn’t charity. It’s partnership.

None of us can play classical guitar or arrange music like Nathan…none of us in Nathan’s “crowd”. Yet, we get to be a part of his vision and his music. I delight in the rewards of patronage.

4) Clarity – Here’s to clarity…and to those people in our lives who help us navigate through the murkiness of some relationships and situations in life. I experienced some life-defining clarity this past week and wrote about it already here.

Photo Credit: Jon Wiley, Flickr

Clarity is that enlightening aha or “got it” moment when you see that you were right…or wrong…and the relief of it, just the knowing, is electric. No longer entangled by “What is going on here?” or “Am I crazy?” Clarity comes with a path forward, because once you really where you are and the truth of that situation or relationship, you can advance. I didn’t say leave the relationship or bail out of the situation but move forward. There is a big difference there. When confusion and dis-ease clouds our thinking about something, we just want out. It’s uncomfortable. Clarity empowers and emboldens us to act with intentionality and even compassion.

Because of the aforementioned computer/internet woes (where I also need clarity as to what is the problem), I’ll close here. Maybe in the comment section we can talk about clarity. I’ll blog on it again sometime because it’s huge…not for escaping the murk and mire we may find ourselves in sometimes, but to forge a way through.

Have a great weekend out there!

 

Monday Morning Moment – Syrian Refugees – No One Puts Their Children On a Boat…Unless

What drives people to leave everything behind – everything they have known and owned – and board a sea-bound, over-loaded boat for an unknown future? My sense is it’s running for one’s life…rather than their path to terrorism.

These days in the US, we are adjusting to a new presidential administration and changing policies. Protests and social media wars abound. How to understand and what to really believe are challenging.

What is true?

A wise friend responded to my voiced struggle of what to think about our nation’s changing views on immigrants and refugees:

“The people trying to escape evil we want to welcome. The people who want to export evil we want to identify and shut down.”

Though not prepared myself to address the latter, I would like to highlight the plight of refugees…especially Syrian refugees. A poem I discovered just yesterday is real and riveting…and can put the reader on that sagging boat, holding our children tight, and hoping we will make it to that distant shore. With no idea what will come next.Photo Credit: CNN

Warsan Shire, a young Somali woman who grew up in London, writes deeply personal poetry about life and struggle. Her poem Home is a powerful description of the refugee experience…especially the Syrian, but it could speak to others as well [read the whole poem here].

No one leaves home unless
Home is the mouth of a shark
You only run for the border
When you see the whole city running as well

You only leave home
When home won’t let you stay.

No one leaves home unless home chases you
Fire under feet.

You have to understand,
That no one puts their children in a boat
Unless the water is safer than the land
No one burns their palms
Under trains
Beneath carriages
No one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

No one crawls under fences
No one wants to be beaten
Pitied

No one chooses refugee camps.

Go home…

Refugees
Dirty immigrants
Asylum seekers
Sucking our country dry…
Messed up their country and now they want
To mess ours up

How do the words
The dirty looks
Roll off your backs
Maybe because the blow is softer
Than a limb torn off

I want to go home,
But home is the mouth of a shark
Home is the barrel of the gun
And no one would leave home
Unless home chased you to the shore

I don’t know what I’ve become
But I know that anywhere
Is safer than here.          – Warsan Shire

What can we do for refugees? Jesus’ teaching prevents his followers from blaming others, airing our impotent opinions, or sinking into compassion fatigue. Jesus poured his life out for us…all of us…and teaches us to do the same.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” – Jesus – Matthew 25:34-40

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To the refugee (probably not reading this, but I want to come out of silence somehow): There are those of us, in this country, who will do what we can to welcome you here and to be neighbor to you when you finally arrive. Forgive us that we haven’t done more. We have been shaken out of our slumber of unbelief at your suffering. Praying for you until you are home again…wherever that will be.

Home by Warsan Shire

YouTube Video – People of Nowhere – Lior Sperandeo

Baptist Global Response

Loving the Alien – PDF – Bible Study from Jubilee Centre, Cambridge, UK

Scripture and Immigration

5 (Biblical) Reasons Christians Must Care for Asylum Seekers – Matt Darvas

5 Friday Faves – Hurricane Matthew, Engaging Older Adults, Life After Downton, Leading Change, and a Fall Evening

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It’s Friday, and tomorrow Hurricane Matthew is supposed to move into Virginia. Wind and rain. Hopefully we won’t lose power, but over a million folks in Florida did, so we wait and see.

Here are my favorite finds of this week. Two are actually blogs by the same writer, Carey Nieuwhof. He is a wise leader and gives excellent counsel to those of us who also want to lead well.

  1. Hurricane Matthew – The Caribbean and Florida have been hit hard by this week’s hurricane. A Category 4 storm through the Caribbean and now Category 3, passing through Florida and into Georgia tonight. Hundreds of deaths and the storm devastation is massive. I am so thankful for disaster response agencies who take definitive action quickly in times like this. Baptist Global Response (BGR) is that kind of organization, working with local partners to help in the life-saving areas of clean water, food security, shelter and supplies and general health of the peoples most hard-hit. Because of the work of other NGO’s already in Haiti, BGR is targeting its disaster relief efforts on Cuba.blog-hurricane-matthew-commondreamsblog-hurricane-matthew-wtvrPhoto Credit: Common Dreams; WTVR

2) Engaging Older Adults – Carey Nieuwhof posted a helpful 5 points list on engaging older adults. Shut Down the Bus Tours: What Older Church Members Should Really Be Doing. This post could just as easily been written any group of older adults who could be a tremendous resource if engaged…otherwise they are going to just keep getting on those buses.blog-senior-citizens-bus-tours-angeltourPhoto Credit: AngelTour

Not that older adults don’t deserve vacations after so many years in the work force and serving in their churches and families. Still, Nieuwhof makes a serious case for mobilizing seniors back into service where they are needed to mentor, model, guide, and cast vision for the next generations. The Fall Leaf bus tours are upon us, but we also need these valuable men and women among us as well.

3) Life After Downton – What to Watch Now – I do miss Downton Abbey, but fortunately we do have other viewing options. Amazon Screening Room lists out lovely period pieces that can scratch our itch for Downton. Two I’ve already watched are Doctor Thorne and Grantchester. Would love to hear some of your recommendations!blog-dr-thorneblog-after-downtonPhoto Credit: Screening Room

4) Leading Change – Canadian pastor, Carey Nieuwhof, is also a writer and speaker on leadership. carey-nieuwhof-blogPhoto Credit: Carey Nieuwhof

He wrote Leading Change Without Losing It: 5 Strategies That Can Revolutionize How You Lead Change When Facing Opposition. In a blog this week, he takes from his book, focusing on how to lead through change in the face of opposition. A few of his observations are:

  • People aren’t opposed to change nearly as much as they are opposed to change they didn’t think of.
  • Usually no more than 10% of the people you lead are opposed to change.
  • Fear of opposition derails more leaders than actual opposition.
  • Buy-in happens most fully when people understand why, rather than what or how.

5) Firepit on a Fall Evening with S’Mores – This week marks the true arrival of Fall here with temperatures dropping and leaves just beginning to turn colors. We had our first marshmallow roast on an outdoor fire. Making S’mores – that camping treat of graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars, and melted marshmallows. Thus marking the start of my favorite season. Lots of pics to follow of brilliant Fall leaves and fun times outside without the heat of summer.blog-smores-and-a-firepit

Be safe out there. Hope you East Coasters in the States are not too troubled by Hurricane Matthew. Have a restful weekend. Leave us your favorite finds of the week in the Comments below. Thanks.

5 Friday Faves – Grandchildren, BBC Series, Refugees, Storm Recovery, and Bread

Blog - Friday Faves

What a week! Right? For us it was a power outage for four days after a big storm came through last week. Then, the wonder of the birth of our second grandchild. Everything else paled…but even that a lovely pale. My five favorites of the week follow.

1) Grandchildren – Last week, I wrote about a cancer survivorship plan (referenced in Kelly A. Turner’s Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds). She lists 9 factors that she believes make a difference in survival. One is “having strong reasons for living“. If there was ever a strong reason for living it’s these little ones. I married later in life, and was thrilled to even have children, much less grandchildren. What a miracle they are! What a wonder!2016 - Blog - Grandchildren (2)2016 - Blog - Grandchildren (1)

2) After Downton Abbey finished its run, I really missed British TV. Then recently, on Amazon Prime, we discovered Lark Rise to Candleford taken from the Flora Thompson trilogy of the same name. In ways like Downton Abbey, the story-telling in this series is utterly magical. Thompson uses the rural setting of England in the 1890’s. She includes the cultural clashes of hamlet folk and town people. I am plowing through the seasons and am now on the 4th and what appears to be the final season. Say it isn’t so!IMG_6630The cinematography is gorgeous, but the loveliest parts of the series are the relationships and the dialogue. In Series 4, Episode 2, one of the main characters, Emma Timmins, recites a poem of hers (“Gossamer Threads”) which reveals some of the heart of the story:IMG_6631“As I went on my way,/Gossamer threads spanned from bush to bush like barricades,/As I broke through one after another/I was taken by a childish fear./They are trying to bind and keep me here./But as I grew from girl to woman,I knew/The threads that bind me were more enduring than gossamer. /They were spun of kinship and love,/Given so freely that it could never be taken away from me.”IMG_6632Photo Credit: Lark Rise to Candleford

3) Refugees – Over 50 million people are displaced in our world today. We can do something. Our friend, Beth, just spent a couple of months helping in a refugee camp. It’s way too easy to forget about these between homes and countries, especially if they are not coming to the US. If you want to know more and how to serve either for a week or longer, contact Baptist Global Response.12993627_10156889362110061_8126408917090936937_n

4) Storm Recovery – When a thunderstorm with extreme winds passed through Richmond last Thursday night, our neighborhood sustained major damages. Trees falling on houses, cars, and across streets blocking passage. We were without electricity and cable for 4 days. When we lived overseas, we frequently had power outages, but only for hours at a time. Someone said to me during the cleanup, waiting on power to be restored, how we shouldn’t really complain, it being a “first world problem” and all. I had to chuckle. It was actually a third world problem but we aren’t well-prepared for it here. Some of our neighbors have generators, and the buzz of those generators across these several days sounded other-worldly after awhile. Then…the power was back. Very thankful for all the workers from our state’s utility company and many states around.2016 June - Blog Storm Recovery (2)IMG_6512

5) Bread – My husband’s favorite sandwich bread is Arnold’s Healthy Multi-Grain. Today I bought a new bread recommended by our daughter: Dave’s Killer Bread. Blog - Dave's Killer Bread - businesswirePhoto Credit: BusinessWire

The Dahl Family in Oregon has been in the bread-making business over many years. Dave, the son who is the namesake of the bread, grew up making bread but had no interest in it. Then he wound up in prison for many years. On his release, his brother invited him back in the business, and he helped to make it what it is today. Blog - Dave's Killer Bread - bizjournalsPhoto Credit: BizJournals

This is wonderful chewy nutty bread. It’s a bit pricey, but it was on special today, so we’ll be watching for specials in the future.

The company is strongly invested in giving other ex-convicts, like Dave, a second chance to make a fresh start. This Second Chance Project is exciting, replicable,  and noteworthy in its success.

There are my five faves for the week. Please share any of yours in the Comments.

Have a wonderful, restful weekend. God bless!

Bonus Images of the Week

Cherry Season

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Calla Lilies in our Garden, Dad & My Brother Watching The Braves

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Cancer Support Jewelry from my friend KathyIMG_6629

5 Friday Faves – Winter in the Middle East, Culture, Parenting, Community, and Top Blogs

Blog - Friday FavesWow! What a week! This is a rare experience for me to be glad it’s Friday. I usually love all the days and want them to slow down…this was a week that’s good to be done. How was your week?

My 5 favorites finds include one less favorite, more “I don’t want to forget” – that being #1:

1) Winter in Middle East – Our news cycle and attention spans are so short that we might forget refugee camps…especially in winter. I am so thankful for agencies (like Baptist Global Response) that don’t forget it. Far from it, they are there, feeling the cold these refugees feel and stretching resources to cover these without homes that keep out the winter. Let’s not forget…and extend help as well.Blog - Winter in the Middle east - ibtimesPhoto Credit: International Business NewsBlog - Winter in the Middle East - thetakeawayPhoto Credit: thetakeaway.orgBlog - Winter in the Middle east - old man - the national aePhoto Credit: The National

2) Culture – Trevin Wax writes this week about cultural commentary. As we both live in a changing culture and examine our place within that culture, we adjust. Not our beliefs, necessarily, or our viewpoints, but maybe how we voice them. Trevin does a great job in expounding on how we look at culture – not as “good” or “bad” or “safe” or “unsafe” – but as understanding and discerning co-inhabitants of that culture. Something called “cultural literacy”.

word with dice on white background - culture

Photo Credit: The Gospel Coalition

“From Francis Schaeffer in the 1960’s, to C. S. Lewis in the 1940’s, to G. K. Chesterton in the 1920’s, we stand in a long line of people who have identified the narratives on display in cultural artifacts of their day, and then spoke to those longings by putting them in light of the gospel. John Stott called this “double listening” – listening to God’s Word and to the people in God’s world, so that we can be effective witnesses to the kingdom.” – Trevin Wax

3) Parenting – Parenting books and blogs abound to influence our journey through our children’s growing-up. One of my favorite books on parenting came out after our kids were already grown but I love it and still recommend it: Escaping the Endless Adolescence: How We Can Help Our Teenagers Grow Up Before They Grow Old by Joseph & Claudia Worrell Allen. Cathy Gulli’s article on parenting was a fascinating discovery for me this week. She writes on The Collapse of Parenting – Why It’s Time for Parents to Grow Up. Her take on current trends in parenting focuses less on empowering the child and more on the parent actually being the guide, mentor, and nurturing authority. I didn’t agree with everything, but it was refreshing to read. [It actually went viral with over a million reads so far.] The image below is NOT from her article but it came to mind because of her article.Blog - Age-appropriate tasks for childrenPhoto Credit: Flanders Family

4) Community – I’ve written about community many times, but this was one of those weeks where the value of community came to bear in a hard place. It’s hard to imagine those who lead more solitary lives – without church, family, or work community – especially when a life-altering crisis occurs. Luke writes about the early church so beautifully in his Acts of the Apostles. Those early believers endured great persecution with joy because of God-infused community. What’s your experience of community these days? Showing up for work, attending church, social media brushes with family don’t get us to community. It’s a dig deep, being there, full embrace of those in your circle with a door wide open to others just on the outside, looking in. So thankful this week for community.Blog - Community - It Is Well - Beth Taylor FacebookPhoto Credit: Beth Taylor

5) Top Blogs – There are all sorts of lists on the blogosphere these days about most read/visited blogs of last year. This list by Leslie Leyland Fields is my favorite find of this sort this week.  What a life this woman leads in the coastal fishing communities of Alaska! Blog - Friday faves - Leslie Leyland FieldsWhat lists do you recommend? Help us find them, via the comments below.

Bonus: Sweet Dance Performance by the Revere Dance Studio – Lovely Girls on Their Feet and in Their Wheelchairs

The Peril & Blessing of Gift-Giving and that Greatest Gift

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Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!2 Corinthians 9:15

I am undone by Christmas gift-giving. Once upon a time, seemingly long, long ago, giving special gifts was something I did well. Not so much any more. The whole Christmas shopping experience has become quite overwhelming for me. If you give me a definite idea or suggestion, I am empowered. It will be done! To shoot in the dark for a gift that, just knowing you, I know you would love?…not so much.

What a blessing you are who just intuitively know what will please or what will be treasured…those gifts full of meaning, or thoughtfulness, or wonder – gifts that aren’t seeming burdens or requiring a return. You are a blessing to us all. I don’t even compare myself to great gift-givers any more…resigning myself to the writing of checks or the occasional joy of tripping over “just the right gift”.

This is my tribute to the great gift-givers in my life. Here are examples of late:

  • those old friends retiring and moving away who gave all of us, at their send-off, a rose and two marbles – a “shooter” and a “keeper”. So meaningful because he collects marbles and is always a great “shooter” in real life, and she is such a “keeper”. I will miss them. The marbles go in my work desk to remember them every time I open that drawer.2015 December - Blog - Gift-Giving 002 (2)
  • that neighbor who baked Christmas cookies with her kids and sent them with their dad around the neighborhood delivering their photo Christmas card and cookies. Such a sweet visit at the door as we talked about spelling bees, and sledding, and no Christmas travel because of work. Blog - Gift-Giving - Christmas cookies
  • those friends who show up with surprises (pictured at top of blog) – the wooden ball Nativity from Bizarre Bazaar (where she fought the crowds of shoppers for those special finds); the cross inscribed with “love”, from a friend (in major transition with what time to shop?!), a silver pillow with “Peace on Earth” in red letters (from a woman in full-time ministry). All working women with little time to shop but hearts so full of love, they do what’s necessary to lavish that love on those around them.

During December each year, before falling asleep, I try to read through my stash of Christmas books. One of those is Andy Andrews’ Socks for Christmas. It’s a shortish story about his growing up in the 60’s Christmas…and the hard reality that, for some children, socks would be a gladsome gift.Blog - Gift-Giving - Socks for Christmas - Book

Sometimes even the smallest of gifts like socks meets a great need.

What about the greatest of gifts – that of the Christ child? The greatest of gifts from the greatest of Gift-givers to meet the greatest of our needs – that need for a Savior.

Ann Voskamp, is a writer and blogger, homeschool mom and farmer’s wife. As she talks about daily trips to the barn, she paints a story about gift-giving. It’s so real, I can feel the cold of the Canadian winter and the musty smell of hay and animals.

“Too often we think that Christmas is something that we can buy or create or make by hand. Ultimately Christmas isn’t a product that we can wrap up but it’s a Person that we unwrap. Christ comes to the manger, that cradle, that trough. The mire and the stench [of that barn…of our lives]. It doesn’t end there. That manger is wood and it’s nailed together. That manger takes us right to the cross. We are saved only through another tree – the tree from the garden, the tree at the manger, the tree Jesus hung on to save us…From the beginning of time, we’ve been coming to this place – the Messiah coming to redeem us…In the cross is the white-hot burn of His love.” – Ann Voskamp

For you glorious gift-givers, thank you. You reflect the joyful, creative generosity of God. For those of us who struggle, we will press our way through that part of Christmas. We will be glad for you and glad for the One who knew exactly what we needed not just for Christmas but for always…and gave us more that we could “ask or imagine”.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. – Ephesians 3:20-21

[P.S. Gift ideas that stretch across the globe to touch families in need can be found on the pages of the BGR Christmas catalog. If you can’t figure what to give to folks who have pretty much everything, here you can find plenty to give to others, in their name. ]

Jesus is the Greatest Gift – Christmas Gifts for Neighbors – Ann Voskamp

The Cross-Centered Christmas: An Interview with Ann Voskamp – Tony Reinke, DesiringGod.org

The One Thing Your Christmas Can’t Afford to Be Without – Ann Voskamp

Baptist Global Response – Christmas Catalog

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Socks for Christmas: A Child’s Discovery of the True Riches of Christmas by Andy Andrews

5 Friday Faves – a Favorite Charity, Tablescaping, Brunswick Stew, Christmas Commercial, and Thanksgiving Songs

Blog - Friday Faves

What a week, huh?! The world is all a-chatter about how to wisely and compassionately respond to the needs of displaced peoples…especially Syrian refugees right now. I want to write about this soon, but for now, the blogosphere is full of solid commentary on how we might respond and what’s at stake. For today, I will focus on lighter fare…except for #1.

  1. Favorite Charity – Baptist Global Response is a relatively small charity with a wide reach. It is the disaster response/humanitarian relief arm of the Southern Baptist Convention and partners with many other local and global agencies. Their work alone with Syrian refugees (and other internally and externally displaced peoples) means so much to me. Consider BGR in your Christmas giving – it’s a start in touching the lives of Syrian and other refugees.

Blog - Baptist Global Response - refugeesPhoto Credit: GoBGR.org

2. Tablescaping – A beautifully set table is its own art form. So many meals these days are plated and eaten in front of the T.V. or computer. Sitting together, face-to-face, around a table makes for a very different communal experience. This week, I attended Mt. Vernon’s Women’s Christmas Event. The theme was The Sights, Sounds & Flavors of Bethlehem. Each banquet table was prepared by different tablescapers. Beautiful.2015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0692015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0702015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0652015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0482015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 0382015 Nov - Phone Pics, Blog, Fall, Sadie, Mt. Vernon Christmas 042

3. Brunswick Stew – A favorite restaurant of my childhood in Georgia was Old Hickory House. Some of the restaurants have since closed, but at least one remains. I remember well the tangy sweet barbecue and Brunswick stew. This week I discovered a blogger who also knew Old Hickory House. He gifted us with the recipe for that hearty stew. Blog - Friday Faves - Brunswick Stew

4. Christmas Commercial – I love Hallmark Christmas commercials and you can find a bunch here.  This week a different annual favorite came to my attention. The John Lewis Department Store, in the U.K., puts out its own Christmas commercial each year.  I came across this video through a Country Living blog on how old people have so little contact with others. This is a sweet metaphor on that.

5. Thanksgiving Songs – There are some church hymns we only sing on their respective holidays. Thanksgiving songs aren’t usually sung in more contemporary evangelical churches, and I miss them. My favorites are We Gather Together and Come Ye Thankful People, Come. Maybe updated versions would bring them back in our worship services (up for arranging them, Nathan?).

Two other Thanksgiving Songs by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Brianna Haynes are also lovely…didn’t know them until this week.

What were your favorites this week? I’m closing with a quote from C.S. Lewis – seems appropriate as we struggle in the U.S. over our response to the current world crises. Great weekend, Friends.

Blog - Friday Faves - C. S. Lewis on Love - slideshare.netPhoto Credit: Slideshare.net

Worship Wednesday – I’ll Fix My Eyes on You – for King & Country

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Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12-14

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. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.Hebrews 12:1-3

If the Priceless Tour with For King & Country comes your way don’t miss it! Having a musician in my own family (Nathan Mills), I can appreciate how rich an experience it is to hear music live. Joel and Luke Smallbone, and their incredible band, do not disappoint. In fact, I have never been to such a musical event, where the message itself is so clear, in decades (since early Twila Paris).

The opening act for the Priceless Tour is Moriah Peters with her #fiercefemaleband. She is married to Joel Smallbone. Beautiful songs about God, women, being brave, relationships, and marriage.2015 Sep - Concert - For King and Country and Moriah Peters 042

Then the guys take the stage. As they start with Fix My Eyes, it feels like a scene out of the play Les Misérables – “the barricade“.  An audiovisual feast of drumming, lights, smoke, and guys looking like they dropped in from another era. There is a very different feel with this band – high energy and big performances, and yet a clear respect and enjoyment of each other. Love even. And love for God at the center.2015 Sep - Concert - For King and Country and Moriah Peters 116

All the musicians are introduced and have cameos during the concert. There’s a lot of movement during the performances including the band coming out in the audience. Bringing the audience as deeply into the experience as possible is definitely a goal for these guys.

Joel and Luke both have talks during their set. They speak of honoring women, and stepping up as husbands and fathers, and reaching out to children in need (through Compassion). They tell stories of their own growing up years – moving to the US, going through a period where their dad was jobless, and watching God provide in countless ways for their needs (especially through their church family). Luke also talks about his life-threatening illness out of which came the songs “Without You” and “Shoulders“. Finally, they talk about Jesus…and following Him.

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Don’t miss the tour…but most importantly don’t miss the God and King of For King & Country. Their songs are strong testimony of the purpose of our lives and the faithfulness of God through all our circumstances.

Worship with me as I “fix my eyes” on God right now (lyrics follow, below the YouTube video). [After, scroll to bottom for a last word from Joel Smallbone and a P.S….but don’t miss worshipping…please].

Hit rewind, click delete
Stand face to face with the younger me
All of the mistakes
All of the heartbreak
Here’s what I’d do differently, I’d

(Chorus)
Love like I’m not scared
Give when it’s not fair
Live life for another
Take time for a brother
Fight for the weak ones
Speak out for freedom
Find faith in the battle
Stand tall but above it all
Fix my eyes on You
On You

I learned the lines and talked the talk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows it)
But the road less traveled is hard to walk
(Everybody knows it, everybody knows)
It takes a soldier
Who knows his orders
To walk the walk I’m supposed to walk, and

(Chorus)

The things of earth are dimming
In the light of Your glory and grace
I’ll set my sights upon Heaven
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes on You, on You
I’m fixing my eyes

(Chorus)

I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You
I’ll fix my eyes on You, on You

“That hope is why we do what we do to carry that into any situation, any environment, that we’re allowed to, to offer people not just a temporary fix but, God willing, offer them a changed eternity.” – Joel Smallbone

[P.S. If you love drums, you will love how For King & Country use drums. If you love lighting used in bedazzling ways, you will love their lighting. The word “Jesus” was actually painted on the wall of this venue – it isn’t a part of their usual stage visual. For me, as the lighting was going on and off, it made a great statement of their focus – I got this shot where the lighting and smoke completely obscured the band, but Jesus showed through. That’s my experience of these guys.]

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Lyrics to Fix My Eyes by Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, and Seth Mosley

YouTube Video – for KING & COUNTRY – Fix My Eyes | The Story Behind The Song

for King and Country – Priceless Tour

Compassion International – Sponsor a Child

Baptist Global Response

YouTube Video – The Story Behind the Song Without You

Worship Wednesday – Let My Life be the Proof of Your Love – For King & Country

Worship Wednesdays – Shoulders – for King & Country

5 Friday Faves – an Apple, a Podcast, an Apologist, a List of Great Books, and Something We Can Do for Refugees

Blog - Friday Faves

1. An Apple – Honeycrisp  – my husband’s favorite – we only have them for a few months in the Fall and are glad when they’re around and especially on special. Welcome back. Blog - Honeycrisp apples - Friday Faves

2. An Apologist – An apologist is someone who makes a defense of a faith or belief. Nancy Pearcey is an educator and writer. An agnostic in her early life, she became a Christian through a deep study of God. She presents the Christian worldview in such a clear, reasoned way. The subjective, sometimes silly and sometimes sinister, arguments we hear a lot of these days, both inside Christianity and from its foes, are put to rest. I discovered her through a book review by Tim Challies and an article of her own. I was captivated by her clarity on the God I love. Desiring to know better how to both understand and rightly represent God to friends and family. So…I bought both her books and am tearing into them: Finding Truth and Total Truth.Blog - Friday Faves - Nancy Pearcey - Apologist

3. A PodcastThe Eric Metaxas Show with Karen Swallow-Prior – Lively conversation about Hannah More – an English poet and supporter of William Wilberforce’s battle against slave trade. This podcast came on the eve of Metaxas’ book release – Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness. Hannah More is one of those seven.

Blog - Friday Faves - 7 Women by Eric Metaxas

Photo Credit: amazon.com

4. A List of Great BooksChuck Lawless gives us a list of books that have had considerable impact on his spiritual formation.  I’ve read five of them – #1, #2, #4, #6, and #10.  Need to read the others.2014 May Blog 018

5. Something We Can Do For Refugees – The plight of refugees around the world moves us to act…but how? What can I really do? Marilyn Gardner has written several blogs this month with practical helps for any of us who want to intervene, effectively. Both short-term crisis care and over the long haul of resettlement. Two of her blogs were especially helpful for me: Self-Sufficiency in 8 Months – How to Settle a Refugee and Trauma-Informed Care.

As Syrian refugees continue to stream into neighboring countries and beyond the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) projects the number of registered refugees will soon reach the 4 million mark. (PHOTO BY JEDEDIAH SMITH)

Photo Credit: bpnews.net/photos

These are some of my favorite finds this week. What do you have to share? Looking forward to learning from you and enjoying your faves.

Seven Women: and the Secret of Their Greatness by Eric Metaxas

One Strategy to Rule Them All – How to Answer Skeptics from Romans 1 – Nancy Pearcey

Finding Truth – Tim Challies’ Review of Nancy Pearcey’s Book

Ten Books That Have Shaped My Life – Chuck Lawless

Self-Sufficiency in 8 Months – How to Settle a Refugee – Marilyn Gardner

Trauma-Informed Care – Marilyn Gardner

Baptist Global Response